The Climb (2019)

The Climb
Director: Michael Angelo Covino
Writer: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin
Cast: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, Gayle Rankin, Judith Godrèche, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, Daniella Covino, Eden Malyn
Seen on: 8.9.2020

Plot:
Kyle (Kyle Marvin) is just about to get married. To get away from the wedding planning, he goes on a cycling tour with his best friend and best man Mike (Michael Angelo Covino). As they are cycling, Mike confesses to Kyle that he has been sleeping with Kyle’s fiancée Ava (Judith Godrèche). This causes a rift between them. But having been friends for such a long time means that they can’t get away from each other all that easily.

The Climb is a strange little film with a very nice sense of humor that traces a friendship in an unusual way. I liked it, though I was hoping for a little better treatment of the female characters.

Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) cycling up a mountain, an old red car just behind them.
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Boze Cialo [Corpus Christi] (2019)

Boze Cialo
Director: Jan Komasa
Writer: Mateusz Pacewicz
Cast: Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel, Tomasz Zietek, Barbara Kurzaj, Leszek Lichota, Zdzislaw Wardejn, Lukasz Simlat
Seen on: 7.9.2020

Plot:
Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) gets out of juvie. The priest in prison, Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat), has arranged a job for him at a saw mill in the country side, so Daniel makes his way there. He actually dreams of becoming a priest himself, but with his record, this has become impossible. When he reaches the saw mill, he finds that he cannot face his new reality, so he heads to the church in town instead. When he faces sarcastic Eliza (Eliza Rycembel), he tells her on a whim that he is a priest – and quickly finds himself drawn in to support the local Father (Zdzislaw Wardejn). He realizes that the community is still reeling after tragedy struck them and Daniel is determined to help, despite everything.

For some reason, I thought that Corpus Christi was going to be a comedy. It is decidedly not. Despite that misapprehension on my part, I was thoroughly impressed by the film.

The film poster showing Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) in a priest's robe, cigarette in hand.
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And Then We Danced (2019)

And Then We Danced
Director: Levan Akin
Writer: Levan Akin
Cast: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli, Kakha Gogidze, Ana Makharadze, Nino Gabisonia, Levan Gabrava, Dachi Babunashvili, Saba Abashidze, Giorgi Aladashvili, Soso Abramishvili
Seen on: 26.8.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a dancer with a traditional dance company in Tbilisi. He has been training basically his whole life with his dance partner Mary (Ana Javakishvili), juggling the training with a job as a waiter to support his family. When a new dancer, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) joins the company, his free-spiritedness inspires Merab – and ignites a spark in him he barely knew he was capable of.

And Then We Danced is a beautiful film that tells a lovely queer coming-of-age story in a very interesting setting. I was absolutely taken with it.

The film poster showing Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) in a traditional costume mid-dance.
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Tottumiskysymys [Force of Habit] (2019)

Tottumiskysymys
Director: Reetta Aalto, Alli Haapasalo, Anna Paavilainen, Kirsikka Saari, Miia Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi
Writer: Reetta Aalto, Alli Haapasalo, Anna Paavilainen, Kirsikka Saari, Miia Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi
Cast: Julia Lappalainen, Veikko Aalste, Tommi Eronen, Joel Hirvonen, Johannes Holopainen, Elina Knihtilä, Krista Kosonen, Seidi Haarla, Jarkko Pajunen, Pirjo Lonka, Ella Lahdenmäki, Niina Hosiasluoma, Samuli Niittymäki, Pinja Sanaksenaho, Eero Ritala, Suvi Blick
Seen on: 21.8.2020

Content Note: rape, sexual assault, rape culture

Plot:
In several episodes, the film looks at various stories of sexualized violence. There’s Emppu (Julia Lappalainen), an actress who struggles with the rape scene in her play. Hilla (Krista Kosonen) and Kristian (Eero Ritala) are on holidays, when Hilla gets groped and it puts a shadow over their entire trip. Emmi (Suvi Blick) finds herself cornered by a friend after a party. At an office party Katja (Seidi Haarla) mentions that she was assaulted by a colleague, leading to a fall out with her co-workers. Milja (Pinja Sanaksenaho) is chatted up on the bus and things turn ugly. And Aleksi (Johannes Holopainen) is a young attorney who gets handed a rape case on short notice.

Force of Habit takes a look at how society deals with sexual violence, but mostly it focuses on the impact it has on the people who were violated, even when the violation doesn’t seem “so bad”.

The film poster showing the six main characters in pink monochrome and, smaller, three scenes in color.
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The Vigil (2019)

The Vigil
Director: Keith Thomas
Writer: Keith Thomas
Cast: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, Lynn Cohen, Fred Melamed, Ronald Cohen
Seen on: 19.8.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) antisemitism

Plot:
Yakov (Dave Davis) recently left the Jewish Orthodox community and is now trying to adapt to a life outside of it. It isn’t easy, especially since the community doesn’t necessarily want to let him go. When Reb Shulem (Menashe Lustig) asks Yakov to be shomer for the night – to sit vigil with the body of an old holocaust survivor – Yakov only accepts because it is a paid position. He relieves the deceased man’s wife Mrs Litvak (Lynn Cohen), who is showing signs of dementia, and takes over the watch. But things quickly take a dark turn and Yakov finds himself facing something evil.

The Vigil impresses with its setting and Davis’ impeccable performance in a film that is focused almost entirely on him. But it isn’t quite as effective at the horror as it would have needed to be to really sell me on it.

The film poster showing Yakov (Dave Davis) sitting in an arm chair with a brungin candle. A shadowy hand is reaching for him.
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The Wretched (2019)

The Wretched
Director: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Writer: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Cast: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley
Seen on: 19.8.2020

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
Ben (John-Paul Howard) is supposed to work with his father Liam (Jamison Jones) over the summer. Liam is the harbor master in a town filled with tourists – like the people renting the house next door, Abbie (Zarah Mahler), her partner Ty (Kevin Bigley) and their two children. One night, Ben sees something weird going on at their place and the only one who even indulges the thought that he might be on to something is his co-worker Mallory (Piper Curda). But even she isn’t convinced that there is actually a witch in the house next door as Ben suspects.

The Wretched has one clever idea, but otherwise isn’t particularly interesting or brings much to the table that we haven’t seen before.

The film poster showing a woman with flaking skin hiding behind a deer skull.
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Radioactive (2019)

Radioactive
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Writer: Jack Thorne
Based on: Lauren Redniss‘ book Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Aneurin Barnard, Simon Russell Beale, Sian Brooke, Drew Jacoby, Katherine Parkinson, Corey Johnson, Anya Taylor-Joy
Seen on: 18.8.2020
[Here’s my review of the 2016 Marie Curie movie.]

Content Note: xenomisia

Plot:
Marie (Rosamund Pike) is completely devoted to her work, but when she loses her spot in the lab, her project is threatened. When Pierre (Sam Riley) offers her a workspace in his own lab, she is hesitant to accept because she doesn’t want to have to depend on him and she certainly doesn’t want anybody interfering with her work. But she doesn’t really have any options, so she does agree. This is the beginning of their collaboration and Marie’s lifelong fight to have herself and her work recognized.

I think I wanted to like Radioactive better than I actually did. It does bring some new perspectives to the story, but not all of the ideas here work as they should.

The FIlm poster showing Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike) with her hands in her waist.
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Guest of Honour (2019)

Guest of Honour
Director: Atom Egoyan
Writer: Atom Egoyan
Cast: David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira, Luke Wilson, Rossif Sutherland, Tennille Read, Gage Munroe, Arsinée Khanjian, Alexandre Bourgeois
Seen on: 18.8.2020

Plot:
Jim (David Thewlis) was an health inspector, diligently working and taking care of his daughter Veronica’s (Laysla De Oliveira) pet rabbit. Veronica was in prison, even though she didn’t do it, and her insistence on remaining in prison threw Jim for a loop. Now he just passed away and Veronica is meeting with Father Greg (Luke Wilson) to discuss funeral arrangements. As she tries to explain her father, their relationship and her own decisions to the Father, she rethinks everything herself.

Guest of Honor has good moments and strong performances, but it is also too convoluted and frankly a little boring.

The film poster showing Jim (David Thewlis) stroking a white rabbit.
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Un divan à Tunis [Arab Blues] (2019)

Un divan à Tunis
Director: Manele Labidi
Writer: Maud Ameline, Manele Labidi
Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Majd Mastoura, Aïsha Ben Miled, Feryel Chammari, Hichem Yacoubi, Najoua Zouhair, Jamel Sassi, Ramla Ayari, Moncef Ajengui
Seen on: 13.8.2020

Content Note: transmisia

Plot:
Selma (Golshifteh Farahani) decided to move back to Tunis from Paris – much to the incomprehension of most people. Her cousin Olfa (Aïsha Ben Miled) doesn’t understand why she would leave the freedom Paris promises and the rest of Tunis doesn’t understand why she would want to open her practice as a psychotherapist in Tunis. But people flock to her office. She also draws the attention of police officer Naim (Majd Mastoura) who starts harrassing her about a proper licence for her work.

Un divan à Tunis has some nice moments and Farahani is fantastic, but the film relies a little too much on cheap jokes – one of which is pretty transmisic – to actually work.

The film poster showing Selma (Goshifteh Farahani) sitting on the roof floor in front of a couch, next to a picture of Sigmund Freud.
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Harriet (2019)

Harriet
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Writer: Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons
Cast: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Omar J. Dorsey, Henry Hunter Hall, Janelle Monáe
Seen on: 6.8.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, slavery

Plot:
Minty (Cynthia Erivo) is enslaved by the Brodess family. Her husband John Tubman (Zackary Momoh) is free and he wants to see Minty free, too. But there is no legal opinion the Brodesses will accept. After the death of the patriarch, his son Gideon (Joe Alwyn), who more or less grew up with Minty, takes over and things take a turn worse for her: he threatens to sell her. In an act of desperation she runs away – to become Harriet Tubman.

Harriet tells the story of a fantastic Black woman, but it was too preoccupied for me to make Tubman into a literal emissary of god. Ultimately Harriet existing at all is much more radical than the film itself.

The film poster showing William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) and Mary Buchanon (Janelle Monáe) above the silhouette of Harriet walking through a field with her gun raised.
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