Eternals (2021)

Eternals
Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Kaz Firpo
Based on: Jack Kirby‘s comic
Cast: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård, Harry Styles, Patton Oswalt
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 18.11.2021

Plot:
Three thousand years ago, a group of humanoid aliens were sent to Earth to protect it and its humans from the deviants – monsters that love to eat them. Led by Ajak (Salma Hayek), they are a fierce group of warriors, all with their special talents. 500 years ago, they got rid of the last deviant and dispersed, waiting to be called back to their home planet. Sersi (Gemma Chan) ended up in London where she is dating the human Dane (Kit Harington) after a break-up with her fellow Eternal Ikaris (Richard Madden). Sprite (Lia McHugh), another of the Eternals, lives with her. Things appear pretty settled – until they are unexpectedly attacked by a deviant that already drew Ikaris’ attention. It appears that the Eternals have to come back together as their mission isn’t over yet.

Eternals gets many things right, even if it doesn’t fit easily with the rest of the MCU. Be that as it may, I enjoyed a lot about it, but not without some reservations.

THe film poster, showing the ten Eternals standing on a river shore in their armor.
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The Starling (2021)

The Starling
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writer: Matt Harris
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Laura Harrier
Seen on: 5.11.2021

Plot:
Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) used to be very happy, but they aren’t anymore. Jack is in a psychiatric hospital, and Lilly is barely holding it together at work and at home. When a starling takes up residence in her garden and starts attacking her to defend its nest, Lilly can’t handle this at all. But her rage at the bird also sets things in motion again for her, and maybe even for Jack.

The Starling is sweet, touching and even funny, despite the very heavy topic it takes on. But it does so with a constant sense of hope, even at the worst time, and it’s just really beautiful to watch.

The film poster showing Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) lying on a lounge chair outside in the garden, a starling sitting on her shoulder.
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Petite maman [Little Mom] (2021)

Petite maman
Director: Céline Sciamma
Writer: Céline Sciamma
Cast: Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne, Margot Abascal
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Plot:
Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) just lost her grandmother and now she and her parents (Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne) have traveled to her grandmother’s home, her mother’s childhood home, to empty it and ready it for the sale. Meanwhile Nelly explores the garden and the woods behind the house where she meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) who is building a tree house there. The two girls quickly become friends, but Nelly senses that there is something unusual about the situation.

Petite maman was simply wonderful. The perfect way to end the Viennale for me as it is a beautiful meditation about loss and saying good-bye while keeping the people you love in your heart.

The film poster showing Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) and Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) looking at each other. Below them is a painted landscape, so that their heads and the landscape form a heart.
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Dangsin-eolgul-apeseo [In Front of Your Face] (2021)

Dangsin-eolgul-apeseo
Director: Sang-soo Hong
Writer: Sang-soo Hong
Cast: Lee Hye-yeong, Hae-hyo Kwon, Yunhee Cho
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Plot:
Sangok (Lee Hye-yeong) is staying with her sister Jeongok (Yunhee Cho). She lives abroad and has come to re-visit her old home, and meet with director Jaewon (Hae-hyo Kwon) who has always admired Sangok as an actress and would like to do a project with her. It is unclear, though, if Sangok can do it.

In Front of Your Face is a slow, calm film that works only in part. But when it does, there is a certain magic to it.

The film poster showing a blurry image of Sangok (Lee Hye-yeong) hugging herself.
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Ali & Ava (2021)

Ali & Ava
Director: Clio Barnard
Writer: Clio Barnard
Cast: Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, Ellora Torchia, Shaun Thomas, Natalie Gavin, Mona Goodwin, Krupa Pattani, Vinny Dhillon, Tasha Connor
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Content Note: mention of domestic violence, racism

Plot:
Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a classroom assistant. Her own children are more or less grown up, though her son Callum (Shaun Thomas) still partly lives with her together with his girlfriend and their baby. Meanwhile Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a property manager and a fixture of his community, repairing stuff and helping out whereever he can, although his private life is in shambles. His wife Runa (Ellora Torchia) broke up with him, but still lives with him and he doesn’t want his family to know that they’re separated. When Ali picks up the child of one of his tenants from school, he meets Ava – and the two connect instantly. But what are they and their families supposed to think about this connection?

Ali & Ava is a cute, emotional and wonderfully energetic film that gives us two characters as rarely seen on film as they are easily rooted for. It left me smiling from ear to ear.

The film poster showing Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) smiling at each other.
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Kelti [Celts] (2021)

Kelti
Director: Milica Tomovic
Writer: Tanja Sljivar, Milica Tomovic
Cast: Dubravka Kovjanic, Stefan Trifunovic, Katarina Dimic, Anja Djordjevic, Olga Odanovic, Konstantin Ilin, Milica Grujicic, Slaven Doslo, Nikola Rakocevic, Nada Sargin, Jovana Gavrilovic, Jelena Djokic, Jovan Belobrkovic, Atanasije Stogren
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2021

Plot:
It’s 1993 in Belgrade. Inflation is high, ressources are scarce. Nevertheless, Marijana (Dubravka Kovjanic) is putting together a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed birthday party for her youngest daughter Minja (Katarina Dimic), from home-made Raphael costume to sandwiches that have to make do with margarine because butter is simply too expensive. As the house fills with children and adults coming to party, the tensions between Marijana and her husband (Stefan Trifunovic) become ever more visible though.

Kelti is an amazingly enjoyable film. It’s funny, evocative of the time period it takes place in and has great characters. It was a favorite of this year’s Viennale for me.

The film poster showing a group of women in party mode, holding cigarettes and smiling.
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Piligrimai [Pilgrims] (2021)

Piligrimai
Director: Laurynas Bareisa
Writer: Laurynas Bareisa
Cast: Gabija Bargailaite, Giedrius Kiela, Jolanta Dapkunaite, Zygimante Jakstaite, Paulius Markevicius, Indre Patkauskaite, Julius Zalakevicius
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2021

Plot:
Indre (Gabija Bargailaite) and Paulius (Giedrius Kiela) haven’t seen each other for years. Not since Paulius’ brother who was also Indre’s boyfriend was murdered a few years ago. The murderer was caught and there is detailed documentation about what happened. Now Indre and Paulius have decided to retrace what happened that night. But whether that brings the necessary clarity or closure is unclear.

Pilgrims is an interesting film that often left me a little puzzled about the reactions of its characters. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing, or something else, but it reinforced the effect of the film for me. It doesn’t quite manage to keep the tension all the way through, but it works for the most part.

The film poster showing Indre (Gabija Bargailaite) and Paulius (Giedrius Kiela) standing next to a car in the rain. The ground is covered in water and there are mirror images of them in it, but switched around, Indre mirroring Paulius and vice versa.
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Obkhodniye puti [Detours] (2021)

Obkhodniye puti
Director: Ekaterina Selenkina
Writer: Ekaterina Selenkina
Cast: Denis Urvantsev
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2021

“Plot”:
The treasureman (Denis Urvantsev) is one of the next generation of drug dealers, basically arranging sales by geocaching. He makes his way through Moscow, discovering and communicating hiding places.

Detours is a slow film that is as close to a documentary as a fictional movie can probably get. It asks a lot of its audience, and – still loaded with frustration and anger from The Hand of God – I wasn’t entirely able to give it everything it needed. But it is definitely an interesting film.

The film poster showing various places and people superimposed over each other, creating a collage effect.
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È stata la mano di Dio [The Hand of God] (2021)

È stata la mano di Dio
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Luisa Ranieri, Renato Carpentieri, Massimiliano Gallo, Betty Pedrazzi, Biagio Manna, Ciro Capano, Enzo Decaro, Lino Musella, Sofya Gershevich
Part of: surprise film at the Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2021

Content Note: sexism, fatmisia, ableism, domestic violence, sexualized harrassment

Plot:
Fabietto (Filippo Scotti) is a teenager in Naples with a large, boisterous family. Pretty much everyone around him is talking about Diego Maradona and whether he will come to play for Naples or not. There is a note of chaos in the implication of that possibility – a chaos that is well familiar to Fabietto and his family who live it everyday. That chaos lies in Fabiè’s crush on his aunt Patricia (Luisa Ranieri), and his parents Saverio (Toni Servillo) and Maria’s (Teresa Saponangelo) relationship, and the entire extended family. It’s not easy growing up in these circumstances, but Fabiè doesn’t really have a choice there.

I absolutely hated The Hand of God. It’s a film that isn’t just set in the 80s, it’s also stuck in times long past with its sense of humor. I’m honestly not sure if I actually remember all the things I should be writing Content Notes for. In any case, I was really pissed that I saw this.

The film poster showing Patricia (Luisa Ranieri) standing in a dilapitated, but formerly very grand room in front of a giant chandelier that is lit, but resting on the ground.
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Seperti Dendam Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas [Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash] (2021)

Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash
Director: Edwin
Writer: Edwin, Eka Kurniawan
Based on: Eka Kurniawan‘s novel
Cast: Marthino Lio, Ladya Cheryl, Reza Rahadian, Ratu Felisha, Sal Priadi, Kevin Ardillova, Kiki Narendra, Djenar Maesa Ayu
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 25.10.2021

Content Note: rape, CSA

Plot:
Ajo Kawir (Marthino Lio) hasn’t yet met a fight he didn’t want to carry out. He takes any chance he gets to brawl, always in the hope that he will finally feel masculine enough. The problem is: he can’t get it up, and no amount of fighting will make up for that. He finally decides to go for the guy who controls the area, and encounters Iteung (Ladya Cheryl), his bodyguard. She hands his ass to him – and that’s the start of a beautiful romance. But romance may not be enough for them to settle into more peaceful lives.

Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash deconstructs gender notions in a very interesting way, but it’s a little too uneven to keep the promise of its concept entirely. Still, I’d say it’s worth a look.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film as portraits above a truck.
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