Category Archives: Reviews

Film Review: Dark River

Film Review: Dark River

What appears to be sibling rivalry masks disturbing family secrets in Clio Barnard’s film Dark River. A tautly written script (also by Ms. Barnard) and strong performances from the leads make this truly worthwhile viewing, although it is never a comfortable watch.

For the past fifteen years, Alice Bell (Ruth Wilson, The Affair) has made her living by shearing sheep on temporary contracts. She never stays in one place very long, and seems to prefer it that way. Memories of sexual abuse by her father (Sean Bean) haunt Alice; to some extent, a busy schedule helps her keep them at arm’s length.

Upon learning of her father’s death, Alice returns to the family farm to claim her tenancy. Her brother Joe (Mark Stanley, Game Of Thrones) is not pleased to see her. Joe feels that he has worked the farm of the last fifteen years, and deserves to keep doing so. He resents Alice for expecting otherwise.

The two battle over various management techniques, like whether to dip or spray the sheep for parasites and wool maintenance. As the film progresses, it becomes clear there is a deeper issue than sibling rivalry. At some level, both feel Joe should have done more to protect Alice from their father. Both realize the past cannot be changed, but neither has the slightest idea of how to move forward.

Cinematographer Adriano Goldman does a magnificent job of depicting the Yorkshire landscape. He contrasts the beauty of the countryside with the rot and decay of the Bell farm to great effect.

Theme: Sexual Abuse

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Film Review: A Fantastic Woman

Film Review: A Fantastic Woman

Image and perception play huge roles in the Oscar-nominated A Fantastic Woman, by Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio. The film’s protagonist, Marina (Daniela Vega), struggles to move forward after the sudden death of her much-older lover, Orlando (Francisco Reyes). This difficult process is made even more so because Marina, a transgender woman, must battle a societyContinue Reading

Film Review: Loveless

Film Review: Loveless

In his new film, Loveless, director Andrey Zvyagintsev continues to spotlight weaknesses of Russian society through nuance and understatement. The result is a shattering depiction of a marriage in its last stages and, in particular, the spillover of its toxicity onto a twelve-year-old boy. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) cannot stand the sightContinue Reading

Film Review: The Post

Film Review: The Post

Steven Spielberg’s The Post is a fast-paced and engaging film, although less than subtle in its message. It recounts a few weeks in summer 1971 when newspapers battled the Nixon White House over the publication of wide-ranging excerpts from the Pentagon Papers. Although The Post generally makes its points in bold italics, its underlying messageContinue Reading

Film Review: Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

Film Review: Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool

Rule of thumb: film projects that are “in the making” for decades tend to yield mediocre cinema. Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, the adaptation of Peter Turner’s 1986 memoir about Gloria Grahame, both proves and disproves this rule. The film has palpable chemistry between the two leads, and smart use of musical selections. However,Continue Reading

Film Review: Downsizing

Film Review: Downsizing

Downsizing, the new film by Alexander Payne, is highly interesting if uneven. Payne and co-author Jim Taylor start with an intriguing premise-that the problems of overpopulation can be overcome by shrinking humans to a size of around six inches. The cost of living decreases as well, making “small” individuals into overnight millionaires. There is onlyContinue Reading

Film Review: I, Tonya

Film Review: I, Tonya

Even if you do not follow Olympic figure skating, chances are you have heard of Tonya Harding-and probably not much good. Craig Gillespie’s new film I, Tonya aims to set the record straight, or at least provide mitigating circumstances for her behavior. The result is a darkly comic film with real-life villains straight out ofContinue Reading

Film Review: Call Me By Your Name

Film Review: Call Me By Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, adapted from the novel by André Aciman, is a luminous film about sensual awakening and first love. It is, easily, one of the most stunningly beautiful films I have seen this year. Finely drawn performances by Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet insure that Call Me By Your NameContinue Reading

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh creates some of the most unlikeable characters you cannot stop watching. His debut film, In Bruges (2008), features a couple of hit men sent to a Belgium town after one of them bungles a job. Things get more complicated-and violent-from there as McDonagh explores themes of vengeance and redemption. The entertaining but derivativeContinue Reading

Film Review: Lady Bird

Film Review: Lady Bird

First, let me say that Lady Bird has nothing whatever to do with LBJ’s wife. The name is self-applied by teenaged Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a high school student facing the challenges of her senior year. Writer/director Greta Gerwig presents many familiar situations but enlivens them with quirky details inspired by her own life. TheContinue Reading