Thursday, April 26, 2018

Movie Review: Indian Horse

Indian Horse *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Stephen S. Campanelli   
Written by: Dennis Foon based on the novel by Richard Wagamese.
Starring: Sladen Peltier (Saul - 6 Yrs.), Forrest Goodluck (Saul - 15 Yrs.), Ajuawak Kapashesit (Saul - 22 Yrs.), Michiel Huisman (Father Gaston), Martin Donovan (Jack Lanahan), Michael Murphy (Father Quinney), Edna Manitowabi (Naomi), Melanie McLaren (Ruth), Johnny Issaluk (Sam), Skye Pelletier (Benjamin - 11 Yrs.), Evan Adams (Evan), Lisa Cromarty (Karen), Michael Lawrenchuk (Fred Kelly), Will Strongheart (Virgil), Braeden Crouse (Lonnie - 9 Yrs.), Eva Greyeyes (Rebecca Wolf), Lisa Oopik Minich (Katherine Wolf), Suzanne Shawbonquit (Martha Kelly). 
The time is right in Canada for a movie like Indian Horse. In the past few years, Canada has finally started to seriously grapple with our treatment of the indigenous people in this country – and while it clear that we still have a long way to go in that regard, at least we are questioning what we have done. The conversations around the acquittal of the man who killed Colton Boushie or in the great CBC podcast, Missing & Murdered, conversations are at least being had.
Indian Horse is a hockey movie in some ways – it is certainly being marketed that way for its Canada wide release, but it’s really a story of the ongoing legacy of the Residential school system – a program that for generations took native children away from their families, put them in religious “schools” where they faced horrific abuse, all in an effort to get them to assimilate – to become “more Canadian”. The main character in Indian Horse is Saul – whose parents were products of those schools, and who at the age of 6 finds himself in one himself. He suffers abuse at the hands of various priests and nuns at the school – his only outlet, the only thing that brings him any pride and joy, is the game of hockey. He teaches himself the game, becomes a star for the school team, and then goes and becomes a star for one of the Reservation teams as well. Eventually the pros come knocking – but there, he finds a different type of abuse. Not even his teammates stand up for him.
Indian Horse is not a perfect movie. It is a little too earnest at times, the dialogue can be a little on the nose, and not all of the performances are wholly convincing. Director Stephen S. Campenelli has worked with Clint Eastwood for years, and it shows in his style. Like Eastwood, Campenelli is a classicist – his direction is simple, and plays things pretty much right down the middle. For the most part, this works really well – it is not a movie that requires a lot of overt stylistics.
I do wish the movie was a little more complex than it is – the film ultimately has a very simple moral outlook, and while it’s effective, it’s also more than a little reductive. The ending rings a little false as well – and brings to mind many questions (the biggest being why did it take Saul a decade to do what he does at the end?).
Mainly though, Indian Horse well – it’s an often painful film to watch, but an honest and sincere one. If it takes hockey to bring some Canadians to the film, to reckon with the consequences of our past, so be it.

Movie Review: Author: The JT LeRoy Story

Author: The JT LeRoy Story **** / *****
Directed by: Jeff Feuerzeig.
Written by: Jeff Feuerzeig.
There’s no real investigation going on in Author: The JT Leroy story – and that’s not really a bad thing. The investigation has already happened, and everyone already knows that there never was a real person with the name JT LeRoy, who turned his experiences as an abused son of a prostitute, and then his own time as a drug addict and prostitute, into thinly veiled fiction of his own life. Instead, we know that JT LeRoy, instead of being a teenage Phenom in the literary world, was really Laura Albert – a middle aged woman who created JT LeRoy in her own head, and wrote as him. When JT LeRoy became a bestselling author, and celebrities wanted to meet him, and eventually Albert could no longer hide anymore, we know that she convinced her sister-in-law, Savannah, to pose as LeRoy, and be the public face of this new literary icon. By the time the movie begins, the story is out – almost anyone watching the movie will already know it, and so this movie does something different. It basically lets Albert tell her own story, why she did what she did, and what she makes of it. Albert is a gifted storyteller to be sure (I was never a huge fan of LeRoy’s books, but Albert’s skill spinning this yarn is undeniable). I get that people out there will think that this is basically the version of the story Albert wants, and that it exonerates her – but I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.
I do think that the documentary may have been stronger had director Jeff Feuerzeig made a few different choices in making it. I don’t really think that interviewing anyone else other than Albert helps the documentary very much – it makes it seem like a more objective film than it actually is – and I don’t really think the final scene of the movie, which reveals “shocking” information should have been placed where it was – like everything else in the movie, we don’t really know if it’s true or not, but placing it where he does, Feuerzeig seems to imply that it’s somehow the key to the movie – the Rosebud – that explains everything else. It doesn’t.
What the film does amazingly well though is to dig into Albert, and allow her to tell her story, the way she sees it. It is a fascinating story about many things – literature, self-image, depression and our obsession with celebrity. It forces you to question the ever interesting notion of separating the art from the artist – and whether it is every truly possible. Does it matter that Albert was the writer, who was making everything – including JT himself – up out of her own mind? The books never claimed to be true – they were always listed as fiction. Does it make it less honest, less real, because Albert wrote it, instead of JT? Why? The words on the page are the same regardless of who wrote them.
I do wish that Feuerzeig had found a better way to undermine Albert’s story better than he does. I am not saying that he needed to be harder on Albert – to go after her, and get her to admit something. What precisely would see admit that she hasn’t already? But there had to be a way to call some of what she is saying more into doubt than Feuerzeig does. The movie doesn’t need to be a gotcha! – but I think it needed another element to make it a truly great doc.
What remains then is merely a very good documentary – a fascinating look inside one of the most bizarre literary “hoaxes” in recent memory.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Movie Review: Kodachrome

Kodachrome *** / *****
Directed by: Mark Raso.
Written by: Jonathan Tropper based upon the article by A.G. Sulzberger.
Starring: Ed Harris (Ben Ryder), Jason Sudeikis (Matt Ryder), Elizabeth Olsen (Zoe Barnes), Gethin Anthony (Jasper), Bruce Greenwood (Dean), Dennis Haysbert (Larry), Wendy Crewson (Aunt Sara).
The thing about road trip movies is that you don’t want too much plot to get in the way of the conversations and music that pour out over those long drives through Middle America. The plot always gets in the way of the reason the movie exists – which is normally to force people together that don’t want to be together, and make them make peace with each other along the way. They’ll always stop at quaint diners, or to visit long forgotten family members, etc. Old wounds will be reopened and healed, etc. But if you spend too much on the mechanics of why everything is happening, the whole thing kind of falls apart. Kodachrome is a film that desperately wants to be Alexander Payne’s Nebraska – in which a cranky old father and his listless son hit the road together, in order for the old man to collect his sweepstakes winnings that the son damn well knows is fake, but goes anyway. But Kodachrome feels the need to add in a bunch of other stuff that gets in the way of that central dynamic. When the film works, it works quite well – mainly because of three really good performances at its core. But it’s undeniably trying too hard.
In the film, Jason Sudeikis is Matt, a music executive at a boutique label, who is about to be fired because his biggest client has just walked out the door. He can keep his job if he signs another band that he knows is unhappy with their major label – but he cannot seem to get a meeting with them. His father, Ben (Ed Harris) reenters his life after a decade of estrangement. He is dying of cancer, only has a few months to live – but wants to do one last thing before he goes. Ben is a great photographer – world renowned – but he only shoots on Kodachrome film, and Kodak has stopped making the dyes that along them to be developed. There’s one last place – in Parsons, Kansas – who will develop the photos, but only for another couple of weeks. Ben, for reasons he doesn’t explain, wants Matt to drive him – and his pretty, young nurse Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) – to Kansas to get the photos developed. In order to get him to agree, Ben’s manager (Dennis Haysbert) has arranged a meeting in Chicago with that band Matt really, really needs to sign.
You know where this film is going from the outset, and it gets there in a mostly satisfying, occasionally strained way. Harris has always been a good actor, but he’s particularly good at playing assholes – and Ben is nothing if not an asshole, knows it, and doesn’t much care about it. He is a great artist, and if he had to sacrifice everything for his art, so be it. Harris may well be playing a version of his Pollock, but with less support around him. Sudeikis is good here as well – as the exasperated son. He hates his old man, and his life hasn’t turned out the way he wanted it to. He has a lot of pent up resentments – most of them well earned – but he’s here anyway. Olsen probably has the most difficult role, because it is clearly the most under-written – she isn’t quite a manic pixie dream girl, but she isn’t that far off either. You know that the film will throw her and Sudeikis together, because that’s what movies like this do. But Olsen makes the character better than it probably should – bringing an immense amount of charm to her performance, especially in a drunken scene when she starts singing along to Live’s Lightning Crashes. I think sometimes the real test of an actors skill is not delivering a great performance in a well written role, but making a poorly written role seem better than it really is – Olsen passes that test here.
The film, eventually, becomes a father-son male weepie in the final reel, and then when you think it’s done doing that, saves one more male weepie moment for the film’s final scene. Intellectually, you know you’re being shamelessly manipulated, but dammit if the film doesn’t work anyway.
Ultimately, Kodachrome kind of feels like someone saw Nebraska, and decided they wanted to make it more audience friendly – throw in more plot, more heartwarming moments, a love interest, some music, and get everyone to cry at the end. If the lead actors didn’t sell the film so well, the film may well have not worked at all. Instead, it’s another passable, if ultimately forgettable Netflix original – although not one they made themselves, just one they bought. Which makes the film take on another level of irony – since Ben is desperate to preserve the things of the past, and the end credits make it known that the film was shot on Kodak film – and yet we’re all watching it digitally. Or as Ben says “digital specks of dust”.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Movie Review: Zama

Zama **** / *****
Directed by: Lucrecia Martel.
Written by: Lucrecia Martel based on the novel by Antonio Di Benedetto.
Starring: Daniel Giménez Cacho (Don Diego de Zama), Lola Dueñas (Luciana Piñares de Luenga), Matheus Nachtergaele (Vicuña Porto), Juan Minujín (Ventura Prieto), Nahuel Cano (Manuel Fernández), Daniel Veronese (Gobernador), Rafael Spregelburd (Capitán Hipólito Parrilla).
The character Don Diego de Zama, who is at the heart of Lucrecia Martel’s wonderfully surreal, absurdist, comedic new film would be sympathetic if he weren’t so pathetic, and if he wasn’t a Colonist who seems completely unaware of the harm he is doing. He is an emissary of the Spanish government, stationed at a remote, rural outpost in what is now Paraguay, but in many ways, he is a man caught between the old and new world, not fitting in with either. He was born in the America’s, which in causes many of his Spanish cohorts to look down on him, but that hasn’t led him to any kinship whatsoever with those people he is partially responsible for keeping enslaved – far from it, really – he wants even more to be one of the Spanish.
All Zama really wants is a transfer out of this hellhole, and stationed in a more desirable location. In order to do that however, he needs to Governor to write a letter to the king requesting the transfer. One thing after another comes in blocking a letter from being written – at Zama’s most heartbreaking moment of realization, cosmic forces seem to mock him even more when he has to share the screen with a llama. An underling seems to get everything Zama wants, and he just has to suck it up. A new governor comes in, and with it, a whole new series of tasks that must be performed to get that prized letter – Zama only eventually realizes that even that won’t save him. He is far from his wife and children – who don’t even bother to write him anymore. He has an illegitimate child with a native woman, but cannot really see him either. He gets mixed signals from a Spanish noblewoman (Almodovar favorite Lola Dueñas), who may not be toying with him for her own amusement. Eventually deciding that he is never going to leave this place, he volunteers for an assignment that will take him into the wilderness to track down a legendary bandit – who may or may not even exist (through the first two thirds of the movie, this bandit’s death is reported several times).
Lucrecia Martel is one of the most distinctive filmmakers working today. Her films include Le Cienaga (unseen by me), The Holy Girl and The Headless Woman (both wonderful) – and this is her first feature since then, nearly a decade ago. The period detail here is excellent – the buzzing sound design even better (whether it’s the sound of nature overwhelming Zama, or the buzzing in his own mind as he gets bad news). The cinematography is also among the best of the year – especially in the final third, as Zama heads out into the wilderness with his group in search of that bandit. That is when the film descends into true madness that will likely bring to mind films like Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God.
Mostly though, Zama is an absurdist comedy – although one that doesn’t really produce any laughs. You could describe his quest to get transferred as Kafka-esque – although it’s a different kind of bureaucracy that Zama falls victim to here. His story is in many ways tragic – but it’s a tragedy of his own making, made even worse by the fact he doesn’t seem to realize it.
Zama is, like all of Martel’s films, its own unique thing. I will admit that the film doesn’t spend any time at all on placing anything into context – and so for viewers like myself, who perhaps doesn’t know as much about this time period, the film can seem more than a little alienating at times. And yet, it still ended up drawing me into this nightmare scenario, in which Zama cannot escape.

Movie Review: In the Fade

In the Fade **** / *****
Directed by: Fatih Akin.
Written by: Fatih Akin and Hark Bohm.
Starring: Diane Kruger (Katja Sekerci), Denis Moschitto (Danilo Fava), Numan Acar (Nuri Sekerci), Samia Muriel Chancrin (Birgit), Johannes Krisch (Haberbeck), Ulrich Tukur (Jürgen Möller), Ulrich Brandhoff (André Möller), Hanna Hilsdorf (Edda Möller).
Fatih Akin’s In the Fade is neatly (perhaps too neatly) divided into three sections exploring the aftermath of a bombing that leaves a Turkish immigrant in Germany and his young son dead, and his German wife, Katja (Diane Kruger) in a deep state of grieving. All three sections fit neatly into one genre or another, which is perhaps why some have suggested that In the Fade is an overly simplistic film. I don’t think it is – I think Akin is using the genre conventions at each stage as a way to keep the audience engaged, and uses it as a jumping off point to dive deeper into some more disturbing elements.
It doesn’t take long for the bomb to explode in the film. After a brief opening scene – shot on a cellphone – capturing the prison wedding between Katja and Nuri (he went there for dealing drugs), the film jumps ahead in time to show Nuri made good – he’s now an accountant (as an accountant, yes, I am bored by the fact that every time a movie needs to show someone is boring, they make them an accountant, but whatever). She drops off their son Rocco with him, and heads to the spa with her pregnant friend. When she returns, the building is a smoking ruin of rubble – her husband son dead.
From then on it’s one indignity after another that Katja has to endure during the investigation. The police want to look into his past as a drug dealer – and whether it really was in the past – or perhaps his religion had something to do with, yes? Her mother has the same sort of misguided, misplaced bias against her Muslim husband as well. His parents aren’t any better either – saying perhaps the cruelest thing imaginable at the funeral. She sinks into despair, and ultimately drug use, and entertains thoughts of suicide. Then – partly because of an ID she herself made of a strange woman she saw before the bombing – a couple is arrested and charged with the crime. They are a married couple of Neo-Nazis, targeting immigrants. The second act is all about the trial – and the farther indignities that Katja has to endure, hearing about the injuries her son suffered, having the defense attorney (who is perhaps the most evil character in the film) question everything, in the bluntest, cruelest way imaginable. The third act (spoiler warning, I guess), is in the aftermath of the crime – when with nothing left, Katja has to decide whether to take things into her own hands.
Diane Kruger anchors the film – she’s in nearly every scene, even the courtroom scenes when she isn’t saying anything, but has to suffer through anyway. This is the German-born Kruger’s first film that she made in her native country (she speaks German in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds) – and it is the best work of her career so far (she won the Best Actress prize at Cannes last year, and it was a deserving win). She does an excellent job at tracking Katja’s deteriorating mental state – her decent into depression, and the brief interludes in which she may come out of it, only to be slammed back again. She is great in the film, and she keeps the whole things grounded, even as the plot threatens at times to go over-the-top or get ridiculous. This is, in some ways, a revenge story – a Death Wish for modern Germany, that also has relevance elsewhere, as the we have seen the rise of Neo-Nazi violence in many places.
Kruger’s performance is key in another way as well. As the white, blonde woman she is the personification of the type of person that Western audiences are easily able to identify with. But her story makes you wonder – at least a little bit, especially in the end – if our reaction would be the same if she wasn’t a blonde, white woman from Germany. Akin is a Turkish immigrant to Germany himself – and his film, at their best, has done an excellent job of showing the tension of being an outsider in Europe, and feeling like that. This time he made a film centered on a German woman herself – but it makes you wonder – and one we fully sympathize with, right up until the end of the film. But what if the story was about Nuri, doing the same thing to avenge his son and wife?

Movie Review: Mercury 13

Mercury 13 *** / *****
Directed by: David Sington & Heather Walsh.
Netflix is probably the right venue for a documentary like Mercury 13. This is a fun, informative, breezy doc that runs just under 80 minutes, and tells an interesting and important story that isn’t as widely known as it should be. It’s also a rather lightweight film – it never really takes a deep dive into anything, preferring to stay skimming across the surface on its story. Yes, it works – and it is ultimately a feel-good story. I suspect there is a better, deeper, more complete (perhaps darker) documentary to be made of this material – but Mercury 13 isn’t much interested in telling that story.
The Mercury 13 of the title were 13 female pilots, who were recruited to undergo astronaut testing in the early 1960s in America, to see how they could fare against the men. Of course, they didn’t have quite the same qualifications as the men had to meet – mainly because women weren’t allowed to go the sorts of things that men were at the times, so it was impossible for them to do so. Yet, when given the same tests as the men, they fared well – they excelled at some of the things the men didn’t. Of course, all of this was being done behind NASA’s back, so when they found out about it, there was hell to pay. Why should the American government waste their time and money on sending women to space?
Mercury 13 is a traditional documentary in terms of its style – combining modern interviews with the surviving members of the Mercury 13, or their spouses or children if they weren’t with us any longer, with archival footage and news reports. The level of sexism involved in some of those old clips – even the ones that were supposedly pro-women pilots/astronauts was astounding. The film allows the 13 to tell their own stories – how they fell in love with flying, logged as many hours as they could, and became pilots as good as anyone. No, they didn’t have the jet hours the male astronauts did, but that’s because in the words of one of the 1 they “decided if a woman wanted to fly a jet, they had to be a man”.
The film breezes along for its 80 runtime, basically having the 13 recount their lives before and during their astronaut training, and then going over the Congressional hearings when their funding was pulled, and they were no longer astronauts. It puts some well-known, heroic figures from the past in a different, less flattering light (no one more so than John Glen, which is interesting especially given how he was portrayed in Hidden Figures two years ago). The film then tacks on what is supposed to be a happy ending – recounting the first female pilot who did get to fly the space shuttle (a full 30 years after the Mercury 13) – and that works (although some of the alternate history stuff the film does is a little too heavy handed).
This is an important story – and one that deserves to be told. I wish the documentary itself were a little more complicated and complex – and little less surface level recounting of facts. But it’s effective, and worth your time on Netflix – even if it leaves you wanting more than it delivers.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Classic Movie Review: Duel

Duel (1971) **** / *****
Directed by: Steven Spielberg.
Written by: Richard Matheson based on his story.
Starring: Dennis Weaver (David Mann), Jacqueline Scott (Mrs. Mann), Eddie Firestone (Cafe Owner), Lou Frizzell (Bus Driver), Gene Dynarski (Man in Café), Lucille Benson (Lady at Snakerama), Tim Herbert (Gas Station Attendant), Charles Seel (Old Man), Shirley O'Hara (Waitress),  Alexander Lockwood (Old Man in Car), Amy Douglass (Old Woman in Car), Dick Whittington (Radio Interviewer), Carey Loftin (The Truck Driver), Dale Van Sickel (Car Driver).
Steven Spielberg’s path to directing movies was different from most of the other great directors of his generation. They all went to film school, and starting making small, personal films for almost no money. Spielberg started directing for television – lots of episode in the late 1960s – and was eventually given the chance to make his debut film with Duel – a made for TV movie from 1971. The film is an exercise in ruthless efficiency – it’s one of Spielberg’s shortest films, but he packs a lot into it. It was clear from the beginning that he had talent – the film played in theaters in Europe almost right away, and would eventually be released in theaters (in a 90 minute, instead of a 73 minute) version once Spielberg was the biggest director in the world. It’s a film that still works like gangbusters.
The plot of Duel is simple – David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is a middle aged, office drone with a wife and kids at home, who has to drive up to see a client who is unhappy with his firm. He’ll mainly be on the backroads, and doesn’t think much of it. Early in the day, he gets stuck behind a giant truck, going slowly – so he will eventually pass him. This sets off, well, a duel, between the two drivers – the truck driver will not leave Mann alone, and chases him up and down the dusty backroads – up mountains, and down, and Mann simply put, cannot get away.
The screenplay was written by the legendary Richard Matheson, based on his own story. His skills are most on display during the one extended sequence that doesn’t take place inside the car with Mann. After the first, really dangerous chase sequence, Mann loses control, and nearly wrecks his car. He stops at a small-town diner to catch his breath and make a phone call. Next thing he knows, the truck – that he thought had taken off – is parked right outside. He looks around the café, and knows – just knows – that one of these men are the one trying to kill him. But he – and we – never see the driver’s face. He only knows his boots. It’s a wonderful sequence of mounting paranoia – we hear Mann’s inner monologue, as he appears more and more crazy. No one inside believes him – he looks like the crazy one.
For the most part though, the movie takes place on the road – just the truck and the car, in a game of cat and mouse. Even in this, his first film, Spielberg shows that he is a genius at action sequences. The ongoing car chase has an excitement that never falters, never waivers. It’s an exercise in skill that not everyone could pull off. How do you essentially make a 90 minute car chase, and keep it exciting?
To be honest, there really isn’t much of say about Duel. It’s an example of what a great director can do when almost everything is stripped away – you cannot say the plot, characters, dialogue in Duel is great, because they aren’t. They don’t need to be. This is a pure exercise in style – and shows just how good Spielberg was, right from the beginning. In three years he’d make his official debut – the fine Sugarland Express, a kind of Bonnie & Clyde knockoff, but a good (and good natured) one – and right after, Jaws and he became the biggest director in the world. Duel though still has a place in Spielberg’s filmography. Few directors could have pulled it off this well.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Movie Review: And Then I Go

And Then I Go *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Vincent Grashaw.
Written by: Brett Haley and Jim Shepard based on the novel by Shepard.
Starring: Arman Darbo (Edwin), Sawyer Barth (Flake), Melanie Lynskey (Janice), Justin Long (Tim), Tony Hale (Mr. Mosley), Carrie Preston (Ms. Arnold), Melonie Diaz (Ms. Meier), Royalty Hightower (Tawanda), Dallas Edwards (Herman), Phebe Cox (Michelle), Kannon Hicks (Gus), Michael Abbott Jr. (Flake's Dad), Hunter Trammell (Matthew Sfikas), Steele Whitney (Dickhead), Conner McVicker (Weensie), Sarah East (Flake's Mom), Jostein Sagnes (Budzinski).
There have been a lot of movies about school shootings in the years since Columbine (I even did a post on all the ones I had seen back in 2009 - and I should probably do an updated version, as there have been a few since then). Vincent Grashaw’s And Then I Go, based on the novel Project X by Jim Shepard (which I include in a post about novels about school shootings ) is slightly different from all of them. The film is about a pair of boys who plan a school shooting, but is much more concentrated on one of the two – the more reluctant of the two of them – to carry out the plot. He seems hesitant, not entirely into the plan, and you get the feeling that at some point, he’s going to put the brakes on things. And yet, at times, he’s also the one who subtly moves things along. The dynamic between the two kids is much like the one between the Columbine shooters – one is more outwardly violent and angry, the other more depressed and self-loathing, and that’s who the film concentrates on. You feel sympathy for him, and that makes the whole movie more complicated than most of its kind.
Edwin (Arman Darbo) is a ninth grader, small for his age, who basically only has one friend in school – Flake (Sawyer Barth). The two are either picked on or ignored by the other kids in school, and while there are some well-meaning adults at the school, Edwin never really opens up to them either. His parents Tim and Janice (Justin Long and Melanie Lynskey) seem nice enough, but of course, like most teenagers, Edwin blocks them out of his inner thoughts as well. The film’s opening scenes show how Edwin and Flake are isolated from the rest of their class – picked on and beat up. Eventually, it will be Flake who brings Edwin down to his basement to show him his dad’s gun collection (I don’t know if the movie designed itself to avoid the gun control debate, by using older weapons, but they do). Together, they start planning just what exactly they are going to do, and how.
The movie isn’t overly interested in that plan however – it shows how the two of them plan, sure, but that’s a small part of the movie. What the film is most interested in is Edwin himself – his isolation and depression that leads him to do what he does – but also how he misses so much that could well have saved him. Edwin and Flake basically isolate themselves from their classmates, they refuse to get involved in anything – even the most basic things like watching TV, or joining social media. Both of Edwin’s parents are caring – and try to talk to him, but he pushes them away, and while they worry about him, it’s hard to see what else they could have done. What’s the difference between a regular sullen teenager, and one that is planning a massacre? While the Vice Principal (Tony Hale) seems mostly clueless, he does try and reach out to Edwin – tries to get him involved, and socialized. And Edwin is a talented artist, who throughout the film will get involved in a group art project that he excels at – and is encouraged by an art teacher, and befriends the other group members. Edwin doesn’t seem to notice any of this however – Flake has been his best friend since they were five, and he seems somewhat lost without him – when the pair get into a fight, Edwin falls deeper into his depression.
The movie clearly wants you to feel sympathy for Edwin – and you do (at least I did, who as a quiet, isolated high school myself, I see some of my teenage self in Edwin). I do think the movie pushes this a little too hard at times (like a scene with an adult, who steals Edwin’s little brothers ball, which just seems weird). The finale of the movie too I think tries too hard to maintain that sympathy for Edwin – not quite make excuses for everything, but show he was no Flake. A harder hitting film would have pushed Edwin a little further, tested our sympathies for him a little more.
Still, the film works as a portrait of Edwin, and the combination of factors that propel him to do what he does. He’s a more complicated character than Flake – who is the kind of angry, young white man who fits the portrait of these kind of mass shooters (particularly the solo ones, and many of them now are solo ones) that we see more and more often. The film doesn’t seek to provide any easy answers or pat psychology – and it’s stronger for that. It shows how a kid may just get to the point that Edwin gets to – and how easy that can be.

Movie Review: Truth or Dare

Truth or Dare ** / ****
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow.
Written by: Jillian Jacobs and Michael Reisz and Christopher Roach and Jeff Wadlow.
Starring: Lucy Hale (Olivia), Tyler Posey (Lucas), Violett Beane (Markie Cameron), Sophia Ali (Penelope), Nolan Gerard Funk (Tyson Curran), Hayden Szeto (Brad), Landon Liboiron (Carter), Sam Lerner (Ronnie), Brady Smith (Roy Cameron), Aurora Perrineau (Giselle), Tom Choi (Officer Han Chang).
Truth or Dare is a rather bland horror movie for the teen crowd that never truly settles on what it wants to be. The premise is essentially a group of college seniors, on one last spring break, get roped into a deadly game of truth or dare – one they cannot stop playing. You lie, you die, you don’t do the dare, you die, you try and stop, you die. There is no realistic way to set up a game like this – but I suppose having it start in a Mexican Church is one way to do it. One by one, the people in the game start dying off, and the survivors have to try and find the way to stop it.
The students involved in the game are really a collection of stereotypes, without much in the way of personality – or more accurately, they are all given one personality trait and play it exclusively. Our heroine is Olivia (Lucy Hale) – the “good girl” of the group, sweet and innocent – she didn’t even want to go on Spring Break with her friends – she wanted to spend the week building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Her best friend is Markie (Violet Beane), and because she’s blond, and her best friend is the brunette good girl, she has to play the party girl. Her boyfriend is Lucas (Tyler Posey), but she cheats on him constantly. Olivia is hiding secret feelings for Lucas – and perhaps he has feelings for her as well. The rest of the characters aren’t even given that much depth – there’s Brad (Hayden Szeto, so good in The Edge of Seventeen) who is openly gay – except with his father. There’s Ronnie Sam Lerner, who in reality would likely be a date rapist, but here is presented as a harmless pest, constantly hitting on every girl around him. Tyson and Penelope (Nolan Gerard Funk and Sophia Ali) spend most of the movie locked in some sort of foreplay – unless she’s drunk or he’s being an asshole.
Watching the film, I couldn’t help but think of the Final Destination films- five films made between 2000 and 2011, in which a group of kids not unlike those in this film, are all supposed to die in some sort of freak accident, and then don’t – but death comes for them one by one, to kill them in interesting, over-the-top ways. In those films, death was inescapable – it was coming for you, before you were supposed to die, and although as the series progressed the deaths became increasingly over-the-top and silly, they were also full of creativity. More of that would have been helpful in Truth or Dare, as the characters essentially follow the same trajectory as those in Final Destination, but for the most part die in rather generic, bloodless ways. If you’re going to make a film with this silly a concept, at least embrace it. The film also spends FAR too much time explaining the rules of the game (and then explaining them again and again – at the sparsely attended show I went to, someone yelled out “We know!” at one point, and it was hard to argue their point). The film also spends too much time trying to get us to care about these characters, and to be honest, we really truly don’t. They are bland archetypes more than real people, and while they are played by an attractive cast, who are mostly game, it’s hard to really care about them.
The ending is probably the films biggest cheat. The thing that worked about the Final Destination films was that, as cruel as they were, it was just death balancing the scales – these people were supposed to die, and didn’t, and know death was coming for what should have already happened. In Truth or Dare the characters are stuck playing a game – but it’s not really a game if there is no way for them to win. Jigsaw may have rigged the games in the Saw movies to make it hard to win – but he always gave you a chance – you follow the rules, you can get out alive. The ending here was designed to shock the audience – give them one last twist. But it felt like a cheat to me.
I will say this for Truth or Dare – it isn’t a boring film. Director Jeff Wadlow keeps it moving along fairly rapidly, and for a while, it’s kind of interesting to try and figure out where all this going. It certainly wanted to be something like Blumhouse’s last wide release – Happy Death Day – and it has the same tone as that film. But that film, with just as silly as a premise as this one, was fun, had a great lead performance, and for the most part, played fair. Truth or Dare has none of that going for it.

Movie Review: Come Sunday

Come Sunday *** / *****
Directed by: Joshua Marston.
Written by: Marcus Hinchey.
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Carlton Pearson), Lakeith Stanfield (Reggie), Jason Segel (Henry), Martin Sheen (Oral Roberts), Danny Glover (Quincy Pearson), Condola Rashad (Gina Pearson), Tracey Bonner (Kiesha), Tonea Stewart (Lillie Ruth Pearson), Selena Anduze (Claire), Ric Reitz (Richard Roberts).
I don’t begrudge the people who make Christian movies like the God’s Not Dead series or the recent I Can Only Imagine into “surprise” hits at the box office (seriously, several of these films become hits a year, why are people still surprised). I get the fact that there are Christians in America who don’t feel that Hollywood respects or reflects their beliefs, and want to see entertainment that do. What I often do wonder however is why the people who go see those movies never seem to want to see anything the least bit complicated about Christianity? Why do they want films with easy black and white morality, instead of something more complex? Martin Scorsese’s Silence was one of the most profound religious movies of recent times, and no one went to see it.
Joshua Marston’s Come Sunday isn’t akin to Scorsese’s Silence, but I do think people who take their Christianity seriously should see the film. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Carlton Pearson – who when the film opens is the Bishop at a large Pentecostal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They regularly get 6,000 in the pews on Sundays – and it amazes many that he has as many white parishioners as black, and they worship together in harmony. Slowly though, Carlton starts going through a crisis in his beliefs – not because he questions God’s existence, or his mercy – but because he starts to see things in a new way. It starts when he refuses to write a letter to help get his Uncle Quincy (Danny Glover) paroled, and his Uncle kills himself in prison. It gets worse when he sees news reports about Somalia – and all the children there dying of starvation and other things they have no control of. Carlton doesn’t come to question God in the normal way you would think – he never wonders why God lets horrible things happen to good people. No, instead he starts to believe that God doesn’t condemn people to Hell at all. That Jesus’ sacrifice saved everyone, and everyone will be welcomed into Heaven. That he can support his ideas with scripture (although he admits that some what he says contradicts other stuff in the Bible) doesn’t make his argument go down any easier. He is question what people have been taught forever – and they don’t much like it.

The film is based on an episode of This American Life (who is one of the producers of the film), and to be fair, I think that episode is deeper and more meaningful than the film is. As a radio episode, I don’t think they quite felt the need to package things as neatly as they go in this film, to flesh out other characters around Pearson as much. The film is at its weakest when it feels like they are trying to shoehorn in other characters into Pearson’s crisis of faith. The film doesn’t paint anyone as villains – even those who abandon Pearson do so because of their own deep faith and beliefs. They just truly believe he is wrong.
The reason to see Come Sunday is Ejiofor’s performance as Pearson. He is great at the many preaching scenes in the film – those are the showcase sequences to be sure, and he nails them. But he’s even better at the quieter scenes, when he starts to question his own beliefs – the things he has preached forever, but insists on staying the course, consequences be damned. The film shoehorns this into a rather typical story that in all honesty is kind of bland. In Ejiofor’s performance, you see the great film this could have been. He’s far more interesting that anything that surrounds him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Movie Review: Lean on Pete

Lean on Pete **** / *****
Directed by: Andrew Haigh.
Written by: Andrew Haigh based on the novel by Willy Vlautin.
Starring: Charlie Plummer (Charley Thompson), Travis Fimmel (Ray), Chloë Sevigny (Bonnie), Steve Buscemi (Del), Steve Zahn (Silver), Amy Seimetz (Lynn), Justin Rain (Mike), Lewis Pullman (Dallas), Frank Gallegos (Santiago), Julia Prud'homme (Ruby), Alison Elliott (Margy), Rachael Perrell Fosket (Martha), Jason Rouse (Mitch), Francisco Diego Garcia (Bob), Bob Olin (Mr. Kendall), Teyah Hartley (Laurie),
I’m not quite sure why it seems like European filmmakers seem more interested in America’s wide open spaces than American directors are – but often when I think of those long stretching roads, and vast emptiness, it’s films like Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas or Andrea Arnold’s American Honey that come to mind. American films seems mainly interested in either big cities, the suburbs or small towns – but not everything in between. You can add Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete to those other European films that contemplates that American vastness. It is, on the surface, a story of a boy and a horse – but the film has such a lived in feel that even the smallest characters feel full – that they are leading lives outside the frame, and we are just stopping in.
The film’s star is Charlie Plummer – you may remember him from All the Money in the World last year, although he’s much better here. He plays Charley, a 16 year old kid who has moved around the country with his father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), who moves from one dead end job to the next, one girlfriend to the next. He has no other real family – there’s an Aunt Margy, but she and her father got into a fight a few years ago, and haven’t spoken since. They’re now in Portland, living in a mobile home park, and Charley is left to his own devices a lot. He runs every morning – he wants to play football, like he did at his old school, but he basically knows no one in this new place. He meets Del (Steve Buscemi), a down-on-his-luck, crotchety horse trainer. Charley also meets all of Del’s horses – and grows particularly fond of Lean on Pete – a five-year-old quarter horse, approaching the end of his time as a race horse. Things don’t end well for race horses.
I won’t give away the sad sequence of events that transpire during the first half of Lean on Pete – but will note that the film turns into a road movie of sorts in its second half. Writer/director Andrew Haigh has a gift of making all the characters in this film feel real – like fully formed people the audience is just spending some time with, before they go back to their lives. This makes the episodic nature of Lean on Pete work better than it usually does in this type of film. Whether it’s Travis Fimmel as Charley’s father – who loves his son, but doesn’t really know how to raise him, or Steve Buscemi as Del, a kind of gruff, surrogate father figure who Charley idolizes than grows disillusioned with, Chloe Sevigny as a jockey – who cares for Charley, but is also a realist, the first half of the film allows each of them some time and space for the audience to get to know them. This is more difficult with characters with less screen time – but Haigh and his actors still manage to do it. There is something about the way Amy Seimetz makes breakfast for and interacts with Charley and his father that tells you everything about this woman. Or the couple of Iraq veterans who invite Charley into their house at a certain point – and later, the older man who arrives to hang out with them, with his overweight granddaughter, who he treats cruelly. Or Steve Zahn, who seems so nice as a homeless person at first. All of them are real people, which makes these little interludes along the way ring true.
They all also help Plummer and his performance. Unless Plummer is alone with Lean on Pete, the horse, he remains a fairly quiet presence – respectful and nice, deferring to those around him. As he talks to Pete the horse – and later, a figure from his past – we get to know more about Charley that made him the way he is. His dreams are not big dreams – he has just grown use to grown up either abandoning him or letting him down. There is something almost unspeakably sad about it when he describes to Pete the greatest thing he’s ever seen – and it’s simply a family sitting down to a meal together. The small moments the rest of us take for granted, are all he really wants. When he seems on the verge of getting it, near the end, he distrusts it. He’s been thrust into a crueler world than he should have to face at 16.
When you hear a movie is about a boy and his horse, you are probably thinking of something perhaps a little cheesy, but inspirational. Lean on Pete really isn’t that film – it’s more akin to something like Kelly Reichardt’s best film Wendy & Lucy, in which Michelle Williams plays a woman with no money, stranded with her dog who has to find a way to move on to the next town, for another job. It’s a portrait of poverty that is heartbreaking, because so little money could mean so much to the characters. Lean on Pete gets, I think both darker and more violent than Wendy & Lucy – this is not going to end the way you think it will. It confirms Haigh – whose last film was the brilliant 45 Years, about a woman who realizes late in life that she doesn’t understand anything about her life, or her marriage, as one of the most keenly observant filmmakers around. He sets his sights this time on America – and what he finds is tragic and sad, but offers some hope of uplift.

Movie Review: Rampage

Rampage *** / *****
Directed by: Brad Peyton.
Written by: Ryan Engle and Carlton Cuse & Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel and Ryan Engle.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson (Davis Okoye), Naomie Harris (Dr. Kate Caldwell), Malin Åkerman (Claire Wyden), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Agent Russell), Jake Lacy (Brett Wyden), Joe Manganiello (Burke), Marley Shelton (Dr. Kerry Atkins), P. J. Byrne (Nelson), Demetrius Grosse (Colonel Blake), Jack Quaid (Connor), Breanne Hill (Amy).
It takes a special set of skills to make a movie as gloriously dumb as Rampage undeniably is, but still make it fun. Not everyone can do it right- as the recent Pacific Rim: Uprising proved, which was just as big and dumb as this film is, but isn’t half as much fun. Rampage is a film based on an arcade game which (apparently, I never played it) was nothing except a giant gorilla, a giant wolf and a giant alligator destroying buildings – and the film knows precisely what it is that people who pay to see a movie with that concept want to see – mainly a giant gorilla, giant wolf and a giant alligator destroying buildings. The movie doesn’t really try that hard to have the emotional underpinnings of Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong (it pays it some lip service, but basically doesn’t care), and doesn’t have the larger implications of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (a film I still love, screw you, you’re wrong about that one). It’s essentially a hundred minutes of smashy-smashy, with enough material with an entirely game cast so you can say that yes, there is in fact a plot here.
And what a gloriously dumb plot is it! Malin Akerman is Claire Wyden, who runs a huge company based in Chicago, who as we see in the opening scene, is conducting genetic editing tests on rats in space, until one of those rats becomes a giant killer rat, and kills almost everyone on board. One lucky scientist manages to get to the escape capsule in time, only to die as she crashes to earth, with three of the samples flying free and hurtling to earth – landing next to (you guessed it) a gorilla, a wolf and an alligator, turning them into monsters. The only one of the three giant animals we care about is George – the Gorilla – who lives at the San Diego Wildlife Centre, under the watch of Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), a former specialist forces army man, who is also a former head of the UN anti-poaching team, and is now head primatologist. He and George are friends – they speak in sign language, and joke around – so when George starts getting bigger – and angrier – all of a sudden, he is concerned. Eventually, he’ll meet Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), who used to work for Wyden and knows about their research, and Agent Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – who works for Other Government Agency – to try and figure out what’s going on. For reasons having to do with perhaps the dumbest villain plot ever conceived, all three animals make their way to Chicago – where eventually, they will lay waste to half the city.
Now, not everyone can act in a film like Rampage – and make it work. I’m thinking of someone like Charlize Theron – probably a better actor than anyone in Rampage, but who really seemed out of place in the last Fast & Furious movie, probably because she took it too seriously. That’s not a mistake anyone in Rampage makes. Dwayne Johnson is one of the best actors around for these type of movie star roles, that require nothing more than for him to be charming and funny, and occasionally kick ass – and he does that wonderfully well. Everyone else kind of follows his lead – the more talented than needed Naomie Harris is fine, but you do get the feel that she’s just there to have another woman in the cast. Malin Akerman is having glorious amounts of fun being an evil woman. No one is better than Jeffrey Dean Morgan though, who says every line almost as if he’s about to break out laughing because of how stupid it all is. It’s a skill he perfected on The Walking Dead, where Negan speaks in catch phrases and declarations that are asinine, but at least in this, the film knows that.
But what you really want to see is those three animals destroy things – and once they get started, boy do they ever destroy things. The director is Brad Peyton, who teamed up with Johnson for San Andreas a few years ago, so you already know he’s great at destroying cities (also, he seems oddly fascinated with helicopters). Yes, you could certainly argue that this is another blockbuster that destroys cities, evokes 9/11 with its imagery, but doesn’t seriously consider the human lives lost in the film (they say that half of downtown has been evacuated when they animals start smashing – that still leaves I have no idea how many tens of thousands of people dead). But the film is so goofy, you’re not really thinking about that, are you?
No one could seriously argue that Rampage is a great film – or even a good one. If you watch it and say it’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen, well, I’m not sure I could mount much of a defense to that. But the film is glorious amounts of fun.

Movie Review: Marrowbone

Marrowbone ** / *****
Directed by: Sergio G. Sánchez.
Written by: Sergio G. Sánchez.
Starring: George MacKay (Jack), Anya Taylor-Joy (Allie), Charlie Heaton (Billy), Mia Goth (Jane), Matthew Stagg (Sam), Nicola Harrison (Mother), Kyle Soller (Porter), Tom Fisher (Father), Myra Kathryn Pearse (Molly), Paul Jesson (Doctor), Robert Nairne (Monster), Laura Brook (Thelma), Adam Quintero (Mr. Gouldman).
Marrowbone is the directorial debut of Sergio G. Sanchez – the screenwriter probably best known for the 2007 horror film The Orphanage. For some, that film is one of the best horror films of the 21st Century – to me, it was a well-made bore. Part of that is probably because ghost stories don’t much work for me (another of the more highly acclaimed 21st Century horror films The Others doesn’t work for me either) – but mainly I think it’s because it’s one of those movies that withholds information for the sake of surprising you at the end. It’s a kind of storytelling technique I don’t usually like – the film all but tells you it’s not telling you everything, and then pulls to rug out and expects you to be surprised. I find that annoying more than anything – and sadly, Marrowbone is more of the same, with less of the things that made The Orphanage work as well as it did (I would never question either the filmmaking or acting in that film).
It’s the 1960s, and an Irish family – a mother (Nicola Harrison) and her four children, teenagers Jack (George MacKay), Billy (Charlie Heaton), Jane (Mia Goth) and the much younger Sam (Matthew Stagg) have just moved back to America – where the mother grew up. They agree not to talk about the past or “him” – who they don’t name right away, but has to be their father (right?). The family takes on their mother’s maiden name – Marrowbone – and move into the isolated, dilapidated mansion her family has let stand, empty, for three decades. Their mother is very sick, but before she dies, she makes the oldest Jack swear he’ll keep the family together – to do that, they must not let anyone know of her death until he turns 21, and can legally take guardianship of them. Essentially, they are forced to hide away from the world – with Jack occasionally venturing out to the city to do the work that needs to be done, but the rest staying out of sight. In addition to those problems though, something doesn’t seem quite right at the house itself. There are strange noises throughout the house – and all the mirrors are covered. Is the place haunted? Is there a less supernatural, but no less sinister, explanation to be had?
There are perhaps elements to Marrowbone that may have made it work as a routine haunted house film – chief among them is the house itself, which really does have the atmosphere needed for a great haunted house movie, as even in the daytime it is foreboding. But not much else about the film works. It spends way too much time dealing with Porter (Kyle Soller), a young lawyer who is handling some legal work on behalf of the mother – not knowing she is dead – who also happens to know the families secrets, but talks about them almost in riddle until the movie decides to reveal them, AND also is in love with Allie (Anya-Taylor Joy), the closest neighbor to the Marrowbone children, who is in love with Jack. The movie tries to shoehorn those various plot threads in, as well as deal with the haunted house, and sibling resentment, and the siblings having to retrieve the same box of supposedly cursed money more than once.
The result really doesn’t work all that well. The film has too many characters, and to be honest not much is done with any of them aside from Jack. This is particularly frustrating in regards to Taylor-Joy and Goth, who are two actresses I have admired in several films before this, and (to be honest) are the reasons I watched Marrowbone. Both are essentially wasted – especially Goth, who essentially is given nothing to do but hang out in the background so she can be used as a plot reveal later on in the film.
The film tries to have the kind of twist ending that makes audience gasp when it is revealed, but it really isn’t all that shocking. Sanchez doesn’t hint it at necessarily, but the way he’s structured the plot makes no sense at all, unless he needs certain things to be true so he can yank the rug out from under us.
Yes, the atmosphere of Marrowbone is quite good, but other than that, the film is basically a bore – not just because it isn’t scary, but because I think for long stretches of the movie, Sanchez isn’t even trying to be scary – he’s telling too many stories, and none of them are all that interesting.

Movie Review: Walking Out

Walking Out *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Alex Smith & Andrew J. Smith.
Written by: Alex Smith & Andrew J. Smith based on the short story by David Quammen.
Starring: Matt Bomer (Cal), Josh Wiggins (David), Bill Pullman (Clyde), Alex Neustaedter (Young Cal), Lily Gladstone (Lila).
Walking Out is a survival tale about a father and son who go hunting – and then things go wrong. You could compare the film to something like the Oscar winning The Revenant, but in a much more low-key way than that film. That doesn’t make the film any less harrowing – in fact, in some ways, that helps the film hit even harder, because it’s not as obsessed with its own importance. It is the type of film I think of when I hear that Hollywood never makes films for middle-American (the “real” America so many conservative pundits call it), because it is a film about that area - it is set in Montana – and is about the legacy of fathers and sons. It is perhaps a sly critique on gun culture – but not an overt one, and it certainly doesn’t look down on hunting culture at all. It is about respect for the wilderness, and the animals you are hunting – not about the glory of killing (the people in this movie would hate trophy hunting for example). It is in many way a quiet, subtle film – and remains so even after things go wrong.
The film stars young Josh Wiggins as David – a 14 year old kid, who lives with his mother in Texas, who once a year travels to see his father, Cal (Matt Bomer) is Montana to go on a hunt. David loves his father, and wants to connect with him, but isn’t much of a hunter. He’s okay hanging around his father’s remote cabin, and shooting at birds – but doesn’t much like the idea of heading out in the Smoky mountains for days on end to hunt moose – a certain moose in particular that Cal has been tracking for weeks. Still, Cal was 14 when he shot his first moose – which we see in a series of flashbacks, featuring a young Cal (Alex Neustaedter) and his own father, Clyde (Bill Pullman) – that will inform much of what we see throughout the film. They stalk the moose – but things go wrong, and they end up looking for a different animal that takes them off their previous route, and brings them in contact with a mother bear and her cubs. The second half of the film features David having to carry his father out of the wilderness.
The film is beautiful to look at – and remains so even after the horrific incidents of the halfway point. Director brothers Alex and Andrew J. Smith and their cinematographer Todd McMullen have a sort of reverence for the mountains, and their snow covered beauty. These are harsh, unrelenting conditions, and the film knows that well – but it never loses site of the beauty of it all.
The film is ultimately a tale of fathers and sons – and that hunting trip in which both of them become men. But in both cases – with Cal and his father, and then David with Cal – they do so in a way that their fathers never planned on. These are hunting trips the sons will remember for ever – just not in the romantic way the fathers probably thought they would.
In its way, the film is a subtle critique of gun culture – a culture in which guns are ubiquitous and have power that must be respected, but are placed in the hands of children who do not quite understand that power yet (they will). It’s not an anti-gun screed in any way – certainly not an anti-hunting one – but a subtle call for them to be treated with respect – and that goes beyond showing them where the safety is.
The movie is harrowing, yes, but it never becomes overly bleak or dark or depressing. It is in its way a quietly inspiring film, even as sad as the film gets. It’s not a film looking to blow you away with its camera work or its grimness or its violence – it works its way in in a quieter, more profound way. By the end, you may just be surprised by how much the film ultimately moves you.