English Reviews

Review: The Blood of the Dinosaurs (2021)

The Blood of the Dinosaurs (2021)

Directed by: Joe Badon | 12 minutes | short film, comedy | Actors: Holly Bonney, Tiffany Christy, Kyle Clements, Stella Creel, John Davis, Miles Hendler, Jeff Pearson, Christopher Ray, Kali Russell, Steve Smith, Vincent Stalba, Dan Wilder

‘The Blood of the Dinosaurs’ begins with a rather unusual reconstruction of the last hour of the dinosaurs, the imposing reptiles that were the dominant life forms on Earth for millions of years. Using plastic toy dinosaurs, some house, garden and kitchen fireworks and quite primitive animation techniques, we see how a meteorite put an end to their rule.

Then we end up in the middle of the Christmas edition of ‘The Uncle Bobbo Show’, an apparently sweet children’s program, but in reality a show that contains quite a few politically incorrect and spicy elements. The eccentric and creepy-looking host Uncle Bobbo gives the young viewers and listeners a physical and historical lesson about the origin of the wonderful healing agent oil. The classic Christmas story is expertly scrambled into a rock-solid parody that puts the American conservative movement, the many militant Christian zealots in the ‘land of the limitless possibilities’ and the fossil fuel lobby through the sarcastic mangle.

There is no real clear stylistic or narrative structure. ‘The Blood of the Dinosaurs’ is a colorful and absurdist mishmash that combines horror elements with exuberant satire, dryly comic humour, sanguine parodies of well-known film classics and hectic visual compilations. If this short film were a person, it would be a classic ADHDer. This abstract and chaotic-looking powder keg of artistic ideas is probably not for everyone. But for lovers of unorthodox and creative film art with a sharp comic edge, it is certainly an intriguing piece of work.

English Reviews

Review: After Love (2020)

After Love (2020)

Directed by: Aleem Khan | 89 minutes | drama | Actors: Joanna Scanlan, Nathalie Richard, Talid Ariss, Nasser Memarzia, Sudha Bhuchar, Nisha Chadha, Jabeen Butt, Subika Anwar-Khan, Elijah Braik, Adam Karim, Narayan David Hecter, Pierre Delpierre

There is barely fifty kilometers between the British port city of Dover and its French counterpart Calais. As the crow flies, because instinctively the distance is much greater. Especially in the film ‘After Love’ (2020), the debut of the English-Pakistani writer and director Aleem Khan. For main character Mary Hussain (the fantastic Joanna Scanlan, finally in a role in which she can showcase all her talent) those fifty kilometers across the Channel are the bridge to a completely different world, where nothing is as she always thought it was. Where her entire existence falls to pieces because of the discoveries she makes there. Scanlan especially caused a furore with comedic roles in hilarious series such as the political satire ‘The Thick of It’, ‘Getting On’ (about the vicissitudes in an elderly ward) and ‘Puppy Love’, about the sweet and lee in a dog school. In addition, we saw her as the delightfully unorthodox Detective Inspector Viv Deering in the crime series ‘No Offense’. She has also had film roles, including in ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ (2003), ‘Notes on a Scandal’ (2006), ‘The Invisible Woman’ (2013) and ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ (2016), but these were without exception supporting roles in which she could not display all her talent. Now that she does get that chance in ‘After Love’, the British grabs it with both hands. And that certainly did not go unnoticed, because Scanlan earned a British Academy Film Award and a British Independent Film Award for her role.

Where Scanlan normally portrays sharp-tongued characters, as Mary Hussain she shows that she can also convey a sea of ​​emotions without using too many words. Mary is married to Pakistani Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia), for which they convert to Muslim. She threw her whole life upside down for him: no more alcohol, veiled on the street. But then Ahmed suddenly dies. After the funeral, his relatives try to involve her in their grieving process (her own family is nowhere to be seen – would she have sacrificed them too?), but Mary prefers to deal with her grief alone. She is shocked when she finds a photo of an unknown woman named Genevieve (Nathalie Richard) while searching through his belongings. His phone contains all kinds of messages from and to the same woman, which clearly show that she and Ahmed saw each other regularly and loved each other. Mary decides to take the ferry to Calais and visit Genevieve. The Frenchwoman thinks the veiled lady is the new cleaning lady, very painful for Mary, but she goes along anyway because she can snoop around Genevieve’s house for free and discover even more secrets about her late husband. It turns out that he has led a complete double life and little by little Mary unravels how the fork is in the handle. The fact that she does know who Genevieve is, but Genevieve has no idea who she is, and the fact that she alone knows that Ahmed has died, gives her a certain power and she does not hesitate to use that power when her that’s how it works.

There you have it; if you think you know someone from scratch, you seem to have been fooled all along. As a viewer, we immediately feel sorry for Mary. The sacrifices she’s made, both visible and invisible (so we can fill it ourselves), seem to have all been for naught. She and Genevieve seem opposites at first glance, but turn out to have more in common than they initially think. And Ahmed turns out not to be the only one with a secret. Khan wrote the screenplay himself, partly based on his own experiences, which we see in particular in Solomon (Talid Ariss), Genevieve’s teenage son who plays a crucial role in the whole. In the hands of lesser actors, all those complications would probably remain on the surface, but the two protagonists of ‘After Love’ pull us into the depths with great acting. Scanlan is fantastic as the betrayed wife, who sees her seemingly good marriage crumble piece by piece. Not only is she confused and angry, but she is also fascinated by the secret life that Ahmed led. Every step she takes from now on is one of uncertainty and everything she thought she knew about life and the world is in jeopardy. Her curiosity makes the naturally mild-mannered woman sly and cunning. Where in her comic work she is usually exuberant and verbally sharp, here it is mainly the silent looks that betray a hidden world. Scanlan gets excellent resistance from the French Nathalie Richard, a woman who is used to living with secrets and gets a taste of her own dough here and Talid Ariss also plays strong, as the young Solomon who carries his own big secret with him.

‘After Love’ is a little gem. It is not for nothing that the film was the big winner with six prizes during the presentation of the British Independent Film Awards 2021. Not only was Scanlan awarded as best actress in a leading role, Ariss also received an award for his supporting role. Khan himself took home the awards for best film, best director, best screenplay and the Douglas Hickox Award for best debut director. Prices don’t always say everything, of course, but in the case of ‘After Love’ they are a good indicator. This film is an impressive and nuanced debut from writer/director Aleem Khan and a great opportunity for Joanna Scanlan to show a different side of herself. Finally she gets the space she should have had much earlier, what a top actress!

English Reviews

Review: 107 Mothers – Cenzorka (2021)

107 Mothers – Cenzorka (2021)

Directed by: Péter Kerekes | 93 minutes | drama | Actors: Maryna Klimova, Iryna Kiryazeva, Lyubov Vasylyna, Vyacheslav Vygovskyl, Oleksandr Mykhailov, Irina Tokarchuk, Raisa Roman, Tetyana Klishch, Olga Dudinova, Tetyana Ivanova, Tetyana Neterenko, Tetyana Paraskeva, Tatiana Shmulevich

In the docudrama ‘107 Mothers’, Ukrainian Lesya (Klimova) is sentenced to seven years in prison for murdering her husband. She gives birth to her son Kolya (Vygovskyl) and is worried: when the child is three, she has to go to an orphanage unless Lesya can arrange another good home for him.

For his feature film portrait of a young woman in a women’s prison, the Slovak director Péter Kerekes spent a long time investigating the Odessa prison. He was impressed by how the imprisoned women have to cope – with each other, and with their sometimes ruined lives. You would say that you are making a documentary about it, that you have chosen a (Russian spoken) drama production. That knowledge alone is astonishing. ‘107 Mothers’ hardly deviates from a documentary.

What is the added value of an actor’s drama? For credibility it’s a drawback, nothing indicates a dramatized production – maybe the scripted acting. You don’t have to see this movie for the acting. Kerekes informed the NRC that ‘107 Mothers’ is a hybrid film. He would also rather have made a documentary, walked around the Odessa prison extensively as a ‘fly on the wall’, but does not reveal why the film has been dramatized. That makes it difficult to assess. Perhaps the prison management did not cooperate.

The chief guard of the prison plays a major role in the film. She does the intake interviews and lets the detained mothers know that she has power over the future of the children. Perhaps this role came a little too close to reality. The key word in the film is resignation. Lesya’s resignation is well portrayed by Klimova; Vygovskyl also does well as the boy Kolya; Kerekes adds a light touch through the soundtrack. What can you say? ‘107 Mothers’ looks poignantly authentic.

English Reviews

Review: The Innocents – The Uskyltige (2021)

The Innocents – The Uskyltige (2021)

Directed by: Eskil Vogt | 117 minutes | drama, fantasy | Actors: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Marius Kolbenstvedt, Kim Atlegiten, Nor Erik Vaagland Nordgersen Georg Grøttjord-Glenne

What if you cut off the oxygen supply to eighties nostalgia in “Stranger Things” (Matt & Ross Duffer, 2016) or filter out the most gratuitous violence and obscenity from “The Boys” (Eric Kripke, 2019)? In short, if you operate more subtly and realistically? Regardless of the genre, most likely you will get something Scandinavian. During a restlessly hot summer, Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) moves with her parents and older sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) to a new apartment in a towering flat. Ida’s parents have their hands full with Anna, because she is autistic and has not spoken for years. Meanwhile, Ida tries to find her way around the playgrounds between the residential towers and in the nearby forest. There she meets Ben (Sam Ashraf). Immediately the misfits click. Then Ben shows how he can manipulate the trajectory of a falling rock with pure thoughts. To the supernatural mind, the body appears to be only a week’s shell.

Although ‘The Innocents’ is already Eskil Vogt’s second feature film, he is perhaps better known for his collaboration with Joachim Trier. Vogt co-wrote almost all screenplays for Trier’s films, including the Oslo trilogy with ‘The Worst Person in The World’ (2021) as the final piece. Everything about the collaboration between the two Norwegians breathes realistic drama. However, where the fascination for the paranormal comes from, it is immediately clear when you look at ‘Thelma’ (Joachim Trier, 2017) again. The film is basically about the burgeoning feelings of the title character for a fellow student, but in the background all kinds of supernatural forces are released.

The world of the children in ‘The Innocents’ is only slightly open to adults. They sometimes have the greatest difficulty articulating their feelings but also find it difficult to suppress them. The film posts almost naively: if supernatural gifts were commonplace, what about damaged people? They would be doomed. The fantasies of revenge hardly conceal the inner violence. After all, the crafty Ida and lonely Ben are worry children without the psychokinetic powers. In terms of attention, Ida feels disadvantaged by her sister and she can hardly bear this and Ben has many more X’s to his name. After seeing ‘The Innocents’ you will think twice about exclusionary behavior among children.

In film history, children have often been used frighteningly. ‘The Innocents’ is absolutely not innocent in its horror, especially the sound goes through marrow and bone. Furthermore, the overall tone resembles a social-realistic great-grandchild of director Jack Clayton’s 1961 British psychological horror classic of the same title. Everyday domestic drama takes center stage and the psychic abilities make things worse rather than better: not a blessing but a curse. Unfortunately, therein also lies the solution. From the lazy cinema chair, Stephen King looks on scornfully and in terms of family drama, Steven Spielberg will be quite proud of Vogt.

Towards the end, “The Innocents” loses momentum as if Vogt doesn’t quite know how to tame the monster he’s awakened. Also, it has long been a “shining” cliché that children are most receptive to the paranormal and adults especially like the stupid. And although the subtlety makes up for a lot, the plot developments in the realistic setting become a bit more unbelievable. Plus, there are some annoying loose ends. For example, the film just misses the boat to previously unexplored abysses and the otherwise fascinating fantasy about the importance of abnormalities passes too quickly over that one sweltering Norwegian summer.

English Reviews

Review: Mass (2021)

Mass (2021)

Directed by: Fran Kranz | 111 minutes | drama | Actors: Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, Reed Birney, Breeda Wool, Kagen Albright, Michelle N. Carter, Michael White, Campbell Spoor

Four people, one room, a lot of talking. That is in fact the intention of ‘Mass’, the directorial debut of actor Fran Kranz (including ‘Dollhouse’ (2009-2010), ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2011)), who also provided the script. If he doesn’t make it easy for himself with the staging, the theme is obvious: the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a secondary school. Two couples sit opposite each other, the parents of the shooter and the parents of one of the children who was killed. The target? That stays in the middle. But gradually details emerge of the horrific event and how the various interlocutors dealt with it.

Kranz shuns an all-too-clear position. The gun policy in the United States is briefly touched upon, but leaves no room for digression, because the murder weapon turns out to be stolen from a classmate’s father. As in ‘Elephant’ (Gus van Sant, 2003), it appears that the shooter liked violent computer games, but (fortunately) no reason is sought in this. The film does not attempt to provide a solution for the mainly American problem of an average of more than one mass shooting per day, but deliberately only zooms in on the dynamics between the four interlocutors. The most important asset is the phenomenal cast.

Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton are the first couple, Jai and Gail, to join the conversation with mixed feelings. Gail indicates on the way to the meeting room that she really isn’t going to say “that one”. Jai gradually appears to want confirmation that the shooter’s parents could have seen the terrible deed coming. But Linda and Richard, played by Ann Dowd and Reed Birney, above all seem to wonder where they’ve failed as parents. Their son, the culprit, turns out to have committed suicide after the school massacre, so they too have to deal with grief. And they have clearly grown apart.

Because it is unclear whose idea the conversation was and what the four parents each intend to do with it, Kranz can play nicely with the mutual dynamics. A nice free moment at the beginning is when Linda starts to cry first and Gail’s eyes fire because she is the damn victim after all. Even though it seems that few agreements have been made regarding the conversation, you can read from the reactions that unwritten rules are broken every now and then. Venom comes before emotion. Lawyers are frequently referred to, indicating how great the distance between the two parents was.

And that distance is still there at the beginning of the conversation, also in the image. But somewhere halfway through, the presentation changes. Not only do the camera images become jerky instead of static, the image format used also changes during an intense monologue by Jai, in which he meticulously describes how the shelling went according to the police report. While he tells his story, the field of view of the viewer, but also of the parents themselves, is literally expanded by using a higher aspect ratio. There is rapprochement, but not necessarily in the way you would expect.

No matter how much emotional satisfaction ultimate mutual understanding would bring to the viewer, the film happily shows that grief is something elusive that everyone deals with in their own way. Although the whole set-up seems a bit artificial, all four players get plenty of opportunity to display their acting talent. It is literally the faces of Isaacs, Plimpton, Dowd and Birney that tell the story, almost without further ado. Very different from, for example, the also very strong ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ (Lynne Ramsay, 2011). No sensation this time, just visible emotion. And that makes ‘Mass’ a particularly strong debut.

English Reviews

Review: Wake in the Fright (1971)

Wake in the Fright (1971)

Directed by: Ted Kotcheff | 109 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Gary Bond, Donald Pleasence, Chips Rafferty, Sylvia Kay, Jack Thompson, Peter Whittle, Al Thomas, John Meillon, John Armstrong, Slim DeGrey, Maggie Dence, Norman Erskine, Owen Moase, John Dleen, Buster Fiddess, Tex Foote, Colin Hughes, Jacko Jackson, Nancy Knudsen, Dawn Lake, Harry Lawrence, Robert McDarra, Carlo Manchini, Liam Reynolds

‘Wake in Fright’ is the film adaptation of the book of the same name by Australian author Kenneth Cook. The film is set in the endless red sands of the outback and follows the adventures of the young school teacher John Grant (Gary Bond). John teaches a small group of children at an otherwise extinct school in the desert, and when the Christmas break arrives, he decides to go back to his girlfriend in Sydney. Along the way, however, he makes a stop in the mining village of Bundanyabba (called “The Yabba” by the locals). That evening, he is introduced to local cop Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) and the pastime of gambling with which the village’s permanently inebriated and sexually frustrated men pass their time. John also decides to gamble, but loses all his money. After this he becomes dependent on the charity of the people in the town. In the beginning John is still having a good time in Bundanyabba, but soon the village appears to harbor more and more dark sides.

Director Ted Kotcheff made ‘Wake in Fright’ in the winter of 1970. The film was highly regarded at the Cannes Film Festival, but did not exactly catch on with the cinema audience. The film was not well received, especially in Australia. Kotcheff is said to have portrayed a negative image of the rural population and many of the scenes are said to be too graphic in nature. In the 1990s, however, the film gained cult status. The film had gone missing for years at that point, until someone rescued a negative from a dumpster. Since then, ‘Wake in Fright’ has been on the radar of many a movie buff. This revaluation is completely justified. ‘Wake in Fright’ is a disturbing, yet very intriguing film.

‘Wake in Fright’ has been repeatedly labeled a horror film over the years. It’s not that hard to see why: the movie is deeply frightening. ‘Wake in Fright’ is a film about masculinity and alcohol addiction. The film shows quite straightforwardly how quickly and easily a person can fall into barbarism, and how ‘close-knit’ communities sometimes hide the darkest secrets. Perhaps what makes Bundanyabba the most horrifying is that its population is completely sober towards the most indecent and sad parts of the village. Outsiders with different views or behaviors are highly distrusted. Women flee the community. Carrying a firearm is the most normal thing in the world. And to make matters worse, there are quite a few suicides every year, a tipsy Jock Crawford tells John. “They think it’s because of the heat,” the officer says with a straight face. Crawford will be tough, he likes the heat.

As our protagonist, however, John isn’t much better than the inhabitants of Bundanyabba. In the beginning of the film, he looks down on the population and their simple moments of happiness. The fact that everyone glorifies this place as a kind of Garden of Eden, where everyone knows each other and people start drinking beer early in the morning, is a thorn in his side. But when he eventually becomes dependent on these people, he is gradually withdrawn into the community. And it turns out that he actually likes it in the village. John, thinking he was on a higher level, tries against his better judgment to leave his role as an intellectual. He drinks beer to the point of turmoil, is invited home to complete strangers, accepts the advances of one of the few women in the community, and has fun with the eccentric Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence).

Doc is the only other person in the community who recognizes the absurdity of the whole thing. He is educated and astute, just like John. Yet he decided long ago never to turn his back on Bundanyabba. The people of the village know who he is, and he never has to worry about booze, as he is invariably rewarded with crates of beer for his services. Doc is the one who takes John in tow for most of the film. The dynamic between the two men is very intriguing. At times the two seem to get along very well, but at other times there is nothing but blind hatred between them. There is also something sensual lurking between Doc and John. This is never explicitly discussed, but it is there.

The most famous scene of ‘Wake in Fright’ is when Doc and his buddies take John on a kangaroo hunt. It’s late at night, and the men are driving a jeep through the outback way too hard and drunk. Then they start shooting at kangaroos like savage. They don’t kill the animals for their flesh or skin, but purely because they get pleasure out of it. John is also given the task of killing a kangaroo. He has to cut the animal’s throat with a machete. However, he fails completely, and the attempt ends up much bloodier than planned. The brutality of this scene is not easy to forget. Moviegoers denounced this scene in 1971, but animal rights organizations in Australia couldn’t believe their luck. Finally, there was a movie that had the audacity to show the senseless slaughter of kangaroos plainly on screen.

‘Wake in Fright’ is a very atmospheric, oppressive and disturbing film. The clever combination of the unfeigned violence, the savage landscape, the peculiar characters and a convincing sense of unease, make for an unforgettable film and make you look back with sadness to the gray but deeply intriguing world of Ted Kotcheff. You don’t come across films like ‘Wake in Fright’ easily.

English Reviews

Review: Piccolo corpo (2021)

Piccolo corpo (2021)

Directed by: Laura Samani | 89 minutes | drama | Actors: Celeste Cescutti, Ondina Quadric

“Will I see her again?” Agata, the lead actress in ‘Piccolo corpo’ (2021), asks a priest. The question is about her stillborn daughter, who, because she has not yet taken her first breath, is not allowed to bear a name and therefore cannot be baptized. Unbaptized children do not go to heaven, the dogma goes, but must roam eternally in Limbo. The priest’s answer is therefore ‘no’, Agata will not see her daughter again, even after her own death.

As far as Agata is concerned, this is not the end of the matter. After carrying the child in her womb for nine months, she now ties it in a box on her back and sets out on a journey through the countryside of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region to an unofficial sanctuary in the Dolomites. In a so-called respite chapel or sanctuaire à répit, the dead body of a child can be brought to life, for a brief moment, for a first breath, after which it can be baptized.

Such a haven for desperate parents, where a moment of postponement of death can be requested, are not the invention of debut director Laura Samani, but have been quite common in Europe since the Middle Ages. And even in 1900, the year in which the story of ‘Piccolo corpo’ takes place, they could still be found in France and the north of Italy.

It was the fathers who made a pilgrimage to these respite chapels, travel was a dangerous undertaking, especially for a woman alone. But Samani opts for a female perspective. Men play a secondary role in the story; rather they represent a passive and conservative force. Thus Agata’s husband resigns himself to the death of his daughter, the priest also remains stoic, and a group of men take Agata, who is after all on the road without a husband and is therefore suspicious, to sell her as a nurse (because of the mother’s milk). ).

In contrast, on her journey she meets a tough woman who leads a gang of robbers and frees her. She is medically cared for by wise herbal women (albeit in exchange for a large piece of her hair). And also Lynx, Agata’s boyish but helpful travel companion and guide, turns out to be a woman. Tellingly, Lynx’s father is not in the picture, but we only hear him screaming that he never wants to see his daughter (Lynx) again. Presumably because of this gender ambiguity and her free, wandering existence. That does not mean that these women are the most sympathetic figures in ‘Piccolo corpo’, but that they are the only ones who help her further.

Most of these characters are played by non-professional actors. The filming of Agata’s journey was chronological and Samani made use of the local population to fill the roles along the way. As a result, there is a kind of extra role for the many different local dialects that Italy has. This contributes to a sense of authenticity, but the lack of acting experience sometimes takes its revenge in dry and stiff playing.

Nevertheless, ‘Piccolo corpo’ is a gripping and, above all, exciting art-house film, which, thanks to the purposeful story and the enchanting images of the Italian landscape, drags you along to the magical end.

English Reviews

Review: Oink (2022)

Oink (2022)

Directed by: Mascha Halberstad | 72 minutes | animation, family | Original voice cast: Hiba Ghafry, Kees Prins, Matsen Montsma, Jelka van Houten, Henry van Loon, Loes Luca, Johnny Kraaijkamp, ​​Alex Klaasen, Remko Vrijdag

Every child wants to try a pet at some point. So is Babs (Hiba Ghafry), preferably a puppy. Mother Margreet (Jelka van Houten) and father Nol (Henry van Loon) have to sleep on it for a few nights because their daughter can be quite impulsive. Then grandpa Tuitjes (Kees Prins), who suddenly arrives at the family’s doorstep all the way from America, gives Babs a piglet as a present for her ninth birthday. Babs is immediately in love and calls him Oink. Mother is a lot less pleased with Grandpa and Piglet. She is especially afraid of intruders in her vegetable garden. After all, the family is (self-sufficient!) vegetarian from head to toe. And Margreet doesn’t like that the present comes from her father, who is in fact absent. Grandpa has to stay in the garden house for the time being and Piglet can only stay if he doesn’t eat the vegetable garden or if he poops everything. Together with her good friend Tijn (Matsen Montsma), Babs tries to wash this pig.

By the way, Babs thinks grandpa Tuitjes is a strange fellow and has to get used to his accent, the cowboy hat and the banjo game by moonlight. Moreover, he is quite secretive about a large suitcase he brought with him. Grandpa himself does not care about all kinds of social hassles and the standard greenery on the dining table. In fact, he didn’t just come back to hook up with the family. After decades of absence, he also wants to create a furore at the sausage competition of the Association for Meat Products of Fresh Pigs.

If there’s one thing you don’t get from ‘Own’, it’s grumpy. What a party number! This homegrown animation film is based on the book ‘The Revenge of Knor’ by Tosca Menten. Writer Menten had not expected in her wildest dreams that this would be the result of the collaboration. Yet Menten clearly lies at the origin of the humorous and playful look at complex subjects for the everyday family. What do you actually eat when you eat meat; a father who suddenly leaves home and hearth; dog training for pigs and jokes about poop of course.

Director Mascha Halberstad has earned her stripes in the animation world with, among other things, several short films, a video clip for the band The Prodigy, and the TV series ‘Fox and Hare’ (2018 – …). ‘Own’ seems to be the culmination of the work so far. Her first feature film is both a crafty book adaptation and a visual feat. Sometimes it is also reminiscent of a plump Dutch grandnephew of ‘Fantastic Mister Fox’ (Wes Anderson, 2009); ‘Knor’ is more comical, flatter and more direct than many youth films. The poop jokes do not predominate but there is always room for them. The ensuing slight anarchy is enjoyable for anyone over the age of six. The voice actors also visibly enjoy the material. Especially Kees Prins and Loes Luca (the gruff aunt Christine) go wild on the playful (under)tone. Plus, ‘Own’ is full of mischievous movie references, including to ‘ET’ (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (George Miller, 2017) (note the tractor scenes!). Following the stop-motion masters of Aardman Animations (‘Wallace & Gromit’, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ et cetera.), Halberstad and her animation team have transformed the tangible clay into something very lively and touching on screen without going on the sentimental tour. They can compete with the best in the genre.

Every now and then the stop motion seems sluggish, as on a late summer day. This is anything but disturbing and strongly supports the dry humor and thoughtful view on social themes. And although the current state of affairs in the meat industry is neither fish nor meat, the film is not grumbling about it in terms of moralism. Could the story perhaps go deeper into certain matters such as the disappearance of grandfather Tuitjes from the life of daughter Margreet? Absolutely no man overboard here, enough wealth and perhaps it is an idea for a spectacular sequel.

English Reviews

Review: Finding You (2020)

Finding You (2020)

Directed by: Brian Baugh | 119 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Rose Reid, Jedidiah Goodacre, Katherine McNamara, Patrick Bergin, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Judith Hoag, Fiona Bell, Anabel Sweeney, Tom Everett Scott, Vanessa Redgrave, Ciaran McMahon, Meg O’Brien, Marion O’Dwyer, Helen Roche Dairíne Ní Dhonnchú, Bryan Quinn, Gwynne McElveen, Natalie Britton, Trevor Kaneswaran, Orla Bell, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Michelle Hlongwane, Frank McGovern, Ken Carpenter

‘Finding You’ by director Brian Baugh has been described as a ‘Notting Hill for the youth’. And that’s right like a bus, because the storyline is based on almost the same pattern. 18-year-old Finley Sinclair (a fresh Rose Reid) ruins a violin audition at a prestigious New York conservatory, prompting her to venture out into the wider world. Shifting the beacons for a while and trying to arrive at new insights. She chooses to leave for Ireland, as her late brother did before, to study for a summer semester.

On the plane en route to her destination, she accidentally finds herself next to movie star and heartthrob Beckett Rush (infectiously played by Jedidiah Goodacre). This one is also on its way to Ireland to shoot a dragon movie there. What happens on arrival? The two youngsters are both staying at the B&B of the couple Nora (Fiona Bell) and Sean (Ciaran McMahon)!

Between the filming, Beckett acts as Finley’s personal guide and she helps him with his lyrics in return. But can Finley trust Beckett? Because is he no longer in a relationship with his regular co-star Taylor (Katherine McNamara (from ‘The Maze Runner’)? In between, Finley also has to spend quality time as a school assignment with a senior in a care home, Cathleen Sweeney (a decent Vanessa Redgrave This all leads to fun with Nora and Sean’s daughter, Emma (Saoirse-Monica Jackson from ‘The Derry Girls’), a search for Cathleen’s sister, advances from Beckett, and handy fiddle tips from fiddler/vagabond Seamus (a role by Patrick Bergin). With Beckett’s manager, his father Montgomery (Tom Everett Scott), as the evil genius, the couple must overcome some hurdles to ‘really find each other’. In the end it comes down to this: Trust the journey that you make.

‘Finding You’ is not a high-flyer, the film can rather be classified under the heading ‘cute’. Here and there quite predictable and for the beauty a little too little sharp edges, but all in all the viewer is left with a positive feeling. The beautiful views that Ireland has to offer and the infectious, lively violin music frame this sweet film. From NYC to hospitable Ireland to play chess with a handsome dragon slayer, there are worse trips…

English Reviews

Review: A Journal for Jordan (2021)

A Journal for Jordan (2021)

Directed by: Denzel Washington | 131 minutes | drama | Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Chanté Adams, Jalon Christian, Robert Wisdom, Tamara Tunie, Jasmine Batchelor, Marchánt Davis, Susan Pourfar, Vanessa Aspillaga, Gray Henson, Johnny M. Wu, David Wilson Barnes, Spencer Squire, Melanie Nicholls-King

Journalist Dana Canedy suffered a massive personal tragedy in 2006 and wrote an international bestseller about it two years later, entitled “A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor.” Central to her book is the love she shared with “the most honorable and respectful man I have ever known.” His name was Charles Monroe King and Dana had never seen a man so devoted to her. “He called me his queen and treated me as such.” But her lover was also First Sergeant King, a highly decorated US military leader who, in 2005, when he had just been deployed to Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, started his 200-page diary to their then-unborn son Jordan. He taught his son, among other things, how to be a good person, how to treat women with respect and what the power of prayer is. Most of all, he lovingly described how proud he was to be Jordan’s father. Charles was killed in combat on October 14, 2006, just a month before his term of service ended. After his death, Dana wanted to do ‘something productive’ with her grief and wrote her book. None other than Denzel Washington was touched by her story and he adapted ‘A Journal for Jordan’ together with screenwriter Virgil Williams (‘Mudbound’, 2017) into a film in which romance predominates.

When we first meet Dana (Chanté Adams), she writes a letter to her son. Probably to give to her son along with Charles’ diary. But that is not immediately clear, because ‘A Journal for Jordan’ (2021) regularly plays with the times. Because then we meet a younger version of Dana, who has a successful career as a journalist at The New York Times and is very fond of her life in the big city. While visiting her family, she bumps into the handsome Charles (Michael B. Jordan), a first-class sergeant who learned the trade under the care of her father (Robert Wisdom). Although Dana doesn’t like the army much (partly due to an apparently difficult relationship with her father that unfortunately barely works out), she falls head over heels for Charles. He is therefore almost ‘too good to be true’: not only is he extremely attractive and does honorable work that he takes extremely seriously, he is also courteous, respectful and also grants her her own career. And when he’s not working or training, he’s painting (!). At first, the two circle around each other a bit; After all, Dana is the independent woman with a life of her own in the big city as he prepares for an eventual mission in Texas. But the appeal is too great to ignore. Fortunately, Adams and Jordan have a great chemistry between them, because the many scenes in which the two attract and repel each other have a repetitive nature.

When the two have finally decided on each other and Dana turns out to be pregnant, George W. Bush decides it’s time for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Charles is sent out. Their early happiness is nipped in the bud. Washington – who previously served as director for ‘Antwone Fisher’ (2002), ‘The Great Debaters’ (2007) and ‘Fences’ (2016) but is not playing a part himself in a film he directed for the first time – makes some curious choices. By focusing on the romance between Dana and Charles, rather than how their child must grow up without his father, A Journal for Jordan loses its persuasiveness. Also the hopping between the different time paths does not make the whole any stronger. Many matters are lightly touched upon but not worked out: the most shocking is this with Charles’s first wife, with whom he also had a child. Nota bene a half sister of Jordan whom we hardly hear about, let alone see her. Other choices are also remarkable: why is something like 9/11, with so much impact, cut off so abruptly? How does Dana deal with the sexism at work, in which two colleagues dismiss her work as a single mother’s tinkering and then run off with her story? And why has the relationship with her father cooled down so much? Another one: If she’s having so much trouble with the military, because of her father, and because of this new trauma around Charles, why does she seem to applaud the fact that her teenage son suddenly starts acting like a soldier?

So many questions unanswered. Is it Williams’ screenplay or is the source material just not that interesting? Of course it is nice that a father leaves something for his son and that mother has been able to write off her grief. But especially in the personal sphere. Not every diary is of as universal historical value as Anne Frank’s. Many other successfully filmed diaries are fictitious. ‘A Journal for Jordan’ was undoubtedly made with the best intentions, but the execution is messy and leaves the viewer with more questions than what he started with. The characters are the most interesting, although the stoic King is portrayed here very well and idealistic. It’s that lead actors Adams and Jordan have such a strong mutual attraction and that young Jalon Christian as adolescent Jordan King is so charming that we keep watching, but from Denzel we expect better.