Una (2016): Drama

A young woman visits the workplace of an older man, and the encounter reveals dark secrets that neither of them can put behind.

Unsettling theme, uneasy pace, and an uncomfortable watch. It becomes obvious from the very beginning what the premise is but David Harrower’s script (and original play), Benedict Andrews’ camera, and Nick Fenton’s editing use “predatory” techniques instead of just tackling what you already know is going to happen. Psychologically, it is like when anticipating someone to die but not being ready at all when they actually do. If the comparison seems unfair, this is what happened to Una; she died on the inside.

Fenton’s editing keeps this steady pace from beginning to end, offering neither excitement nor boredom, but maintaining a realistic sense of time for the story to unfold and disclose information that the audience is not sure if they want to know (until they know for sure they don’t). Benedict Andrews and director of photography Thimios Bakatakis mount the cameras over the shoulders and follow Una and Ray down a rabbit hole that depresses and divides our feelings. Cinema, by its nature is, intentionally or not, a form of voyeurism, but Andrews’ directing wants to make it obvious that this is the intended purpose. He wants you to be this omniscient voyeur of Una and Ray’s story and make sure you are uncertain about casting the stone you are holding. It is one of them films where you can’t wait to end, it doesn’t, you want to turn it off, but, simultaneously, you cannot not know the end. And as if the plot is not utterly stomach twirling enough, the subplot makes it even worse for Ray who, in the meantime, has been forced to announce to some of his employees that they are fired… while Una is there.

The moment I really wanted to put an end to both of their suffering (and mine) and turn it off, was about an hour and ten minutes into the film, where after Una’s particular line you know that this abhorrent situation is gonna go to hell. I could hear my heart pounding and felt like sweating. And I put a full stop here just in case you decide (after all that) to watch it. What’s important to do at this point is to praise Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn for their performances on an individual level and their tough chemistry on a collective one.

Harrower and Andrews put their audience into a very tough spot by not distinguishing who is the prey and who is the victim when in a case like this it should have been pretty obvious. I do not condemn that, if anything it is remarkable, but it is not a film I can recommend to anyone.

Stay safe!

Knowing (2009): Action / Drama / Mystery

Knowing

A fifty-year-old list of numbers prophesying every major catastrophe that took place ever since will make a professor of astrophysics, and a single parent, to race against time to prevent the ones that are yet to happen.

Is pessimistic optimism a term? Does it make sense? It doesn’t, does it? Be it as it may, that’s the oxymoronic feeling you get out of Knowing. But first things first…

“Randomness vs Determinism”, from a philosophical and/or scientific point of view, will become the setup’s foundation, and your mind’s internal debate while watching the confrontation unfolding. One of my favourite Nicolas Cage movie from the noughties where, back then, I couldn’t find many flaws. Watching it now for a second time, eleven years later, I spotted certain plot holes and gimmicks but I didn’t let them get in the way. Yet, it answers all the questions it raises halfway there (not even in the end), and that feels a bit spoonfed for my taste. Regardless, Cage is the right man for the job, Rose Byrne delivers a great performance, the kids are surprisingly convincing, and Ben Mendelsohn, be it in a leading or supporting role, always nails it. Once again, it’s a shame that the film answers everything for you.

The man in the director’s chair is Alex Proyas, a director whose niche is dark fantasy/sci-fi. My personal bests are: The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998), and I, Robot (2004). Unfortunately, he has not been involved in many projects and some of them, I believe, were beneath him. I look forward to watching something of his ’90s style soon.

(Not)Fun fact: The film predicted the BP’s oil spill in the Mexican gulf the year after.

Stay safe!

The Outsider (2020): Crime / Drama / Mystery

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When solid, undisputed evidence points at a man committing a despicable crime, family, friends, and law enforcement try to determine how he could have done it… when he wasn’t there.

One of the best Stephen King adaptations with the HBO guarantee! Ben Mendelsohn and Jason Bateman work brilliantly both in front and behind the camera and with them, Bill Camp, Jeremy Bobb, Mary Winningham, Paddy Considine, Yul Vazquez, Julianne Nicholson, Marc Menchaca, and Cynthia Erivo fight against an… asymmetric threat! A threat that only HBO would build up so much and so meticulously that you have no other option but to actually believe in it eventually as much as the series’ biggest “Doubting Thomas”.

The acting is gripping and the episodes’ cliffhangers, phenomenal. The screen will suck you in while trying to establish what would you do, how could you explain it, and the ways in which you would have acted. The formation of the aforementioned unlikely alliance will take you to a journey where you’ll be constantly craving for more as the deeper they dig, the darker and eerier the rabbit hole turns.

Even though it can’t get scarier than watching the news, turn the lights off, forget our soul-sucking reality, and enjoy the horror that is meant to entertain you rather than harm you.

Stay safe!

Animal Kingdom (2010): Crime / Drama

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A cinematic achievement from writer/director David Michôd that will keep you engaged from the opening scene to the end credits. In front of the camera, Detective Guy Pearce and the not so beloved and highly dysfunctional Cody family, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Jackie Weaver, James Frecheville, Luke Ford, and Sullivan Stapleton, perform magic and take us back to some of the Melbourne crime scenes of the ’80s.

“Animal Kingdom”, a realistic crime/drama, straight out of the genuine Australian film school that always appeals to the deepest human emotions, is true to its genres and honest to its execution. A film that earned its stripes, gave prominence to actors and crew, got nominations all over the world and, unarguably, dominated at the AFI.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2tMRNYu