Promising Young Woman (2020)

Promising Young Woman
Director: Emerald Fennell
Writer: Emerald Fennell
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Max Greenfield, Chris Lowell, Molly Shannon, Alfred Molina
Seen on: 23.8.2021

Content Note: rape, rape culture

Plot:
Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) has a hobby: she goes out a lot, pretends to be drunk and waits until a man tries to pick her up and fuck, or rather rape her. Then she confronts him about his actions. Other than that, her life is pretty uneventful. She lives with her parents (Clancy Brown, Jennifer Cooldige) and works in a coffeeshop. When Ryan (Bo Burnham) comes into the coffeeshop one day, he recognizes her from college and asks Cassie out. This reconnection to her own past has unforeseen consequences for both of them.

Promising Young Woman is a strong film that is definitely worth seeing, even though it doesn’t come without flaws. It certainly leaves an impression and opens up a discussion.

The film poster showing the film title as if written with lipstick, inlcuding a lip print. behind this we can see Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) unfocused, lipstick in hand.
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A Classic Horror Story (2021)

A Classic Horror Story
Director: Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli
Writer: Lucio Besana, Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli, Milo Tissone, David Bellini
Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Francesco Russo, Peppino Mazzotta, Will Merrick, Yuliia Sobol, Alida Baldari Calabria, Cristina Donadio
Seen on: 22.8.2021

Plot:
Elisa (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) is trying to make her way to her family in the south of Italy. To get there, she has found a rideshare – a camper van driven by Fabricio (Francesco Russo), a travel blogger. Along with them are grumpy doctor Riccardo (Peppino Mazzotta) and young couple Sofia (Yuliia Sobol) and Mark (Will Merrick). They set off, but soon things take a very bad turn. They find themselves stranded in front of a hunting cabin – and the hunters soon follow.

A Classic Horror Story thinks that it is much smarter than it actually is, and adopts such a sanctimonious tone, I quickly grew to dislike it – despite some really strong elements.

The film poster showing a woman standing in a doorway. She is in shadow, and some kind of horns are growing from her head. The landscape behind her is drenched in red light.

[SPOILERS]

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Europa Europa (1990)

Europa Europa
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Writer: Agnieszka Holland
Based on: Solomon Perel‘s autobiography Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon
Cast: Marco Hofschneider, André Wilms, Ashley Wanninger, Klaus Abramowsky, Delphine Forest, René Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Hanns Zischler, Martin Maria Blau, Bernhard Howe, Klaus Kowatsch, Holger Kunkel, Halina Labonarska
Seen on: 19.8.2021

Content Note: holocaust, anti-semitism, fascism, sexualized violence

Plot:
Solomon (Marco Hofschneider), called Sally, lives with his Jewish family in Germany, but with the rise of the Nazis, the situation becomes ever more dangerous for them. After his sister is killed, the remaining family makes its way to Poland, hoping to be safe there. When the Nazis come to Poland, too, Sally becomes separated from the rest of his family. He first finds shelter in a Russian school, but after the Nazis catch up with him there, too, he doesn’t have many options left. When he finds himself face to face with German soldiers, he tells them that he is a “Volksdeutscher”, member of a German minortiy in Poland, and since his language skills prove him to be a valuable interpreter, he is taken in. But it’s not that easy to pretend that he isn’t Jewish.

Europa Europa gives us an important perspective on World War 2 – one on what it could mean to simply survive, and how hard even the “lucky” persecuted people had it. It’s a really memorable film with a memorable protagonist.

The film poster showing Solomon (Marco Hofschneider) leaning over Leni (Julie Delpy) to kiss her.
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The Forest (2016)

The Forest
Director: Jason Zada
Writer: Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, Ben Ketai
Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Eoin Macken, Rina Takasaki
Seen on: 18.8.2021

Content Note: suicide, racism

Plot:
Sara’s (Natalie Dormer) twin sister Jess (Natalie Dormer) has disappeared in Japan. Everyone seems to assume that she is dead as she was last seen in Aokigahara forest, a spot known for people to go to kill themselves. But Sara is convinced that Jess isn’t dead, just lost. So she goes to Japan to find her. She meets journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who is about to write about Aokigahara and invites her to join his exploration with local guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), if she lets him use her story. Sara agrees. As they head into the forest, they soon realize that there is more to it than they thought at first.

Sometimes I want to kick myself for my memory and for my tendency to not read much about films before seeing them. If my memory had been better, I would have remembered why I hadn’t watched The Forest before, and if I had read more about it, I probably would have remembered better or realized anew. Because The Forest is one fucking racist mess and it isn’t even subtle or debatable. It’s just really, really racist. And even apart from that, it’s not particularly good.

The film poster showing Sara's (Natalie Dormer) face, the lower half dissolving into a series of nooses below a line of trees.
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The Constant Rabbit (Jasper Fforde)

The Constant Rabbit is a novel by Jasper Fforde.
Finished on: 17.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism and fascism

Plot:
In 1965, an as of yet unexplained Anthropomorphising Event took place that transformed 18 rabbits into intelligent, talking human-sized beings. Ever since, they have multiplied and become a part of society. What part exactly that is, is a hotly-debated topic. The UKARP (UK Anti-Rabbit Party) that wants to see rabbit rights strictly limited has garnered much momentum. Peter Knox works for RabCoT, the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce, but sees the mounting leporophobia around him with concern. When a rabbit family moves in next door, and he realizes that he knew Connie, the mother, in college, it becomes ever more obvious that Peter will need to choose a side.

The Constant Rabbit is not subtle in its allegory, but its so supremely weird in the most wonderful way that it never feels preachy. It’s instead a deeply political, funny and revealing book.

The book cover, shwoing a white rabbit in a business suit in front of a red background.
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Free Guy (2021)

Free Guy
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Taika Waititi
Seen on: 16.8.2021

Plot:
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a bank teller and his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) is a security guard in the bank. Everyday they go into work and everyday the bank gets robbed. More than once, mostly. Guy is a cheery person, though, but he does wonder whether life holds more for him than bank robberies. He dreams of the girl he saw once, though Buddy doesn’t believe she exists. Until Guy really does see her, decides to break his routine and talk to her – Millie (Jodie Comer), as he learns. What he doesn’t know, though, is that his world is actually a game and Millie is a player, while Guy is an NPC, a non-player character, who shouldn’t be able to make the decisions he makes. Also, Millie is playing for a particular reason.

Free Guy looked fun, but I didn’t expect it to be as much fun as it was. It’s a film that I think will satisfy gamers, as well as people like me who only have a rudimentary knowledge of the kind of computer games that it plays with. I’d say it’s a full success.

The film poster showing Guy (Ryan Reynolds) from behind, standing on a rooftop overlooking a city skyline full of plans, rockets, hot air balloons, parachutes and an explosion. He has a goldfish bowl with a goldfish in one hand and a disposable coffee cup in the other.
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Fear Street: 1666 (2021)

Fear Street: 1666
Director: Leigh Janiak
Writer: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak, Kate Trefry
Based on: R.L. Stine‘s series
Sequel to: Fear Street: 1994, Fear Street: 1978
Cast: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Jordyn DiNatale, Elizabeth Scopel, Gillian Jacobs, Emily Rudd, Sadie Sink, McCabe Slye, Ryan Simpkins, Ted Sutherland, Sam Brooks, Jordana Spiro
Seen on: 12.8.2021

Plot:
Deena (Kiana Madeira) has a vision of how everything started with Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel) in 1666, seeing events through her eyes to learn how Sarah’s curse started, and how Deena can hopefully finally end it. It appears that Sarah used to be a normal teenager, trying her best to take care of her brother Henry (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and her father (Randy Havens), and even the unfortunate widower Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman). But after a visit to The Widow (Jordana Spiro) everything changes.

Fear Street: 1666 was a really nice finale to a very satisfying trilogy – one that doesn’t only deliver emotionally, but also gives us some surprises that completely paid off for me.

The film poster showing Hannah/Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) tinted in green above a tree, a hooded figure carrying a torch and Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman).
Read more with slight SPOILERS

Pizza Girl (Jean Kyoung Frazier)

Pizza Girl is the first novel by Jean Kyoung Frazier.
Finished on: 11.8.2021

Content Note: stalking, alcoholism

Plot:
She is 18 years old, pregnant and works as a pizza delivery girl. Living with her mother and her boyfriend who seem way more excited about the baby than she is, she has no idea where to go from here. She doesn’t even want to think about it. Then she delivers a pizza one day to Jenny and her son. Something about Jenny’s apparently chaotic life and her ponytail draws her in, and Jenny, too, seems to take an interest in the “Pizza Girl”, as she calls her. She starts waiting and hoping for Jenny’s call to the pizza place every week – but soon that isn’t enough anymore.

Pizza Girl should be a heavy book but somehow Frazier manages to keep it light and quick despite the many difficult topics she touches on. While I appreciate that, I would have also liked to feel the heaviness a little more. That being said, it’s certainly a memorable novel and a very good debut that will stay with me.

The book cover showing a graphic of an open, empty pizza box in front of a black and pink background.
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Minari (2020)

Minari
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Writer: Lee Isaac Chung
Cast: Alan S. Kim, Yeri Han, Noel Cho, Steven Yeun, Yuh-Jung Youn, Will Patton
Seen on: 10.8.2021

Content Note: child abuse, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Jacob (Steven Yeun) has always dreamed of owning a farm, and finally he and his wife Monica (Yeri Han) have saved up enough to buy a plot of land. Much to Monica’s surprise, the land is much bigger and much more rural than she expected, their house nothing more but a trailer. But what’s done is done, and they and their children David (Alan S. Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho) move in. While Jacob throws himself into farming, Monica is not convinced about the success of his endeavor.

Minari is a beautiful, intimate and very soft film that is sure to find a way into your heart. I really adored it.

The film poster showing David (Alan S. Kim) walking over a field with a stick in his hand. A mural of the US-American flag can be seen on the background.
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Proxima (2019)

Proxima
Director: Alice Winocour
Writer: Alice Winocour, Jean-Stéphane Bron
Cast: Eva Green, Zélie Boulant, Matt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller
Seen on: 10.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) sexism

Plot:
Sarah (Eva Green) is an astronaut at ESA. Or she hopes to become one – so far, she has been preparing while taking care of her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant) mostly on her own as she is separated from Stella’s father, astrophycisist Thomas (Lars Eidinger). When Sarah finally gets the call she’s been waiting for, when she is finally assigned a mission, things change quickly and drastically for Sarah and Stella. Sarah has to go to Russia for her mission training, Stella has to move in with Thomas. Both knew this was coming, but living it brings more challenges than expected.

Proxima is a quiet film, focusing on the trivialities of space travel in a way that feels entirely revolutionary and gives it a new, feminine-coded take we very much needed.

The film poster showing Sarah (Eva Green) in her astronaut suit holding her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant), behind them a rocket getting ready to lift off.
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