Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Battle of the Sexes
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Fred Armisen, Jessica McNamee, Austin Stowell, Lewis Pullman
Seen on: 26.8.2018

Plot:
Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is a successful tennis player, fed up with the sexism in the industry that keeps female players down. Fellow player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is adamant that female players are paid less because they are less entertaining and also less good at tennis. Finally the beack and forth leads to a tennis match between the two that becomes emblematic for the entire fight for women’s rights.

Battle of the Sexes was nice, but it remains flatter than it should have been and doesn’t dare to rock the boat too much, which is disappointing.

The film poster showing Emma Stone and Steve Carell.
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Brown Girl Begins (2017)

Brown Girl Begins
Director: Sharon Lewis
Writer: Sharon Lewis
Cast: Mouna Traoré, Nigel Shawn Williams, Shakura S’Aida, Emmanuel Kabongo, Measha Brueggergosman, Hannah Chantée, Alli Chung, Rachael Crawford
Seen on: 17.7.2018

Plot:
Toronto 2049: The rich have barricaded themselves in the city, exiling the poor to an island called The Burn. Ti-Jeanne (Mouna Traoré) is one of the inhabitants of the island, set to follow her grandmother Mami (Shakura S’Aida) as the priestess who leads the island people. But that succession includes a possession ritual – and that very ritual killed Ti-Jeanne’s mother. So it doesn’t seem suprising that she would rather run away with Tony (Emmanuel Kabongo). But one can’t really run away from one’s legacy – especially when it takes the form of Papa Legba (Nigel Shawn Williams).

It probably can’t get more low-budget than Brown Girl Begins and that’s pretty visible. But it’s also entirely irrelevant because the film tells a good story and it tells it well. You don’t need more than that. It’s innovative and traditional at the same time – and definitely creative.

The film poster showing Mouna Traoré in front of a blue background witjy sjy and a city skyline.
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The King (2017)

The King
Director: Eugene Jarecki
Writer: Eugene Jarecki, Christopher St. John
Seen on: 5.7.2018

“Plot”:
40 years after Elvis’ death, Eugene Jarecki goes on a road trip with Elvis’ car. Visiting important places in Elvis’ life, meeting musicians , they trace both Elvis’ life and career and the rise and fall of the USA that seems to run parallel.

The King is a strong, interesting documentary that takes a critical look at the USA and Elvis himself. Especially the latter is way too rare and bitterly needed, so for that alone it is worth it. It’s not the only thing the film has going for itself though.

Film poster showing Elvis Presley's silhoutte against a sunset above his car driving on a straight road.
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On Chesil Beach (2017)

On Chesil Beach
Director: Dominic Cooke
Writer: Ian McEwan
Based on: his own novel
Cast: Billy Howle, Saoirse Ronan, Anne-Marie Duff, Adrian Scarborough, Emily Watson,
Samuel West
Seen on: 5.7.2018

Content note: (sexualized) abuse

Plot:
Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) come from different backgrounds – Edward being working class and Florence more upper class. That hasn’t kept them from falling in love, though. Now they finally got married and have reached the beach where they’re supposed to spend their honeymoon. But with the wedding night and associated pressures looming over them, they are not really at ease.

On Chesil Beach is pretty much feel bad cinema with sharply observed characters and relationships. It wasn’t quite as depressing as I feared it would be, nor was it as good as I hoped it would be. It is very far from bad, though.

Film poster showing Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan on a beach, looking in opposite directions.
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Euphoria (2017)

Euphoria
Director: Lisa Langseth
Writer: Lisa Langseth
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Eva Green, Charles Dance, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Stanley, Adrian Lester, August Zirner
Seen on: 4.7.2018

Content Note: (assisted) suicide

Plot:
Emilie (Eva Green) and Ines (Alicia Vikander) are sisters who haven’t seen each other in a long time. Emilie has organized a holiday for the both of them, promising that they’ll visit the most beautiful place on earth. Ines is suspicious, but the two start their journey. Slowly both Emilie’s plans and the frail relationship between the two sisters come to light.

Euphoria is a touching film with great actresses that is a success when it comes to portraying the relationship of the two sisters and less successful regarding the big topic it tackles: assisted suicide.

Film poster showing Alicia Vikander and Eva Green in profile, looking in different directions.

[Slight SPOILERS]

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Visages villages [Faces Places] (2017)

Visages villages
Director: JR, Agnès Varda
Writer: JR, Agnès Varda
Seen on: 22.6.2018

“Plot”:
JR is a street artist, specializing in large scale black-and-white prints of photographies that he plasters over any available surfaces. Agnès Varda is a filmmaker, especially known for her New Wave films. The two of them are an unlikely pair, but have decided to go on a road trip through rural France together, meeting people, taking their photos and installing the photos on walls and more. And, of course, they are filming the entire journey of discovery.

Visages villages as a beautiful, simple concept that allows us to discover not only JR and Varda and the places and people they travel to, but gives us insight in much grander themes, despite (or maybe because) not limiting itself to one in particular.

Film poster showing JR and Agnès Varda walking in front of a tank truck with an eye printed on it.
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Aritmiya [Arrhythmia] (2017)

Aritmiya
Director: Boris Khlebnikov
Writer: Boris Khlebnikov, Nataliya Meshchaninova
Cast: Aleksandr Yatsenko, Irina Gorbachova, Nikolay Shrayber, Maksim Lagashkin, Lyudmila Motornaya
Seen on: 2.6.2018

Plot:
Oleg (Aleksandr Yatsenko) and Katya (Irina Gorbachova) have been married for a while, but by now their marriage is in danger. Oleg is a paramedic and Katya a doctor, they both work a lot and are accustomed to party hard, too. But when Oleg, once again, gets drunk and embarrasses Katya at a family party, she has had it: she texts Oleg that she wants a divorce. But Oleg has a hard time accepting that, their break-up quickly turning messy.

Aritmiya feels like a very Russian film, and not only because of the copious amounts of alcohol consumed in it. There’s a grim outlook with a touch of warmth to it that reminded me of other Russian films and novels. In any case, it’s a strong film, but also frustrating at times.

Film poster showing a couple hugging.
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The Bookshop (2017)

The Bookshop
Director: Isabel Coixet
Writer: Isabel Coixet
Based on: Penelope Fitzgerald‘s novel
Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Hunter Tremayne, Honor Kneafsey, Michael Fitzgerald, Frances Barber, Reg Wilson, James Lance, Patricia Clarkson
Seen on: 22.5.2018

Plot:
Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) needs a fresh start after her husband’s death. She moves to a small town on the coast and opens a bookshop there. Unwittinlgy she disrupts the local politics with her opening – the powerful Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson) had set the sights on her shop. Florence manages to gain the trust and appreciation of a local few – like Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy) regardless. But her bold choice to promote Nabokov’s Lolita at her store, causes quite an upheaval in town.

I expected The Bookshop to be this romantic, cute film and it does start that way. But then it suddenly throws so much sadness in your face that I could barely handle it. You should definitely be prepared for that.

Film poster showing Emily Mortimer leaning against the wall of a book store.
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You Were Never Really Here (2017)

You Were Never Really Here
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writer: Lynne Ramsay
Based on: Jonathan Ames‘ novel of the same name
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Dante Pereira-Olson, Vinicius Damasceno, Judith Roberts, Frank Pando, John Doman, Alex Manette, Alessandro Nivola
Seen on: 11.5.2018

Plot:
Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a veteran with PTSD whose job it is to retrieve trafficked girls as a freelancer. His newest task is to find Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov) who ran away from home. Her father (Alex Manette) is a state senator and he’s pretty sure she’s held against her will at a house he knows of. He wants as little fuss as possible, not only for his own position, but also because he works for the Governor (Alessandro Nivola). Joe takes the job but soon finds that things may be more complicated than anticipated.

You Were Never Really Here is a fantastic film that really carries a punch. There’s a lot to dissect and reflect here – and since it is such a good film, you’ll be happy to engage with it after having seen it to do just that.

The film poster showing Joaquin Phoenix with a hammer in his hand, looking down with an image of Ekaterina Samsonov floating in water superimposed over his body.
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55 Steps (2017)

55 Steps
Director: Bille August
Writer: Mark Bruce Rosin
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Hilary Swank, Tim Plester, Jeffrey Tambor, Richard Riddell, Johan Heldenbergh
Seen on: 11.5.2018

Plot:
Eleanor Riese (Helena Bonham Carter) has been in and out of psychiatric facilities for most of her life, so she is intimately aware of what is going wrong there. And what it boils down to that people believe that being in need of psychiatric help means that one can no longer be trusted to make decisions about one’s own treatment. Eleanor really doesn’t think so – and she’s willing to sue the hospital for it. With the help of her new lawyer Colette Hughes (Hilary Swank), she takes up the fight for psychiatric patients everywhere.

55 Steps is probably a nice crash course for the patients’ rights movement. It is an enjoyable film – apart from the catastrophic casting decisions made.

Film poster of 55 Steps, showing Hilary Swank and Helena Bonham Carter.
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