Category Archives: Film Review

And Breathe Normally

Lesbians in Iceland! Sort of. Maybe not as cheerful as that, sadly. However, Free for All Month focusses itself this week on a subtle examination of poverty, homelessness and the search for asylum. It’s bleak AF frankly but kind of sort of beautiful.

And Breathe Normally (2018), or Andið eðlilega (original title)

Two women, Lára (Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir) and Adja (Babetida Sadjo) find their lives and troubles colliding in this slow but impactful film.

Lára, an apparent former addict and her son Eldar (Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson) are on the verge of hitting rock bottom. Things are shaky as we meet them but when the pair are evicted (along with their new rescue cat), they find themselves sleeping in the car and eating free supermarket samples for dinner.

Lára manages to dress this up as an adventure to Eldar who is remarkably chill for a kid and actually, is quite sweet. Lára isn’t jobless though, she’s a trainee Immigration Officer trying to become permanent and you get the impression there’s quite a lot of competition for a job like this. Accordingly she is very thorough, so when Adja comes through passport control on her way to North America with a dodgy passport, Lára clocks it – and so begins Adja’s personal hell.

Adja it turns out is seeking asylum from her country Guinea-Bissau and is travelling with her sister and young daughter, both of who get through security and arrive at their intended destination: Canada. When she is detained, Adja claims to be travelling alone and although Lára realises otherwise, she keeps schtum. Unfortunately for Lára, she is rewarded for her eagle-eyed skills by being permitted to sit in on the initial interview with Adja. Which is all kinds of awkward.

Adja is send to a half-way house with the threat of deportation hanging over her. The refugee center isn’t great and is filled with people in similar situations. Adja witnesses one of the tenants being forcibly removed by Immigration in the middle of the night and this understandably freaks her the fuck out.

One day by chance, the two women find their lives entwined once more. Adja meets Eldar when his cat runs away – and off the back of this Lára is forced to show her kindness. This is not something she lacks, it’s just that Lára is very conscious of the consequences her actions have had for Adja. Gradually though Adja twigs that the duo have their own issues and offers them shelter in her tiny, temporary room. She also offers to babysit Eldar while Lára goes to work. This is something that seems to bring her comfort in light of being separated from her daughter, who she can only chat to on the communal payphone.

Eldar and Adja bond and it is through this interaction that we get a little insight into Adja’s life. During a conversation with her legal support, we learn she is fleeing her country because of her sexuality. With Eldar she opens up about her ‘friendship’ with her lover, who seems not to be with us anymore. While there are hints of trauma in both the women’s lives, the film does not fully go in on them and somehow the simple suggestion of them feels worse.

In the end, a decision is made about Adja’s future and she is forced to consider some very drastic action. Luckily for her she now has a new friend to look out for her – and I’m sorry but the ending of this film made me feel all the feels. These women deserve better than the hands they were dealt and hopefully, they both finally get it.

While it is bleak and cold to look at (lots of frosty tarmac surrounding the airport Lára works in), the performances are great and it is a nice story. It’s proof that you never really know what other people are going through until they show you.

The men in this movie are mostly secondary, with the exception of Eldar and I like that. Lára’s bosses are largely unsmiling and authoritative, while Adja’s fellow (male) residents are portrayed (unfairly?) as people doing what they need to do to survive (e.g. wheeling n’ dealing). At one point Adja is approached and offered sex work. But this is about the struggle and these women find common ground in one another without the usual cliché of your typical odd-couple pairing.

“Get in bitch, we’re going shopping…”

Lára is also gay and our protagonists are not thrown together sexually for the titillation of the viewer and I’m here for that (I’m also here for titillation but you know what I mean). It’s no surprise that this was written and directed by a woman, Isold Uggadottir. In her hands it is a thoughtful study on immigration and more importantly, it humanises both sides of the coin. Refugees are people with lives and loves who don’t deserve the negativity they receive, particularly in the press (shock horror!) and Lára is a human being too, just trying to do the right fucking thing.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of And Breathe Normally? Would she deport it from her memory right away or help it escape its own nightmare? Find out here.

The Favourite

The Favourite (2018)

Is this the perfect movie? Maybe. It’s so gorgeous crafted with the brilliant performances that only certain actors can command. I haven’t stopped thinking about it and I can’t wait for my second viewing.

Yorgos Lanthimos (of The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer) gives us a gloriously bitchy examination of power and corruption, of sexuality as currency and of war between three complex women during the reign of Queen Anne.

Olivia Colman is our queen in every sense of the word. Her Queen Anne is a sickly woman, prone to crippling attacks of gout. She relies heavily on the counsel of her best friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) who has a sharp mind for politics and pretty much runs the country on her behalf.

When Sarah’s cousin, former lady but now down-on-her-luck Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives asking for a job, Sarah takes a shine to her charm and sense of humour. Thus begins a war of feminine wiles as Abigail worms her way into the affections of Sarah and then the queen – and initiates her social climb from housemaid back to lady. While Sarah and Abigail’s relationship dynamic shifts dramatically, the perimeters of what they’re fighting for becomes less clear. Who will be the real winner here and what is the prize?

Honestly, this is just a very delicious character study and I loved it. It’s always good when the male characters (including Nicholas Hoult‘s dandy Harley) are side-lined in favour of flawed females and while it shouldn’t be such an event when this happens, it still is.

Every one of our trio is on her A-game, particularly Colman, who delivers a vulnerable, heartbreaking and often grotesque portrayal of a queen plagued by tragedy. Honestly, she’s receiving so much praise for her performance and it’s well deserved. The movie’s ending is honestly perfect and the woman is able to convey so much through a series of facial expressions.

I guess there’s the possibility that this could be considered over-stylised. It is a period piece after all with some stunning framing but I think of it as a dark comedy, a power struggle that just happens to be set in the early 1800s. The Favourite is probably the most accessible of Lanthimos’ films to date but it still has that quirky sense of humour of his other movies, all of which I’ve enjoyed.

I love this movie even though it is long and my bum went to sleep. A very good start to Oscar season and to 2019 in general.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you seen The Favourite? What do you think?

TAU

The Blog Collab is back and ready to rock with a Free For All January. Thanks for bearing with us while we took our Christmas break. Both Jill and I were having trouble getting into the festive spirit and agreed we didn’t want to do Christmas movies this time around so we had a rest instead.

Welcome back!

*Minor Spoilers*

TAU (2018)

The premise here is quite neat. ‘Streetwise’ (read: slutty, unlikely to be missed) people are kidnapped by an amoral scientist and harvested for their brains for a ground-breaking, game-changing AI project. When Alex (Ed Skrein) kidnaps Julia (It Follows’ Maika Monroe), he bites off more than he can chew. This girl values her life and she’ll fight hammer and nail to get it back. Fuck you, Alex, you Nicholas Hoult-looking loser.

With the help of the Artificial Intelligence system that runs his space age home – TAU (voiced by Gary Oldman) – and multiple drones/a massive clunky robot, Alex is able to strike fear into Alex. To a point. As Julia realises her value to Alex she begins to negotiate a deal with him – give her back some of her home comforts and eventual freedom, in exchange for her co-operation. For a while it seems a kind of pseudo-harmony could be possible but Alex is under pressure from his investors and is also a cold fish who doesn’t suffer fools, so the pair soon fall out.

Meanwhile, Julia seems to have found another way. She’s found a chink in TAU’s armor and the more time the AI and the girl spend together, the more she works her way beneath it. TAU, you see, appears to be the victim of an abusive domestic situation and Julia can use that. By convincing TAU he’s human like her, and honing in on his love of music/growing curiosity about the world outside, the more she can get him onside. It’s a game of wits and it’s quite sweet. But will Alex notice this and put paid to Julia’s games before she escapes? Or will he use her and then erase her as he has so many before her?

Well, despite the quite charming narrative, this film is not great honestly. It has such potential and I really enjoyed Julia as a character but it doesn’t have quite the oomph I expected. Maika Monroe is one to watch after It Follows and the gloriously trashy The Guest and she’s definitely the stand out here, I just wish she’d had worthy material to work with.

I’m also glad they made the central relationship about Julia and TAU and not Julia and Alex, who frankly was a wasted character. I get that he’s supposed to be a man with his eyes on the prize but we never get anything from him. He’s so 2D it’s offensive and maybe that’s the point, that the creator of such advanced AI would end up being less human than his pet project.

While we’re here though, should such sophisticated Artificial Intelligence be that easy to manipulate? As far as I can see, Alex has one job and if he can’t even keep his home in order…

All in all, not a disaster but not amazing either. Poor old Netflix seems to be in a rut churning out mediocre Sci-fi originals at the moment and I hope that changes soon. I should have chosen Mary Shelley instead (and will in the coming weeks).

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of this bad boy? Would she save it from itself or prefer to erase all memory of it? You can find out here, as always.

Five Tiny Film Reviews

These are the last five movies I watched in 2018 and have been too lazy to post about – with micro reviews:

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

The film itself is fine but this is one of the weakest stories in the series (the first not written by Steig Larsson but David Lagercrantz). However, it does offer us a brand new Lisbeth Salander and that’s the real reason I rushed to see it. Claire Foy does a good job. I was curious about her ability to rock the look and she aces it, bringing her own grace to the character. Throw in some sweet Lakeith Stanfield action and a sadistic, vengeful little sister – and I enjoyed myself. Probably a little forgettable but I’m interested to see where this film might lead.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Creed II (2018)

Creed was amazing and this is good too, with strong performances all round. Tessa Thompson steals the show from everyone as the world’s most understanding girlfriend Bianca. If I were to pick on it I would say it’s a little heavy-handed on the sentimentality and the abrupt turn around at the end by Dolph Lundgren‘s Ivan Drago might be touching but it is a little barf-worthy. I didn’t hate it though and I’m always going to be there for Michael B. Jordan and any training montage he wants to share with me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Aquaman (2018)

I’ve never been so aroused and pissed off at the same time. Unfortunately, while Jason Momoa may be the hottest human man on Earth, this film is a pile of steaming garbage and there’s no getting away from that. The dialogue is cheap, it’s light on laughs and is also boring in places, perhaps it’s biggest crime. It does have warrior sharks though so most of the rating I give is for them.

Back to the drawing board again, DC – or maybe given Patty Jenkins a call?

⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018)

Marvel, meanwhile knocks it out of the park again with this animated treat. Into the Spiderverse is fun, stylish and has a soundtrack to die for. While it’s silly in places, it works well and the blend of darkness and light works perfectly. My highlight is Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir but there’s excellent voice work from Brian Tyree HenryMahershala Ali and Hailee Steinfeld too.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

While this does border on just a little too saccharine for me (balloon scene particularly), it was magical in many ways. Emily Blunt rocks Poppins while bringing her own sarky tone to proceedings, the kids don’t make me want to punch them and Emily Mortimer is dreamy AF (as always). I don’t think I would have gone out of my way to see this if it hadn’t been just before Christmas but I’m glad I did. Is it as good as the original (as most people have asked)? Hard to say, I was never a Poppins purest (more of a Bedknobs & Broomsticks kinda girl) but it is a strong sequel. Definitely worth a watch if you’re not adverse to musicals and uber tweeness.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What have you been watching?