Tag Archives: Review

Hold Me Tight (Mathieu Amalric, 2021)

Clarisse wakes at dawn, careful not to stir her sleeping husband. She packs a few belongings and takes one last look at her sleeping children; then, deciding against leaving a note, she departs her house. The implication is that she’s abandoning her family, with a surprising giddiness in the car-driving sequences that soon follow. How could someone do this to their loved ones, and with such gleeful abandon? And why might they?

Cutting back and forth between Clarisse (Vicky Krieps)’s new bearings and her family adjusting to the abandonment, Mathieu Amalric’s latest feature as writer-director – based on Claudine Galea’s play Je reviens de loin – seems like it might be one of those disorienting character studies that withholds any semblance of answers until the climax. Instead, Amalric resolves the initial mystery early. It’s near impossible to meaningfully elaborate on what the film is doing without delving into the reveal that comes roughly a third in, so consider this your first-act spoiler warning…

Full review for Sight and Sound

Hunt (Lee Jung-jae, 2022)

Although Hunt was already in production before the global phenomenon premiered, Squid Game’s success looks set to ensure even more eyes pay attention to the directorial debut of that show’s star, Lee Jung-jae, who also co-leads this film. Luckily, Lee’s feature should withstand the extra scrutiny, thanks to its qualities as a stylish, energetic espionage thriller executed with clear confidence…

Full review for Little White Lies

Klokkenluider (Neil Maskell, 2022)

When a familiar actor switches to directing, there is the temptation to look for parallels with the films of directors they’ve worked with, particularly when there have been numerous collaborations. With British character actor favourite Neil Maskell, his debut feature as writer and director actively invites comparisons to Ben Wheatley’s early work to a small extent, given that Wheatley has an executive producer credit (Maskell is perhaps best known for his breakthrough lead role in Wheatley’s hitman horror Kill List).

But while Klokkenluider features a similar tension to Wheatley’s films in its combination of bleak comedy, deceptively mundane settings and the potential for kneejerk violence, Maskell’s speedy film displays a distinctive, eccentric voice of its own, even while bearing clear DNA from the likes of Harold Pinter plays and conspiracy thriller classics. Were it not for the occasional detours to other locales, it would near enough be a chamber piece, and it’s easy to imagine this material being transferred to the stage with some success, but a stagey feel is avoided through clever editing and blocking tricks…

Full review for Little White Lies

The Forgiven (John Michael McDonagh, 2021)

A logical point of comparison for John Michael McDonagh’s The Forgiven is Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s sweeping 2006 narrative of interwoven stories. While this sticks to one country, and is less ambitious in its scope, the dramatic catalysts in both films concern tragic accidents involving white tourists and local young men colliding in the deserts Moroccan.

Babel is a film which focuses on concepts of miscommunication and globalisation, while The Forgiven’s thematic meat is instead the recklessness of the condescending rich, alongside Western influence on the Arab world. All with writer-director McDonagh’s trademark provocative and caustic humour – previously seen in The GuardCalvary and War on Everyone – bolted on to inconsistent effect…

Full review for Little White Lies

Special Delivery (Park Dae-min, 2022)

Glancing at its cast list, one might assume that Park Dae-min’s Special Delivery was cannily intended to capitalise on the success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019): it reteams Parasite star Park So-dam with that film’s youngest ensemble player, Jung Hyeon-jun, for a smart thriller. But Special Delivery reportedly began principal photography the same week that Bong’s film was released in Korea, and beyond the gory climax, Park Dae-min’s film is rather a different beast, taking its cues from high-octane car-chase movies à la the Transporter trilogy (2002-2008) while drawing on the character dynamics of John Cassavetes’s Gloria (1980)…

Full review for Sight & Sound

Eiffel (Martin Bourboulon, 2021)

Eiffel isn’t so much a biopic of French engineer Gustave Eiffel (played here by Romain Duris), but rather a work of fiction inspired by certain historical facts. It posits why exactly Eiffel had a sudden change of heart in becoming involved with the metal tower project that would adopt his name after initially abstaining…

Full review for Little White Lies

Death of a Ladies’ Man (Matt Bissonnette, 2020)

Since the early days of his recording career, the late Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has played a key part in some of film and TV’s most spellbinding moments. Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) is so inextricable from the three Cohen songs that recur throughout – ‘The Stranger Song’, ‘Sisters of Mercy’ and ‘Winter Lady’ – that it’s hard to believe they weren’t originally written for the sequences in question (they’d appeared on Cohen’s debut album four years earlier). Atom Egoyan, a compatriot of Cohen, has cited the song ‘Everybody Knows’ as intrinsic to the tone and ideas of his own puzzle-box drama Exotica (1994), while that same year, Olivier Assayas made beautiful use of Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ in the extended party set-piece of Cold Water, where it scores the long-gestating first kiss between two close teenage friends. This isn’t to mention the various covers of Cohen that have made their way onto soundtracks: new generations were introduced to the man through recordings of ‘Hallelujah’ by John Cale and Jeff Buckley, in Shrek (2001) and teen drama series The O.C. (2003-07) respectively.

With all this in mind, any filmmaker producing a fiction feature based entirely around Cohen songs – bar original score compositions and the occasional diegetic background tune – is setting themselves up for potentially unfavourable comparisons. That’s what writer-director Matt Bissonnette has on his hands with Canadian-Irish co-production Death of a Ladies’ Man (2020), named after Cohen’s 1977 studio album and incorporating seven songs from across his career: ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Bird on the Wire’, ‘Memories’, ‘Why Don’t You Try’, ‘Heart with No Companion’, ‘Did I Ever Love You’, and Cohen’s rendition of ‘The Lost Canadian (Un Canadien errant)’, a mid-19th-century folk song. Cohen’s poem ‘The Music Crept By Us’ also gets recited during one of the film’s many fantastical flourishes, while chapter cards quote his lyrics…

Full review for Sight & Sound

a-ha: The Movie (Thomas Robsahm/Aslaug Holm, 2021)

American YouTube reviewer Todd in the Shadows has a regular series called One Hit Wonderland in which he takes a look “at bands and artists known for only one song”; exploring their history before and after the big hit. His first video in this series was on Norwegian synth-pop group a-ha’s ‘Take On Me’, in which he fully acknowledges that a-ha’s members are absolutely not true one hit wonders just because ‘Take On Me’ was their only enduring hit in the United States.

The band has reportedly sold over 55 million records worldwide. They’re among the best-selling Scandinavian acts ever. A 1991 gig at the Rock in Rio festival earned them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for drawing the largest paying rock concert attendance (198,000). They still fill stadiums. They did a James Bond theme.

But Todd’s criteria for inclusion isn’t entirely inaccurate. It’s not controversial to call ‘Take On Me’ one of the best pop songs of the 1980s, while the accompanying music video by director Steve Barron justifiably remains a titan of the form. No matter the sales figures of subsequent singles and albums, ‘Take On Me’ inarguably defines a-ha’s legacy…

Full review for Little White Lies

Firestarter (Keith Thomas, 2022)

During filming of The Thing in 1981, Universal offered John Carpenter the gig to direct a movie version of Stephen King’s novel Firestarter, about a pyrokinetic girl on the run from a secret government agency with her also super-powered father. After The Thing underperformed financially, Universal dropped Carpenter, replacing him with Mark L. Lester for the perhaps overly faithful 1984 adaptation that King reportedly hated.

Carpenter got his own swing at King for another studio with Christine. And four decades on, he’s now involved with a new take on the one that got away. His score for the 2022 Firestarter, co-written with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, is by far the best part of director Keith Thomas’ adaptation of a text that no one can quite seem to crack…

Full review for SciFiNow

Men (Alex Garland, 2022)

Alex Garland’s Men shares DNA with David Bruckner’s recent Rebecca Hall-led The Night House. Both see widowed women navigating an isolated haunted house, each also concerned with the fallout of a husband’s suicide, that trauma weaved into the thematic underpinning.

But while Hall’s character is plagued in her own home, Men’s Harper (Jessie Buckley) is on a solo vacation in the English countryside. Another crucial difference: The Night House’s instigating suicide is presented as sudden, but in Men, Harper both witnesses husband James’ (Paapa Essiedu) apparent jump from their building and is explicitly told he’ll take his own life if they divorce, in an explosive flashback confrontation involving assault – where cinematographer Rob Hardy lights their apartment in appropriately fiery hues…

Full review for SciFiNow