• Benedetta

    Benedetta

    ★★★★

    It’s compelling from the start, but Benedetta becomes even better as it delves deeper into the idea of defining God’s will. Though every character exists within this highly religious community, each has their own relationship with faith. Many serve only themselves, others serve whatever their leadership tells them to, and a rare few truly serve a higher power. Benedetta’s visions are met with both skepticism and reverence, but more interestingly to me is how they are also met with envy. It…

  • Fireworks Wednesday

    Fireworks Wednesday

    ★★★★

    “Don’t defend him without knowing him.”

    Involving ourselves in situations where we do not belong, even with the best of intentions, rarely goes well. For our protagonist, it’s not initially her choice. She comes into the apartment to do a simple job and finds herself caught in the middle of a marriage falling apart. She’s mistreated and asked to do inappropriate favors, but by the time she has an out, she’s too invested in the mystery to just walk away.…

  • Boys

    Boys

    ★★½

    I remember seeing images from Boys on Tumblr with such frequency back in high school that I thought I had actually watched the movie. It turns out that I hadn’t, but I have seen different versions of its story. Watching an independent film about two scrawny boys sheepishly falling for one another, getting into a pointless argument because they’re scared of their own feelings before ultimately reconciling, it’s difficult not to compare it to the dozen other films I’ve seen…

  • King Richard

    King Richard

    ★★★★

    It’s oddly exciting to see a film follow a familiar formula and do it so well. King Richard isn’t a surprising film, but it’s an engaging, crowd-pleasing one that delivers just the right amount of drama with all the laughs. The tone here is exactly right, capturing the stakes of the family’s circumstance and the dangers around them without ever losing its feeling that everything will be alright. Uplifting without ever being too cloyingly sweet, the story features the less desirable…

  • Compartment No. 6

    Compartment No. 6

    ★★½

    “Everything seems to be too far away.”

    While its concept is compelling in its simplicity, Compartment No. 6 lacks the necessary appeal of its characters to be worthwhile. I hardly knew our protagonist, and the male lead is so initially offensive that I never wanted to know him any better. This is the kind of film that relies on the strength of its characterization, and there’s so little in the way of the plot. It’s all just sitting on a train,…

  • Bergman Island

    Bergman Island

    ★★★★

    Writing is hard, and judging the process makes it no easier. Chris’ affection for Bergman’s films is ambiguous and inconsistent, yet she still holds this reverence for his status and the legacy of his prolific career. She explores the island he called his home while struggling to create work if her own, continuously comparing herself to a man she doesn’t truly wish to emulate. His personal life is unappealing to her, and the lack of catharsis in his work is…

  • A Hero

    A Hero

    ★★★★

    Farhadi's characters often grapple with the importance of being respected within their communities, but A Hero centers on the filmmaker's most modern conflict yet. Truth comes second here to believability, and that frustrates our protagonist to no end. He can't prove his story, but he'll swear on everything he holds dear that it's true, something incredibly meaningful to him and him alone. When you've lied before, giving someone your word is worth far less than anything tangible. In this era…

  • Julia

    Julia

    ★★★

    This is perfectly fine, but I think the reason it bored me is that it's the second documentary I've seen by Cohen and West in the last month. It's no better or worse in quality than their Pauli Murray doc, but it occurred to me that Cohen and West been following the same formula they used for RBG despite not having (at the time) living subjects to narrate. They use various clips and interviews with Child effectively, but it's just…

  • Memoria

    Memoria

    ★★★½

    AFI Fest 2021: Movie #11

    Time moves differently in Memoria — it’s slow, but that movement feels so purposeful that you adjust to its rhythm and find yourself seeing each passing scene a little differently. It’s admittedly sparse in terms of plot, but the premise sets up a sense of anticipation throughout that keeps you waiting even in the longest sequences. It’s jarring to hear such aggressive sounds in a still scene and not witness the reaction you’d expect to…

  • The Tsugua Diaries

    The Tsugua Diaries

    ★★

    AFI Fest 2021: Movie #10

    Presented in non-chronological vignettes made up of further fragmented scenes, The Tsugua Diaries is an arrhythmic mystery to me. I was initially pulled in by the lush cinematography and detailed soundscape, but those same elements would later become a problem for me as they lulled me to sleep. I can’t remember the last time I struggled this much to keep awake through a movie, and the non-linear narrative made it even harder to stay alert.…

  • Pleasure

    Pleasure

    ★★★★

    AFI Fest 2021: Movie #9

    Pleasure plays great in a crowded theater, all the awkwardness and collective shock included. This holds up well.

    My review from Sundance:

    What a bold, razor sharp look at consent. Pleasure presents a seemingly realistic and insightful look into the studio porn industry, building itself around frequent conversations about consent. Before any performer can participate in a shoot, they need to sign all the paperwork -- a legally binding "YES." Some sets are run with genuine…

  • Hit the Road

    Hit the Road

    ★★★★½

    AFI Fest 2021: Movie #8

    It’s hard to say goodbye to someone you love, and it’s even harder when you’re uncertain where they’re going off to. It’s this frustrating combination of fears to want someone to stay with you and also want them to stay safe, yet knowing they can’t stay regardless. This family bickers and fights constantly, but every teasing word has so much love behind it. The banter among them felt so familiar to me, and everything from…