Irreplaceable You (2018)

Irreplaceable You
Director: Stephanie Laing
Writer: Bess Wohl
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michiel Huisman, Christopher Walken, Brian Tyree Henry, Steve Coogan, Kate McKinnon, Jacki Weaver, Timothy Simons, Merritt Wever
Seen on: 24.3.2020

Content Note: cancer (death)

Plot:
Sam (Michiel Huisman) and Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) have been a couple since they were children and now that Abbie is pregnant, its time to get married. But when Abbie’s pregnancy turns out to be cancer and not a baby, their life is turned upside down. As Abbie has to confront the very real possibility that she will die, all she wants is to make sure that Sam will be okay after her death.

Irreplaceable You is just the right thing if you want to look at beautiful people while having a good cry. It certainly made me bawl, in a nice, cathartic way.

The film poster showing Sam (Michiel Huisman) piggybacking Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)
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Carrie Pilby (2016)

Carrie Pilby
Director: Susan Johnson
Writer: Kara Holden
Based on: Caren Lissner‘s novel
Cast: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Vanessa Bayer, Colin O’Donoghue, Jason Ritter, William Moseley, Desmin Borges
Seen on: 19.3.2020

Plot:
Carrie (Bel Powley) was a child prodigy. Having graduated Harvard at 18, she is now in New York and pretty much at a loss. She resents her father (Gabriel Byrne) for having sent her away when she was so young and doesn’t really know how to adjust to life outside of education. Her therapist (Nathan Lane) tries to get her to live a little instead of just reading books. When he gives her a list of tasks to fulfill – like going on a date or doing something she liked doing as a child – and at the same time, her father gets her a job as a copyeditor for a law firm, Carrie starts to make new experiences.

Carrie Pilby is a sweet, fun film with a complex female character at its center. It balances humor and serious issues nicely, making it absolutely enjoyable.

The film poster showing a drawing of Carrie's face, looking widely upwards.
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Emma. (2020)

Emma.
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Writer: Eleanor Catton
Based on: Jane Austen‘s novel
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Myra McFadyen, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, Miranda Hart, Tanya Reynolds, Connor Swindells, Oliver Chris
Seen on: 11.3.2020
[Here are my reviews of other Emma adaptations.]

Content Note: antiziganism

Plot:
Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) is “handsome, clever, and rich” and also very interested in matching the people around her. She credits herself with matching up her former governess Miss Taylor (now Mrs Weston) (Gemma Whelan) and Mr Weston (Rupert Graves) and encouraged by that success, sets about her next “victim”, naive and unrefined Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). Despite the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn), Emma wants to match Harriet with the local vicar, Mr Elton (Josh O’Connor). For herself, Emma has no plans – other than Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) (who she has never met) excites her curiosity.

Emma. was absolutely delightful. It has one of the best comedy ensemble casts I’ve seen in a long time, wonderfully lush production design and really captures the spirit of the book. I was very taken by it.

The film poster showing Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy), Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) and Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn).
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Die Dohnal [Johanna Dohnal – Visionary of Feminism] (2020)

Die Dohnal
Director: Sabine Derflinger
Writer: Sabine Derflinger
Seen on: 27.2.2020

“Plot”:
Johanna Dohnal was Austria’s first minister for women and the first (outspoken) feminist to be part of the government in Austria (maybe even Europe). She fought for women’s rights and achieved a lot. The documentary looks at her achievements, her career and the influence she still has.

I have to say that until this documentary came out, Dohnal was not a name I really knew. She was a minister when I was a child and I was not a child overly involved in politics. And as is so often the case, women and their achievements are more quickly forgotten than you’d ever think possible. I don’t think I ever heard about Dohnal in school. So it is fantastic to get this documentary that memorializes her and makes sure we don’t forget what she made possible.

The film poster showing Johanna Dohnal smoking.
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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Director: Cathy Yan
Writer: Christina Hodson
Sequel to (kinda): Suicide Squad
Based on: Birds of Prey by Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Chuck Dixon and Harley Quinn by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm
Cast: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Ali Wong
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 7.2.2020
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Plot:
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) was just broken up with and she’s not dealing all too well with the Joker’s rejection. As she parties her way through the heartache, she keeps the break-up under wraps, at least for a while. When she finally is able to admit to the break-up herself, she decides that a public statement is in order. What she didn’t consider, though, is that it would mean that half of Gotham city believes her to be an easy target now. Very quickly, Harley finds herself in the crosshairs of pretty much everybody, above all Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). To save her own skin, Harley gets involved with the search for a diamond for Sionis and things get even more complicated from there.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is an absolutely fantastic film. It’s funny, has great characters, awesome action and looks gorgeous. It immediately became one of my favorite superhero movies.

The film poster showing Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in party mode.
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Been So Long (2018)

Been So Long
Director: Tinge Krishnan
Writer: Che Walker
Cast: Michaela Coel, Mya Lewis, Arinzé Kene, George MacKay, Jo Martin, Ronke Adekoluejo, Joe Dempsie, Rakie Ayola, Luke Norris
Seen on: 2.2.2020

Plot:
Simone (Michaela Coel) has devoted her life to her daughter Mandy (Mya Lewis) – sacrificing her social life pretty much entirely for her. Her best friend Yvonne (Ronke Adekoluejo) does drag her out every once in a while though and on one of those nights, Simone meets Raymond (Arinzé Kene). He is charming and they hit it off, but he was also just released from prison and still wears an ankle monitor. Now Raymond has to figure out his life in general and Simone has to decide whether she has space for him in hers.

Been So Long is a musical with an interesting central couple and less interesting music. It was nice while it lasted, but I probably won’t remember it for a long time.

The film poster showing Simone (Michaela Coel) and Raymond (Arinzé Kene) leaning in for a kiss.
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Little Women (2019)

Little Women
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Based on: Louisa May Alcott’s novel
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Jayne Houdyshell, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep
Seen on: 31.1.2020
[Here are my reviews of the 1994 and the 2018 versions.]

Plot:
Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Amy (Florence Pugh) are sisters, living with their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) as their father is off fighting in the war. Their lives are spent working or studying and trying to help the even poorer people in the neighborhood. In their sparetime, they like to play creatively. When their neighbor Mr. Lawrence’s (Chris Cooper) grandson Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) moves in with his grandfather, he quickly finds himself included with the girls. Together, they navigate life’s ups and downs.

There are many, many things I really love about this version of Little Women. I enjoyed myself thoroughly as I watched it. And at the same time, there are so many narrative choices here that I hate that it really speaks to the film’s quality that I still liked it a lot.

The film poster showing the four Marsh girls (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen) looking out a window.
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Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Charlie’s Angels
Driector: Elizabeth Banks
Writer: Elizabeth Banks
Based on: the TV show
Sequel to (kinda): Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angles: Full Throttle
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Chris Pang, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Noah Centineo
Seen on: 15.1.2020

Plot:
Elena (Naomi Scott) is an engineer at a technology company and they are about to launch a product that will revolutionize the way the world works. Elena is worried that there is a terrible security flaw in the product, but nobody wants to hear about it. So she contacts the Angels, hoping to keep the worst from happening. Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are assigned to her case by Bosley (Elizabeth Banks). What should be a routine mission becomes much bigger than they expected, though.

I honestly don’t understand why Charlie’s Angels tanked as much as it did*. I found it to be a refreshing, fun action comedy with great performances and a nice (basic) feminist message.

*I have an idea though and that idea can be summed up with “male critics”.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film, above all the angels.
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Queen & Slim (2019)

Queen & Slim
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Writer: Lena Waithe, James Frey
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Sturgill Simpson, Indya Moore, Benito Martinez, Jahi Di’Allo Winston
Seen on: 9.1.2020

Plot:
Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) are on a blind date and things are not going particularly well. But they are still talking as Slim drives Queen home. That’s when they’re stopped by a police officer (Sturgill Simpson) who behaves pretty threateningly. Things get out of hand, and Slim ends up shooting the officer. In a panic, Slim and Queen take off, trying to figure out how to go from here – but their options are limited to say the least.

Queen & Slim is a strong film in many ways with a couple of serious missteps that keep the film from being really great, unfortunately.

The film poster showing Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) in a black-and-white image.

[SPOILERS]

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The Farewell (2019)

The Farewell
Director: Lulu Wang
Writer: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Shuzhen Zhao, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Yongbo Jiang, Han Chen, Aoi Mizuhara, Xiang Li, Hongli Liu,
Seen on: 9.1.2020

Plot:
Billi (Awkwafina) ambles a little aimlessly through her life in New York, waiting and hoping for an acceptance from an art university. When her Chinese grandmother Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao), with whom Billi is very close, is discovered to have only little time left to live, her parents (Tzi Ma, Diana Lin) fly to China. Billi follows, unable to stay behind, although she does have a hard time with the family decision to not tell Nai Nai of her diagnosis. To explain why the entire family is gathered, a wedding for Billi’s cousin (Han Chen) is arranged instead.

The Farewell is a beautiful film. Touching and emotional, it manages to be funny and tender at the same time – and also very insightful about life, death and family.

The film poster showing the entire family grouped around Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao).
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