Lovecut (2020)

Lovecut
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

Plot:
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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Tottumiskysymys [Force of Habit] (2019)

Tottumiskysymys
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

Plot:
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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Radioactive (2019)

Radioactive
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Writer: Jack Thorne
Based on: Lauren Redniss‘ book Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Aneurin Barnard, Simon Russell Beale, Sian Brooke, Drew Jacoby, Katherine Parkinson, Corey Johnson, Anya Taylor-Joy
Seen on: 18.8.2020
[Here’s my review of the 2016 Marie Curie movie.]

Content Note: xenomisia

Plot:
Marie (Rosamund Pike) is completely devoted to her work, but when she loses her spot in the lab, her project is threatened. When Pierre (Sam Riley) offers her a workspace in his own lab, she is hesitant to accept because she doesn’t want to have to depend on him and she certainly doesn’t want anybody interfering with her work. But she doesn’t really have any options, so she does agree. This is the beginning of their collaboration and Marie’s lifelong fight to have herself and her work recognized.

I think I wanted to like Radioactive better than I actually did. It does bring some new perspectives to the story, but not all of the ideas here work as they should.

The FIlm poster showing Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike) with her hands in her waist.
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The Roads Not Taken (2020)

The Roads Not Taken
Director: Sally Potter
Writer: Sally Potter
Cast: Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Branka Katic, Salma Hayek, Milena Tscharntke, Laura Linney
Seen on: 13.8.2020

Plot:
Molly (Elle Fanning) has a big day planned with her father Leo (Javier Bardem). They have two doctor’s appointments, which is quite a challenge for and with Leo as he has early onset dementia. Molly does her best, but not everything works well – neither with Leo nor with her job that she is neglecting for her father. Meanwhile Leo is living alternative lives that make him re-examine the biggest life choices he made.

The Roads Not Taken is a beautifully acted, interesting film that focused too much on Leo for me – and not enough on Molly.

The film poster showing Leo's (Javier Bardem) head dissolving into photos.
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Un divan à Tunis [Arab Blues] (2019)

Un divan à Tunis
Director: Manele Labidi
Writer: Maud Ameline, Manele Labidi
Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Majd Mastoura, Aïsha Ben Miled, Feryel Chammari, Hichem Yacoubi, Najoua Zouhair, Jamel Sassi, Ramla Ayari, Moncef Ajengui
Seen on: 13.8.2020

Content Note: transmisia

Plot:
Selma (Golshifteh Farahani) decided to move back to Tunis from Paris – much to the incomprehension of most people. Her cousin Olfa (Aïsha Ben Miled) doesn’t understand why she would leave the freedom Paris promises and the rest of Tunis doesn’t understand why she would want to open her practice as a psychotherapist in Tunis. But people flock to her office. She also draws the attention of police officer Naim (Majd Mastoura) who starts harrassing her about a proper licence for her work.

Un divan à Tunis has some nice moments and Farahani is fantastic, but the film relies a little too much on cheap jokes – one of which is pretty transmisic – to actually work.

The film poster showing Selma (Goshifteh Farahani) sitting on the roof floor in front of a couch, next to a picture of Sigmund Freud.
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Harriet (2019)

Harriet
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Writer: Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons
Cast: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Omar J. Dorsey, Henry Hunter Hall, Janelle Monáe
Seen on: 6.8.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, slavery

Plot:
Minty (Cynthia Erivo) is enslaved by the Brodess family. Her husband John Tubman (Zackary Momoh) is free and he wants to see Minty free, too. But there is no legal opinion the Brodesses will accept. After the death of the patriarch, his son Gideon (Joe Alwyn), who more or less grew up with Minty, takes over and things take a turn worse for her: he threatens to sell her. In an act of desperation she runs away – to become Harriet Tubman.

Harriet tells the story of a fantastic Black woman, but it was too preoccupied for me to make Tubman into a literal emissary of god. Ultimately Harriet existing at all is much more radical than the film itself.

The film poster showing William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) and Mary Buchanon (Janelle Monáe) above the silhouette of Harriet walking through a field with her gun raised.
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Sibyl (2019)

Sibyl
Director: Justine Triet
Writer: Arthur Harari, Justine Triet
Cast: Virginie Efira, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Gaspard Ulliel, Sandra Hüller, Laure Calamy, Niels Schneider, Paul Hamy, Arthur Harari
Seen on: 3.8.2020

Plot:
Sibyl (Virginie Efira) is a therapist who feels inspired to return to her first passion of writing novels. So she lets go most of her clients and prepares to write a novel. When she gets a call from the young actress Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who is in obvious distress, she makes an exception and takes her own as a client as well. In Margot’s story, she finds the inspiration she needed for her novel, but the more time they spend together, the deeper Sibyl gets sucked into the story herself.

Sibyl gives us an antiheroine in quite a few very complicated relationships (and if they aren’t complicated on their own, she knows how to complicate them). This is engaging material, especially with that cast, but it does spiral a little too much at times.

The film poster showing half of Sibyl's (Virginie Efira) and half of Margot's (Adèle Exarchopoulos) face.
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Das Vorspiel [The Audition] (2019)

Das Vorspiel
Director: Ina Weisse
Writer: Daphne Charizani, Ina Weisse
Cast: Nina Hoss, Simon Abkarian, Jens Albinus, Ilja Monti, Serafin Mishiev, Sophie Rois
Seen on: 24.7.2020

Plot:
Anna (Nina Hoss) is a violin teacher. At the auditions for the music school she works at, she sees – and hears – Alexander (Ilja Monti). She thinks he shows great promise, while her colleague (Sophie Rois) is less convinced. Now Anna has half a year to push Alexander to make his talent obvious to everyone. At the same time, her own son Jonas (Serafin Mishiev) shows less and less interest in his own violin practice and her husband Philippe (Simon Abkarian) struggles with Anna’s increasing distance.

Das Vorspiel is the perfect stage for Nina Hoss to deliver a stunning performance, but storywise it is a little unsatisfying.

The film poster showing Anna (Nina Hoss) hugging her husband Philippe (Simon Abkarian) from behind at the top and below it, Anna playing the violin.
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American Honey (2016)

American Honey
Director: Andrea Arnold
Writer: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Will Patton
Seen on: 19.7.2020

Content Note: sexualized abuse

Plot:
Star (Sasha Lane) takes care of her siblings and has to fend off her stepfather’s abuse, if she can at all, so when she meets Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and he offers her a way out – joining him and a whole bus full of kids to drive around the country selling magazine subscriptions – Star jumps at the chance. Probably would have also jumped if there hadn’t been an instant connection between her and Jake, but that certainly helped her decision. But once they are on the road, things become a little more complicated than Star anticipated.

American Honey is a beautiful coming-of-age road movie with great lead performances, looking at a part of America that rarely gets much attention. I was absolutely captivated by it.

The film poster showing Star (Sasha Lane) from behind, raising her hand to the sky.
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The Nightingale (2018)

The Nightingale
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Michael Sheasby, Damon Herriman, Sam Claflin, Harry Greenwood, Charlie Jampijinpa Brown, Magnolia Maymuru
Seen on: 16.7.2020

Content Note: rape, racism, gore

Plot:
Clare (Aisling Franciosi) was convicted in Ireland and shipped to Tasmania where she works as a maid for the army stationed there, under the command of Hawkins (Sam Claflin). She was supposed to go free years ago, but Hawkins isn’t ready to let her go. Things escalate and Clare finds herself devastated and bent on revenge against Hawkins. Hawkins is traveling through the forest to the next big city, so Clare resolves to follow. She hires the Indigenous Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as a guide and moved by her desparation, Billy agrees against his better judgment. Making their way through the forest comes with its challenges quite apart from a hard treck – especially for a white woman only accompanied by a Black man.

The Nightingale is a rape-revenge film without exploitation and a feminist look at colonialism that, unfortunately, fails a little when it comes to considering intersectionalities. In any case, it’s a demanding and harsh film that is worthy of attention.

The film poster showing Clare (Aisling Franciosi) with a black bird flying across her face, covering half of it.
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