Unrelated (2007)

Unrelated
Director: Joanna Hogg
Writer: Joanna Hogg
Cast: Kathryn Worth, Tom Hiddleston, Harry Kershaw, Emma Hiddleston, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Mary Roscoe, Michael Hadley, David Rintoul
Seen on: 5.4.2021

Plot:
Anna (Kathryn Worth) arrives in Italy. The plan was that she and her husband Alex would spend a nice holiday with her oldest friend Verena (Mary Roscoe) and her family – husband Charles (Michael Hadley) and three children, Archie (Harry Kershaw), Badge (Emma Hiddleston) and Jack (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), as well as Mary’s friend George (David Rintoul) and his son Oakley (Tom Hiddleston). But after a fight with Alex, Anna decided to travel on her own, to take a break. Much to Verena’s consternation, Anna doesn’t share what’s going on and doesn’t even spend a lot of time with her. Instead she rather hangs out with the kids, especially Oakley.

Unrelated feels almost like a documentary in its approach to its story, and this sense of detachment coupled with Worth’s personal performance allows it to both empathize with Anna while casting a critical glance at her environment, and also at Anna herself. I really enoyed it.

The film poster showing Anna (Kathryn Worth) sitting on the shore of a river or lake. Behind her, we can see Oakley (Tom Hiddleston) talking to Verena (Mary Roscoe).
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Work It (2020)

Work It
Director: Laura Terruso
Writer: Alison Peck
Cast: Sabrina Carpenter, Liza Koshy, Jordan Fisher, Keiynan Lonsdale, Briana Andrade-Gomes, Kalliane Brémault, Naomi Snieckus, Bianca Asilo, Neil Robles, Nathaniel Scarlette, Tyler Hutchings, Indiana Mehta, Drew Ray Tanner, Michelle Buteau
Seen on: 4.4.2021

Plot:
Quinn (Sabrina Carpenter) knows exactly what she wants: to go to the college her late father went to. She has been honing her CV just so, filling it with the right extracurricular activities and the right grades to get accepted. When she finally has her interview, though, the admissions officer (Michelle Buteau) is looking for something more unusual, though. Seeing her dreams float away, Quinn fibs that she is part of her high school’s award-winning dance team the Thunderbirds – she did their lighting after all. This seems to be the ticket, but now Quinn has to actually dance at the competition. Asking her best friend and Thunderbird Jasmine (Liza Koshy) for help, she starts training, but even so, the Thunderbirds don’t want her. So Quinn decides that she has to form a dance crew of her own.

Ah, dance movies… I will always fall into their trap and then shake my head at their ridiculousness while mostly enjoying them. Work It is a decent member of that particular genre, maybe slightly more on the ridiculous side than on the enjoyable one, but overall it delivers what you want and expect from a dance movie.

The film poster showing all the main characters in fierce poses as a dance crew.
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Dead Pigs (2018)

Dead Pigs
Director: Cathy Yan
Writer: Cathy Yan
Cast: Vivian Wu, Haoyu Yang, Mason Lee, Meng Li, David Rysdahl, Zazie Beetz
Seen on: 4.4.2021

Plot:
Candy Wang (Vivian Wu) runs a hairsalon and owns the last house in the neighborhood she grew up in. Everything else was torn down to make way for a large building project helmed by architect Sean Landry (David Rysdahl). Candy’s brother Old Wang (Haoyu Yang) is a pig farmer in constant money trouble. Now more so than ever, because his pigs have mysteriously died, just like most of the pigs in the area. Those dead pigs start floating down Shanghai river because nobody knows what else to do with them. Meanwhile Wang’s son Wang Zhen (Mason Lee) works in the city as a busboy, hoping to make a better life for himself and maybe catch the attention of his rich customer Xia Xia (Meng Li).

Dead Pigs rolls a lot of criticism into a protective layer of jokes that make its critical stance look surprisingly light, but not necessarily soft. It’s a bittersweet, very engaging film.

The film poster showing two piggy banks, one shattered with very little money inside.
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Bastard (2010)

Bastard
Director: Kirsten Dunst
Writer: Kirsten Dunst, Sasha Sagan
Cast: Juno Temple, Brian Geraghty, Lukas Haas, Lee Thompson Young, Joel David Moore, L.M. Kit Carson, Callie Hardy
Seen on: 2.4.2021

Plot:
A girl (Juno Temple) and a man (Brian Geraghty) are making their way through the desert. They are looking for shelter, while some men in a car (Lukas Haas, Lee Thompson Young, Joel David Moore) are looking for them.

I saw that Juno Temple was in Bastard and decided to watch it, so I was a little surprised by the Christianity of it. Your mileage will probably vary regarding that. I felt that the film was a bit sensationalistic. But Juno Temple is still wonderful.

The film poster showing the girl (Juno Temple), her face hidden behind her hair, her shoulders drawn high, underneath a red haze.

Tu mérites un amour [You Deserve a Lover] (2019)

Tu mérites un amour
Director: Hafsia Herzi
Writer: Hafsia Herzi
Cast: Hafsia Herzi, Djanis Bouzyani, Jérémie Laheurte, Anthony Bajon, Sylvie Verheyde, Karim Ait M’Hand, Myriam Djeljeli, Alexander Ferrario, Jonathan Eap, Sophie Garagnon, Brice Dulin, Mouna Soualem, Lina Soualem, Abdelkader Hoggui, Donia Bouzyani
Seen on: 31.3.2021

Plot:
When Lila (Hafsia Herzi) finds out that her boyfriend Rémi (Jérèmie Laheurte) cheated on her with his ex-girlfriend Myriam (Myriam Djeljeli), she is devastated. Lila and Rémi break up, but at the same time, they aren’t actually willing to let go of each other. So, while Rémi heads to Bolivia to clear his head, Lila starts flirting with other men, hoping to find more luck with them.

Tu mérites un amour sounds like it should be right up my alley – a story about a woman trying to find her footing in the world? I like those – but it just didn’t work for me because Lila and her development didn’t work for me.

The film poster showing Lila (Hafsia Herzi) lying half-naked on a bed.
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Les héros ne meurent jamais [Heroes Don’t Die] (2019)

Les héros ne meurent jamais
Director: Aude Léa Rapin
Writer: Jonathan Couzinié, Aude Léa Rapin
Cast: Adèle Haenel, Jonathan Couzinié, Antonia Buresi, Hasija Boric, Vesna Stilinovic, Damir Kustura, Slaven Vidak, Haris Devic, Midhat Slatina
Seen on: 31.3.2021

Plot:
After Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié) has an apparently random encounter with somebody on the street who gives him the idea that he is the reincarnation of a Zoran who appears to not have been a good person, he convinces his friend Alice (Adèle Haenel) to go to Sarajevo with him and find out more about his past life. Alice, a filmmaker who shot a documentary about Srebrenica and its aftermath, decides to make a film out of Joachim’s search as well. Together with soundmaster Virginie (Antonia Buresi) and cameraman Paul (Paul Guilhaume) they leave to find out who Zoran/Joachim was.

Heroes Don’t Die is an interesting, metafictional film that takes its seemingly fantastic premise to say something about how to live in the face of mortality – be it your own personal mortality, or the mortality of people around you, be it a single death or the masses who died in the war. I found it very intriguing.

The film poster showing Alice (Adèle Haenel) with her arm around Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié), a van can be seen behind them.
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W imie… [In the Name of] (2013)

W imie
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
Writer: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert, Szczepan Twardoch
Cast: Andrzej Chyra, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Maja Ostaszewska, Lukasz Simlat, Tomasz Schuchardt, Maria Maj, Kamil Adamowicz, Mateusz Gajko, Jakub Gentek, Daniel Swiderski
Seen on: 29.3.2021

Content Note: dubious consent, (critical treatment of) homomisia, antisemitism

Plot:
Adam (Andrzej Chyra) is a priest in a small town. Together with the teacher Michal (Lukasz Simlat), he spends most of his time trying to reign in the delinquent boys and young men they have to take care of in a mix of foster care and detention center. But Adam also struggles with his own homosexuality. He hoped that turning to religion will give him some relief, but when he is faced with the troubled Lukasz (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), his usual methods of suppression start failing.

W imie… treads familiar ground with its story. It’s not badly made, but it wouldn’t have hurt to give the topic a fresher spin.

The film poster showing Adam (Andrzej Chyra) in priest's robes, a painting of a saint vaguely in the background.
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Wuthering Heights (2011)

Wuthering Heights
Director: Andrea Arnold
Writer: Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed
Based on: Emily Brontë’s novel
Cast: James Howson, Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, Kaya Scodelario, Paul Hilton, Simone Jackson, Steve Evets, Lee Shaw, James Northcote, Nichola Burley
Seen on: 27.3.2021

Plot:
When Mr Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) brings home an orphaned Black boy who he calls Heathcliff (Solomon Glave), his daughter Catherine (Shannon Beer) is at first taken aback. But then the two become inseperable. But in their harsh surroundings, their relationship also becomes one of harshness. When they grow up (James Howson, Kaya Scodelario), it turns to bitterness, especially when the rich neighbor Edgar (James Northcote) starts courting Catherine.

Wuthering Heights does not have an easy start with me. I absolutely hated the novel. But I was hoping that Arnold would still manage to turn the story into something I’d care for. Unfortunately, my hopes were disappointed in that regard.

The film poster showing Heathcliff (James Howson) in a close-up and Catherine (Kaya Scodelario) walking away in two separate images.
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A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell
Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s novel
Cast: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, Bellamy Young, David Oyelowo
Seen on: 22.3.2021

Plot:
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is an unusual child from an unusual family. Her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a scientist, as is her father (Chris Pine) – who has been missing for a while. He was working on tesseracts when he just disappeared. Meg’s genius little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) seems to know more about it. And he has made some strange friends who know even more than that: Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). The three women prompt Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s class mate Calvin (Levi Miller) to go looking for her father – all through the universe.

I was rather disappointed when A Wrinkle in Time never got a big cinema release here in Austria, and I still think I would have appreciated seeing it on the big screen – the film is at its best, after all, when it just creates visuals. Other than those, it is very fine, but not great.

The film poster showing the main characters arranged in a circle.
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Sun Dogs (2017)


Sun Dogs
Director: Jennifer Morrison
Writer: Raoul McFarland
Cast: Michael Angarano, Melissa Benoist, Allison Janney, Ed O’Neill, Eric Christian Olsen, J.R. Ramirez, Alexander Wraith, Xzibit, Jennifer Morrison
Seen on: 21.3.2021

Content Note: ableism, suicide

Plot:
Ned (Michael Angarano) has one goal, and one goal only: he wants to join the Marines to fight against the terrorists who caused 9/11. He has been trying every year for three years since 2001, not realizing that he will never make it because of his disability. When he makes yet another attempt, the recruiter Master Sgt. Jenkins (Xzibit) tries to let him down easy by sending Ned on a mission at home, not anticipating that Ned takes this mission absolutely seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he even convices Tally (Melissa Benoist), a rather lost, young woman, that the mission is very real and that she can help.

Sun Dogs is sweet and warm, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it, I have to admit. Despite that, I’d say that the good outweighs the bad here.

The film poster showing the film's main characters. Front and center Ned (Michael Angarano), saluting while clutching a mascot head.
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