It Felt Like Love (2013)

It Felt Like Love
Director: Eliza Hittman
Writer: Eliza Hittman
Cast: Gina Piersanti, Ronen Rubinstein, Giovanna Salimeni, Nyck Caution, Kevin Anthony Ryan, Case Prime
Seen on: 4.5.2021

Content Note: sexualized abuse

Plot:
Lila (Gina Piersanti) is spending her summer with her best friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) and Chiara’s boyfriend Patrick (Nyck Caution). While Chiara has already dated a lot and talks openly about sex, Lila hasn’t gone as far. But being the perpetual third wheel isn’t very fun either, and there is a certain pressure for Lila to find a boyfriend of her own. When she hears about Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein), who is older and supposedly sleeps with everyone, she decides to pursue him.

It Felt Like Love is a quiet film that takes an unflinching look at the humiliation and degradations that so often are a part of growing up, especially when a young girl tries to take charge of her own sexuality. It’s uncomfortable – and that’s the point.

The film poster showing Lila (Gina Piersanti) walking, Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein) behind her, out of focus.
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Re-Watch: 13 Going on 30 (2004)

13 Going on 30
Director: Gary Winick
Writer: Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves, Sam Ball, Marcia DeBonis, Christa B. Allen, Sean Marquette, Mary Pat Gleason
Seen on: 4.5.2021

Plot:
After being humiliated at her own 13th birthday party, Jenna (Christa B. Allen) wishes that she was 30 years already – and it seems that the birthday present she got from her best friend Mattie (Sean Marquette) grants her her wish. For the very next day, she wakes up an adult (Jennifer Garner), in a fancy apartment and working the job of her dreams as an editor at Poise magazine. It’s not easy to get her bearings in her new life, though. Jenna looks for Mattie to help her, but adult Matt (Mark Ruffalo) informs her that they haven’t been friends for a while. And when Jenna realizes more and more that her adult self isn’t a nice person, she decides to make a change.

I must have seen 13 Going on 30 when / shortly after it came out and I had very fond memories of it. Re-Watching it now, those fond memories were proven right: it is a cute, fun film and exactly the kind of thing I want to see when I am watching a RomCom.

The film poster showing Jenna (Jennifer Garner) wearing a nightgown and a jacket as she walks with the skyline of New York behind her.
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No Light and No Land Anywhere (2016)

No Light and No Land Anywhere
Director: Amber Sealey
Writer: Amber Sealey
Cast: Gemma Brockis, Jennifer Lafleur, David Sullivan, Kent Osborne, Jade Sealey, Richard Sealey, Deborah Dopp
Seen on: 27.4.2021

Plot:
Lexi (Gemma Brockis) has left London in a hurry. After her mother’s death and with her marriage crumbling, she decided to go to Los Angeles to find her father. He left her mother and her when Lexi was just three years old and she hasn’t seen him since. But there are a couple of breadcrumbs that she can follow. She rents a room in a seedy motel and starts the search.

No Light and No Land Anywhere isn’t always easy to watch but that’s just because it is so effective in transporting Lexi’s emotions. So, even if it isn’t easy, it’s certainly worth to work for it.

The film poster showing a close-up of Lexi (Gemma Brockis) with tears in her eyes, all in shades of pink.
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Cézanne et moi [Cezanne and I] (2016)

Cézanne et moi
Director: Danièle Thompson
Writer: Danièle Thompson
Cast: Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Gallienne, Alice Pol, Déborah François, Pierre Yvon, Sabine Azéma, Gérard Meylan, Laurent Stocker, Isabelle Candelier
Seen on: 25.4.2021

Content Note: sexism, misogyny

Plot:
Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet) and Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) have known each other since they were children. But as they grew older, they grew apart from each other. But now Cézanne has come to visit Zola and both are excited to see each other again. Once they get to talking, though, tensions between the two become obvious: Zola wrote a novel that draws on their life and Cézanne is unhappy with how he was portrayed in it. As both reflect on their relationship with each other, their lives and their women, it is unclear whether they can move past that tension and the very different way their lives developed.

Oh boy, Cézanne et moi was an absolutely boring movie. It moves slowly and spends most of its time dwelling on the sexism and misogyny those two men exhibit, while still wanting us to like them. That equation doesn’t work, nor does the film.

The film poster showing Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet) and Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) walking through a landscape that looks like it was painted by Cézanne.
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Naissance des pieuvres [Water Lilies] (2007)

Naissance des pieuvres
Director: Céline Sciamma
Writer: Céline Sciamma
Cast: Pauline Acquart, Louise Blachère, Adèle Haenel, Warren Jacquin
Seen on: 18.4.2021

Plot:
Marie (Pauline Acquart) and Anne (Louise Blachère) are best friends, united in being not terribly popular. Anne is in the synchronized swimming team, as is Floriane (Adèle Haenel) with whom Marie is very much in love, while Anne has her eye on François (Warren Jacquin) who happens to be dating Floriane. When both Marie and Anne go after their crushes without telling the other, things become very complicated, though.

Water Lilies is a beautiful coming-of-age film, at once kind and emotionally raw, it will probably remind you of many moments when you were young yourself – mostly in a good way. Absolutely fantastic.

The film poster showing Marie (Pauline Acquart) and Floriane (Adèle Haenel), their faces close together. Floriane is looking straight at the camera, Marie is looking at Floriane.
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Till det som är vackert [Pure] (2010)

Till det som är vackert
Director: Lisa Langseth
Writer: Lisa Langseth
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Samuel Fröler, Josephine Bauer, Martin Wallström, Helén Söderqvist Henriksson
Seen on: 16.4.2021

Plot:
Katarina (Alicia Vikander) lives with her boyfriend Mattias (Martin Wallström) and fights with her mother (Josephine Bauer). Her life seems to stretch out before her: working a dead-end job, always this close to poverty, and having many children with Matthias. When she discovers classical music, a new world opens up to Katarina. After actually attending a concert together with Mattias, Katarina is even more intrigued. After losing her job, she returns to the concert hall and just stumbles into a job interview. Much to her surprise, the HR manager (Helén Söderqvist Henriksson) hires her. Her position is more than she hoped for, and puts her in the sight of conductor Adam (Samuel Fröler) who takes a liking to her.

Pure was a fantastic film debut for both Langseth and Vikander. It’s an intense portrayal of a young woman and a sharp look at the intersection of gender and class.

The film poster showing Katarina (Alicia Vikander) looking fiercely at the camera, while Adam (Samuel Fröler) holds her and smells her neck.
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Slaying the Dragon (1988) + Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded (2011)

Slaying the Dragon
Director: Deborah Gee
Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded
Director: Elaine Kim
Seen on: 14.4.2021

“Plot”:
Slaying the Dragon looks at how stereotypes about Asians, especially Asian women, shaped their portrayal in Hollywood movies and vice versa. Trying to outline the major tropes, female and male actors are interviewed and films examined.
23 years later, Slaying the Dragon updates that documentary and looks at how films have – and have not – changed in the meantime.

Both documentaries are insightful, making clear statements about representation and how movies affect the world beyond the screen as well. They’re an excellent primer to recognize problematic characterizations and offer a succinct explanation of why they’re problematic.

The film poster of Slaying the Dragon Reloaded showing a drawn female figure holding a long reel of film that shows stills from various films, all with Asians.
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Home (2008)

Home
Director: Ursula Meier
Writer: Ursula Meier, Antoine Jaccoud, Raphaëlle Desplechin, Gilles Taurand, Olivier Lorelle, Alice Winocour
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Adélaïde Leroux, Madeleine Budd, Kacey Mottet Klein
Seen on: 11.4.2021

Plot:
Marthe (Isabelle Huppert), Michel (Olivier Gourmet) and their children Judith (Adélaïde Leroux), Marion (Madeleine Budd) and Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein) live right next to a piece of unfinished highway. The highway has remained unfinished for a decade and has become their personal playground, separating them from their mailbox and the road that lead to the next town. Much to their surprise, though, overnight the highway is finished and opened, completely disrupting the life they built together.

Home is an intriguing film with an unusual setting that grows increasingly more absurd and remains captivating throughout. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing Marthe (Isabelle Huppert) standing in her kitchen with a truck rushing past just outside her window. Behind her on the lawn is her daughter Judith (Adélaïde Leroux) giving the truck the finger.
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We Go Way Back (2006)

We Go Way Back
Director: Lynn Shelton
Writer: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Maggie Brown, Amber Hubert, Lynn Shelton, Robert Hamilton Wright, Aaron Blakely, Alycia Delmore, Matthew M. Bianchi, Basil Harris
Seen on: 10.4.2021

Plot:
Kate (Amber Hubert) is an actress, hoping to finally get her break, but so far mostly just running errands for her theater. On her 23rd birthday, she opens a letter that she wrote to herself when she was 13 (Maggie Brown). The hopeful words of the letter stand in stark contrast to the feeling of being stuck that Kate has at the moment. Even when the theater director (Robert Hamilton Wright) finally offers Kate a leading role, it doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as Kate had hoped. And so her 13-year-old self keeps haunting her.

We Go Way Back is a captivating mix of sad and funny that gives us a thoughtful portrayal of an unhappy young woman without descending completely into doom and gloom. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing Kate-at-23 (Amber Hubert) and Kate-at-13 (Maggie Brown).
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Escape Room (2019)

Escape Room
Director: Adam Robitel
Writer: Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen
Seen on: 7.4.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Zoey (Taylor Russell), Ben (Logan Miller), Jason (Jay Ellis), Mike (Tyler Labine), Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), and Danny (Nik Dodani) have all received an invitiation to a very special Escape Room – one that promises 10,000 dollars to the winner. It doesn’t take long for them to realize, though, that the game is literally one of life and death.

Escape Room feels pretty uninspired. A tired rehash of pieces we have all seen before, combined with bland characters. I was quickly bored and basically only finished the film out of lethargy.

The film poster showing the players in a cube-like room with several doors. Zoey's (Taylor Russell) can be seen in the background divided in puzzle peaces of which a few are missing.
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