Category Archives: Little White Lies

Blow the Man Down (Bridget Savage Cole/Danielle Krudy, 2019)

Blow the Man Down opens with an attention-grabbing group rendition of the eponymous sea shanty, which originated in the 19th century, with alternate lyrics referencing the New England port town of the film’s setting. Thanks to a montage of misty skies, icy-looking water and squelchy sea creatures, as well as the region and shared taste for anachronistic music, viewers may initially be reminded of Robert Eggers’ recent The Lighthouse.

Instead, writer/director pair Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy present a multi-layered contemporary mystery that’s less stylistically outlandish than Eggers’ film, though certainly full of its own memorable idiosyncrasies. To name just one, those singing fishermen reappear as a Greek chorus of sorts, popping up throughout the film with a song and the odd fourth wall-breaking glance to camera…

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Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (J.-P. Valkeapää, 2019)

Thrilling Finnish feature Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, from director J-P Valkeapää, is a drama about trauma and recovering from great loss, set in the world of BDSM. It also has plentiful body horror, deadpan dark humour and plotting beats reminiscent of a romantic comedy – think Sleepless in Seattle, except instead of a meet-cute atop the Empire State Building, Tom Hanks’ widower had just wanted someone to strangle him…

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Run (Scott Graham, 2019)

Scottish writer/director Scott Graham regularly explores isolated communities in the furthest reaches of Scotland. His third feature, Run, advances his explorations of family and regret to Fraserburgh in the far northeast, a small town where the fishing industry dominates. Thirtysomething Finnie (Mark Stanley), a fish factory worker, has a malaise that’s sabotaging his relationships with teenage-sweetheart-turned-wife, Katie (Amy Manson), and their two sons…

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So Long, My Son (Wang Xiaoshuai, 2019)

This ambitious, epic melodrama from Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai is delivered with historical richness and
staggering emotional gravity. Across three hours, its story jumps back and forth between four decades and documents significant upheavals in modern Chinese life.

Of particular interest to Wang is how the country’s one-child policy, designed to control the population size and finally eliminated in 2015, affects an ensemble of couples, their relatives and their children. He also explores how those ripples extend to years of rage and regret after two parents, Liyun (Yong Mei) and Yaojun (Wang Jingchun), fall foul of the rule. It brings the political reality and monumental societal shifts right down to a human level…

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Earthquake Bird (Wash Westmoreland, 2019)

A few minutes into Earthquake Bird, Alicia Vikander’s Lucy Fly is shown translating an English-language film into Japanese for what we soon learn has been her job in Tokyo for a number of years. The film in question is Black Rain, Ridley Scott’s cross-cultural action movie in which Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia play New York City cops escorting a Yakuza member back to Japan for extradition.

It’s a cute nod given that Scott Free Productions is one of the companies behind this Netflix-distributed film, and that Black Rain opened in 1989, the year in which Earthquake Bird is set. But the reference ends up backfiring. While the general consensus on Scott’s film remains largely negative, not least due to its use of Asian stereotypes, many of its detractors have nonetheless pointed to the director’s stylistic excesses as a positive. By contrast, Wash Westmoreland’s adaptation of Susanna Jones’ 2001 novel is a pedestrian thriller lacking any zest or flair…

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Chained for Life (Aaron Schimberg, 2018)

A lengthy Pauline Kael quote about the good looks of actors benefitting cinema precedes Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life. Its opening shot, of a young woman (Jess Weixler) navigating a corridor in a shell-shocked but glowing state, appears to complement Kael’s musing.

Yet beauty is about to be imperilled as this woman is actually starring in a horror movie. And then it’s quickly revealed that this horror movie is within another movie, where notions of beauty and representation of bodies that don’t fit societal norms will be skewered to delightful effect…

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Monos (Alejandro Landes, 2019)

The blistering third feature by Colombian-Ecuadorian filmmaker Alejandro Landes starts with training rituals that recall the physicality of Claire Denis’ Beau Travail. Its characters are eight teenage guerrillas serving the orders of a mysterious force known as The Organisation, stationed to wait for further instructions beyond guarding both an American prisoner (Julianne Nicholson) and a loaned dairy cow.

While some have code names referencing pop culture (Rambo, Smurf), others (Bigfoot, Wolf) evoke folklore, myth and fairy tales. Their base of operations does similar, with a mountaintop fortress filmed by DoP Jasper Wolf as though it’s an island floating in the clouds, while the arrival on horseback of their adult drill sergeant, a minuscule but extremely muscular man, amplifies the surreal, fantastical quality. Were it not for the fact they’re firing guns and holding a woman hostage, the group’s early joviality and camaraderie would suggest a more gender-inclusive Lost Boys (JM Barrie’s, not Joel Schumacher’s)…

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