Tag Archives: Gemma Arterton

TIFF19: My Zoe

If you love Julie Delpy, as I do, you probably love her talky scripts, her hyper-verbal, over-analytical characters who leave no thought unspoken. She has a knack for combining drama and comedy and elevating both with intelligent commentary. My Zoe is quite a departure. Which isn’t to say that it’s not smart or insightful. But it is very, very different.

Isabelle (Delpy), loving mother to Zoe (Sophia Ally) is going through a divorce from her husband, James (Richard Armitage). Their daughter’s custody is their battleground. They both love and want her desperately, but they might also have the need to hurt and wound each other however they can. It hasn’t been easy. Zoe is a sweet little girl who is too young to understand the animosity. When James notices a bruise on Zoe’s arm, he is not un-accusing of Isabelle. When Isabelle hears Zoe sneeze, she is not un-accusing of James. They are suspicious of each other’s parenting, determined to be the Best and Most Devoted One. I wish I could say that all dissolves when it turns out Zoe is gravely ill.

A mystery illness strikes quickly, and severely, and the waiting room where the two parents wait is a literal tiny glass box where their tension just bounces off the walls and back into their bodies, ratcheting up the hostility with each allegation lobbed. Is it love gone sour that has them at each other’s throats, or just fear and frustration? Truly, to be the parent of a sick child is the most helpless one can feel. It’s no wonder they seek their scapegoats. Up until this point, the movie is riveting: emotional and raw, full of anger and spite. But then it makes a u-turn.

The next half is so materially different that you might wonder if you’d fallen asleep and woken up during an entirely different movie. It’s still Julie Delpy, still playing a devoted mother, obsessed, even. But everything else has changed: the characters, her surroundings, and most of all: the tone. It’s disorienting trying to get your bearings in this new reality.

Delpy is of course quite good – sometimes astonishing, sometimes vehement, often dangerous and despairing. Her performance is a wail heard by mothers everywhere. But if also reaches beyond the normal, natural borders of motherhood and asks: what else? The answers are not necessarily comfortable.

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Murder Mystery

You may not believe this, but Adam Sandler’s in a Murder Mystery and he’s not playing the corpse.

Nick (Sandler), a New York cop, has repeatedly failed to make detective, and failed to take his wife on a European honeymoon for 15 years solid. Luckily, on the eve of their anniversary, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) picks a fight about this very thing and Nick is able to book extremely last minute tickets and pass them off as a surprise. On this transcontinental flight, she runs into a disgruntled first class passenger, Charles (Luke Evans), who invites them to join him on his yacht.

It’s a little more complicated than that: his fiance Suzi has recently left him for his billionaire uncle Malcolm (Terence Stamp). The yacht is full of people who are not overly happy about this: the son who stood to inherit, a maharajah whose family fortune is entangled with Malcolm’s, a famous actress, the godson Grand Prix racer, his best friend and literal life saver (and a bonus bodyguard). He’s gathered them all together to call them leaches, to cut them off, and to amend his will to reflect only Suzi as inheritor. But just as he’s about to sign the new will, the lights go out, and when they come back up, there’s a body. Malcolm is dead. One of the yacht’s occupants is a murderer.

For a murder mystery, it’s pretty light-hearted. It IS an Adam Sandler project, after all, but his usual humour’s been tempered somewhat and most will find this surprisingly tolerable. Not a great movie maybe, but definitely watchable, despite his mustache. Sandler and Aniston have a great chemistry after a couple of movies together, and the script, though not quite clever enough to actually keep you guessing, is entertaining enough that you won’t really care, and the ensemble cast supports it ably. Director Kyle Newacheck doesn’t try anything fancy but he doesn’t get in the way of the film’s strengths: a few moments where Aniston shines, a few moments where Italy shines, and the harnessing of Adam Sandler’s baser, more juvenile instincts. It’s for the best.

The Girl With All The Gifts

I was really worried that this movie would be too scary for me, but its immediate familiarity reminded me that I’d read the book upon which it is based (by M.R. Carey), and knowing I’d survived the book meant I could surely handle the film as well.

Not for nothing: it’s about a “fungus” that’s extremely zombie-like in its presentation. Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) is a teacher at a military-run school at Hotel Echo. Her “hungry students” are all infected with the fungus. Under heavy restraints, they aren’t locarno-festival_the_girl_with_all_the_gifts_publicity_still_h_2016just taught, but tested. Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is test subject #1. She’s a very sweet young girl until flesh is nearby, and then her jaws start chomping involuntarily.

When the base is suddenly overrun by hungries, Melanie escapes with the compassionate teacher as well as Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close), the woman doing all the experiments, and just a few remaining soldiers. Because they’re low on blocker gel (the lotion that makes them less appetizing to hungries), they’re loathe to keep her so close by, but Dr. Caldwell is unwilling to let her best subject go. Melanie might be the key to an antidote.

Their small party need to make their way to the next safe spot, called Beacon, but getting there isn’t going to be easy. There’s some typical zombie movie gore, but this movie manages to be more by focusing on the relationship between student and teacher. And Melanie manages to be more than just a zombie, with her constant yearning to be fully girl-1474366013901_largehuman. Newcomer Sennia Nanua is very compelling in her role; Melanie is a monster, but Nanua gives her a sense of humanity that transforms this horror film into something more urgent, more terrifyingly relatable.

Director Colm McCarthy gives us some memorably startling images, even going so far as to shoot aerial footage over Chernobyl for an apocalyptic feel. The Girl With All The Gifts is not a traditional zombie movie, nor horror. It has a social conscience and some sound science, refreshing the genre with intelligence and dark humour. It’s not a perfect movie, it’s a little muddled, a little indefinite, but it’s a thought-provoking hybrid much like Melanie herself.

TIFF: Their Finest

London, 1940: most have gone to war but a few are left behind to entertain the people in this bleak time. The department of war is demanding that happy-ending war movies be churned out for morale.

At any rate, Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest was indeed a boost to my morale. Of course I love Bill Nighy, and he’s at his Nighest, with his signature gestures and snorts. He plays a very vain actor who can’t quite believe he’s perhaps aged past leading-man status. Luckily a diplomatic new writer, theirfinestCatrin (Gemma Arterton) hired to write “slop” (ie, the female dialogue) appeases him by enlarging the role of the drunk uncle just for him. Convincing her boss Tom (Sam Claflin) to let her do this is as infuriating and degrading as you’d imagine – until he starts to fall in love with her, of course.

Keep in mind that though they’re writing about the Miracle of Dunkirk, the war is still raging, and Catrin must decide whether to risk losing the thread of her story every time the air raid sirens go off. The cramped office remains nearly a sanctuary but outside the city is badly bruised.

The war was a time when, with young men absent, older gentlemen and women stepped up to get the work done. Catrin is constantly reminded, however, that her employment status won’t hold up when the boys return. untitledShe mustn’t get too attached to feeling useful or creative. The war makes everything tenuous.

But despite this sounding rather dire, it is very much a comedy, and a bit of a love letter to film making. The laughs are plentiful, robust. The stars are endlessly charming. I haven’t much cared for Sam Claflin and don’t have much of an opinion on Gemma Arterton, but both are excellent here. Nighy of course, is a prize scene-stealer, and he deftly makes away with every one he’s in. Sometimes the war is seen through rose-tinted glasses (a nostalgic effect?) but when the war does assert itself, it leaves a crater. This one’s not to be missed.