Categories
Features Live Action Movies

After Yang

Director – Kogonada – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 96m

****1/2

In the distant future, a couple must come to terms with the loss of the eldest child, actually an A.I. purchased as an ethnically programmed companion for their adopted South East Asian daughter – SF mystery drama is on Sky Cinema from Thursday, September 22nd

Memory is one of the great themes of cinema because when you point a moving image camera at someone, you capture and preserve their moving image for posterity. (Something similar happens when you record the sound of someone’s voice. Or even if you write down their words on paper, a simpler, more primitive form of recording.) Memory is also one of the elements which defines us as human beings.

Full marks, then, to director (actually writer, director, editor) Kogonada for taking the short story Saying Goodbye To Yang by Alexander Weinstein and expanding it into a feature. As described in the parlance of the distant future world in which this is set, Yang is a technosapien (i.e. a robot), a purchased elder sibling of a family comprising father Jake (Colin Farrell), mother Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja).

Mika is adopted, and her ever so Hollywood liberal parents – he a white man who has built a business around his passion for tea, she a black woman who is a hard-working, highly motivated high-flier in a demanding corporate business that’s never really defined – are concerned that she connect with her South East Asian heritage.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Return To Dust (Yin Ru Chen Yan, 隐入尘烟)

Director – Li Ruijin – 2022 – China – Cert. PG – 133m

***1/2

When two misfits are put into an arranged marriage by their respective, concerned families, a kindly, gentle relationship blossoms – played in the 2022 Edinburgh Film Festival, forthcoming UK release Friday, November 4th 2022

His family are worried about Iron Ma (Wu Renlin), also known as fourth brother. He seems content to live off his little piece of land tilling it with his donkey to grow crops, and raising pigs and chickens. He is less ambitious than third brother, who runs the local market and sets the prices for which crops are bought off local farmers. Third brother has done well for himself, and drives around in a flashy car. By way of contrast, Ma gets around by walking, or donkey and cart if he has produce to transport.

Her family are likewise worried about Cao Guiying (Hai Qing), a shy woman who can’t control her bladder. Both Ma and Cao’s respective families view their offspring as a liability and want to get them married off as soon as possible, not least to get out of being responsible for them. So they arrange a marriage for the pair of them to get them off their hands.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Chilli Laugh Story (闔家辣)

Director – Coba Cheng – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12a – 94m

****

A young man successfully markets his mother’s chilli sauce in the pandemic lockdown until the lucrative business it unexpectedly generates is taken off him– out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, July 15th and in the US and Canada on Friday, July 22nd

This starts off with a very sweet – no, make that spicy – memory of 2002 when Coba Cheng (Edan Lui Cheuk-On) was a small boy of five and visited his mum’s village where he tried her chilli sauce for the first time. It burned his mouth, but was always a part of his life from then on.

Jump to mid-2020. Hong Kong, like everywhere else, is in the middle of the pandemic. Coba is now working his job from home, and he and his parents are struggling to live with each other in the same enforced space. His dad Alan (Ronald Cheng) is engaged in a no-way forward argument with a delivery man in a surgical mask who won’t tell him what the unknown package is until dad has paid the delivery fee, which dad won’t do until he knows what it is, which Mr.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Vortex

Director – Gaspar Noé – 2021 – France – Cert. 15 – 142m

*****

An elderly man struggles to care for his ailing wife who has dementia – out in cinemas on Friday, May 13th

Discounting the lengthy titles detailing among other things the various film clips and images used, this throws us a series of images in a pillarboxed 4:3 format with curved corners at the edges (suggesting a projected slide show or physical, analogue photographs mounted in an album) then the young Françoise Hardy singing “Mon Amie La Rose” loads irony into the proceedings: the rose is fresh and speaks to us of love, the singer young and yet to be ravaged by the passage of time. (It’s not mentioned here, but last year, Hardy announced she could no longer sing as a result of cancer treatments, which lends the video a certain poignancy today – even more so in the context of this film.)

Then the man we’ll call the father (Dario Argento, director of such Italian gialli as Suspiria, 1977; Tenebrae, 1982) waves through windows across a courtyard at the woman we’ll call the mother (Françoise Lebrun from The Mother And The Whore, Jean Eustache, 1973) and they meet up for a glass of wine on their balcony.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

La Mif

Director – Fred Baillif – 2021 – Switzerland – Cert. 15 – 110m

*****

The lives of inmates in a girls’ care home, and the working lives of the staff who look after them – out in UK & Irish cinemas on Friday, February 25th

This ‘docudrama’ (for want of a better term) follows the residents of a Geneva care home for vulnerable young people.

Screaming blue murder, a young woman is escorted from the premises by a policewoman.

Lora (Claudia Grob), the manager of this care home, returns after time off to say “hi” to the girls. (The fact of her returning is thrown in to the narrative almost casually at this point; only later does its significance become apparent.) These girls are vulnerable children in the State’s care, and Lora feels like a mother to them. They, in turn, refer to the home – meaning themselves and the other girls, with their support workers on hand in the background as sort of substitute parents – as La Mif (French slang for “the family”; literally, “The Fam”).

Novinha (Kassia Da Costa) is a sassy, pushy teenager who talks frankly about sex, And everything else. Audrey (Anaïs Uldry) – the arrested girl from the opening – has been caught having sex with a boy three years younger than her; after this, the centre is turned into a home for girls only.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Flag Day

Director – Sean Penn – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

****

A woman struggles to come to terms with her father who is a criminal and a pathological liar – out in cinemas on Friday, January 28th

This at once follows a linear narrative trajectory and doesn’t. On the one level, Jennifer grows into a woman, argues with her parents (with good reason) and attempts to find herself and make her way in the world. On the other level, images and sequences move effortlessly between Jennifer aged six (Addison Tymec), Jennifer as a young teenager (Jadyn Rylee) and the adult Jennifer (Dylan Penn). Sometimes it feels like the adult Jennifer having a flashback, sometimes it seems like we’re one of her younger selves, all very vivid and real. Sometimes it’s memory, sometimes it’s experience.

It’s based on the real life memoir of Jennifer Vogel, who apparently wrote the book trying to sort out her feelings about her unorthodox upbringing.

It starts and (more or less) ends with a line of cop cars pursuing suspect John Vogel (Sean Penn) wanted for counterfeiting. As the images roll over us, there’s a lot of adult Jennifer voice over in the first ten or so minutes (and elsewhere at odd moments in the film).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Microhabitat (So-gong-nyeo, 소공녀)

Director – Jeon Go-woon – 2017 – South Korea – 106m

****1/2

The price has gone up. Yet again! A woman who wants nothing more from life than to be able to enjoy whisky and smoking enacts a radical plan to combat everyday inflation – on MUBI from Thursday, November 25th as part of their New South Korean Cinema season.

Miso (Lee Som aka Esom), whose name in Korean means both ‘smile’ and ‘micro’, lives in a small, one room, unheated apartment in Seoul. So cold in fact that when she and her boyfriend Hansol (Ahn Jae-hong) start peeling off multiple layers of clothing in the middle of winter that she’s given up by the time she’s down to her slip. It’ll have to wait ’til the Spring.

Having enough money is a constant struggle, but she’s shrewd and always puts aside enough for basic outgoings like food and rent as well as pleasures like smoking and whisky every month. When her landlord tells her the rent is going up, because his landlord is putting his rent up and he needs to pass some of the increase on to his tenants, she realises she’s going to have to cut something.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Limbo

Director – Ben Sharrock – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 15+ – 103m

****1/2

Immigrants are holed up in a rundown house on a bleak Scottish island as they await letters granting their requests for asylum in the UK on MUBI from Thursday, September 23rd

A smiley chalked on a blackboard. A woman’s austere face suggesting exactly the opposite. Instructors Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard) are demonstrating how a man should behave towards a woman dancing to pop music. Helga’s top looks far too proper and her skirt both far too formal and long for a good night out, as if she were dressed for work in an office. Boris is admonished for first resting his head on Helga’s clothed breast then putting his hands on her bottom. “Now, can anyone tell me what Boris did wrong,” she asks the group of stunned men watching, seated.

Behind her on the blackboard are the words, “Cultural Awareness 101. Sex. Is a smile an invitation?”

Welcome (or maybe not) to the world of an asylum seeker from Syria placed on a remote Scots island. Welcome (or maybe not) to the UK’s Hostile Environment.

A rudimentary training centre.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Herself

Director – Phyllida Lloyd – 2020 – UK/Ireland – Cert. 15 – 97m

****

A woman leaves her abusive and violent husband and builds a new home for herself and her two young daughters – in UK cinemas from Friday, September 10th

Things come to a head in the marriage of Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and Sandra (Clare Dunne, also co-screenwriter) when he violently assaults her and stamps on her hand, an incident witnessed by their younger daughter Molly (Molly McCann). Sandra has trained her kids well for such a situation and the eldest Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara) knows what to do, rushing to the local shopkeeper with a lunch box inside the lid of which is the family address to give to the Garda.

Like her mother before her, Sandra works as a cleaner to retired and physically disabled local doctor Peggy O’Toole (Harriet Walter). To make ends meet, Sandra also works in a local pub as a barmaid alongside Amy (Ericka Roe) who lives in a nearby squat. After separating from Gary, she and he have joint custody of the kids while the council put her and her kids up in temporary accommodation in a hotel room.

As it’s four years on the housing list to get a home, Sandra investigates other alternatives and, surreptitiously using Peggy’s internet, discovers that she could build a house for only slightly more than a year’s rent to the council.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Herself

A house of her own

Herself
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Certificate 15, 97 minutes
Released 10 September

Herself has a brutal opening in which Sandra (Clare Dunne), a mother of two girls in Dublin, is physically assaulted by her husband Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson), an incident witnessed by her youngest daughter, Molly (Molly McCann), while her eldest, Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara), races across the estate to the local shop to deliver a pre-written emergency message.

From here, it becomes a tale about a single mum’s struggle to find a decent home for her and her kids in the face of a social welfare system that can’t cope with either the level of need or any innovation through which people try to legitimately help themselves… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform.

See my alternative review of the film here.

Trailer: