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.
Continue reading

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).
Continue reading

Ham on Rye (2019)

Ham on Rye
Director: Tyler Taormina
Writer: Tyler Taormina, Eric Berger
Cast: Haley Bodell, Audrey Boos, Gabriella Herrera, Adam Torres, Luke Darga, Sam Hernandez, Blake Borders, Cole Devine, Timothy Taylor, Gregory Falatek
Seen on: 6.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos) and Trish (Gabriella Herrera) are preparing for a ritual in the town’s diner. They, and every other kid their age, are donning the clothes of their grandparents and walk to the diner. Something big is going to happen, something that will change the course of their lives forever. At least, if they are chosen.

Ham on Rye builds on an interesting idea, but lacks a bit of focus and narrative clarity. Still, it’s definitely unusual.

The film poster showing 11 the fists of 11 teens, holding their thumbs in up or down positions.
Continue reading

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).
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

All Together Now (2020)

All Together Now
Director: Brett Haley
Writer: Matthew Quick, Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Based on: Matthew Quick‘s novel Sorta Like a Rockstar
Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Rhenzy Feliz, Justina Machado, Judy Reyes, Anthony Jacques, Gerald Isaac Waters, Taylor Richardson, Fred Armisen, Carol Burnett
Seen on: 2.4.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Amber (Auli’i Cravalho) is a friendly teenager who always looks at the bright side, even though her mother Becky (Justina Machado) fell on hard times and they are currently homeless, sleeping in the school bus Becky drives. Nevertheless, Amber still finds the time to work in a senior residence, give pay-as-you-wish English lessons and helps take care of a neurodiverse teen who is one of her best friends, Ricky (Anthony Jacques). Ricky, Ty (Rhenzy Feliz), Chad (Gerald Isaac Waters) and Jordan (Taylor Richardson) are Amber’s social net, but they don’t know how difficult things are for her at the moment because Amber has a hard time accepting help. When things get even worse, though, and it looks like Amber may have to give up on her dream of going to Carnegie Mellon, something has to give.

All Together Now is incredibly cheesy and Auli’i Cravalho is almost the only thing that makes all that cheese bearable.

The film poster showing Amber (Auli'i Cravalho) in a van surrounded by her friends. All are laughing.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading