Plot: Vanessa (Sandra Oh) has a good life, a husband (Damian Young), a son (Giullian Yao Gioiello) and loads of money. So what if she has a bit of drinking problem, too? One night at a party, she runs into Ashley (Anne Heche). Ashley and Vanessa used to be in college together and hated each other back then. And, really, nothing has changed. Ashley is an artist now, helping out her caterer girlfriend Lisa (Alicia Silverstone), and horrified at the bourgeois life Vanessa leads, while Vanessa doesn’t take Ashley’s art seriously and finds her anti-establishment rants ridiculous. Their simple small talk quickly turns into a series of barbs and finally things get so out of hand that their lives are forever changed by the encounter.
Catfight, to me, was an utterly bleak and joyless film. I just couldn’t bring myself to like it.
Plot: Buster (Rami Malek) has made a name for himself by taking over summer holiday homes during winter. He’s been at it for years and has managed to evade capture so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Before that, he used to be Jonah. Jonah worked as a night receptionist in a hotel, trying to care for his wife Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil) and daughter Roxy (Sukha Belle Potter). But the constant night-shifts and the lack of sleep were starting to get to him. To get through the dreary nights, he starts talking to a guest who simply refers to himself as The Last Free Man (DJ Qualls) and believes that The Inversion is coming.
I saw Sarah Adina Smith’s first film The Midnight Swim many years ago, but it’s really one of those films that absolutely stayed with me. So, when I realized that her second film – Buster’s Mal Heart – was available on Netflix, I had to watch it immediately. And while it wasn’t quite as captivating as The Midnight Swim for me, it was absolutely captivating enough.
Plot: Phil (Louis Hofmann) lives with his mother Glass (Sabine Timoteo) and his sister Dianne (Ada Philine Stappenbeck) in an old mansion at the edge of town, but he just spent the summer abroad. Returning home, he finds that things between Glass and Dianne are tense and Dianne is barely talking to him. Fortunately, there is still his best friend Kat (Svenja Jung) with whom he can still have fun. When school starts, it brings a new student to their class, Nicholas (Jannik Schümann). Phil is convinced that he met Nicholas once already, but in any case, he feels very drawn to him. And Nicholas seems to return his interest. Between family, friends and first love, Phil has to figure out where he stands.
Die Mitte der Welt felt a little bit more like wish fulfilment and fantasy than I would have liked, but other than that, and the usual bimisic trope of the bisexual just not being able to be content with one person, it was nice enough.
Plot: Sara’s (Natalie Dormer) twin sister Jess (Natalie Dormer) has disappeared in Japan. Everyone seems to assume that she is dead as she was last seen in Aokigahara forest, a spot known for people to go to kill themselves. But Sara is convinced that Jess isn’t dead, just lost. So she goes to Japan to find her. She meets journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who is about to write about Aokigahara and invites her to join his exploration with local guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), if she lets him use her story. Sara agrees. As they head into the forest, they soon realize that there is more to it than they thought at first.
Sometimes I want to kick myself for my memory and for my tendency to not read much about films before seeing them. If my memory had been better, I would have remembered why I hadn’t watched The Forest before, and if I had read more about it, I probably would have remembered better or realized anew. Because The Forest is one fucking racist mess and it isn’t even subtle or debatable. It’s just really, really racist. And even apart from that, it’s not particularly good.
Plot: Jim (Mark Duplass) has returned to his hometown after his mother’s death to clean out her house. Amanda (Sarah Paulson), too, has returned home to visit her sister. When the two run into each other by chance, they carefully reconnect. When they were in high school, they were a couple, convinced that they would grow old together. But life happened differently for them. Seeing each other again, though, makes them wonder why and how.
Blue Jay is quite gripping, relying entirely on Paulson and Duplass who really are perfect. I was completely taken with it.
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.
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.
Plot: Psychiatrist Tom (Josh Charles) and his wife Lauren (Julia Stiles), an art teacher and artist, have arranged themselves with their different wishes for how their lives should be. So, Tom spends his time in a small town in New Jersey to enjoy the relative quiet and work on his newest book, while Lauren enjoys the art and culture of New York, but goes to New Jersey whenever she can. On one of her visits, the two go for a walk and see a young man (Avian Jogia) just about to commit suicide by drowning himself. Tom is quick to react, throwing himself into the water and pulling him out. The next day, Tom realizes that he knows the man – Danny used to be his patient when he was a child and Tom’s assessment led to him being incarcerated for murder when he was just eleven years old. Now, Danny obviously wants to reconnect with Tom, but Tom doubts his intentions.
The Drowning is a rather drab paint-by-numbers affair that never quite achieves the tension it would need to pull off its plot. Despite the cast, it remains a very average film.
Plot: Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a writer who decided to move to a remote area after a bad break-up to finish her book. She befriended her neighbor Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), but other than Sarah and her boyfriend, there is nobody around. Living that alone is made a little more complicated by the fact that Maddie lost both her hearing and her voice due to an infection many years earlier. It’s nothing she can’t cope with – until a masked man (John Gallagher Jr.) shows up on her doorstep, obviously out to kill her. But Maddie is a fighter.
I didn’t do my homework when it comes to Hush – I was just in the mood for something horrory and it was already rather late, so I wanted it to be a short film, and this was the first likely candidate. Had I known that it was a film built on cripping up, I would have skipped it – and I wouldn’t have missed much.
Plot: Betty (Sophie Stockinger) lives in Vienna in 1941. As a Jewish girl, that is not the greatest place to be, so her father (Christian Dolezal) makes sure that Betty gets on a train with a group of children led by Helga (Nina Proll) and Georg (August Zirner). They hope to bring the children safely to Palestine. But the way there is dangerous and takes a lot of time.
Die Kinder der Villa Emma tells a good story, but it doesn’t tell it very well, I’m afraid. It doesn’t tell it badly, either, but there was something missing.