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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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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Into the Beat – Dein Herz tanzt (2020)

Into the Beat – Dein Herz tanzt
Director: Stefan Westerwelle
Writer: Hannah Schweier, Stefan Westerwelle
Cast: Alexandra Pfeifer, Yalany Marschner, Trystan Pütter, Helen Schneider, Ina Geraldine Guy,
Seen on: 5.8.2020

Plot:
Katya (Alexandra Pfeifer) is training as a ballet dancer and she’s just about to have the biggest audition of her life: an opportunity for a scholarship at the New York Ballet Academy. Since she comes from a ballet family, with her father (Trystan Pütter) a big star, it was always clear that she would go down that route. But when Katya stumbles into a dance club filled with hip-hop dancers, she suddenly finds that ballet may not be her passion after all. When Marlon (Yalany Marschner) offers to train with her, she gladly accepts – but having two dance careers at once simply isn’t possible.

I love dance movies, I am very aware of the tropey nature of most of them and I can even appreciate it. I felt like the people who made Into the Beat don’t, which makes the film a soulless affair.

The film poster showing Katya (Alexandra Pfeifer) and Marlon (Yalany Marschner) dancing with each other.
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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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Croce e delizia [An Almost Ordinary Summer] (2019)

Croce e delizia
Director: Simone Godano
Writer: Giulia Louise Steigerwalt
Cast: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Alessandro Gassmann, Jasmine Trinca, Filippo Scicchitano, Lunetta Savino, Anna Galiena, Rosa Diletta Rossi, Clara Ponsot, Giandomenico Cupaiuolo
Seen on: 3.8.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
Despite being from very different social backgrounds, fish monger Carlo (Alessandro Gassmann) and bon vivant Tony (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) fell in love. Now they just have to tell their families who don’t even know that they are into men in the first place. Carlo’s son Sandro (Filippo Scicchitano) struggles with his own homomisia and wonders whether his father ever loved his mother, while Tony’s daughters Penelope (Jasmine Trinca) and Olivia (Clara Ponsot) seem more accepting at first. But Penelope in particular finds that she cannot let her father marry a man and conspires with Sandro to break the two of them up.

Croce e delizia is the cinematic equivalent of a beach read: it’s light, a little shallow and an entertaining way to pass the time that probably won’t have a deep impact on anyone beyond that. I had fun with it.

The film poster showing headshots of Carlo (Alessandro Gassmann), Penelope (Jasmine Trinca) and Tony (Fabrizio Bentivoglio).
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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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Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears
Director: Tony Tilse
Writer: Deb Cox
Sequel to: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Cast: Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Rupert Penry-Jones, Miriam Margolyes, Daniel Lapaine, Jacqueline McKenzie, Izabella Yena, Kal Naga, John Waters, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Ashleigh Cummings, Travis McMahon
Seen on: 21.7.2020

Plot:
As usual, Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) is on a mission. This time, her path brought her to Jerusalem where she frees Shirin (Izabella Yena) from prison. Shirin had been locked up because she claims that the British murdered her family and her entire village when she was a child. But things go a little badly and Phryne is claimed to be dead. The news even reaches Australia, where Jack Robinson (Nathan Page) leaves everything to say his goodbye to Phryne in the UK. When Phryne crashes her own funeral, obviously alive, and ready to solve the mystery around Shirin, Jack is both relieved and angry, and lets himself get roped in with the case.

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is, basically, the series finale for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a fantastic TV show that was cut off too soon and with a not very satisfying ending. This would have been their chance to bring things to a round close, but unfortunately, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is not up to snuff and simply not worthy of the show it is supposed to finish.

The film poster showing Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) holding a gun.
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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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