Movies of the Week #27 (2020)

Sorry We Missed You (2019): Even in his 80s, director Ken Loach is razor sharp in his critique of social disequilibrium and shortcomings. The movie follows up on the exceptional I, Daniel Blake (2016), as Loach takes aim at the gig economy and how it perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Focusing on a working class family in Newcastle, we experience the struggles of Ricky, Abbey and their two children – to each, their own. It’s not an unfamiliar tale to anyone who’s ever read up on or experienced how the big players in the gig economy do business, but what gives SWMY depth is the glimpses of humanity that shine through all the drama. You’re bound to be left reeling emotionally by the end and that’s a good thing, in all its tragedy. 8/10

Athlete A (2020): In one of those documentaries that makes you question our nature as human beings, Athlete A delves in the darkest corners of the US gymnastics’ program. It reveals a harrowing tragedy, littered with systemic failures. I remember the days when training methods bordering on torture brought results and were acclaimed, an approach so typical of the Eastern Block, but what AA highlights is the kind of vulnerable people they generated. And where there are vulnerable people, you’ll often find predators. The case of Dr. Larry Nassar is truly insidious and the docu manages to frame it in the most cutting ways, offering a voice to those who didn’t have one for years, decades. It defies belief that this kind of system can survive and thrive, and yet it did. 8/10

Three Identical Strangers (2018): The docu retells the bittersweet tale of three siblings, separated at birth – for a short time sweet, for a longer time bitter. It isn’t quite the story you would expect, but it’s exactly when the movie veers harshly that the filmmakers lose track of all the implications and focus more than I’d have liked on the emotional turmoil of its protagonists. That being said, the subject is so unusual and so rife for thought and exploration, that the end result rarely fails to entertain or, at least, fascinate. 7/10

The Half of It (2020): Of all the high-school love stories I’ve watched (and I’ve watched my share), The Half of It finds just enough character to stand out as something different. In a modern love triangle reinterpreting the letter writing “mechanic” that seems dubiously present nowadays in teen stories, Ellie is paid by Paul to write love letters to Aster – the focus of both their desires. Thankfully, Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer make for a good duo and the script subverts some of the typecasts and expectations – if not spectacularly so. For a feel good movie, it’s a sweet and melancholy ride, that hits the right notes when it matters. Also, might I add, it’s nice to see Alice Wu back at it, with her first feature since 2004’s equally sweet Saving Face. 7/10

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019): This teenage spider-man aimed squarely at teenage audiences comes with the good and the bad. The good is that it’s a light, spectacular and amusing flick. The bad is that it doesn’t go beyond the expected. You’re probably familiar with the formula by now, which director Jon Watts executes effectively. Tom Holland’s awkward charm is running a bit thin by now, but it still works for the most part, while Jake Gyllenhaal has little to work with in Mysterio. Overall, what the movie lacks for in surprise during the regular runtime, it makes up for in the after-credits, so be sure to check them out. 6/10