Movies of the Week #14 (2023)

Living (2022): A remake of a Kurosawa movie I haven’t watched (i.e. any Kurosawa movie)? Sign me up. With the original screenplay adapted by Kazuo Ishiguro, I was sure this was going to be a slow, entrancing bit of humanist cinema, set against the antihumanist backdrop of the bureaucratic machinery. So it is, as we meet Mr. Williams, head of some London administrative authority, a man of perfect routine whose disengagement from life is to be strictly reevaluated after he receives a terminal diagnosis. With a typically charming performance from Billy Nighy and a fine bubbly counterpart in Aimee Lou Wood, Living is a finely crafted tale of redemption, about our deep rooted need to make sense of the world by giving some sense to our own lives. 8

All That Breathes (2022): If you prefer a flying variety of animals instead of a donkey, maybe this is something for you. ATB follows two siblings Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad, who rescue and treat injured birds in India. It’s a story framed by the wider role the kites (and other animals) play in sprawling New Dehli, an urban agglomeration that is defied by nature’s willingness to adapt – at a price. The documentary exhibits a rare quality, being at the same time a movie about big environmental themes, as well as one about the painstaking challenge of finding a purpose and making a difference as an individual. We meet people whose sense of being is enmeshed with their dedication to helping ailing kites – and it is this specificity that proved to me the most life-enhancing and inspirational feature of ATB. 8

Creed III (2023): We have a new entry in the ever-expanding Rocky-verse, this time with an aging Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) settling nicely into post-boxing life. Because the movie has to happen, Damian (Jonathan Majors), an old childhood friend pops up, after being released from many years of prison and asks for support to get his once-promising boxing career up and running. Creed III, which marks MB Jordan’s directorial debut, swiftly becomes a movie about priorities, ambition and loyalty, that unfolds in the same way its protagonists box, with its guard down. While the fights feel rather rote at this point, the commitment and energy Majors brings to his character elevates the movie to the level of its predecessors, making for a satisfying spar. 7

Scream VI (2023): I’d forgotten that the previous Scream was not my cup of tea at all, but the positive reception the sixth entry to the series got made me curious about it. Turns out, this one does work a bit better, even if it shares most of its DNA with its latest predecessor – the meta humor, the legacy characters, the tropes. But it goes about things more decisively, it’s generous with its slashings and also finds some clever sets to play in. This does not make it a stand-out movie, but it’s at least a more enjoyable Scream. 6

Written in the Stars | FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Official Film (2023): This painfully plain documentary on the 2022 World Cup is exactly what you’d expect from an organization as dislikable as FIFA. Not even Michael Sheen’s illustrious voice can elevate an inanely generic script, which ticks all the sportswashing boxes without ever saying anything of interest. Of course, this is basically promotional material (hey, it’s free to watch), so expecting anything else would be foolish, but it doesn’t work as drama, it doesn’t work as docu and it barely works as a memory placeholder. What’s so bizarre to me is that there is absolutely no fresh material, no behind-the-scenes fly-on-the-wall uncoverings other than what’s already been widely shared during the competition. The editing is functional and some of the perspective changes on key moments had something going for them, but definitely not enough to detract from the general blandness. Maybe the emotional imprinting experienced during the tournament itself will allow you to appreciate this more, but for me it was a poor substitute for just watching ninety minutes of highlights with no added fodder. 4