The Imposter (2012)
This story would have been nice fiction if it were also not so very true. This awards-winning documentary details the real story of Frederic Bourdin, a French confidence trickster, who impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a boy from Texas, who, in turn, vanished without a trace when he was thirteen in 1993. This documentary is really akin to some fast-paced and compelling thriller, and one has to remind oneself that the events depicted actually happened. But, how could they have, really? And what may a twenty-three year old French man found in Spain have in common with a thirteen-year old American boy who disappeared from his home in 1993? At first glance – nothing at all, and, at second glance – perhaps the desire to be found and loved. Bart Layton (American Animals (2018)) raises many issues in his documentary, making it personal, compelling and suspenseful.
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In 2012, a science-fiction film titled Antiviral hit both the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, and what everybody talked about was that this film is from David Cronenberg’s son – Brandon Cronenberg. People started to look for similarities between Antiviral and David Cronenberg’s films and trademarks, and they found plenty of those. One of the points of this review is that Antiviral is an impressive film debut from Brandon Cronenberg, irrespective of his link to his famous father. That film and that director should be recognised in their own right. Antiviral is not a perfect film, but it has many interesting ideas and a good execution. It also has a feel different from David Cronenberg’s filmography. In Antiviral, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)) is an employee of Lucas Clinic, a place where the dream of obsessed fans to be closer to their celebrities may be realised by injecting them with a live virus from one of the sick big celebrities. This way, customers will experience a one-of-a-kind union with their idols. One such celebrity which has a link to the clinic is beautiful Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon (Indignation (2016)). When Hannah falls ill after a trip to China, Syd flouts company regulations and becomes a host to her virus, not even realising that Hannah is on the brink of death. Continue reading “Antiviral” Review
Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben) (2018)
This mystery-thriller comes from the acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman (2016)), and stars such big-time actors as Penelope Cruz (Volver (2006)), Javier Bardem (Mother! (2017)) and Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)). It seems therefore like this film can do no wrong, but, unfortunately, much does not go well in this latest by Farhadi. In this story, Laura (Cruz) travels from Argentina to Spain with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. She arrives to a quiet Spanish village of her childhood and is happy to strengthen relationship with her large extended family. However, when Laura’s teenage daughter gets kidnapped, familial secrets come dangerously close to being revealed, and the pool of suspects thins to point to some family members. In Everybody Knows, the lead actors’ performances cannot be faulted, and the film has this one-of-a-kind ambiance of traditional rural Spain. The director also admirably tries to explore some curious familial situations. However, the problem with this film is that it does not become a clever mystery-thriller with tension surrounding the kidnapping and some twists to come. Instead, overlong Everybody Knows is all about tedious melodramatic scenes, with the feeling left that the script could have been considered for some local TV series. Even more unfortunately, what “everybody knows” in the story or the big reveal could easily be guessed in the first half of this well-meaning “mystery” movie. Continue reading “Everybody Knows” Mini-Review
The Wife (2018)
There is a saying that behind every successful man there is a woman, and “The Wife” exemplifies this saying like no other film. More often than not, society concerns itself with appearances, and people often only see what the façade presents – be it in relation to a relationship or a family. What is going on behind closed doors or what people may feel inside may be another matter altogether. “The Wife” is just that thought-provoking film that deals with this and other issues. Based on a novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, the movie is about a married couple Joe and Joan Castleman (Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close) who receive rather exciting news – Joe is to be given a Nobel Prize for Literature. The duo, together with their son David, travel to Stockholm to receive this honour, and while there, both Jo and Joan experience a crisis of faith, and one big secret of their lives comes dangerously close to being unravelled. The film has its faults, but Glenn Close’s performance ensures that the film is sincere and convincing. If the first part of the film is this slightly mysterious story of whether there is something wrong in the happy marriage and the professional lives of Joe and Joan, than the second half is all about unsaid things emerging and letting themselves be known.
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The Little Stranger (2018)
The film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel “The Little Stranger” had some bad public reviews, and, therefore, I was curious to see it. In the story, Dr Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) reacquaints himself with one stately house (Hundreds Hall) he used to admire in his childhood. This is the house belonging to the Ayres family, who now find themselves in a pitiful financial and societal position. Dr Faraday tries to help the son of the family Roderick (Will Poulter) with his health issues, and gets close to the daughter of Mrs Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) – Caroline Ayres (Ruth Wilson). However, with his blinding attachment to the house, Dr Faraday does not even guess the horrors which the house apparently holds. The film is not bad. It is stylishly presented and has some intriguing character presentation. However, it is also problematic in a way it tries too awkwardly to tie together a period drama, with one central maladjusted character, and supernatural horror. Continue reading “The Little Stranger” Review
Three Identical Strangers (2018)
Tim Wardle’s “Three Identical Strangers” is a documentary about an incredible true story of three identical brothers (David, Eddie and Robert) who were separated shortly after birth and who then get to know each other for the first time at the age of nineteen through an incredible reunion. However, the documentary is also about much more than this. The incredible reunion of the triplets is just part of the story’s package to amaze. As we see further, after the triplets’ reunion, the documentary delves into the nature/nurture debate, uncovers the previous troubled lives of the separated triplets, and then, finally, presents one shocking revelation. In that vein, the documentary first amazes its viewers, leaving an unforgettable impression, and then profoundly shocks, raising an outrage inside every viewer who has a heart.
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The Children Act (2018)
“It was a logical extension of his fantasy of a long sea voyage with her, of their talking all day as they paced the rolling deck. Logical and insane. And innocent. The silence wound itself around them and bound them” (Ian McEwan, The Children Act).
“The Children Act” is a film adaptation of an acclaimed novel by Ian McEwan, who, incidentally, also wrote the screenplay. In the story, a High Court judge, Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson), comes under immense pressure and has to deal with two rising issues in her life simultaneously – firstly, Fiona faces a family crisis as her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci) states openly that he would like to have an affair with a younger woman, and, secondly, she also becomes involved in a very traumatic legal case of a boy, Adam (Fionn Whitehead), who refuses to have his life-saving blood transfusion because of his religious faith. The film is to be admired for its faithful conformity to the book, as well as for the excellent performance by Thompson. However, it is also apparent that, despite having McEwan himself on board as a scriptwriter, the film also missed its plot in relation to the portrayal of the character of Adam.
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This psychological thriller by Steven Soderbergh (“Side Effects” (2013)) has the distinction of being the first theatrical feature film shot almost entirely on iPhone cameras, and the result is impressive. Claire Foy (“Breathe” (2017)) plays Sawyer Valentini, a career-driven young woman who has just started a new job in a new city. We are invited to question her sense of reality when she becomes obsessed with the apparent stalking behaviour which is going on around her with her being the primary victim. When Sawyer is invited to spend a few days in a mental institution to rest and gather her wits, her apparent paranoia and delusions intensify. Soderbergh employs iPhone cameras very cleverly to both critique the provision of mental health help and to show Sawyer’s mounting psychological problems.
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Big Fish & Begonia (2016)
This fantastical tale is about Chun, a girl who is a member of a tribe of mythical beings (“neither humans nor gods, but others”) living underwater, capable of controlling tides and knowing the secrets of nature. As part of her rite of passage, Chun turns into a dolphin to visit the human world. There, Chun makes a contact with a boy who loses his life “because of her”, and Chun vows to sacrifice a part of her life for him, seeking help to turn the boy into a fish which must grow big enough for his later transformation. The story sounds a bit complex; it requires certain open-mindedness; and the layering is quite deep. However, with the stunning visuals (better seen on the widest possible screen), the simplicity of the main theme is quite evident and heart-warming. The meticulously-constructed scenery, and the relatable themes of the cycle of life, and the importance of friendship and of not losing hope, all make this animation more than worth your time. Moreover, “Big Fish & Begonia” has already done extremely well at the Chinese box office, and, being a huge leap forward for the Chinese animation industry, it may be a contender in the next Oscar season.
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Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017)
“Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck” (Orson Welles). It seems that this quote is particularly applicable to the story, where one financial institution based in Chinatown, New York – Abacus, became the centre of the government’s prosecution in 2012, and still remains to this day “the only US bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 crisis”. Perhaps, Abacus just has not been lucky, but did they really deserve such a massive, million-dollar prosecution against them, with definite prison sentences hanging over their heads if they found convicted? No. They say that “selective justice” is the worst there is, but what is here even more shocking is that “the targeting for justice” by the American government was not too unreasonable – Abacus was both small enough and, actually, – foreign enough. Hence, the justification for all the criminal charges, whereas other massive banks committing even worse crimes can escape with a fine. Director Steve James made this thought-provoking documentary about one small financial institution’s fight against injustice and it already has the distinction to be nominated for an Academy Award. This well-made documentary piece, packed with insightful interviews, fascinating legal processes, human stories and warmth towards other culture, is a real eye-opener.
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