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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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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Butter on the Latch (2013)

Butter on the Latch
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker
Cast: Sarah Small, Isolde Chae-Lawrence, Charlie Hewson, Emily Decker, Stephan Goldbach, Yury Yakor
Seen on: 13.3.2021

Plot:
Sarah (Sarah Small) lives the hectic New York Life behind for a few days to spend it with her friend Isolde (Isolde Chae-Lawrence) at a Balkan song and dance camp that takes place in the middle of a forest. They spend their days talking and drumming and singing and talking some more – until they have a falling out over an apparent triviality and Sarah starts pursuing Steph (Charlie Hewson).

Butter on the Latch is Decker’s debut feature and having seen (almost all) her films now in (almost) reverse chronological order, it is clear how much she has grown as a filmmaker since her first film. But that doesn’t mean that Butter on the Latch doesn’t have good qualities. It is still a very strong debut.

The film poster showing a drawing of two women holding each other surrounded by swirls and swirls of hair.
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Ying and Yang (2013)

Ying and Yang
Director: Kevin Darnell Walker
Writer: Devere Rogers
Cast: Derrick L. Middleton, Calvin M. Thompson, Chivonne Michelle, Amelia Workman
Seen on: 26.2.2021

Plot:
Devin (Derrick L. Middleton) is dating Jasmine (Chivonne Michelle) but he realizes more and more that he is drawn to his best friend Tyrone (Calvin M. Thompson). This attraction makes him question everything.

Ying and Yang is a short film set to a spoken word poem. The poem is beautiful (although I didn’t love the use of Yin and Yang to represent men and women in a piece that question the binarity of gender and sexual orientation) and was wonderfully spoken (I’m not sure who spoke it – Rogers himself, maybe?). I felt like the film couldn’t quite keep up with the poem, but it was well done nevertheless, capturing Devin’s confusion and insecurity very nicely. It is certainly worth watching.

Horns (2013)

Horns
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer: Keith Bunin
Based on: Joe Hill’s novel
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, David Morse
Seen on: 9.11.2020 [I missed to review this, so you’re getting a late entry.]

Content Note: rape

Plot:
A year ago, Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) had it all: a nice girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), a good family (Joe Anderson, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan), a great best friend, Lee (Max Minghella), and many plans. And then Merrin got raped and murdered – and Ig is the only suspect. Bit by bit, his life and he himself fell apart. The day after the anniversary of Merrin’s death, Ig wakes up with the worst hangover of his life – and horns growing out of his head. While Ig still wonders whether the horns are really there or not, he notices that they have an effect on people: They tell him all their darkest secrets and lowest impulses. Soon Ig decides that he will use the horns to finally learn the identity of Merrin’s killer.

I really liked the novel this is based on and then it never came to cinemas here and got kind of lost in my netflix list. But I finally made it and can say that it is a very capable adaptation, even if I didn’t love it as much as the book.

The film poster showing Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) with his horns and a snake over his shoulders. Merrin (Juno Temple is holding on to him from behind.
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Mystery Road (2013)

Mystery Road
Director: Ivan Sen
Writer: Ivan Sen
Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson, Tony Barry, Robert Mammone, Tasma Walton, Damian Walshe-Howling, David Field, Bruce Spence, Jack Charles, Tricia Whitton, Samara Weaving
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 14.6.2020

Plot:
Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returned to his hometown in the Outback just in time to investigate the murder of a young native girl – a murder the white rest of the police force doesn’t seem too interested in. Jay soon starts to suspect that the lack of interest may actually be active hampering from his colleagues, let alone the people around who all saw, heard and know nothing. Including Jay’s own daughter (Tricia Whitton) who doesn’t want anything to do with her father, but who knew the victim.

Mystery Road is atmospheric and Pedersen is a great lead, but I constantly felt like I was missing some context to understand what the fuck was actually happening. While that can make the appeal of a film, in this case, it was completely frustrating for me.

The film poster showing a lone car on a dirt road and the heads of three of the main characters.
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Straight A’s (2013)

Straight A’s
Director: James Cox
Writer: Dave Cole
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin, Luke Wilson, Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Augustin Solis, Tess Harper, Powers Boothe, Christa Campbell
Seen on: 30.4.2020

Plot:
Scott (Ryan Phillippe) is the family screw-up and he hasn’t shown his face at home in a while. But after he has a vision of his dead mother (Tess Harper) telling him to make amends with his brother William (Luke Wilson), his sister-in-law and first love Katherine (Anna Paquin) and his father (Powers Boothe), Scott just shows up at Katherine’s home while William is on a business trip. As he waits for William to return, Scott causes an uproar for Katherine and her kids (Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker) who take a shine to their newly discovered uncle. Scott himself is uneasy with his own plan, drunk all the time and really not all that well.

Straight A’s is so firmly rooting for Scott without really acknowledging his many flaws or interested in him making up for past (and current) transgressions, that it is just annoying. I didn’t care for redeeming Scott, I wanted to strangle him instead. The film can’t work that way.

On a sidenote: in a film that is obviously trying to be smart and deep and that is so firmly rooted in its own privilege, that incorrect apostrophe in the title is annoying as fuck.

The film poster showing Katherine (Anna Paquin), Scott (Ryan Philippe) and William (Luke Wilson). An arrow points from Scott to Katherine with "He loves her", another arrow from Katherine to William with "She's married to his brother".

[SPOILERS]

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Lovelace (2013)

Lovelace
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Writer: Andy Bellin
Based on: Linda Lovelace‘s autobiographies
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Chloë Sevigny, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts,
Seen on: 20.4.2020

Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, rape

Plot:
Linda (Amanda Seyfried) lives with her parents (Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick) who are very strict. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t go partying with her friend Patsy (Juno Temple). At one of those parties, Linda meets the charming Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard). When her parents try to curb the relationship, Linda just moves in with Chuck. They get married, they appear happy, but Chuck is abusive. As he struggles with money, he pushes Linda to make porn. Her film, Deep Throat, is a huge success and bit by bit, Linda manages to get away from Chuck.

Lovelace tells a heavy story, and they manage not to fall (too much) into anti-porn rhetoric, despite the topic, but at its core it’s a film that never manages to see Linda as anything else but a victim.

The film poster showing Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) apparently naked, looking at the camera, her armes folded in front of her chest.
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The Volunteer (2013)

The Volunteer
Director: Vicky Wight
Writer: Vicky Wight
Cast: Aunjanue Ellis, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Scott Wolf, Hill Harper, Eisa Davis, Mary Beth Hurt, Noah Gray-Cabey, Will Janowitz
Seen on: 26.6.2019

Plot:
Leigh (Aunjanue Ellis) hasn’t been happy in her job, and her marriage to Phil (Hill Harper), for a while. When she finally quits her job, things don’t get any better, though, and Leigh seems even more lost than before. Until she just walks into a soup kitchen run by Jimmy (Scott Wolf) and decides to volunteer there. It gives her a purpose at first, and then she meets Ethan (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), one of the homeless guys whoe come to eat there. Leigh feels drawn to him and the freedom he represents, but when their relationship becomes an affair, things become very complicated.

The Volunteer is clear about being a film that is all about a woman finding back to herself by way of a homeless man, but just because the film knows that that’s the story it tells, didn’t make the instrumentalization of said homeless man any more comfortable for me. And so I remained at a distance to the film that was ultimately detrimental to my enjoyment of it.

The film poster showing Leigh (Aunjanue Ellis) wearing a shapless gray coat in a blurry green landscape.
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Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O’Reilly, Ariana Neal
Seen on: 8.12.2018
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Content Note: police violence, racism

Plot:
It’s New Year’s Eve and Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) has a full day ahead of him. He lives with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their daughter and he hasn’t been exactly honest with her, but he wants to do better. He also wants to try and find a new job before she finds out that he lost his old one. And it’s his mom’s (Octavia Spencer) birthday to boot. But by the end of the day, all of his plans will come to a screeching halt and Oscar will be dead, shot by the police.

Given that Fruitvale Station is based on a true story, I was aware that this film wouldn’t be exactly easy. Even though I was braced for that, it still hit me hard. It’s just really, really good.

The film poster showing Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) standing on a subway platform.
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