Women Talking (2022): Drama

In 2010, women of an isolated religious community gathered together to decide their faith as well as their children’s.

The title accurately describes what the film delivers. Sarah Polley deserves every award she’s got and every award she eventually didn’t. As an actress, writer, and director, she has managed to stay on top of her game, and Women Talking took her once more to the Oscars. Other than herself, there is a lot of talent gathered in the film. Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand, and the rest of the cast shine in front of the camera and deliver Oscar-worthy performances. For a single-location film, it is well-paced, and director of photography Luc Montpellier frames those performances in a spectacular manner. So, from a filmmaking point of view, it is a great achievement.

My objections lie with the narrative itself. I am not aware of the real story behind the script, but it felt like a feminist version of 12 Angry Men (1957). Sticking only to Miriam Toews and Polley’s script, here’s how I experienced it: All men are monsters, and all boys will end up probably like their fathers. The only exception is the man who records the events, August (the amazing Ben Whinshaw), who can be described as unopinionated, spineless, castrated, or mentally inept. According to the film, that is a good man!

On the other hand, all women are dynamic and highly opinionated, and even though they don’t know how to read or write, they are as eloquent, if not more, than August who has graduated from the University. You work out how someone who has never read a book in their life can argue in such depth and academic level philosophical and sociopolitical issues such as existentialism, history of religion, the difference between God and what people say about God, gender roles, behaviourism, and education. I praise the actresses for their eloquence, but if that is not head-scratching, I don’t know what is.

Ultimately, how much you are into these fields of study will define if you’re going to love it or loathe it. I did neither, but due to how arguments and counter-arguments are structured, I most certainly found it profound and intriguing.

As much as I love films, I live in the real world and get to see that men, women, and non-binary people have the capacity to physically and mentally heal and harm one another – no exceptions! Let’s just do more of the former rather than the latter.

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Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

Stay safe!

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!

A Ghost Story (2017): Drama / Fantasy / Romance

A white-sheeted, nostalgic ghost, permanently resides in its home and everything that, in the passage of time, becomes after that.

A friend of mine called me, laughing at IMDb’s reviews on this one. So, even though I don’t really look at reviews before I watch a film, I only read the titles. I’ve seen cases before where reviews are either 1 or 10 and nothing in between, and since the titles were entertaining, I decided to give it a shot.

Let me be clear from the beginning. A Ghost Story is not for everyone! What we are dealing with here is an interesting yet peculiar storytelling with protracted steady medium and long shots that initially make little sense. The narrative unfolds though and life, linearly or not, moves on with just a few edits. Be patient with these shots and think that your life does’t have cuts either. It would also help if you perceived the narration as omniscient – being everywhere simultaneously. During this journey, I couldn’t help but feel the ghost’s loneliness and entrapment. The ability to manoeuvre in time and the inability to do nothing about it. Imagine yourself seeing the world spinning, confined by your questionable existence. An existence that is unknown to everybody as much as it is to you. But still you wait for someone to finally acknowledge this questionable existence you have become. Admittedly, after the ghost’s free fall, the convolution becomes also questionable. But please remember what I said earlier about the non-linear.

Have you ever wondered what the origins of déjà vu are? Cinema is a form of expression. That’s why it’s art. The aforementioned protracted shots make sense somewhere halfway through the film while understanding the narrative and David Lowery’s subjective perception of time and space. Let the mise-en-scène inaudibly “speak” when the silence is deafening. You may be wondering where is she? Has she become a ghost too? Has she gone to a final destination? Is there a final destination? But then think of something that you can, potentially, answer. Who is waiting for you?

Stay safe!

P.S. A few days after I watched it, it came to light that one of the producers was accused of raping one of the film’s young girls. Hollywood’s depravity spreads like pestilence!