The Climb (2019)

The Climb
Director: Michael Angelo Covino
Writer: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin
Cast: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, Gayle Rankin, Judith Godrèche, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, Daniella Covino, Eden Malyn
Seen on: 8.9.2020

Kyle (Kyle Marvin) is just about to get married. To get away from the wedding planning, he goes on a cycling tour with his best friend and best man Mike (Michael Angelo Covino). As they are cycling, Mike confesses to Kyle that he has been sleeping with Kyle’s fiancée Ava (Judith Godrèche). This causes a rift between them. But having been friends for such a long time means that they can’t get away from each other all that easily.

The Climb is a strange little film with a very nice sense of humor that traces a friendship in an unusual way. I liked it, though I was hoping for a little better treatment of the female characters.

Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) cycling up a mountain, an old red car just behind them.
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Lovecut (2020)

Director: Iliana Estañol, Johanna Lietha
Writer: Iliana Estañol, Johanna Lietha
Cast: Kerem Abdelhamed, Sara Toth, Valentin Gruber, Melissa Irowa, Max Kuess, Lou von Schrader, Raphaela Gasper, Marcel Mohab, Doris Schretzmayer
Seen on: 7.9.2020

Content Note: ableism

Jakob (Kerem Abdelhamed) and Anna (Sara Toth) have been a couple for a while and enjoy a rather adventurous sex life. Anna desperately wants to move out from home, but she needs to make money for that. So the two decide to try amateur porn. Meanwhile Jakob’s brother Alex (Valentin Gruber) is dating Momo (Melissa Irowa) – online, because he doesn’t dare telling Momo that he uses a wheelchair. Momo’s friend Luka (Lou von Schrader) also uses online dating sites and meets Ben (Max Kuess). Ben is very much into her, but Luka doesn’t want anything to do with feelings.

Lovecut is an interesting look at sex (and a little bit love) for teenagers in times of online dating and easily available (opportunities for) sex work. It manages to be non-judgmental for the most part, which is nice, but it does suffer a little from the inexperience of both the cast and the writing-directing team.

The film poster with three film stills: Ben (Max Kuess) floating in the danube; Anna (Sara Toth) posing for the camera; and Luka (Lou von Schrader) and Ben looking at each other while lying next to sleeping Momo (Melissa Irowa).
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Boze Cialo [Corpus Christi] (2019)

Boze Cialo
Director: Jan Komasa
Writer: Mateusz Pacewicz
Cast: Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel, Tomasz Zietek, Barbara Kurzaj, Leszek Lichota, Zdzislaw Wardejn, Lukasz Simlat
Seen on: 7.9.2020

Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) gets out of juvie. The priest in prison, Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat), has arranged a job for him at a saw mill in the country side, so Daniel makes his way there. He actually dreams of becoming a priest himself, but with his record, this has become impossible. When he reaches the saw mill, he finds that he cannot face his new reality, so he heads to the church in town instead. When he faces sarcastic Eliza (Eliza Rycembel), he tells her on a whim that he is a priest – and quickly finds himself drawn in to support the local Father (Zdzislaw Wardejn). He realizes that the community is still reeling after tragedy struck them and Daniel is determined to help, despite everything.

For some reason, I thought that Corpus Christi was going to be a comedy. It is decidedly not. Despite that misapprehension on my part, I was thoroughly impressed by the film.

The film poster showing Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) in a priest's robe, cigarette in hand.
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Follow Me (2020)

Follow Me (aka No Escape)
Director: Will Wernick
Writer: Will Wernick
Cast: Keegan Allen, Holland Roden, Denzel Whitaker, Siya, George Janko, Ronen Rubinstein, Emilia Ares, Pasha D. Lychnikoff
Seen on: 31.8.2020

Cole (Keegan Allen) has built a large social media following with his thrill-seeking stunts. Now that he is celebrating ten years of this, a certain tiredness has settled in and he doubts that he can still find things that really thrill him. That’s why his girlfriend Erin (Holland Roden) and his friends Thomas (Denzel Whitaker), Dam (Siya) and Dash (George Janko) have promised him the experience of a lifetime: a secret escape room in Russia. Cole is underwhelmed at first – but it soon turns out that the escape room might give him more than he bargained for.

I didn’t expect much from Follow Me and it didn’t deliver much, so I guess that’s alright. The ending does carry a little more punch than I expected, but that’s about it.

The film poster showing Erin (Holland Roden) in a water tank filled with water banging against the glass. There's a bloody handprint.
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Tenet (2020)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Fiona Dourif, Michael Caine, Himesh Patel, Dimple Kapadia
Seen on: 31.8.2020

A special operative (John David Washington) is captured in a mission that goes very wrong. He manages to swallow a suicide pill – only to wake up recruited for a very special program. A program he knows nothing about except that there is something weird going on with time and he has one code word to find information: Tenet. Things soon point him to arms dealer Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) and his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) – but that’s only the beginning.

Nolan has made some good movies, but Tenet isn’t one of them. It’s pretty much incomprehensible drivel that’s much too preoccupied with its own coolness. If you’re looking for an example of style over substance: this is it.

The film poster showing the Protagonist (John David Washington) twice, mirrored along a diagonal line, once facing forward, once backward, once wearing a suit, once a uniform. Both times he is aiming a gun.
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Anne of the Island (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Anne of the Island is the third novel in the Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Finished on: 26.8.2020
[Here are my reviews of the rest of the series.]

Anne is finally ready to go to college – and Redmond beckons. Together with Gilbert, Charlie and Priscilla, they go to Nova Scotia to study, while Diana, Marilla and the twins remain back in Avonlea. Many things change for Anne, she makes new friends like Philippa (called Phil) and studies hard, while Gilbert becomes more insistent in his pursuit of Anne – much to her worry.

Reading the Anne of Green Gables series is really wonderful escapism – there is such a warmth and utterly humanistic core to the books, it’s simply a pleasure to fall into Anne’s world.

The book cover showing a red-haired young woman standing in a field, a young man approaching her in the distance.
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And Then We Danced (2019)

And Then We Danced
Director: Levan Akin
Writer: Levan Akin
Cast: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli, Kakha Gogidze, Ana Makharadze, Nino Gabisonia, Levan Gabrava, Dachi Babunashvili, Saba Abashidze, Giorgi Aladashvili, Soso Abramishvili
Seen on: 26.8.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a dancer with a traditional dance company in Tbilisi. He has been training basically his whole life with his dance partner Mary (Ana Javakishvili), juggling the training with a job as a waiter to support his family. When a new dancer, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) joins the company, his free-spiritedness inspires Merab – and ignites a spark in him he barely knew he was capable of.

And Then We Danced is a beautiful film that tells a lovely queer coming-of-age story in a very interesting setting. I was absolutely taken with it.

The film poster showing Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) in a traditional costume mid-dance.
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Tottumiskysymys [Force of Habit] (2019)

Director: Reetta Aalto, Alli Haapasalo, Anna Paavilainen, Kirsikka Saari, Miia Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi
Writer: Reetta Aalto, Alli Haapasalo, Anna Paavilainen, Kirsikka Saari, Miia Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi
Cast: Julia Lappalainen, Veikko Aalste, Tommi Eronen, Joel Hirvonen, Johannes Holopainen, Elina Knihtilä, Krista Kosonen, Seidi Haarla, Jarkko Pajunen, Pirjo Lonka, Ella Lahdenmäki, Niina Hosiasluoma, Samuli Niittymäki, Pinja Sanaksenaho, Eero Ritala, Suvi Blick
Seen on: 21.8.2020

Content Note: rape, sexual assault, rape culture

In several episodes, the film looks at various stories of sexualized violence. There’s Emppu (Julia Lappalainen), an actress who struggles with the rape scene in her play. Hilla (Krista Kosonen) and Kristian (Eero Ritala) are on holidays, when Hilla gets groped and it puts a shadow over their entire trip. Emmi (Suvi Blick) finds herself cornered by a friend after a party. At an office party Katja (Seidi Haarla) mentions that she was assaulted by a colleague, leading to a fall out with her co-workers. Milja (Pinja Sanaksenaho) is chatted up on the bus and things turn ugly. And Aleksi (Johannes Holopainen) is a young attorney who gets handed a rape case on short notice.

Force of Habit takes a look at how society deals with sexual violence, but mostly it focuses on the impact it has on the people who were violated, even when the violation doesn’t seem “so bad”.

The film poster showing the six main characters in pink monochrome and, smaller, three scenes in color.
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The Vigil (2019)

The Vigil
Director: Keith Thomas
Writer: Keith Thomas
Cast: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, Lynn Cohen, Fred Melamed, Ronald Cohen
Seen on: 19.8.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) antisemitism

Yakov (Dave Davis) recently left the Jewish Orthodox community and is now trying to adapt to a life outside of it. It isn’t easy, especially since the community doesn’t necessarily want to let him go. When Reb Shulem (Menashe Lustig) asks Yakov to be shomer for the night – to sit vigil with the body of an old holocaust survivor – Yakov only accepts because it is a paid position. He relieves the deceased man’s wife Mrs Litvak (Lynn Cohen), who is showing signs of dementia, and takes over the watch. But things quickly take a dark turn and Yakov finds himself facing something evil.

The Vigil impresses with its setting and Davis’ impeccable performance in a film that is focused almost entirely on him. But it isn’t quite as effective at the horror as it would have needed to be to really sell me on it.

The film poster showing Yakov (Dave Davis) sitting in an arm chair with a brungin candle. A shadowy hand is reaching for him.
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The Wretched (2019)

The Wretched
Director: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Writer: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Cast: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley
Seen on: 19.8.2020

Content Note: misogyny

Ben (John-Paul Howard) is supposed to work with his father Liam (Jamison Jones) over the summer. Liam is the harbor master in a town filled with tourists – like the people renting the house next door, Abbie (Zarah Mahler), her partner Ty (Kevin Bigley) and their two children. One night, Ben sees something weird going on at their place and the only one who even indulges the thought that he might be on to something is his co-worker Mallory (Piper Curda). But even she isn’t convinced that there is actually a witch in the house next door as Ben suspects.

The Wretched has one clever idea, but otherwise isn’t particularly interesting or brings much to the table that we haven’t seen before.

The film poster showing a woman with flaking skin hiding behind a deer skull.
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