Proxima (2019)

Proxima
Director: Alice Winocour
Writer: Alice Winocour, Jean-Stéphane Bron
Cast: Eva Green, Zélie Boulant, Matt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller
Seen on: 10.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) sexism

Plot:
Sarah (Eva Green) is an astronaut at ESA. Or she hopes to become one – so far, she has been preparing while taking care of her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant) mostly on her own as she is separated from Stella’s father, astrophycisist Thomas (Lars Eidinger). When Sarah finally gets the call she’s been waiting for, when she is finally assigned a mission, things change quickly and drastically for Sarah and Stella. Sarah has to go to Russia for her mission training, Stella has to move in with Thomas. Both knew this was coming, but living it brings more challenges than expected.

Proxima is a quiet film, focusing on the trivialities of space travel in a way that feels entirely revolutionary and gives it a new, feminine-coded take we very much needed.

The film poster showing Sarah (Eva Green) in her astronaut suit holding her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant), behind them a rocket getting ready to lift off.
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6 Underground (2019)

6 Underground
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy, Adria Arjona, Dave Franco, Corey Hawkins, Lior Raz, Payman Maadi, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Kim Kold, Lídia Franco, James Murray
Seen on: 21.7.2021

Content Note: white saviorism

Plot:
A few years ago, a tech billionaire faked his own death to become One (Ryan Reynolds), the leader of a mercenary group set to kill the dictator of Turgistan Rovach (Lior Raz), to put his more liberal brother Murat (Payman Maadi) in power and free Turgistan with the move. But the first mission he and his team of five, only known as numbers Two (Mélanie Laurent), Three (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Four (Ben Hardy), Five (Adria Arjona), and Six (Dave Franco), go on is an utter disaster – and does not bode well for their overall goal.

After watching F9 and Black Widow, I wanted to keep up the action comedy mood. When I saw the preview still on Netflix for this film, I felt like Ryan Reynolds would probably show me a good time. What I missed was that this is a Michael Bay film, and it’s absolutely one of his worse ones. Dammit, 6 Underground was really and truly bad.

The film poster showing the 7 recruits in various action poses, with One (Ryan Reynolds) taking the center.
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Blue Boy (2019)

Blue Boy
Director: Manuel Abramovich
Writer: Manuel Abramovich
Seen on: 9.7.2021

Content Note: homomisia

“Plot”:
Abramovich interviewed male sex workers in Blue Boy bar in Berlin, then showed them their statements and filmed them while they watched it. The film shows them reacting to their own statements.

Blue Boy chose an interesting format to capture its subjects, opening up the gulf between talking a good game and then listening to yourself talk. The statements they give are as different as their reactions to themselves – from embarrassment to careful neutrality that can’t quite cover the fact that they are having a very emotional reaction, but don’t want to share what it is. While their statements give us an insight into their work life – from chatting up clients to police harrassment -, their reactions give us a look at who they are as people. A careful balance that Abramovich captures impressively.

The film poster, showing the title in big, loopy letters, with two eyes, cut out from a newspaper, peeking out between the two words.

Devi Aur Hero [The Goddess and the Hero] (2019)

Devi Aur Hero
Director: Aditya Kripalani
Writer: Aditya Kripalani
Cast: Chitrangada Chakraborty, Vinay Sharma, Arjun Ganesh, Vibhawari Deshpande
Seen on: 24.5.2021
[Screener Review.]

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Kaali (Chitrangada Chakraborty) has spent years locked up in an apartment as a sex slave. When she has a chance to escape, she takes it. But she is far from doing well and seeks help with psychologist Vikrant (Vinay Sharma) who diagnoses her with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Vikrant tries to help, but he is struggling with sex addiction and feels drawn to Kaali which complicates matters, especially since Kaali is looking to connect with him outside the therapeutic setting.

Devi Aur Hero sounds a little sensationalistic at first glance, but it is actually a thoughtful examination of mental health/illness and how it may be connected to a patriarchal context.

The film poster showing a drawing of Kaali (Chitrangada Chakraborty) with many heads and many arms carrying weapons, surrounded by bearded heads without bodies
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Quebramar [Breakwater] (2019)

Quebramar
Director: Cris Lyra
Writer: Camila Gaglianone, Yakini Kalid, Lana Lopes, Raíssa Lopes, Cris Lyra, Nã Maranhão, Elis Menezes
Seen on: 24.5.2021

“Plot”:
A group of young lesbians go to spend some time at the beach and to celebrate the New Year.

Quebramar doesn’t so much tell a story than show a slice of queer utopia – but in a realistic way. In the casual intimacy between these women, their openness and vulnerability with each other and the sense of community they share, the troubles they do talk about seem far away. They have carved out a space for themselves. It’s a good space – and they are willing to share it with the audience. So, relax and take half an hour to enjoy their company.

The film poster showing a painting of bodies in different shades of skin color. it's watercolors and so abstracted, it's almost unrecognizable. The bodies are just along the edge of the image, in the center is a blank space.

In The Land Of Lost Angels (2019)

In The Land Of Lost Angels
Director: Bishrel Mashbat
Writer: Bishrel Mashbat
Cast: Erdenemunkh Tumursukh, Iveel Mashbat, Mike Cali, Robert Corsini, Saint Ranson, Sam Bayaraa, Uyanga Mashbat
Seen on: 26.4.2021
[Screener review.]

Plot:
Ankhaa (Erdenemunkh Tumursukh) lives in LA, but his family is still in Mongolia, and in some trouble. They need money, and Ankhaa, having made it to the USA where he says he just got a big job feels responsible to deliver it. But fact is, he doesn’t have a good job. He doesn’t have any money. So he and his best friend Orgil (Iveel Mashbat) have come up with a plan, even if that plan isn’t legal.

In the Land of Lost Angels is a beautifully shot and well-acted film that hasn’t quite gotten its rhythm right. But it’s definitely a very promising debut.

The film poster showing a black and white shot of a man looking at some palm trees.
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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen, Pat Healy
Seen on: 11.4.2021

Plot:
Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an art critic, always looking for something new and good. But currently, he is rather more occupied with Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works in the gallery run by Rhodora (Rene Russo), hoping to become a successful agent herself, and Morf is deeply in love with her, despite having a boyfriend. When Josephina finds out that a recently deceased tenant in her building was an artist who wanted to have all his art destroyed upon his death, she is convinced that his art is something special. She is not wrong, though she couldn’t have foreseen what kind of special it really is.

Velvet Buzzsaw is visually engaging, and has a great cast who obviously had a lot of fun chewing the scenery in this one. But the metaphor at its heart feels a little flimsy and could have done with a little more work.

The film poster showing a white frame on a white wall with the words Velvet Buzzsaw spraypainted across it, the red paint dripping down and over the frame.
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Escape Room (2019)

Escape Room
Director: Adam Robitel
Writer: Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen
Seen on: 7.4.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Zoey (Taylor Russell), Ben (Logan Miller), Jason (Jay Ellis), Mike (Tyler Labine), Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), and Danny (Nik Dodani) have all received an invitiation to a very special Escape Room – one that promises 10,000 dollars to the winner. It doesn’t take long for them to realize, though, that the game is literally one of life and death.

Escape Room feels pretty uninspired. A tired rehash of pieces we have all seen before, combined with bland characters. I was quickly bored and basically only finished the film out of lethargy.

The film poster showing the players in a cube-like room with several doors. Zoey's (Taylor Russell) can be seen in the background divided in puzzle peaces of which a few are missing.
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Ham on Rye (2019)

Ham on Rye
Director: Tyler Taormina
Writer: Tyler Taormina, Eric Berger
Cast: Haley Bodell, Audrey Boos, Gabriella Herrera, Adam Torres, Luke Darga, Sam Hernandez, Blake Borders, Cole Devine, Timothy Taylor, Gregory Falatek
Seen on: 6.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos) and Trish (Gabriella Herrera) are preparing for a ritual in the town’s diner. They, and every other kid their age, are donning the clothes of their grandparents and walk to the diner. Something big is going to happen, something that will change the course of their lives forever. At least, if they are chosen.

Ham on Rye builds on an interesting idea, but lacks a bit of focus and narrative clarity. Still, it’s definitely unusual.

The film poster showing 11 the fists of 11 teens, holding their thumbs in up or down positions.
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Tu mérites un amour [You Deserve a Lover] (2019)

Tu mérites un amour
Director: Hafsia Herzi
Writer: Hafsia Herzi
Cast: Hafsia Herzi, Djanis Bouzyani, Jérémie Laheurte, Anthony Bajon, Sylvie Verheyde, Karim Ait M’Hand, Myriam Djeljeli, Alexander Ferrario, Jonathan Eap, Sophie Garagnon, Brice Dulin, Mouna Soualem, Lina Soualem, Abdelkader Hoggui, Donia Bouzyani
Seen on: 31.3.2021

Plot:
When Lila (Hafsia Herzi) finds out that her boyfriend Rémi (Jérèmie Laheurte) cheated on her with his ex-girlfriend Myriam (Myriam Djeljeli), she is devastated. Lila and Rémi break up, but at the same time, they aren’t actually willing to let go of each other. So, while Rémi heads to Bolivia to clear his head, Lila starts flirting with other men, hoping to find more luck with them.

Tu mérites un amour sounds like it should be right up my alley – a story about a woman trying to find her footing in the world? I like those – but it just didn’t work for me because Lila and her development didn’t work for me.

The film poster showing Lila (Hafsia Herzi) lying half-naked on a bed.
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