The Killing of a Sacred Deer

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Written By: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Produced by: Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Cam.

Director and co-writer of, The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, has returned with another psyco-drama, medical mystery, that revolves around Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a cardiac surgeon and his family including his ophthalmologist wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) and son Bob (Sunny Suljic) and daughter (Raffey Cassidy): a seemingly happy family.

They lead a controlled, perfected and always logical expression of everyday life.

Until Steven’s friendship with young Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16-year-old who’s expressed interest in becoming doctor, becomes increasingly sinister leading to Steven having to make an impossible choice.

It’s only in crisis any individual of the family shows any emotion.

And this constant calm while faced with the truly bizarre sets the tone of the film.

The nature of Martin matches the sociopathic behaviour of the family, husband Steven taking Martin under his wing, to befriend and become one with his family.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The scene of Martin getting to know the children highlights the strange nature of the characters in this story, making the impossibility of unexplained sickness believable.

Showing surgeons talking about the mundane after facing the confronting task of heart surgery is a picture of a surgeon’s normal day.  But as the film progresses, so does this response – like the bizarre is the mundane: the camera work focussing in, slowly down that narrow hospital corridor, to MRI scans and lumber puncture’s, so real and awful but what happens to many, many times in a hospital setting.

To pan away from Martin, standing in a car park, to daughter, Kim, waving from the hospital window.  Like the normal is on the outside looking in through a window to the inexplicable.  Like the world has been disturbed, inverting Martin’s absurd world onto the focus of his revenge.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

It’s a strange story but shown well with the hint of the disconcerting given with the opening clang of rising clash of the soundtrack.

And there’s some heavy weights in the cast with Colin Farrell (after featuring in, The Lobster) returning in his role as Steven, and Nicole Kidman as his wife.  Nicole’s performance was exceptional as Anna, being able to express a probing puzzlement and shock, looking for explanation for why her children are becoming sick, all in a look from an obviously intelligent mind.

And yes, the story works.

But it’s just such a heavy, absurd story.

This film took me to dark places, so much so, I was reminded of an article I recently read entitled, ‘The Dark Side of Doctoring’ – posted by an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, discussing the depression and suicide of doctors when they experience loss of control, support and meaning because of their career.

I like dark humour, but most of the time I found, The Killing of a Sacred Deer troubling.

Unlike, The Lobster, that allowed moments of lightness – dancing and love (of sorts), there was an unrelenting here that waved more into the dark.

I’m still frowning in wonderment.

Loving Vincent

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PG-13Loving Vincent

Directors: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Producers: Claudia Bluemhuber, Sean Bobbitt

Written By: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Jacek Dehnel

Starring: Douglas Booth, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl, Chris O’Dowd.

Loving Vincent is the world’s first oil painted feature film. It fascinated me from the moment I watched the trailer months ago.

Armand, the postman’s son, a man with little to no aspirations, arrives at the last hometown of the painter to deliver his last letter. The audience dives into the story through his eyes, the eyes of a stranger, providing a fresh perspective as the character’s curiosity, and our own, unravels an unexpected mystery.

Visually stunning, the creators of this piece of art in animated form set out to achieve the impossible, to tell the story of the last days of Vincent Van Gogh’s life through sixty-five thousand paintings.Loving Vincent

The art form of film is different from painting. Painting is one particular moment in time, frozen. Film is fluid, seeming to move through space and time. So, prior to and during the live action shoot the painting design team spent a year re-imagining Vincent’s painting into the medium of film.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, as well as the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint.

In an experience like no other, Loving Vincent takes the audience on a journey through his life and death, allowing us to step right into his artwork where we wonder about the meaning behind the scenes unveiling before our eyes.Loving Vincent

Armand sets off in search of the truth and finds that sometimes, a man’s fame is not made of what he set out to achieve during his lifetime but of the legacy that he leaves behind.

Dorota Kobiela had planned to combine her passion for painting and film, for her sixth animated short, and to paint the entire film herself. However, once she expanded Loving Vincent into a feature film the task of writing and directing was such that she had to content herself with directing the [124] painters. Although, Dorota managed to set some time aside to paint a few shots herself.

After falling in love with Polish painter and director, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman also fell in love with her film project, Loving Vincent.  He has been working with her ever since.

Song To Song

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MSong To Song

Directed and Written by: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezk

Produced by: Sarah Green, Nicolas Gonda, Ken Kao

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Lykke Li, Val Kilmer.

Song To Song is a series of moments captured up close and pieced together to create a love story.

There’s minimal dialogue with the thread woven by the voice-overs of the main characters: BV (Ryan Gosling), Cook (Michael Fassbender), Faye (Rooney Mara) and Rhonda (Natalie Portman).

I had to find my way out of you, to life.

It wasn’t an easy film to watch as the many moments are made through different shots, angles and movement, switching perspectives to show light casting shadows, to leaves swirling in water; the affection of lovers through hands intertwined, socked feet being bitten, a smile or thoughts voiced-over a stare.

I tried to be kind.   It only made me colder.

Director and writer Terrence Malick has reached for the stars with this film.  Creating something aesthetically beautiful but also self-conscious.

The poetic narration of the characters worked well with imagery but the dialogue spoken felt fake and forced.Song To Song

It was like the camera was left to roll, then all the good bits taken and edited into a story that was decided later.

By making a film this way, there’s natural moments of wonder and laughter but it also felt like the actors were self-aware.

Ryan Gosling shone as BV – the warmth of this nature and ready grin making me almost jealous of Rooney Mara as Faye.  I really didn’t like her character at the beginning of the film – that coy, little girl act, grating.

But as the film progressed, I was immersed into the story gaining a better understanding of the character, Faye.

The film’s loosely based on BV making a record deal with the super successful and rich party-boy, Cook.Song To Song

They travel around (with Faye in toe, of course) to places like Mexico and many other different houses and spaces including music festivals.

There’s cameo appearances from the likes of Anthony Keidis, Iggy Pop and Pattie Smith as themselves.  Yet, BV, Cook and Faye kept in character (somewhat), trying to keep that loose storyline – the narrative sacrificed to include some cool footage into the film.

I’m all for the aesthetics but it made some parts of the film unnecessary as the fluidity of the story was lost to include the beautiful and poetic.

Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman make an appearance on the fringes of the film, the story losing itself amongst other people, only to find itself again with BV and Faye, making the journey moving, annoying, boring and sometimes completely absorbing.

It’s a different kind of movie.  I think the film has taken itself too seriously and yet, not seriously enough.

Malick has created a film like an art installation.  Like Andy Warhol filming actresses while interviewing them as they did whatever they wanted as long as it was interesting.  There’s the same feel here.  But revolving around the theme of sex and love – some parts worked, some didn’t.

I appreciated the reach and push made of this stellar cast.  I just wish it didn’t feel so pretentious.

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The Trip To Spain

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Michael WinterbottomThe Trip To Spain

Produced by: Josh Hyams, Stefano Negri, Melissa Parmenter

Cinematography by: James Clarke

Film Editing: Mags Arnold, Paul Monaghan, Marc Richardson

Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Marta Barrio, Margo Stilley, Rebecca Johnson.

It’s been four years since, The Trip To Italy (2014) with, The Trip To Spain being the third in a series featuring the antics of good mates, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  Although, it feels like these two have been thrown together to out-do each other in their best impersonation of Mick Jagger.

The Trip To Spain is about turning 50, with Rob feeling ancient but settled as a father of 2 young children and Steve lost and divorced and trying to write a book about Spain (from a non-Spanish perspective) to keep his career afloat.  Mostly, The Trip To Spain’s about the banter between the two men and seemingly endless impersonations, some of which I’m still scratching my head as to who the hell they were trying to be.

Likened to the (fittingly) Spanish novel, Don Quixote by Cervantes (1605), both men discus the similarities of their journey to that of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

So, it makes sense the film is both a parody and a tragedy of mates endlessly crapping on.

Traveling the length of Spain (over 1000 miles), this was a road trip with shots of Spanish scenery from cathedrals to cliff-top restaurants to winding roads through orange and yellow rocky terrain.

But if Rob was supposed to be critiquing the food served in the restaurants that were the Stops and where the guys really let loose, there really wasn’t that much talk of food.

Except for this bit, which was pretty funny:

Rob: There are few things worse in life than a tomato without flavour. This is the antithesis of that.

Steve: Well, bombing in Syria. That might pip it to the post.

The Trip To Spain

The Trip To Spain was both extremely clever and extremely stupid.

With both men gesticulating their head and neck like a peacock and the behaviour sticking so the two peacocks (Steve and Rob) were always trying to out-do the other, particularly when adding agent, Emma (Claire Keelan) and photographer, Yolanda (Marta Barrio) as an audience.

Those bloody impersonations got annoying, yet so annoying they were funny.

I felt a little out-of-sync with the audience, absolutely getting tickled by unexpected moments of idiocy, only to be annoyed by other parts that people in the audience found hilarious.

Some references I just didn’t get which takes the fun out of watching, segregating the audience between those up with English 50-year-old culture and those not…

What gave the film credibility was the underlying drama and conflict of Rob and Steve dealing with life at 50.  Beneath the surface there’s some real processing going on; a fight to figure the way out of the forest of middle-aged life.

What happens when life doesn’t make sense at 50?

Although, The Trip To Spain, wasn’t my cup-of-tea, there were some truly funny moments, and aside from all the peacock gesticulating there was an underlying story that crept up, shown in a way to create circles within circles that was really quite clever.

A Ghost Story

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written and Directed by: David Lowery A Ghost Story

Producers: Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Adam Donaghey

Cinematographer: Andrew Droz Palermo

Starring: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

A Ghost Story invites us into the tender space of young love shared by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck and the tragic aftermath of grief as a fatal car crash leaves C dead and transformed as a ghost throughout the movie.

Landlocked by love in one state of being and one place, C remains beneath a sad and forlorn sheet with cut out holes for eyes, to witness time and his lover change without him.

Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Aint Them Bodies Saints) had been wanting to tell a ghost story for years with the classic iconography of the bed-sheet ghost and with Affleck as no ordinary ghost he achieves that.

Lowery sets the visual tone that this is not a traditional motion picture by shooting the film in the 1:33 aspect ratio, meaning the image width is only slightly greater than its height.  This film technique enabled Lowery to create a towering presence of the shrouded ghost, a still and dominating presence within each scene.A Ghost Story

The cinematography is pared back with the glare and grit of everyday realism and it is in the familiar and the known that Lowery captures us.
Through doorframes – a fascination of Lowery’s – both dark and functional, they frame Affleck and Mara in ordinary rooms of no import, but it is in their lack of adornment where the intimate confrontations and revelatory keypoints are revealed without massive movement or violence.

There is something to a movie with long stretches bereft of dialogue, we remain in the stillness as the ghost does and without distraction we sink further into the tragedy of love lost without goodbye and time moving forward where the loved one occupies no space only in memory.

In an unforgettable scene, Mara’s luminous distinctive features convey all the profound grief you thought you’d need dialogue for. In isolation, she stuffs an entire family size chocolate pie in a single four-minute take. The body of food is ill equipped to replace her loss of C.

In a later scene, we witness the profound pathos of love and of lost hearts craving connection through the ghost’s presence.A Ghost StoryA Ghost Story

When M finally leaves their home, she embeds a lover’s note into a door frame. The repetitious scratching by a ghost without hands is both tragic and beautiful and as he seeks to unearth the note oblivious to the passage of time without him, we are reminded his sense of identity is derived from his attachment as the beloved.

As I left the cinema I was unsure how I felt about the movie and had to sit with it for a while – in fact a few days – as I stepped out into the noise and the bustle of my ordinary world.

I felt haunted by the film’s imagery of tender grieving and the paradox of grieving a love torn apart by unforeseen tragedy and the living with love separated from the adored one.

Through the art of film Lowery poses the aesthetic as a response of grief and catastrophe.

A Ghost Story penetrates as a poignant reminder that the blessing of our good luck is to sit in witness to an event that is possible to each of us.

Our shared humanity wants to vouch safe the journey of love and for it not to leave us ill-prepared for the space that remains in the absence of the loved one.

The Beguiled

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written for the Screen and Directed by: Sofia CoppolaThe Beguiled

Based on the Novel by: Thomas Cullinan

and the Screenplay by: Albert Maltz and Grimes Grice

Produced by: Youree Henley, Sofia Coppola

Music by: Phoenix based on Moteverdi’s ‘Magnificat’

Director of Photography: Philippe Le Sourd, AFC

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard.

The Beguiled is set in 1864, three years into the American Civil War.  Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), Alicia (Elle Fanning) and four younger girls remain cloistered like nuns behind imposing wrought iron fencing that encloses the Southern girls’ boarding house, where Miss Martha and Edwina used to teach.

Three years is a long time for women to be hidden away, following a daily routine of sewing, lessons and the half-hearted attempt to control the Southern jungle threatening to overgrow the old plantation house and all those in it, like the wild vines, mosquitoes and mist represent the wild nature of the women, barely held in check by their day-to-day routine.

When Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier, is found injured amongst the old cyprus and oak trees, he’s brought back to the well-ordered school-house where he’s nursed back to health.  The presence of a man in the house after so many years changes the atmosphere, creating tension.

Canons explode in the distance and the heat continues but the insects don’t seem to be noticed as much when there’s a man in the house.  A charming man who’s able to relate to all the women, each of them special from the strong Miss Martha to the quiet yet beautiful Edwina, the bored and precocious Alicia, to the innocence of the younger girls.  Corporal McBurney charms them all.  The Irishman believing himself to be truly lucky to have such attention, not knowing the danger of a lonely woman’s heart.

And like good milk left out in the heat turns sour, the women’s hold on normal life slowly twists into something dark and cold.


The Beguiled

Director Sofia Coppola knows how to show the danger of love turned bad.  She’s adapted the original film, staring Clint Eastwood as a man trapped by the women he conned into loving him, and turned the story to the point-of-view of the women.

The cast is so important in this story as the film is all about the behaviour and interaction between the women when a man enters their isolated world.  And Coppola has returned with an imposing cast with Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning who worked with Sofia previously.  You can see the actors are comfortable here and insight into the character is given by each solid performance.  Nicole Kidman was made for her character, Miss Martha.

Did I like the film?

The Beguiled is a quiet film, kept simple with minimal dressing.  Needing a quiet audience, it took me a while to get absorbed into the story.

The southern climate and setting of the beautiful old plantation house were the highlight for me. All recorded on film (with the older aspect ratio of 1:66/I) to show rays of sunshine through mist and the romance of candle light glowing in this isolated house like a glass eye.  The setting enveloping the audience only to turn a blind eye to the happenings behind closed doors.

The backdrop needed to be simple to show the complicated nuances between the characters because the film is all about the subtle and not-so-subtle behaviour of women around a man – the instinct hard to deny and always simmering under the politeness of society.

But where is society during war?  What society is there for bored, isolated, Christian, red-blooded women?

Sofia Coppola says she made the film with, Misery (1990), based on the novel written by Stephen King, in mind and there is that element of the horror of being trapped because of love and obsession.

But, The Beguiled is more subtle, showing how a woman can turn when in competition for a man’s attention, that shift demonstrated well here with skilled performances from a cast well-handled by a careful director.

The Sense of an Ending

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Ritesh BatraThe Sense of an Ending

Producers: David M Thompson and Ed Rubin

Screenplay: Nick Payne

Based on: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer, Billy Howle, Joe Alwyn

Tony Webster (the ever-reliable Jim Broadbent) leads a reclusive, quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the imperfect recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the disturbing consequences of decisions made long ago.

While not a must see film it is well-made, intriguing and mysterious, more of a slow burner than a page turner. The first part unfolded slowly and there was as much mystery as there were questions answered throughout the film. A major theme throughout is the recognition of how the memory of youth can directly influence the present.The Sense of an Ending

The film provides a good mystery and exploration of the complications of human (and family) relationships. The film is set in two different time periods and it was interesting watching actors inhabit the same role as younger and older versions of the same characters.

Jim Broadbent was excellent as the curmudgeonly older version of Tony Webster, an introvert whose ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) remains one of his best friends in later life.

Charlotte Rampling plays the older Veronica, Tony’s first love, and despite not being on the screen for long, she effectively conveys a sense of being her own person, a mystery that Tony was unable to resolve or understand for who she actually was.

Suggested events were hinted at but some were left unexplained, and it is tantalising wanting to know why one character had such a strong hold over Tony more than forty years later. There are also parallels between the past and the present in the situations characters found themselves in, separated by several decades.The Sense of an Ending

The screenplay, adapted by Nick Payne from the novel by Julian Barnes, may cause admirers of the novel to criticise the licences taken with the original version. Director Ritesh Batra and screenplay writer Nick Payne remain faithful to the essence of the novel, but have generalised places and characters in a way better suited to a cinematic rendering.

For example, the novel relies heavily on the internalised nature of Tony’s narration in the book, which would not have translated easily to the screen unless there was excessive reliance on voice-overs and extended shots of Tony just sitting around looking introspective. Therefore, some minor characters who were just memories for Tony were fleshed out into fully formed roles in the film, so his subjective perception of other characters was counter-balanced by them having their own personalities separate from his view of them.

It also becomes obvious as the film progresses that Tony’s memory is not entirely reliable, which affects how the audience views him and his recollections. Having the other characters acting independently of him allows us to question how much of what we learn from Tony is the truth or just his version of it, which adds to the mystery.

The film was photographed and edited in a careful, slow way that will appeal to those who enjoy settling in for a slower paced unfolding that combines old mysteries with the gradual awakening of living in the present and coming to terms with what happened so long ago.