You Are My Sunshine (2021)

You Are My Sunshine
Director: David Hastings
Writer: David Hastings
Cast: Steve Salt, Jack Knight, Charles O’Neill, Ernest Vernon, Charlie Clarke, Rosemary Manjunath, Simon Bamford, Jonathan Butler
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 27.8.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) meet when they are just teenagers, Joe having just moved to town. They connect instantly and quickly fall in love. But it’s the 70s, and homosexuality is still alien to most people. Decades later, Tom (Ernest Vernon) and Joe (Charles O’Neill) are still a couple, but the fallout from their youth is still notable in the strained relationship Joe has with his sister Ethel (Rosemary Manjunath). But Joe is eager to reconcile.

You Are My Sunshine is a sweet film, albeit a little too dramatic for its own good. While I would have liked a little less tragedy, and I didn’t like that it seems to put homomisia entirely into the past, I rather liked it overall.

The film poster showing Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) standing next to each other with pictures of the other cast members arranged in a strip above their heads.
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Notre-Dame du Nil [Our Lady of the Nile] (2019)

Notre-Dame du Nil
Director: Atiq Rahimi
Writer: Atiq Rahimi, Ramata-Toulaye Sy
Based on: Scholastique Mukasonga‘s novel
Cast: Amanda Mugabezaki, Albina Kirenga, Malaika Uwamahoro, Clariella Bizimana, Belinda Rubango, Ange Elsie Ineza, Kelly Umuganwa Teta, Pascal Greggory
Seen on: 25.8.2022

Content Note: colonialism, racism/ethnical violence, abortion, misogynoir

Plot:
1973. Notre-Dame du Nil is an exclusive catholic private school in the middle of nowhere in Rwanda. It is there that the (Hutu) elite of the country send their daughters to get their education, like Modesta (Belinda Rubango) and Gloriosa (Albina Kirenga). But there is also a quota for Tutsi girls like Veronica (Clariella Bizimana) and Viriginia (Amanda Mugabezaki). Nevertheless, things are harmonious. At least at first. With ethnical resentments brewing around them, the school doesn’t stay a safe haven for long.

Notre-Dame du Nil tells a strong story with good characters that sheds some light on Rwandan history in the microcosm of its setting.

The film poster showing a group of girls in white night-gowns having a pillow-fight.
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Before I Sleep (2020)

Before I Sleep
Director: Victoria Shefer
Writer: Victoria Shefer
Based on: Robert Frost‘s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Cast: Lee Rayne
Seen on: 24.8.2022

Plot:
Every year, Ms Barrow (Lee Rayne) comes back to the beach to remember her dead child on its birthday. Every year, she faces a choice again.

Before I Sleep is an atmospheric short film with really spectacular cinematography, especially considering that it’s a basically-no-budget production. I especially liked a moment where the film is edited out of order as Ms Barrow falls/throws herself into the waves. The sound mixing is a little off, or maybe just not calibrated to my home set-up, making the words hard to understand over the music, but since Frost’s poem is the only text in the film and is readily available online, it doesn’t matter that much. The emotion of Rayne’s delivery finds its way to the audience regardless. In short, a promising short from a young filmmaker.

The film poster showing a woman on a cliff over the sea, holding up her left hand, palm up.

Corsage (2022)

Corsage
Director: Marie Kreutzer
Writer: Marie Kreutzer
Cast: Vicky Krieps, Katharina Lorenz, Jeanne Werner, Florian Teichtmeister, Manuel Rubey, Aaron Friesz, Colin Morgan, Finnegan Oldfield, Alexander Pschill, Raphael von Bargen
Seen on: 2.7.2022

Plot:
It’s 1877. Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Vicky Krieps) is renowned everywhere for her beauty, but she is getting older and maintaining her public image becomes more and more difficult. And Elisabeth is less and less willing to comply, trying to find a new way to live her life that doesn’t feel like constantly sitting in a cage.

Corsage is a well-made, engaging film that takes apart the mythology of “Sissi” to discover who Elisabeth may have been. It’s an ambitious project that does justice to these ambitions.

The film poster showing Empress Elisabeth (Vicky Krieps) wearing a black dress, a crown floating above her head.
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The Raven (2012)

The Raven
Director: James McTeigue
Writer: Hannah Shakespeare, Ben Livingston
Cast: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jimmy Yuill, Sam Hazeldine
Seen on: 9.5.2022

Plot:
Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is not what one would consider a successful writer. Barely making enough money, poverty exacerbated by a drinking problem, he has really nothing but a bit of infamy. He would like to marry Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), and she him, but her father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) disapproves. When a mother and daughter turn up murdered just like in one of of Poe’s stories, the suspicion of the police fall on him at first. Especially when another body turns up. But Poe can convince Detective Fields (Luke Evans) that he is not to blame. Instead, they team up to find the killer before he can use another of Poe’s stories.

Although the film is loosely inspired by some circumstances of Poe’s life, you should not make the mistake of thinking it is any way, shape, or form realistic. It’s the fever dream version of Poe’s last weeks of life. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly interesting fever dream.

The film poster showing Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) walking fiercely, gun in hand. In the background behind him stretch a pair of red wings in which we can see a crying woman, a dead body and men looking fiercely.
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Freaks Out (2021)

Freaks Out
Director: Gabriele Mainetti
Writer: Nicola Guaglianone, Gabriele Mainetti
Cast: Claudio Santamaria, Aurora Giovinazzo, Pietro Castellitto, Giancarlo Martini, Giorgio Tirabassi, Max Mazzotta, Franz Rogowski
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7.5.2022

Content Note: sexual assault, sexism, (critical treatment of) ableism, medical experiments

Plot:
1943 in Italy. Israel (Giorgio Tirabassi) runs a circus with his four artists Cencio (Pietro Castellitto), Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo), Fulvio (Claudio Santamaria) and Mario (Giancarlo Martini) – who actually all have supernatural powers that fuel their performances. The five try their best to stay out of the Nazis’ way, though there is the Circus Berlin stationed in Rome – supposedly the best circus in the world, headed by Franz (Franz Rogowski), a pianist with 12 fingers. Franz has superpowers of his own: he has seen the future and knows that it doesn’t look good for the Nazis. He is convinced that he has to find four superpowered people to prevent the Nazis from losing and he will do anything to find them.

I enjoyed Freaks Out for the most part. It is marred by the male gaze, but it’s entertaining and manages to combine comedy and Nazi horrors in a good way.

The film poster showing the four "freaks" in their performance poses, as well as Franz (Franz Rogowski) wearing a Nazi robe.
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The Northman (2022)

The Northman
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Sjón, Robert Eggers
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Björk
Seen on: 26.4.2022

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) only barely escaped with his life when his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murdered his brother, Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) and took over the kingdom. Amleth, only a boy then, had to leave his mother Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) behind, but swore to save her and take his revenge. Now he is grown up and makes his living as a viking. During a raid, he hears news from his uncle and, pretending to be a slave like Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) and many others, lets himself be carted off to finally fulfill the promise he gave as a boy.

I was hoping for The Northman to be a bit of a bloodfest, knowing that with Eggers, I’d probably get a bit of a challenge as well. But unfortunately, mostly what I got with The Northman is darkness – and I mean that quite literally. It’s a film we barely see and that was pretty boring to boot.

The film poster showing Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) standing on a cliff, watching a fleet in the sea.
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Maurice (1987)

Maurice
Director: James Ivory
Writer: Kit Hesketh-Harvey, James Ivory
Based on: E. M. Forster‘s novel
Cast: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw, Barry Foster, Judy Parfitt, Phoebe Nicholls, Patrick Godfrey, Mark Tandy, Ben Kingsley, Kitty Aldridge, Helena Michell, Catherine Rabett
Seen on: 22.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, classism

Plot:
Maurice (James Wilby) meets Clive (Hugh Grant) at Cambridge University where they connect over philosophy and music. Their friendship quickly deepens and when Clive confesses his love for Maurice, Maurice is thrown at first but finally able to admit his love for Clive as well. Only that Clive wants to keep sex out of their relationship, especially since homosexuality is still forbidden in the UK. Trapped between (internalized) denial and a longing for happiness, Maurice and Clive have to make some important decisions.

Maurice is a beautifully crafted film that – given the time it is set in – I thought would be much sadder. Instead it is a powerful and very romantic call to live your truth.

The film poster showing Maurice (James Wilby) leaning over Clive (Hugh Grant) who is turning his face away.
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Death on the Nile (2022)

Death on the Nile
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Based on: Agatha Christie‘s novel
Sequel to: Murder on the Orient Express
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Emma Mackey, Letitia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, Annette Bening, Rose Leslie, Ali Fazal, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Russell Brand
Seen on: 14.2.2022

Plot:
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is in Egypt on holiday when he runs into his old friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) who is traveling with his mohter (Annette Bening). They are in the country for the wedding of Simon (Armie Hammer) and Linette (Gal Gadot) who have invited their wedding party to Egypt. But not only their guests have come to the Nile, but also Jacqueline (Emma Mackey) who used to be Simon’s fiancée until she introduced him to Linette. When Linette is killed shortly afterwards, Poirot has to untangle the net of personal relationships that surround them all to find the murderer.

Death on the Nile really isn’t good, despite a fantastic cast. But with a bad script, a weird look and some very questionable choices by Branagh in his role as director of the film, not even a good cast can save this film.

The film poster showing the large cast of characters on a staemer on the Nile, behind them the pyramids and the sphynx.
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Al Berto (2017)

Al Berto
Director: Vicente Alves do Ó
Writer: Vicente Alves do Ó
Cast: Ricardo Teixeira, José Pimentão, Raquel Rocha Vieira, José Leite, Joana Almeida, João Villas-Boas, Gabriela Barros, Ana Vilela da Costa, Duarte Grilo
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 5.2.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira) left Portugal some time ago, but after the Carnation Revolution, he dares to return to Sines, where he takes up residence in his family’s now empty estate and utterly commits to the Bohemian lifestyle, surrounded by artists, partying a lot and falling in love with João Maria (José Pimentão). But with or without the revolution, Portugal may not be quite ready for Al Berto’s way of doing things and resentment starts growing.

Al Berto is an interesting biopic that captures the spirit of the time, at least as I imagine it. It does get distracted a little too much by the sex and romance things, though.

The film poster showing a large close-up of Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira). Below that we see him partying with João Maria (José Pimentão), at the beach with friends and João Maria holding Sara (Raquel Rocha Vieira) naked.
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