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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 25.Mar.22

The Divide   La Fracture
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
the divide
dir Catherine Corsini
prd Elisabeth Perez
scr Catherine Corsini, Agnes Feuvre, Laurette Polmanss
with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Marina Fois, Pio Marmai, Aissatou Diallo Sagna, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h, Camille Sansterre, Marin Laurens, Caroline Estremo, Ferdinand Perez, Clement Cholet, Ramzi Choukair, Norman Lasker
release Fr 27.Oct.21,
UK Oct.22 lff
21/France 1h38

london film fest
flare film fest

Is it streaming?

tedeschi and marmai
A blackly comical sensibility infuses this fast-paced French drama set in an overwhelmed public hospital. Set before the pandemic, the narrative is fuelled by personal issues and street demonstrations. Director-cowriter Catherine Corsini masterfully orchestrates complex ripples of relentless action and emotion, cleverly centring on the confused, frustrated, often annoying patients rather than the endlessly adept medical workers. It's so expertly written and assembled that it feels unnervingly real.
As the yellow-jacket protests against economic injustice rage in the streets, Raf (Tedeschi) and her wife Julie (Fois) are in their own state of conflict, beginning to think that maybe they need some space between them. Stumbling in the street, the injured Raf ends up in a busy hospital's emergency room just as wounded protesters start turning up. This includes tetchy truck driver Yann (Marmai), who is desperate for news from outside. And Raf and Julie are beginning to worry about their teen son Elliott (Perez), who's out there as well.
This jam-packed hospital is bracingly realistic, with so much going on that it's a wonder staff members remain so calm, even while rejecting official pressure to release demonstrators' names. Meanwhile, Raf is panicking because a broken elbow could derail her career as an artist, and Julie is struggling to calm her. Both are feeling so many layers of stress that communicating is tricky. Additional textures emerge as we glimpse other characters' stress-filled personal lives.

None of these people are particularly sympathetic, but we watch their ordeals with interest. Tedeschi and Fois are terrific as a couple who has simply lost patience with each other's petty aggressions. Impressively, neither is likeable, so it's impossible to care whether their relationship survives, but they are so truthful that we can't help but hope. Marmai is just as abrasive in the angry way he politicises everything and dismisses anyone else's concerns but his. And Sagna is terrific as a supernaturally patient multi-tasking doctor.

Ironically, treatment is free at this hospital, paid for by the government that has just cracked down so harshly on the yellow-jackets. Many of the doctors and nurses are played by real front-line workers, and the fact that almost all are non-white is another strong point, subtly made. As is the literally crumbling infrastructure around them. So as these petulant patients claim that their wounds are more worthy of treatment than the others, we begin to understand how it feels to be at ground zero during a crisis.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 25.Mar.22 flare

The Perfect David   El Perfecto David
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

The Perfect David
dir Felipe Gomez Aparicio
scr Leandro Custo, Felipe Gomez Aparicio
prd Pablo Ingercher, Ramiro Pavon, Fiona Pittaluga, Martin Cuinat, Felipe Gomez Aparicio
with Mauricio Di Yorio, Umbra Colombo, Diego Starosta, Pablo Staffolarini, Jose Luis Luis Sain, Antonella Ferrari, Martin Lacour, German Baudino, Agustina Cabo, Nicasio Galan, Alejandro Paker
release US Jun.21 tff,
Arg 9.Arg.21, UK Mar.22 flare
21/Argentina 1h15

flare film fest

Is it streaming?

di yorio
Dark and insinuating, this fiercely clever Argentine drama explores masculinity through the rather extreme life of a 16-year-old bodybuilder. Much of the film is virtually silent, telling the story with the expressive physicality of the characters. And as a churning intensity rises up from within the narrative, filmmaker Felipe Gomez Aparicio makes some powerful observations about our toxic culture. It's a complex, provocative and ultimately moving story.
Aside from school, David (Di Yorio) does little but work out, overseen by his over-attentive mother Juana (Colombo) as he builds up muscles. Everyone around him is obsessed with masculinity, from his casually homophobic school friends to his gym coach Lucas (Starosta). Then when a moment with a girl (Ferrari) becomes awkward, David retreats into himself, doubling down on steroids to bulk up for an event that his mother has carefully planned. The problem is that none of this is helping David work through deeper feelings that are normal for an adolescent boy.
Shadowy camera work makes the film look like a renaissance painting, with figures emerging from pools of light, hinting at a bigger story outside the frame. Details drip slowly, as the film sticks closely to David's point of view, following his gaze as he checks out the results of each repetition in the mirror. He has moments of triumph and rebellion, but the film also highlights the emptiness of his quest alongside damage to relationships and his beautifully hulking body.

Di Yorio has terrific presence as the alert, curious David, who has learned to mask his true desires as he aspires to an impossible image of hyper-masculinity. There are clear hints that he's gay, although he has never admitted that to himself. And Colombo is terrific as Juana, with her blankly focussed sculptor's eye and very little in the way of maternal instinct.

Rather that being cautionary about the perils of pumping up, Aparicio and cowriter Custo instead take on the worship of idealised bodies, culminating in a kind of high mass. And the subtext makes this haunting, depicting a young man whose decisions may distract him from who he actually is, egged on by a society that tells him how good he looks. David never quite seems convinced that he needs to be this bulked up, but subconsciously he knows that is might deflect others from discovering the truth about him.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 24.Mar.22 flare

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir-scr Mariano Biasin
prd Laura Donari, Juan Pablo Miller
with Martin Miller, Teo Inama Chiabrando, Azul Mazzeo, Joaquin Arana, Facundo Trotonda, Javier Drolas, Carolina Tejeda, Candela De Carli, Agustina Midolo, Emma Subiela, Pedro Gonzalez, Marcelo Subiotto
release UK Mar.22 flare,
US Apr.22 ciff
22/Argentina 1h40

flare film fest

Is it streaming?

gomez, segardoy and manjon
There's a realistic charge of loose-limbed energy in this coming-of-age drama from Argentina. Writer-director Mariano Biasin keeps the camera very close to the lead character, seeing events through his eyes. The internalised approach sometimes allows the narrative to drag a bit, but the film has the authentic kick of an autographical drama, getting under the skin with its organic mix of relaxed comedy and sharp-edged drama.
Now 16, Manu (Miller) has been best friends with Felipe (Chiabrando) for most of his life, and now they're playing in a band with Fran and Mauro (Arana and Trotonda). With access to a van in the woods, Manu decides that it's time to take things further with his girlfriend Azul (Mazzeo), but she hesitates, sensing his nerves. So Manu dives into school and writing songs with Felipe. And he also tentatively begins grappling with his submerged attraction to Felipe. But Manu knows that whatever he says to him might jeopardise their friendship.
Manu's internal thoughts pervade the film from a variety of sides, in what is said and what isn't. Even more intriguing is how his lyrics for band's terrific songs offer insight into the feelings he doesn't really want to hide, while fragments of his dreams bracingly merge with his waking moments. Scenes are sharply well shot and edited to capture both the characters' lively energy and sun-dappled locations, from the band's practice room out into the woods and at the beach.

The connection between Manu and Felipe is beautifully played by Miller and Chiabrando, with an easy physicality that makes their dialog feel improvised and often very funny. The performances are also packed with telling details that hint at their deeper relationship, especially as seen through Manu's hopeful, terrified eyes. This provides a terrific sense of closeness, while highlighting the distance that is growing due to Manu's secret. Other characters swirl around them, adding superb textures.

Even if the film seems to wallow in Manu's interior journey, the story also finds plenty of tension and drive, and Baisin also maintains a lovely meandering quality that internalises the emotions and helps the audience to experience even Manu's more subtle highs and lows. So where the story goes is hugely involving, vividly catching a teen's sense that the things he's going through are earth-shattering. And all of this pays off as the beautifully played final sequence becomes a hopeful message about today's youth.

cert 15 themes, language 22.Mar.22 flare

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