The Drowning (2016)

The Drowning
Director: Bette Gordon
Writer: Stephen Molton, Frank Pugliese
Based on: Pat Barker‘s novel Border Crossing
Cast: Josh Charles, Avan Jogia, Julia Stiles, Tracie Thoms, John C. McGinley
Seen on: 8.4.2021

Content Note: attempted suicide, stalking, saneism

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.

The film poster showing a blurry male shape looking out over the water in dusk at what could be a tower under the moon.
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Hush (2016)

Hush
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel
Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Samantha Sloyan, Michael Trucco, Emma Graves
Seen on: 4.3.2021

Content Note: ableism

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.

The film poster showing Maddie (Kate Siegel) with scared eyes, behind her a masked man (John Gallagher Jr.). A knofe is glinting between them.
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Die Kinder der Villa Emma [The Children of Villa Emma] (2016)

Die Kinder der Villa Emma
Director: Nikolaus Leytner
Writer: Agnes Pluch
Cast: Sophie Stockinger, Ludwig Trepte, Nina Proll, Muriel Wimmer, Laurence Rupp, August Zirner, Christian Dolezal, Maximilian Paier, Juri Zanger, Haris Begic, Justus Schlingensiepen, Enzo Gaier, Leon Orlandianyi
Seen on: 20.1.2021

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.

The film poster showing a group of children running towards a big mansion as well as several characters from the film.
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Tallulah (2016)

Tallulah
Director: Sian Heder
Writer: Sian Heder
Cast: Elliot Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard, Evan Jonigkeit, Felix Solis, David Zayas, Uzo Aduba, John Benjamin Hickey, Zachary Quinto
Seen on: 10.1.2021

Plot:
Tallulah (Elliot Page) has been driving around the country with her boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit) for a couple of years, stealing and grifting to get by. After a disagreement, Tallulah tells Nico to just fuck off – and he does. Desperate to find him again, she drives to New York where she knows his mother Margo (Allison Janney) lives in a fancy apartment complex in the middle of Manhattan. But Margo hasn’t seen Nico and is not interested in Tallulah’s story. Tallulah heads to a hotel, hoping to find some food and maybe more, in the room-service leftovers. Instead she gets mistaken as a hotel employee by Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard) who ropes her in to babysit her toddler. Carolyn is a mess and when she comes back drunk, Tallulah grabs the baby and just leaves. Her spur of the moment decision has big consequences for all of them.

Tallulah is a well-made, perfectly cast film that tells an interesting story in an affective way. I really loved it.

The film poster showing Tallulah (Elliot Page) cradling a toddler and talking to Margo (Allison Janney). They are placed inside the shape of Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard) smoking a cigarette.
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Re-Watch: Busanhaeng [Train to Busan] (2016)

Busanhaeng
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Writer: Sang-ho Yeon, Joo-Suk Park
Cast: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi, Sohee, Eui-sung Kim
Seen on: 9.10.2020
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
Seok-Woo (Yoo Gong) is busy with work and he doesn’t really have time for his daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim). After he gets her the wrong birthday present, she wants to go home to her mother who is divorced from Seok-Woo and lives in Busan. Seok-Woo is less than happy about that idea, but finally gives in and boards the train from Seoul to Busan with Soo-an the next day. But even as they make their way to the train station, something seems to be off. It’s only after the train has left, though, and the passengers find themselves trapped with zombies, that they realize how off things really are.

Train to Busan pretty much blew me away when I saw it the first time. So, I wanted to make sure to re-watch it before seeing the (quasi) sequel, on the one hand, to make sure I haven’t been making the film better in my head than it was and, on the other hand, to see an excellent movie again. Fortunately, Train to Busan absolutely holds up – it is still a fantastic film.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film running through debris in front of a train.
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American Honey (2016)

American Honey
Director: Andrea Arnold
Writer: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Will Patton
Seen on: 19.7.2020

Content Note: sexualized abuse

Plot:
Star (Sasha Lane) takes care of her siblings and has to fend off her stepfather’s abuse, if she can at all, so when she meets Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and he offers her a way out – joining him and a whole bus full of kids to drive around the country selling magazine subscriptions – Star jumps at the chance. Probably would have also jumped if there hadn’t been an instant connection between her and Jake, but that certainly helped her decision. But once they are on the road, things become a little more complicated than Star anticipated.

American Honey is a beautiful coming-of-age road movie with great lead performances, looking at a part of America that rarely gets much attention. I was absolutely captivated by it.

The film poster showing Star (Sasha Lane) from behind, raising her hand to the sky.
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Gwat mooi [Sisterhood] (2016)

Gwat mooi
Director: Tracy Choi
Writer: Kin-Yee Au, Yee Lam Wong
Cast: Gigi Leung, Fish Liew, Jennifer Yu, Lee-zen Lee, Kevin Kam-Yin Chu, Panther Chan, Stephanie Che, Eliz Lao, Teresa Mak
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 3.6.2020

Plot:
Many years ago, Sei (Gigi Leung) fled Macau and went to Taiwan, trying to forget her past. But when the news of Ling’s death reaches her, she has to return and confront it. When they were both barely adults, Sei (Fish Liew) and Ling (Jennifer Yu) met working in a massage parlor and they quickly became best friends. Their relationship was everything to them – until it wasn’t anymore. But looking back at it now, Sei may discover some things she hadn’t previously seen.

If you’re looking for a good cry, Sisterhood is ready and here for you. It’s such a nicely told film with such charming leads, I almost didn’t mind that it was another sad queer story.

The film poster showing two girls in uniform holding hands. Both are wearing bracelets with numbers - 18 and 19 respectively.
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Carrie Pilby (2016)

Carrie Pilby
Director: Susan Johnson
Writer: Kara Holden
Based on: Caren Lissner‘s novel
Cast: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Vanessa Bayer, Colin O’Donoghue, Jason Ritter, William Moseley, Desmin Borges
Seen on: 19.3.2020

Plot:
Carrie (Bel Powley) was a child prodigy. Having graduated Harvard at 18, she is now in New York and pretty much at a loss. She resents her father (Gabriel Byrne) for having sent her away when she was so young and doesn’t really know how to adjust to life outside of education. Her therapist (Nathan Lane) tries to get her to live a little instead of just reading books. When he gives her a list of tasks to fulfill – like going on a date or doing something she liked doing as a child – and at the same time, her father gets her a job as a copyeditor for a law firm, Carrie starts to make new experiences.

Carrie Pilby is a sweet, fun film with a complex female character at its center. It balances humor and serious issues nicely, making it absolutely enjoyable.

The film poster showing a drawing of Carrie's face, looking widely upwards.
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A Wish For Christmas (2016)

A Wish For Christmas
Director: Christie Will Wolf
Writer: Helen Frost, Don MacLeod
Cast: Lacey Chabert, Paul Greene, Andrea Brooks, Colleen Wheeler, Kendall Cross, Michael Ryan, Mark Brandon, Donna Benedicto, Howard Storey, Jason McKinnon
Seen on: 27.12.2019

Plot:
Sara (Lacey Chabert) works hard, but she has the tendency to let everybody walk over her, even her best friend Molly (Andrea Brooks). When her boss (Jason McKinnon) outright steals her idea for a Christmas marketing campaign and presents it as his own to the CEO Peter (Paul Greene) at the office Christmas party, Sara needs a break. As she withdraws, she makes a wish to Santa (Howard Storey) to finally be able to stand up for herself. He grants her the wish – but only for a little while. Sara thinks it’s a joke, but when she returns to the party, everything bursts out of her and Peter takes notice. That’s how Sara finds herself on a business trip with her boss’s boss to present her idea to maybe the richest and scariest man in the business.

A Wish For Christmas didn’t convince me, despite some (more or less) feminist attempts which is rare enough in the Christmas movie world. It is okay to watch, but not more.

The film poster showing Peter (Paul Greene) and Sara (Lacy Chabert) standing in front of a Christmas tree.
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Teenage Cocktail (2016)

Teenage Cocktail
Director: John Carchietta
Writer: John Carchietta, Sage Bannick, Chris Sivertson
Cast: Nichole Sakura, Fabianne Therese, Pat Healy, Michelle Borth, Joshua Leonard, AJ Bowen, Zak Henri, Lou Wegner
Seen on: 11.5.2019

Plot:
Annie (Nichole Sakura) just moved to a new town and feels insecure. When she meets Jules (Fabianne Therese) in school, she is drawn to her strength and free spirit and the two girls quickly become friends and even fall in love. They dream of leaving their small town behind and starting a new life in New York. But those dreams need cash, and the easiest way to get cash for two young, pretty girls is to do some “modeling” online. That soon turns to more.

Teenage Cocktail is yet another film about two women falling in love that gets ruined by the male gaze. It’s a pity.

The film poster showing Annie (Nichole Sakura) and Jules (Fabianne Therese) in cat masks and not a lot of clothes looking at a notebook.
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