A seemingly well-adjusted Scandinavian Family vacationing in the French Alps experiences a frightening avalanche scare near the beginning of Force Majeure, thereby unleashing a cacophony of mistrust and anxiety as their dynamic is shaken to the core. This pitch black comedy from Sweden charts the steady disintegration of the family unit and the father’s psyche in particular, as his reaction to impending death leaves his family deeply questioning his masculinity and prioritization of their well-being. The stages of blame and negotiation play out with painful honesty, holding back very little in a manner that leaves the viewer supremely uncomfortable, as if eavesdropping on a neighbor’s personal affairs. The effect is unsettling yet stunningly honest and often laugh-quietly-on-the-inside worthy in its depiction of human vulnerability. Unlike many narrative films, the “climax” comes at the beginning of Force Majeure, with the remainder of the film acting as an extended denouement in the form of a measured, Kubrickian character study.
Elisabeth Moss is in it. Calling The One I Love a romantic-comedy, looking it up, or trusting anyone else about it — especially my review, will ruin this film for you. Just watch it. If one’s penchant is typically opposed to titles with ‘love’ in them, then it’s for you. Just hit ‘play’, or ‘start’, or whatever. The initial wtf-ness that attracted me to it is compelled further by excellent acting. And Elisabeth Moss is in it.
A delicate and profound exploration of loss, and an unbelievably well-made drama, Manchester By the Sea is a true triumph. Its focus on the characters, its timely unfolding of story elements, as well as its world class acting are only equal to the best European dramas. This deep and slow exploration of the human condition has rarely been successful in American cinema, if ever. The last best attempt was probably another movie by director Kenneth Lonergan, You Can Count on Me. Manchester by the Sea is where he unveils his full potential, and takes the viewer deep into the tensions and history of a building handyman, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck). His angry but quiet life is interrupted by news that his brother suffered a heart attack, and upon going back to his hometown he finds that he is the only one left to take care of his teenage nephew. A truly amazing movie, not to be missed, and a huge success too. It grossed around $80 million on a budget of $8.5 million.
The film for which Kristen Stewart became the first American actress to win the César Award. The Twilight star turned indie prodigy plays next to another award favorite, Juliette Binoche, as her assistant. When rehearsing for the play that launched her career many years earlier, Binoche’s character, Maria, blurs the line between fiction and reality, her old age and her assistant’s young demeanor, and the romance story portrayed in the play and her own life. The movie itself is stylized as a play, adding another interesting layer of artistic creativity to the complex plot line. A film for film lovers.
Youth is a film about Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) a famous composer vacationing at a resort in the Swiss Alps with his friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), an accomplished filmmaker, and his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). While Fred shuns his work (including an opportunity to play for the Queen of England) and muddles himself in disillusionment, Mick works fervently on his final film, intended to be his life’s crowning achievement. Their remaining time is spent intermingling amongst the guests and reminiscing upon their lives, their achievements, their failures and their undying yearnings. From writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), Youth is another charming work offering an array of eccentric characters and quirky scenarios, while also serving as a touching examination of age, wisdom and ultimately personal reckoning.
A summer’s night, it’s around 2 AM and you’re outside talking with a close friend about life, happiness, and the human condition. That quality and depth of conversation, which you reach at best a couple of times a year is present throughout the 106 minutes of The End of the Tour. The film depicts the story of David Foster Wallace, as played by Jason Segel, and his interactions with then Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, as played by Jesse Eisenberg. It’s like being with two smart friends and discussing your life and theirs in the sense that it is deeply personal, very smart while being simple, and unpretentiously relevant. Performances are nothing short of perfect as Segel completely transforms into the character, and everything is authentically orchestrated with the deft hand of The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt. A rare and important film.
Six vignettes that test the limits of psychotic human extremes are masterfully woven with layers of irony and satire. Each story begins in a relatable situation, but the characters propel themselves into an incomprehensible circumstance. Lovers of dark comedy will be delighted, shocked, and awed by this emotional thrill ride all while laughing their asses off. Truly, nothing more needs to be said about this film, so sit back and let the insanity ensue.
An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child’s eyes, his own development and his commander’s, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending state of war in Africa. It takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you’ve reached. As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, and the whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are enthralling.
Good movies usually aren’t lengthy movies, unless we’re talking about cases like Toni Erdmann. It’s a supremely smart German-Austrian comedy that depicts the story of a Father-Daughter tandem in light of life’s weirdest, most inconvenient moments. Deciding to visit his daughter on a whim after his dog dies, Winfried (Peter Simonischek)—a man known for his outrageous pranks and many a disguise—flies to Bucharest. Ines (Sandra Huller), the daughter, buzzing with work to the brim in a very challenging job, to say the least, isn’t impressed. This leads to even more uncomfortable encounters as the estranged father poses as the title character, life coach to the disapproving daughter’s boss. On top of being a shrewdly observed and relevant movie, the brilliant writing by Maren Ade crafts something thoroughly enjoyable and heartfelt here, highlighting the importance of family bond in an oddly sweet way, and criticizing modern-day work ethic and the toll its taking on us. The beginning is a bit slow, but if you’re a bit patient you will be surprised how much this movie will reward you.
Two Korean-American brothers run their family’s shoe store on the day of the 1992 LA riots. The day starts in their struggling business as they hang out with their friend – an 11-year-old African American girl – Kamilla. The Rodney King verdict is announced and violence breaks out. Written, directed, and starring Justin Chon, it’s a tight 94 minutes of impressive film-making that speaks volumes about America’s intra-minority race relations. It’s a work that elicits sympathy, and manages to uplift the violent event to a human level. An amazing movie.
Do not go in to this film expecting a traditional comedy, or anything you’ve previously known Hader and Wiig for. The Skeleton Twins is more of a beautiful, deep drama than it is a comedy – although it will produce many laughs. Due to unusual events, estranged siblings Milo and Maggie (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) reunite after years and attempt to repair their fractured relationship, despite their own individual misgivings. A very bittersweet and touching film starring two actors showing impressive range and versatility as their characters seek to rediscover the childhood friendship and camaraderie they had lost many years earlier. Again, don’t expect a traditional comedy, but an honest display of the complexities of sibling relationships and how conflict, compassion and understanding fits into it all. Really left me with a soft spot in my heart.
Editor’s note: we are only tagging this film as a drama.
Phenomenal and heartbreaking, Wind River is a true masterpiece by Taylor Sheridan, the man behind Sicario and Hell or High Water. In a Native American Reservation, a local girl is found dead and a young detective (Elizabeth Olsen) tries to uncover the mystery. She is accompanied by a tracker (Jeremy Renner) with his own dark history in the community. It’s not a very rewarding movie at first, so don’t expect an incredibly fast-paced story from the get-go. However, when everything unfolds, it’s not only action-packed, its reflections on indigenous communities are deep and poignant. How this remains a relatively known movie is shocking, it has to be one of the best mysteries of the past 20 years.
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