Movies of the Week #19 (2020)

Driveways (2019): A perfectly pitched and executed story of family and belonging, Driveways is a classic feel-good movie infused with just the right amount of melancholy. It’s a wonderful thing when a character actor leaves behind a little gem like this, as is the case of Brian Dennehy. He plays Del, neighbour to Kate and her son Cody, who are cleaning up the house belonging to Kate’s recently deceased sister, to get it ready for sale. Everyone’s got some adjusting to do, some unresolved questions to contend with, and although some will find the story a bit slow and predictable, its understated nature is where it draws its strength from. Emotional stuff. 8/10

Saint Frances (2019): I wasn’t sure I was going to like Saint Frances, because its characters aren’t especially likable. Somehow, though, lead and writer Kelly O’Sullivan keeps you on the razor’s edge for long enough to start caring and ultimately signs off on a relevant and relatable tale of adulthood adaptation. The patriarchy gets its share of the blame, but the movie shines in how it tears down the protective shields of its characters, to unearth the people hiding behind them. O’Sullivan puts in a heck of a performance, as does seven year old Ramona Edith-Williams, playing the kind of precocious youth you’ll see more in movies than reality, but playing her really well. 8/10

How to Build a Girl (2019): It’s rare to find a movie so relentlessly quotable as How to Build a Girl, but this is just bad ass. A funny, irreverent and abrupt coming of age story starring Beanie Feldstein as Johanna Morrigan, geeky loner turned rock critic sensation Dolly Wilde, it proves a perfectly enjoyable romp through the British music scene of the 80s. While familiar in its narrative arc, the energy Feldstein brings to this fiery performance is something else, in a story that alternates between exuberance and social realism effortlessly. 7/10

Extraction (2020): For a movie about teeth, Extraction would be an immensely ominous title. For a movie about Chris Hemsworth going on a redemption bonanza to extract and inadvertently bond with a kidnapped teenager of some Indian crime lord, it’s…adequate. For an action romp, it will do fine, with solid set-pieces and grunty masculinity oozing from its frames. For anything else, it’s a “seen this, seen that” kind of situation, with little emotional reward and an ending yearning for a sequel. I mean, I could always do with more Hemsworths in my life #JustWatchingSeasonTwoOfWestworld. 6/10

Ordinary Love (2019): It’s rare for a movie to treat cancer as a part of life, rather than the destination, but this is what Ordinary Life tries to do. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, as reflected in the experience of a tightly knit couple, portrayed by an exceptional Lesley Manville and an almost equally impressive Liam Neeson. The movie manages to draw and emphasize the line between those who are committed (to the illness), and those who are just involved, the frustrations stemming from this uncross-able divide in spite of our best efforts and intentions. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but you’ll probably still feel enough to appreciate it. 7/10