LFF Day 10 – Thelma | Downsizing | You Were Never Really Here | Let the Sunshine In

Thelma

Thelma (Eili Harboe) is living away from her devout Christian family for the first time to study biology at university. Isolated from her loved ones Thelma finds university to be a lonely place before she inserts herself into the life of the popular but welcoming Anja (Okay Kaya).

Anja and Thelma become close in ways that the latter isn’t prepare for. As Thelma begins to question her own identity she starts to suffer from seizures and experiences strange visions. Before too long an undercurrent of the supernatural has seeped into proceedings and Thelma can’t decide whether to be afraid or if others should be afraid of her.

Thelma is a striking film to look at and filled with nuanced performances but didn’t strike the right tone for me. An exciting blend of the supernatural and a character study but sadly lacking in the thrills I kept expecting to be around the next corner.

Downsizing

Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is a tricky film to review; I don’t know whether to review the film it sells itself as, or the film it actually is.

The film we are sold is a comedy starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who decide to fix all their troubles by being shrunk down to five inches tall so they can join a thriving community of small people. The idea here is that being small means you need fewer resources and create less waste; it’s the only way to save the planet! Oh, and your money is worth a thousand times more in the small economy. The idea is intriguing and executed well down to the smallest detail. We get to see the scepticism of those around the couple prior to the downsizing, and the small world and the procedure required to get there are convincingly realised.

So far so good! I wonder what the film will explore in this unique situation…

With the first act finished the film takes an alarming left turn. Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau are introduced as questionable racial stereotypes and a different plot is introduced that focuses less on the small world but on issues affecting the world we live in. My man bug bear really is that this plot could have been explored without the whole downsizing premise, and that a second film could have been made to make the most of that squandered opportunity.

The resulting film is amusing but very messy.

Downsizing is released in UK cinemas from 19th January 2018 and I cannot wait to hear what you make of it.

You Were Never Really Here

It is a tragedy that Lynne Ramsay hasn’t directed a film since 2011 and We Need to Talk About Kevin so her new film was met with a long queue of critics anxious to devour her latest. And boy was it worth the wait.

The always compelling Joaquin Phoenix stars as a weary gun-for-hire who will perform any task for a bundle of cash and who is plagued by traumas from his past. Phoenix is called upon to rescue a young girl from a sex trafficking ring and finds himself embroiled in a bigger conspiracy than he first realises.

What makes this film unique is that Phoenix’s character has no interest in unravelling the conspiracy or getting to the bottom of everything. He has a single focus; protecting a young girl from harm and inflicting violence on those who are to blame. Often armed only with a hammer Phoenix is a hulking bundle of sore muscle who is relentless in his pursuit.

If this sounds like Taken then forget that notion as what we have here is something without contrivance, extraneous details, or pulled punches. The violence her is unshowy and brutal. Brawl in Cell Block 99 may be more graphic but this film is much more visceral and harder to watch for it. We spend a lot of time in Phoenix’s head and see flashes of his past as they intermingle with unfolding plot. The results is a heady brew of cinematic gold.

Ramsay’s direction is perfection. Phoenix’s performance is sublime. Jonny Greenwood’s score is bone rattlingly good. An absolute trauma of a film.

Juliette Binoche

Claire Denis directs a showcase for actress Juliette Binoche as she plays a divorced artist searching for love and finding quantity rather than quality.

A witty film in which we watch Binoche work her way through a series of lovers that she finds unsuitable in a variety of ways, all the while declaring her love life to be over. The film is a fun examination of how we are often our own worst enemies and rarely know what we actually want unless it is the one this we cannot have.

Maybe I was too emotionally assaulted by the previous film but Let the Sunshine In failed to grab me in any deeper way. A fun but forgettable affair.

We Bought a Zoo – Trailer and Pics

In April last year we were wondering what had happened to Cameron Crowe after his latest film Elizabethtown had a less than successful release. One month later we discovered he was planning on writing and directing We Built a Zoo and now a year and a bit later it has a new name (removing the possibility of a building montage) and we have a trailer:

 

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Well, it certainly looks like a heart-warming family film. Nice to see a film with animals in a zoo that don’t talk, we’ll just have to guess which is the sassy one.

Now if you fancy a lingering look at Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and some animals we’ve got you covered with some stills from the film. There’s even a few pictures of Crowe himself, proof he still exists:

True Grit – Review

Some reviews will focus on comparisons with the original True Grit, some will even look back at the novel both draw their plot from. A third type of review won’t mention either, having not read or watched the preceding incarnations. Guess which of the three this review is.

Taking True Grit as a standalone feature without any remake rumblings or Coen brothers expectations, it is a good film. Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges make the most of their character actor chops to bring two truly western roles to gloriously, over the top, fruition. The only possible downside being the thick accents occasionally get almost too thick to understand.

By now you’ll know that the show is stolen completely by relative newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who is clearly the lead despite what any Oscar nominations might suggest. Speaking of the Oscars; her pitch perfect and incredibly grown up performance as the young upstart looking to avenge her father’s murder is easily worth a golden statue next weekend. There’s humour and heart aplenty in young Steinfeld’s performance.

As a whole the film is fun, beautiful and feels surprisingly short for it’s 110 minutes. There’s no big twist, just a story told well by skilled writers, directors and performers. Towards the end some jarringly cheap looking shots slightly marr the emotional climax, completely out of place in an otherwise carefully shot picture.

As Coen brothers films go this is far from the best. Everything in it is good but the whole feels slightly lacking. I can’t say what it is lacking, I just know that as the credits appeared I felt True Grit needed something more to take it from good to great. You still are required to go and see it in the cinema and Hailee Steinfeld is still going to be a star one day, but No Country For Old Men was better.