Anyone wants to hear about my day today? Nobody? Alrighty then.
45 Years (UK, 2015): This slow simmering drama is bound to be part of every best-of-the-year list. A terrific script is enhanced by spectacular performances by Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, both doing the most of silences and pauses.
Kate and Geoff have been married for nearly 45 years. A week before their anniversary, Geoff finds out a former flame of his, Katja, has been found frozen in a glacier and he has been named next of kin. The memories create a rift between the long-standing couple, as Kate begins to feel more and more as the one Geoff settled for. How could she compete with a ghost?
Kate’s realization of Katja’s influence over her marriage is subtle but brutal. 45 Years is compassionate towards both leads, but Kate’s journey is the most compelling thanks to an inspired Rampling. Her face tells the whole story and the conclusion hangs entirely on her range of expressions. Here is a movie that’s not apologetic for having septuagenarians for leads, or for taking its time to unfold. A beauty. Four and a half passive-aggressive prairie dogs.
Ma Ma (Spain, 2014): I have nothing against melodrama. If properly done, it can be sublime (see Douglas Sirk’s ouvre). Ma Ma goes for broke and for at least 90 minutes makes a strong case for itself. Sadly, the movie is two hours long and feature one of the more mawkish endings ever, one that will have you hiding your head in embarrassment on behalf of the actors involved.
Penélope Cruz is Magda, a teacher on the verge of unemployment and divorce. Since bad news come in threes (or so it says my mom), Magda discovers she has breast cancer and a mastectomy is in the horizon. Because deus ex machina, the protagonist meets Arturo (Luis Tosar, Because the Rain) the exact day he loses his daughter and maybe his wife. In each other, they find the support necessary to overcome the ridiculous number of traumatic events thrown at them.
Strong work by Cruz and Tosar and a degree of realism make the experience tolerable, at least at the beginning. Just when you think this mawkish if somewhat endearing drama comes to its predictable conclusion, writer/director Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia) adds an unnecessary twist that extends things for another harrowing half an hour. In this period, Tosar stops being a character and becomes a prop and the film borders on parody. Did I mention the ghost girl from Siberia that underlines every emotional beat? Yeah, this is Nicholas Sparks territory. Two and a half sad prairie doggies.
Homesick (Norway, 2015): In this classic Norwegian drama (incest peppered with sex scenes), dance teacher Charlotte grapples with a motherless upbringing and a relationship too close for comfort with her half brother Henrik. Just as she reaches a precarious balance in her daily life, Henrik reappears and Charlotte’s feelings for him come flooding back. Both are perfectly aware how damaging their previous dalliance was, yet they quickly fall into old patterns.
Homesick is by no means a bad movie, but the meandering pace and the characters’ lack of depth deprives the film of any edge, a big fail for movie about incest. Charlotte and Henrik are emotionally stunted and unwilling or unable to move on. Those around them fail to provide a modicum of common sense and rather yell or shut them off. It’s an exercise in frustration. Two prairie dogs way into each other.
Tomorrow, Guy Maddin gets weird (granted, that’s like everyday in the Maddin household).