I haven’t done any film reviews in a while, so maybe it’s time to talk movies again. Here are a few recent experiences that I felt moved to write about.
Hold The Dark (2018)
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Dark, atmospheric, and opaque are the three words that I’d use to describe this great bit of Arctic horror. Some critics found the lack of clear explanations in this film off-putting, but for me it made no difference at all. In fact, it actually helps Hold the Dark sustain its somber mood.
The plot: soft-spoken wolf expert Russell Core (played wonderfully by Jeffrey Wright) gets a letter from an aggrieved woman in northern Alaska about a pack of wolves who supposedly took her child. He travels to see her, and is drawn into a violent, mysterious world where nothing is what it appears to be.
The cinematography is fantastic, the musical score is great, and the acting here is top-notch. We get the sense that the entire landscape is saturated with madness and evil, and the very fact that it’s not all wrapped up for us in a nice neat package (as Hollywood too often loves to do) makes it that much more unsettling. Don’t miss this one. And why are we not seeing Jeffrey Wright in more pictures?
Cardboard Gangsters (2017)
Director: Mark O’Connor
A gang of young, belligerent thugs attempts to wrest control of the drug business in Darndale, Ireland from a vicious local crime boss. The story is not what matters here so much as the characters, their relationships with their families and each other, and the powerful moral message that this film delivers. Director Mark O’Connor does a beautiful job of showing us lives spinning out of control, and we all know that it’s not going to end well at all. It never does. And in a way, that’s the whole point. A powerful crime drama that delivers in every way.
The Salesman (2016)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
A well-done Iranian drama about criminal acts and their unforseen consequences. The plot: a young, artistically-minded Iranian couple who perform as theater actors move into a new apartment. Unbeknownst to them, the previous tenant happened to be a call girl. And when one of her former clients comes calling, a crime is committed, leaving the aggrieved husband to take matters into his own hands. Like many Iranian films, this is a serious, intellectual drama about the corrosive effects of moral corruption. But we never get the feeling that we are being preached to: everything that happens here seems plausible, and this makes it all the more tragic. An odd yet strangely beautiful film. Very well done, and highly recommended.
Director: Alfonso Boyart
A big disappointment. The talents of Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell are wasted in this ridiculous “psychic” escapade that rings hollow on every level. The plot: an old psychic doctor (Hopkins) is called out of retirement to hunt for a serial killer. And how many times have we seen this plot line before? Of course Hopkins grudgingly accepts, because he can’t let his precious powers go to waste. The rest of the film amounts to an absurd paranormal duel between him and Colin Farrell, whose character is even more psychic than Hopkins is. And when I say psychic, I mean really psychic: these guys are given superhuman powers by the director, who can’t resist every opportunity for an over-the-top explosion and shootout. It all adds up to a whole lot of nothing. Watch if you must.
On My Way (2014)
Director: Emmanuelle Bercot
I actually liked this film. The plot: middle-aged restaurant owner Betty (Catherine Deneuve) reaches her breaking point one day at work and decides to go for a drive. She keeps driving, and turns it into a mini-road trip. She experiences various little adventures and reconnects with some relatives, but beyond that nothing much happens. But who cares? Sometimes life can be just about scenery, countryside, driving, and sharing a few drinks. I enjoyed this movie, even if not many other critics did. Sometimes I just like to see the French countryside and hear people have interesting dialogues with each other. There is a place for everything in life.