Film Review | The Daughter starring Sam Neill & Geoffrey Rush

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After many years away from his birth town and father, middle-aged Christian returns home to attend his father’s second wedding. The relationship between father and son is tense, owing to something other than the fact that the upcoming wedding involves the 31 year old housekeeper his father had previously employed. As Christian reunites with his old friend Oliver, he pieces a few old secrets together that threaten to break apart Oliver’s family.

This Australian drama based on Henrik Ibsen’s play provided much more than I’d bargained for. The story line was intriguing and the characters were easy to relate to. The acting was very realistic without anything being overdone. Music set to the film worked quite well and served to enhance the movie overall. While the budget for this film couldn’t have been too much with it’s rural setting, I’m actually surprised it hadn’t drummed up more attention in the film world. Though it may bring on a few tears, The Daughter is certainly worth checking out from your local library!

Book Review | The Devil’s Dancer : a Satire of Nothing by Victor Bertocchi

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author for participating in the giveaway.

This book was a mystery before it arrived without much of a synopsis available online at the time. Following the format used by Pirandello in Six Characters in Search of an Author, a play about the production of a play, Bertocchi has written a play for the stage about the production of a play in this book. Lines, physical character descriptions, and musical numbers are included. It speaks of varying opinions of art, the stage, popular culture and capitalism, amongst other things.
While the writing style was unique and still clear enough to follow, I’ll agree with another reviewer to say that the characters were just not appealing enough. Most of them were fairly flat, perhaps giving leeway for an actor’s interpretation on the stage, but also simply unlikeable. The individual chapters/acts were quick enough to get through, but once I had set the book down I was unmotivated to pick it up again. It was a chore to get through for me and I wouldn’t have finished it had it not been given in exchange for a review of the book’s entirety. That said, the quality of the actual book is great and it would work well for those wanting to read while using public transit since it can be frequently interrupted without problem. It is not currently available in any libraries, but the author was selling the ebook for 99¢ (info here).

Film Review | Journey to the Shore (Kishibe no tabi) directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

indexThree years after his disappearance, Mizuki’s husband Yusuke returns home and calmly explains to his wife that he drowned at sea. Pleased that he has finally come back to her, Mizuki seems mostly unfazed by the fact that her husband is dead. Yusuke asks her to go away with him and she agrees, leaving the mundane life she has established as a children’s piano teacher behind. The couple embarks on a journey where they cross paths with various people in need of some type of spiritual release, ranging from a man whose wife has abandoned him, to a couple who has lost a child.

This movie was very well done. It was both moving and thought provoking. Although it dealt with seemingly impossible happenings, such as dead people blending in among the living, Kurosawa has done so tastefully, in a palatable manner. The movie captured my interest from the beginning and continued to keep my attention for the whole two hour duration. Fans of Japanese cinema are likely to enjoy this feature, especially because it moves at a decent pace with a logical and easy to follow plot. It may also appeal to those going through relationship issues away from a loved one or those who may have lost someone very close to them.

Film Review | Infinitely Polar Bear starring Mark Ruffalo

pbcThis movie is one of the best I’ve seen this year. It’s no secret that I am a big Ruffalo fan, but that wasn’t enough to get me to like Foxcatcher, Spotlight or Thanks for Sharing. Infinitely Polar Bear shares the story of two girls growing up in Boston in the 70’s with a bipolar father caring for them while mom is pursuing her MBA in New York City. Dealing with living in poverty and being a stay at home Dad and single parent are two of the movie’s themes. The film gives a keyhole perspective likely unknown to those unfamiliar with manic depression.

I laughed out loud, cried once and generally experienced a wide range of emotions while viewing this film. All four of the main characters do an excellent job getting into character and making their feelings palpable. The movie was instantly entertaining and kept my attention for the duration. I recommend this film to anyone who is or has a bipolar partner or is going through long distance relationship issues. It would also be of interest to a much broader audience, so give it a shot even if you don’t fit into either of those two categories. Check it out from a library near you.

Film Review | Félix et Meira by Maxime Giroux

Meira feels suffocated, living the life of a Hasidic Jewish married woman in Montreal. Because of strict tradition, she is unable to listen to the music she would like or spend time with friends of her choosing. The majority of her time is to be spent caring for her infant in the confines of her home. When Félix introduces himself to Meira in a neighborhood bakery, her immediate reaction is to flee without speaking. When the couple runs into each other again, Félix shares the news of his father’s passing and gives her a drawing he has made. Meira’s interest is piqued and she begins spending time with Félix and having a new kind of fun that furthers her belief that her current life is stifling.

While Félix & Meira is somewhat slow moving, it is interesting enough to keep the viewer’s attention. The plot is well developed and believable. The film won several awards in Canada, it’s country of origin, but the true highlight of the film is it’s soundtrack. Perhaps those to enjoy this film most would be those affected by similar issues of religious lifestyle restriction, or those wishing to leave a difficult relationship. Check this film out from a library near you.

Film Review | Contracorriente (Undertow) by Javier Fuentes-Leon

film poster for undertow contracorrienteSet in a Peruvian fishing village, Contracorriente tells the story of Miguel, a beautiful man with a wife and child on the way and how he deals with the abrupt death of his secret lover Santiago. Miguel is a local with family ties who works on a fishing boat. Santiago is an artist who lives temporarily in the village and is a societal outcast because of his lifestyle. The two meet only in secret and no one knows of their relationship. After a fight, something unexpected happens, which causes Miguel to reevaluate his choices and values.

This film was the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time. I wasn’t expecting the depth and emotional waves that came. If you’re willing to relate to the characters, have a handkerchief nearby. The acting was top notch and the story was completely realistic. I didn’t want this movie to end. It’s no surprise that this film was featured at multiple film festivals and won the 2010 Sundance World Cinema Audience Award. If you loved Julian Schnabel’s film Before Night Falls based on the novel by Reinaldo Arenas, this movie is worth buying. If you want to try it out first, check a library near you. The trailer is also available on the film’s website.

Film Review | The Truth about Emanuel by Francesca Gregorini

dvd cover The Truth about Emanuel by Francesca GregoriniFor those who appreciate the artistic, somewhat surreal and slightly disconnected, The Truth about Emanuel is a film about two young women who connect through their losses. Emanuel (Scodelario) is 17. She lives with her father and stepmother, and feels responsible for the death of her mother, who died in delivery. She and her father were very close, but with the stepmother now in the picture their relationship has become a bit strained and she can’t really connect with the stepmother. When single mother Linda (Biel) moves in next store with her small baby a relationship between her and Emanuel takes root. Emanuel helps around the house, but finally makes a discovery while babysitting that changes the dynamic of their relationship.

This film does a good job showing realistic interactions between others and both Emanuel and Linda. Kaya Scodelario’s beauty is captured and matches the quality of her acting. Her disjointed relationships are highlighted and developed sufficiently. Viewers who are looking for a film that is entirely realistic and connected may not be able to appreciate some of the artistic nuances this film presents. For example, some footage takes place underwater, though the characters are still inside the house. The Truth about Emanuel deals with love and loss in a way that may help those on the outside to better understand it and those on the inside to consider it differently. Check out Gregorini’s film from a library near you.