Oh, those Russians
- Our Kind of Traitor (2016): This John le Carre adaptation bears some of his usual trademarks – small mafia-big mafia and the wider political entanglements of black money – and works well for the most part, without ever really exciting. Director Susanna White, in what is her second major movie after…Nanny McPhee, fails to really make the personal drama of Perry and Gail resonate with the crazy geopolitical storm they got mixed in. The pedigreed cast, starring Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomi Harris and Damien Lewis, provides a bunch of rather lifeless performances, perhaps due to the equally lifeless characters they play. Which is not to say that the movie didn’t feel slick at times, it just felt kind of empty. 6/10
It’s bloody grim
- The Future (2011): Miranda July’ second feature isn’t as impressive as Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), but still proves an unusually intense love story. Or something of the sort. The movie is uncomfortable, painful at times, weird at others, while providing an unforgiving X-Ray of relationship plateaus. And to think it all starts with the lead couple adopting a defective cat, with said-cat narrating the whole affair. Can it get more weird than this? Strangely enough, it also makes sense, while having a distinctively true ring about the relationship complications it portrays. The fact that it has an equally strong meta-verse makes for a memorable, if imperfect and overly quirky experience. 7/10
- Tully (2018): Charlize Theron goes for a body transformation once more, in her saddening portrayal of Marlo – anguished mother of two (three), hanging on to life and sanity by her teeth. Directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, Tully isn’t an easy ride – if anything, it’s a good companion piece for The Future, if that one didn’t scar your soul sufficiently. There’s a harrowing montage of early on, of Marlo going through her sleep-deprived routine with her newly-born, which was just seared into my brain. It becomes more digestible as it goes on, to ultimately pull the rug from under you at the end. It didn’t feel like the most believable outcome and, often enough, it sounded like Diablo Cody just leapt out of her characters’s mouths, undermining the whole experience. I’m not sure why it bothered me so much, because other than this, Tully is a remarkable story about the undue burdens of motherhood. 7/10
Angel Eyes on repeat for five hours – check!
- Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018): I am shocked by how harsh I was with my review of the original (“unless you’re as big an ABBA fan as I am, it’s hard to recommend this stuff”). Surprisingly enough, the sequel is a better, more natural and more joyous movie, even though it doesn’t rely on the most popular ABBA songs. The story is a variation on the original, as Sophie copes with her mother’s death while preparing to open a fancy hotel/resort on their idyllic Greek island. In parallel, we are pranced around young Donna’s life-affirming choices many years ago, which led her towards said island, meeting Harry, Bill and Sam along the way. Breaking from the chains of the musical makes for a more free flowing movie, aided by the flair of its fresh, young cast. But don’t worry, there are a lot of old faces around too, as Here We Go Again finds the sweet spot for nostalgics and new fans alike. 7/10