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Short reviews of awards-buzzy films I caught up with late in the game...

On this page: MANDIBLES | PROCESSION | THE RESCUE | RIDERS FOR JUSTICE | TEST PATTERN

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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 30.Jan.22

Mandibles   Mandibules
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
Mandibles
dir-scr Quentin Dupieux
with David Marsais, Gregoire Ludig, Adele Exarchopoulos, India Hair, Romeo Elvis, Coralie Russier, Bruno Lochet, Raphael Quenard
release Fr 19.May.21,
US 23.Jul.21, UK 17.Sep.21
20/France 1h17

VENICE


Is it streaming?

marsais and ludig
Another slice of absurdity from singular filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, this sun-baked French comedy centres on two idiots who make us wonder how they have managed to survive up to this point. With a gently silly sense of humour and a hilariously matter-of-fact tone, the movie is disarming and likeable. Each scene features riotous nuttiness on a variety of levels, augmenting a surprisingly warm bromance with some sharp social satire.

Not exactly a bright spark, Manu (Ludig) is hired to deliver a suitcase no questions asked, so naturally he steals a car and collects his dopey pal Jean-Gab (Marsais) to come along. Then they discover a dog-sized housefly in the car's boot, and Jean-Gab hatches a plan to train the fly to steal stuff for them, naming her Dominique. Along the way, they meet Cecile (Hair) who invites them to stay at her villa with her friends (Exarchopoulis, Elvis and Russier). But hiding Dominique isn't easy.

Ludig and Marsais play these chuckleheads with a remarkable quantity of hapless charm. Dupieux is skilled at grounding a ridiculous story in characters who feel unnervingly real. Even Exarchopoulos' brain-injured screamer feels earthed in something genuine. And because it's mainly a puppet, the fly has its own vivid physical presence within each scene. The way it bonds with Manu and Jean-Gab is witty and surreal, especially as it sparks adventures and even some affection between them. And the movie's loose, laid-back vibe is infectious, leading to a hilarious punchline.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 30.Dec.21

Procession  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Procession
dir Robert Greene
with Michael Sandridge, Tom Viviano, Dan Laurine, Joe Eldred, Ed Gavagan, Mike Foreman, Terrick Trobough, Monica Phinney, Rebecca Randles
release US 12.Nov.21,
UK 19.Nov.21
21/US 1h58



Now streaming...

Gavagan, Sandridge and Laurine
This artfully well-made film documents a three-year collaborative process between the filmmakers, a drama therapist and survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. As a result, the film is a skilful, provocative and staggeringly important mix of intensely dramatised scenes with factual coverage of this process. And the result is simply astonishing, as these deeply wounded men open up about their experiences and find a way forward.
Lawyer Randles has investigated more than 400 abuse victims in the Kansas City area. And she brings six men together with therapist Phinney, who uses theatre to help people break through issues that are haunting them. They're concerned that they'll come across as either victims or as people exploiting what happened to them. Straight-talking New Yorker Gavigan wants them to be more like the Avengers, teaming up to defeat their demons. Each crafts his own scenes to reflect his experience, starring the remarkably astute actor Trobough as his vulnerable younger self. As they re-enact scenes and revisit past locations, there are varying levels of catharsis.

Along the way, the filmmakers quietly note how the church blatantly obstructed justice in each case, knowingly putting even more children at risk by simply transferring abusive priests to new churches. And while it may be overlong, the film viscerally captures the profound pain these men still experience, as well as their anger that the church is able to hide behind the statute of limitations. Some of them have been working on their cases for 30 years, with no response from the church. What's remarkable about this film is how this process helps them confront their abuse for the first time as an adult. This is an original, powerful approach to an enormous issue, and it's full of hope.

cert 15 themes, language 21.Jan.22


The Rescue  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
The Rescue
dir Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
with Rick Stanto, John Volanthen, Vern Unsworth, Amp Bangnoen, 'Tik' Woranan, Richard Harris, Ben Svasti, Apakorn Youkongkaew
release US 8.Oct.21,
UK 22.Oct.21
21/UK NatGeo 1h47

TORONTO



Is it streaming?

The Rescue
In June 2018, a sudden rainstorm trapped 12 teen boys and their football coach in a cave system in northern Thailand. This documentary follows the rescue operation in detail, expertly recounted chronologically to build a stunning dramatic intensity. Filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin also beautifully weave in local culture to give the story a blast of context. And the series of events is enormously involving and emotional.
Confronted by the very specific challenge of this situation, Thailand's Navy Seals bring in Rick and John, two of the world's best cave divers, from Britain. Entering the strong underwater current, they began making startling discoveries. And they worry about what they will find as they travel further into the cave system. By the time they're found alive and relatively healthy, the group has been trapped for 10 days. But the biggest challenge is figuring out how to get them out. The Thai Navy kicks into gear, but the daunting task requires an international team of experts to think far outside the box.

The film is gorgeously shot, with remarkable underwater camerawork that follows the divers closely as they undertake a seemingly impossible mission, narrated with punchy interview clips from a wide range of people involved in the operation. The divers also speak of the strange joy of swimming into these tight, dark spaces, controlling their fear for hours, sustained by artificial light, air and heat, like being in outer space. And they're aware that this is many people's worst nightmare. The film's final half hour chronicles the astonishing rescue itself, which is often overpoweringly suspenseful, even if we know the outcome. Toronto

cert 12 themes, language 22.Jan.22


Riders of Justice   Retfærdighedens Ryttere
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Riders of Justice
dir-scr Anders Thomas Jensen
with Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Lars Brygmann, Nicolas Bro, Gustav Lindh, Roland Moller, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt
release Den 19.Nov.20,
US 14.May.21, UK 23.Jul.21
20/Denmark 1h56




Is it streaming?

bro and mikkelsen
Springing from a sequence of causes and effects, this Danish thriller is far more nuanced than most films in this genre. Not only does filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen use sharp character drama, jagged comedy and sudden violent action, but he also makes some provocative observations about both therapy culture and the need to open up to each other. In other words, this is a Scandinavian-style Taken movie.
In the wake of his wife's death in a tragic accident, military operative Markus (Mikkelsen) is called home from active duty to care for his teen daughter Mathilde (Gadeberg), whom he barely knows. Then another survivor, mathematician Otto (Kaas), begins doubting it was an accident, as subtle clues suggest it was actually a gang-planned hit. The police dismiss him, but Markus teams up with Otto and his detail-oriented sidekicks (Brygmann and Bro) to avenge his wife's death.

Mikkleson is at his gruff best as the burly, matter-of-fact Markus, who struggles to connect with his emotionally devastated daughter. And he has just as much trouble communicating with these three hilariously obsessive nerds, whom he tries to whip into an assault team who can take on the brutal bad guys. There isn't a single sequence in this film that plays out as expected, as Jensen continually undermines the genre with witty touches that knowingly break through the surface. And where the story goes adds a remarkable context to over-the-top movie violence while also deploying it rather exuberantly.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 31.Dec.21


Test Pattern  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
Test Pattern
dir-scr Shatara Michelle Ford
with Brittany S Hall, Will Brill, Gail Bean, Drew Fuller, Ben Levin, Amani Starnes, Donna Morrell Gafford, Katy Erin
release US 12.Feb.21
21/US 1h22



Is it streaming?

brill and hall
Earthy, natural rhythms infuse this strikingly inventive drama, which opens romcom style before shifting into something much darker. Writer-director Shatara Michelle Ford takes the audience on an astonishing journey, carefully navigating tonal shifts to keep things bracingly relatable. She also gently varies the timeline to bring out deeper emotions. It's a vivid, strongly pointed film that knowingly explores the impact of sexual assault from an unusually personal perspective.
Set in Austin, the film opens as cute tattoo artist Evan (Brill) approaches the beautiful Renesha (Hall) in a bar and intrepidly asks for her number. After overcoming his nerves, they finally connect and become a couple. Celebrating her new job as a development director, Renesha is out with a friend (Bean), drinking with a couple of strangers (Fuller and Levin), when she is drugged and assaulted. The next morning, Evan takes the dazed Renesha for a medical check, but they encounter a bureaucratic nightmare that pushes them to the brink.

Early on, the blossoming romance between Evan and Renesha is hugely endearing, superbly played by Brill and Hall to bring out underlying layers of intimacy and warmth. So it's awful to see them so strained as they navigate this situation, facing heartless obstacles as series of hospitals are unable to administer a rape kit, make them wait, then present a bill even if nothing is done. Evan is determined to get help and justice, while Renesha is understandably embarrassed by the fuss. Avoiding the usual unnerving shocks for something much more intensely moving, the film is sharply written, directed and performed to bring its important themes to light in subtle, honest ways.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 27.Jan.22


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