Relatively Distant

Invisible-life-movie-review-carol-duarte-julia-stockler
Bruno Machado/BFI London Film Festival 2019

MOVIE REVIEW
Invisible Life (2019)

Teenage Eurídice (Carol Duarte) has a slightly older sister called Guida (Julia Stockler). They live a precarious middle-class existence in 1950s Rio de Janeiro, under the thumb of their unkind father Manuel (António Fonseca). Guida plans to escape via her Greek sailor boyfriend. Eurídice escapes via her world-class piano playing. Life being what it is, things don’t work out the way the sisters planned. Manuel being who he is, things are much, much worse than they need to be. The title implies something hidden would be made visible, but the movie delivers a very different story.

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Parts Unknown

To-the-ends-of-the-earth-movie-review-atsuko-maeda
Trigon-film

MOVIE REVIEW
To the Ends of the Earth (2019)

“Lost in Translation” remains a deeply wonderful and deeply problematic movie about two Americans at loose ends in Japan, a strange and alien culture for them that reflects their own confusion and discomfort. Being isolated and scared in their own separate ways brought the hero and heroine together. The Japanese heroine of “To the Ends of the Earth” has no such human companion on her journey in a wild and strange place – in her case, Uzbekistan – which means the emotional impact is very different. This is not necessarily wrong, especially in comparison, but the movie’s own mistakes are what lessen its power.

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Unsealed With a Kiss

Matthias-and-maxime-movie-review-gabriel-d-almeida-freitas-xavier-dolan
Shayne Laverdière/Diaphana

MOVIE REVIEW
Matthias & Maxime (2019)

Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) is a good-looking trainee lawyer whose career is on the rise. Maxime (Xavier Dolan) is leaving behind his alcoholic mother to tend bar in Australia. Before he goes, their gang of friends – who are fully aware their group dynamic is about to end – head off to Rivette’s (Pier-Luc Funk) summer house for a final holiday. While there, Rivette’s annoying younger sister Erika (Camille Felton) announces she is making a short movie. Max volunteers his participation, but Matthias agrees to help only after losing a bet. And only then do they learn Erika wants them to kiss on camera.

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Sex Abuse, Lies and Videotape

Rewind-movie-review-sasha-joseph-neulinger-documentary
BFI London Film Festival 2019

MOVIE REVIEW
Rewind (2019)

It’s a fascinating fact of human nature that people need to document their lives, the good parts and the awful. It’s even more fascinating that the urge to document can surmount almost anything – such as, for example, how the father of director Sasha Joseph Neulinger missed his son’s birth because he was out buying a video camera. That video camera is the key to “Rewind,” because the family dynamic it captured are absolutely crucial to the story that it tells.

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He Sad, She Sad

Marriage-story-movie-review-scarlett-johansson-adam-driver
Wilson Webb/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Marriage Story (2019)

For starters, the title is wrong. It’s a divorce story, specifically that of teen-sensation-actress-turned-arthouse-draw Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and self-made-theater-director Charlie (Adam Driver). The plot resembles so closely the outline of writer-director Noah Baumbach’s real-life marriage to his first wife that the gender of their actual child – onscreen, his name is Henry (Azhy Robertson) – hasn’t even been changed. As an audience, we are meant to be enthralled by this inside portrait of an artistic family’s disintegration. As people, watching this airing of some downright cruel dirty laundry, we really ought to look away.

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Neighborhood Watch

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Lacey Terrell/TriStar Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

This is Marielle Heller’s third movie, and with it she confirms her status as one of the finest directors now working. Her first movie, “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” told the difficult story of a clever 15-year-old who voluntarily begins sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend. Her second, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” showed how a writer who had lost her way was able to find herself again by co-opting other people’s voices. And now, with this movie that is not quite about beloved television host Fred Rogers, she gives us the road map to become better people. It’s an extraordinary achievement.

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Free Agent

Harriet-movie-review-tubman-cynthia-erivo
Glen Wilson/Focus Features

MOVIE REVIEW
Harriet (2019)

It is always wonderful to see a movie made by the right person at the right time. Kasi Lemmons has been one of the very few black female film directors working in Hollywood for the last quarter century, and Harriet Tubman is an American heroine. For her to tell the story of Tubman’s life is a marriage of subject and filmmaker such that we rarely get to see. And oh, it’s worth it.

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Souped Nazi

Jojo-rabbit-movie-review-taika-waititi-roman-griffin-davis
Kimberley French/Fox Searchlight Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Jojo Rabbit (2019)

It’s not that we didn’t think he had it in him. But it’s a sad reality that not everyone can make the jump from the minors to the majors. There are plenty of movie directors who can handle $5 million brilliantly but who choke under the pressure of $10 million, or $100 million. Or they can handle the pressure but not the studio. Or they can handle the studio but not the actors. Or they can do it, but only as a controlled implosion. It’s very, very rare for someone to not only do it all, but to make it look easy.

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Opening a Pandora's Black Box

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Tore Vollan/Magnolia Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019)

What happens when a well-meaning jackass decides to interfere in a complicated situation when his lack of nuanced knowledge is no barrier to him prancing around for the cameras as he pretends to achieve more than he is capable of? He crashes and burns.

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A Hard Case to Crack

öndög-movie-review-dulamjav-enkhtaivan
BFI London Film Festival 2019

MOVIE REVIEW
Öndög (2019)

This Mongolian movie has some interesting points to make about survival on the steppes but does so over the body of its lead actresses. Perhaps it’s realistic, and sometimes it's hilarious. But mostly it’s unsettling – which is almost certainly the point.

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