I and the Stupid Boy (2021)

I and the Stupid Boy
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Writer: Kaouther Ben Hania
Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Sandor Funtek
Seen on: 4.9.2022

Content Note: intimate partner violence

Nora (Oulaya Amamra) is preparing for a date, but as she heads out, she meets her ex-boyfriend Kevin (Sandor Funtek). What starts as innocous small talk quickly becomes a power struggle between the two.

I and the Stupid Boy is a sharp look at gender dynamics in relationships, and how men can quickly exert power about women in them. But while Nora’s desperation and helplessness are palpable, the film doesn’t stop there, but manages to turn things around, giving her her power back in a very satisfying way. It’s a really lovely short film that manages to say a lot in its short runtime.

Nora (Oulaya Amamra) walking in a dark, empty warehouse.

Not Today (2021)

Not Today
Director: Aditya Kripalani
Writer: Aditya Kripalani
Cast: Rucha Inamdar, Harsh Chhaya, Vibhawari Deshpande
Seen on: 29.8.2022
[Screener review.]

Content Note: suicide

Aliah (Rucha Inamdar) starts working as a Suicide Prevention Counsellor, unbeknownst to her parents who probably wouldn’t approve as strict Bohri Muslim family. On her very first day, Aliah receives a call from Ashwin (Harsh Chhaya) who is about to jump off a roof. Aliah tries everything to prevent him. After he reveals that he is a Suicide Prevention Counsellor himself, Aliah’s supervisor (Vibhawari Deshpande) forces her off the call. But Aliah can’t let it go and calls Ashwin from her private number. Talking the night through, the two of them open up to each other – and maybe both of them will live better lives after their call is done.

With suicide, Not Today takes on a heavy topic in a very emotional way, but ultimately leaves us with hope.

The film poster showing a drawing of a woman on the phone. The phone cord extends to a pair of feet that are standing on a ledge.
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You Are My Sunshine (2021)

You Are My Sunshine
Director: David Hastings
Writer: David Hastings
Cast: Steve Salt, Jack Knight, Charles O’Neill, Ernest Vernon, Charlie Clarke, Rosemary Manjunath, Simon Bamford, Jonathan Butler
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 27.8.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) meet when they are just teenagers, Joe having just moved to town. They connect instantly and quickly fall in love. But it’s the 70s, and homosexuality is still alien to most people. Decades later, Tom (Ernest Vernon) and Joe (Charles O’Neill) are still a couple, but the fallout from their youth is still notable in the strained relationship Joe has with his sister Ethel (Rosemary Manjunath). But Joe is eager to reconcile.

You Are My Sunshine is a sweet film, albeit a little too dramatic for its own good. While I would have liked a little less tragedy, and I didn’t like that it seems to put homomisia entirely into the past, I rather liked it overall.

The film poster showing Tom (Steve Salt) and Joe (Jack Knight) standing next to each other with pictures of the other cast members arranged in a strip above their heads.
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Blood Red Sky (2021)

Blood Red Sky
Director: Peter Thorwarth
Writer: Peter Thorwarth, Stefan Holtz
Cast: Peri Baumeister, Carl Anton Koch, Alexander Scheer, Kais Setti, Gordon Brown, Dominic Purcell, Graham McTavish
Seen on: 5.8.2022

Content Note: (critical treatmen of) racism against muslims

Elias (Carl Anton Koch) and his mother Nadja (Peri Baumeister) are flying to the USA. Nadja is sick, and a doctor there has promised to be able to heal her. Everything seems to be going well until their plan is hijacked. As things turn more and more tense and outright bloody on board and Muslim passengers like Farid (Kais Setti) get singled out by the hijackers for some reason, Elias tries to hide. As the hijackers turn their attention to him and Nadja, it becomes apparent that there is more to Nadja’s illness than appeared at first.

My expectations for Blood Red Sky weren’t particularly high, but they were disappointed anyway as it is a vampire movie that is just no fun, despite the nice idea.

The film poster showing Nadja (Peri Baumeister) holding Elias (Carl Anton Koch) in an airplane seat. Her reflection in the plane window shows a creature with a bloody mouth.
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Locked Down (2021) – DNF

Locked Down
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway, Dulé Hill, Jazmyn Simon, Mark Gatiss, Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, Claes Bang, Lucy Boynton
Seen on: 4.8.2022

Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have been a couple for a while. But they were in the middle of breaking up with each other when Corona and the resulting lockdown hit them. Now, they are both at home, trying to avoid each other best as they can. Linda takes meeting after meeting online, drowning in work she questions more and more, while Paxton who usually works as a delivery driver is bored out of his mind. When Paxton is supposed to make a delivery with a false identity that connects to Linda’s job, the two have an idea, though: they start to plan a heist.

Locked Down should be good. A heist movie with Ejiofor and Hathaway sounds absolutely ideal. On paper. The actual film is so dreary that I called it quits 50 minutes in, not willing to waste any more time on it.

The film poster showing Linda (Anne Hathaway) staring at Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
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This Little Love of Mine (2021)

This Little Love of Mine
Director: Christine Luby
Writer: Georgia Harrison
Cast: Saskia Hampele, Liam McIntyre, Lynn Gilmartin, Craig Horner, Lawrence Ola, Rajan Velu, Monette Lee, Martin Portus
Seen on: 22.7.2022

Content Note: colonialism

Laura (Saskia Hampele) is an up and coming lawyer, hoping to finally become a partner in her lawfirm. When billionaire Graham (Martin Portus) wants to hire her, it looks like she can finally can get everything she ever dreamed off. She grew up with Graham’s grandson Chip (Liam McIntyre) on a beautiful island. Graham needs Chip to take over the company, but Chip won’t sign the necessary paperwork. So Laura flies back home to her island to convince Chip. Once there, she realizes how much she missed home – and Chip.

This Little Love of Mine is a cute RomCom that does exactly what you think it will do. To enjoy it, you have to stomach though that on this tropical island, we can barely see a person of color which is superweird.

The movie poster showing Laura (Saskia Hampele) leaning against a palm tree on the beach and Chip (Liam McIntyre) leaning against her.
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Hive (2021)

Director: Blerta Basholli
Writer: Blerta Basholli
Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi, Kumrije Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Molikë Maxhuni, Blerta Ismaili, Kaona Sylejmani, Mal Noah Safqiu, Xhejlane Terbunja
Seen on: 18.7.2022

Content Note: sexualized violence/attempted rape, (critical treatment of) misogyny

Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) shares the same fate as most of the women in her village in Kosovo: her husband went missing in the war, and he has yet to be found. Every now and then new remains are uncovered, and it is unclear what would be worse: finding traces of him, or continuing not to. But Fahrije doesn’t really have time to consider these questions. She has two children, Zana (Kaona Sylejmani) and Edon (Mal Noah Safqiu), and a disabled father-in-law, Haxhi (Çun Lajçi) to take care of. Their only source of income is the sale of honey, but the bees don’t give as much honey as they used to. So Fahrije decides to get a driver’s license with the help of the Women’s Association, even though she knows what this will mean for her reputation in the village. And that’s not enough: she also kickstarts a business for the women in the village to sell their home-made ajvar in the city. But the remaining men around her don’t make things easier.

Hive is based on a true story. It brings the lasting effects of the war in Kosovo very close, while also managing to be a feminist story full of hope. It’s an excellent film, especially given that it’s Basholli’s debut feature.

The film poster showing Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) wearing a beekeeper's hat.
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The Black Phone (2021)

The Black Phone
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Based on: Joe Hill‘s short story
Cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Rebecca Clarke, J. Gaven Wilde, Spencer Fitzgerald, Jordan Isaiah White, Brady M. Ryan, Tristan Pravong, Jacob Moran, Brady Hepner, Banks Repeta
Seen on: 27.6.2022

Finney (Mason Thames) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) live in a small town with their alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies). Boys have been going missing from the town for a while, and there are persistent rumors of The Grabber who nabs them. Finney finds that The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) is very real indeed when he himself is taken and locked into a sound-proof cellar. Desperate, Finney sees no way to escape. But then the disconnected phone on the wall starts ringing, and The Grabber’s previous victims start to give Finney advice. Meanwhile, Gwen tries everything to find Finney, and since she sometimes sees things in her dreams, she might actually be able to help.

The Black Phone is an atmospheric and very scary film that you shouldn’t look at too closely when it comes to plot.

The film poster showing The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) wearing his mask, his hands dissolving into a red liquid.
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Verdens verste menneske [The Worst Person in the World] (2021)

Verdens verste menneske
Director: Joachim Trier
Writer: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Cast: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum, Hans Olav Brenner, Helene Bjørneby, Vidar Sandem, Ine Jansen
Seen on: 7.6.2022

Julie (Renate Reinsve) is impulsive – she changed her career trajectory several times, and she also didn’t really settly down with a guy. Until she met Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a comic artist a good decade older than her. As Julie tries to stick with him and with becoming a photographer, it seems questionable, though, whether she’s really able to do so.

Verdens verste menneske stretches out a little long, but it always comes back to inventive and sensitive filmmaking that makes the drawn-out parts worth it.

The film poster showing Julie (Renate Reinsve) running along the street with a big grin.
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Don’t Look Up (2021)

Don’t Look Up
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Adam McKay, David Sirota
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey, Chris Evans
Seen on: 14.5.2022

Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is an astronomer who works on her PhD under the supervision of Randall Mindy (Leonard DiCaprio). One night, Kate makes a harrowing discovery: there is a life-destroying comet heading straight for earth. Kate and Randall do everything to make the world aware of this fact, but things don’t go exactly as they thought they would.

I was debating with myself whether I wanted to see this film. From all I had heard about it, I was pretty sure that it would be a film that drops its good points into a sea of smugness. Ultimately, though, my curiosity got the better of me and I can now definitively say that my suspicions about it were confirmed.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film, all looking up.
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