When a French filmmaker travels to Belgium to film a German story in English, it's hardly surprising that the resulting movie feels somewhat awkward. Fortunately, the filmmaker in question is the detail-oriented Patrice Leconte (The Widow of Saint-Pierre), and he's working with a fine British cast that makes the most of even the stiffest dialogue. It may all feel rather superficial, but the plot is packed with surprising twists and some real emotion.
It's set in 1912 Germany, where young engineer Friedrich (Game of Thrones' Richard Madden) quickly impresses his sardonic boss Karl (Alan Rickman) at the steelworks, and is promoted to be his personal assistant. When Karl is bedridden with a heart problem, Friedrich moves from his squalid garret into Karl's elegant manor house, taking on extra responsibilities as a tutor for Karl's son. He also catches the eye of Karl's much younger wife Lotte (Rebecca Hall). Their attraction is clearly mutual, but both are naturally afraid to say anything about it. And when they finally do, it's just as Friedrich is about to head off to Mexico for a two-year assignment. So they vow to wait to act on their forbidden love until he gets back. Then the Great War breaks out, and their reunion is delayed, seemingly indefinitely.
Intriguingly, there's a sense that Karl invited Friedrich into his home as a replacement both at the factory and as Lotte's husband. This emerges mainly in subtext through Rickman's clever performance, which bristles with wit and emotional energy, effortlessly stealing the focus from the central romance. Madden is suitably likeable as Friedrich, although it's difficult to understand why he is so besotted with Lotte when he already has a devoted girlfriend (Shannon Tarbet) whose only flaw seems to be that she's a bit clingy. Meanwhile, Hall gives a terrific turn as a young woman whose stiff upper lift obscures a near-bursting passion, which she channels into haunting piano playing that echoes through the house, tormenting both Karl and Friedrich.
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In 1972 Glasgow, young John (Forrest) is a bright spark who certainly will never become a "Non-Educated Delinquent". He lives on a rough estate, and as he heads for secondary school he begins to be targeted by the bullying local gang members. But he keeps his head down, hides behind the fierce reputation of his big brother (Szula) and excels at his studies. Then two years later, John (now McCarron) falls in with a group of thugs who offer him acceptance and camaraderie. Of course his studies start suffering as a result.
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John (Crowe) is a university literature professor who is struggling to cope with the fact that his wife Lara (Banks) has been imprisoned for murder.
Convinced of her innocence, he launches three years of appeals, all of which fail. Now at the end of his tether, he begins to hatch an unthinkable plan to reunite her with him and their 6-year-old son (Simpkins). After consulting an expert (Neeson), the question remains whether a mild-mannered schoolteacher can stage a daring prison break. And two cops (Hinds and Beghe) are closing in on him.
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Oscar (Brown) is a young Westerner living in a one-room flat in Tokyo, where his life is a blur of drug-taking. He's utterly devoted to his sister Linda (de la Huerta), who's also in Tokyo working as an erotic dancer. While on a risky drug deal with his friend Alex (Roy), Oscar meets Victor (Alexander) at the seedy club Void. But they're caught in a police raid, and Oscar is shot, travelling out of his body into the night. Perhaps he can still watch over Linda from beyond the grave.
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Francois is stunned to discover that he has no friends, not one. At a bustling restaurant dinner with many of his colleagues, the topic comes up, and each one of them makes it clear in no uncertain terms that while they may work with him, they don't like him and never have. Even his business partner Catherine (Julie Gayet) feels that the only thing he really loves is a good deal on an antique. Nonsense, says Francois, I have lots of friends, don't I?
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Ozon's story recounts the ill-fated union of Marion (Valerie Bruni Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Freiss), a wife and husband who, at film's start, are shown quietly finalizing their divorce in a drab office, their faces pained but stoic reflections of their relief, misery and nervousness over the end of their matrimony. Clearly indebted - in spirit if not in specifics - to Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage (including Gilles' beard, a nod to Erland Josephson's), 5x2 (before heading back in time) subsequently moves from this depressing administrative locale to a furtive, desperate motel reunion between the newly single Marion and Gilles where attempts to rekindle the sexual fire ends in physical and emotional abuse. This powerhouse confrontation finds Bruni Tedeschi and Freiss, their forlorn eyes captured in close-up, expressing without words the callous selfishness, lack of communication, and physical and emotional detachment that doomed their relationship. And the scene ignites the film with a promise of eye-opening bombshells to come about the couple's dissolution via the ensuing backwards procession through a dinner party with Gilles' brother and his lover, Gilles' injurious cowardice during the birth of his son, their drunken wedding night, and their first encounter on a tropical beach.
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Handed his death sentence by his doctor, Romain chooses to let his cancer kill him rather than suffer through the indignities of debilitating treatment that even the doctor admits has only a five percent chance of working. But now what? Romain's first instinct is to push everyone away in order to protect them from the pain of watching him die. Always prickly with his family, who have struggled with his homosexuality, a family dinner he attends turns positively toxic when Romain insults his fragile mother (Marie Rivière) and father (Daniel Duval) and calls his sister (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) a bad mother. When his father drives him home, Romain asks him, "Do I frighten you?" Dad replies, "Yes, sometimes." Through all this, Romain has forgotten to tell them his big news.
Continue reading: Time to Leave Review
Father (François Marthouret), the doctor, and Mother (Évelyne Dandry), the nervous housewife, have raised two teens in their mansionette. Nicolas (Adrien de Van) is typically sullen and withdrawn, while Sophie (Marina de Van) is vivacious and enjoys a rollicking relationship with her boyfriend David (Stéphane Rideau). Both think the rat is cute. Mom, who hates the rat, hires a new spitfire of a housekeeper named Maria (Lucia Sanchez) and invites her and her African boyfriend Ebdu (Jules-Emmanuel Eyoum Deido) (whom Mom finds tres exotique in a slightly racist way) to a welcome dinner. It's at this dinner that Nicolas announces he's gay and storms upstairs. Ebdu volunteers to talk to the boy, but once he's in the bedroom, he takes sexual advantage.
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After a preliminary scene in bed where the girl, Alice (Natacha Regnier, unrecognizable from The Dreamlife of Angels), mouths off to the boy, Luc (Jeremie Renier), taking a photograph of his limp penis and threatening to mail it to his mother, they commit a violent crime. Without fully knowing their motive, our title characters meander into a high school shower and stab their jock classmate Said (Salim Kechiouche).
Continue reading: Criminal Lovers Review
Before pondering this, the question of whether or not a frivolous film is acceptable needs to be addressed. Mindless eye candy is redeemable when a) at least one character is fun to follow; b) some of the humor is fresh instead of feeling like a bunch of regurgitated stereotypes; c) not every single scene or line of dialogue is predictable, including the supposedly surprising conclusion.
Continue reading: 8 Women Review
Much of the tension in Ozon's best work remains unspoken, or deliberately unexplained. In that spirit, he concocts a delicious mystery in the extended opening sequence as middle aged professor Marie Drillon (Charlotte Rampling, superb as ever) enjoys an annual summer vacation to the south of France with her husband of 25 years, Jean (giant teddy bear Bruno Cremer). They seem a happy couple, comfortable in their silences as they go about the routines of putting their chateau in order, cooking meals, sunbathing on the beach. Jean goes for a swim one day, but to Marie's shock, he never comes back.
Continue reading: Under the Sand Review
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