Tag Archives: drama

IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD

IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD (JUSTE LA FIN DU MONDE)

Canada/France
Director: Xavier Dolan
Runtime: 98 minutes
Language: French

Mostlyindies’ grading: B+

Even though It’s Just the End of the World is based on the Jean-Luc LaGrace play of the same name, this could very well be yet another of director Xavier Dolan’s incursions into his own semi-autobiographical movies which deal with overbearing mothers and overall family dysfunction (and if you haven’t seen them you should; starting with his striking debut film I Killed My Mother and culminating in Mommy, he has amassed an impressive body of work based mainly on variations on a theme.

His seventh movie more or less delves into familiar Dolan territory: Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a famous writer, has returned home (pretentiously titled “Somewhere…”) to make an announcement. He hasn’t been home in 12 years, so when we see his family — punkish younger sister Suzanne (Lea Seydoux) arguing with her mother Martine (Nathalie Baye), while older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel, vicious) glowers on and his wife Catherine (Marion Cotillard, cast against type playing a soft spoken bumbler of a woman) anticipates in quiet timidity — we know that something already is not right. The second Louis walks through the door they shower him with affections and praise and the occasional family banter, but it’s a set-up for something darker that makes its way rather quickly.

We never know why, but it seems there is some unspoken tension in the room between Antoine and Louis. Antoine is fast to turn not just mean but downright vicious at the very presence of Louis in the house and take every chance he has to sour the moments of happiness Martine and Suzanne experience. During all this, Louis ponders on his announcement — the right time to make it — while he spends time with his family, mostly in conversations about the past as they inevitably rehash and occasionally reveal some resentment in his success and his return to the house. These conversations invariably turn sour and it’s clear that perhaps returning was perhaps not the best idea, especially where are unhealed wounds that no one will talk about.

Xavier Dolan uses his technique of filling the screen with his characters’ faces to achieve a sense of claustrophobia and it works; I often felt repelled by almost all of the characters — Louis included — at one point of the other. While Louis emerges by far as the most sympathetic, he has no strength, it seems, and does next to nothing to stand up for himself; instead choosing to suffer in pained silence as his family prattles on in staccato rhythms about this or that, occasionally lapsing into spurts of verbal violence that sends them off in different directions, as if too afraid to even sit down together. As a matter of fact, there is a palpable sense of something terrible and unspoken just lingering underneath everyone’s mind, but neither the playwright nor Dolan explore it, leaving the viewer somewhat up in the air with a sense of “well, it’s clear the brothers hate each other, but no one knows why”.

Perhaps Antoine envies the life that Louis has been able to lead. He is the most antagonistic of them all, Martine being basically the mother in Mommy, redux, and Catherine the stuttering teacher in the same film. [The only one who seems to be her own creation is Suzanne.] Antoine, however, is an enigma — is he homophobic, or simply a man full of self-hatred and contempt that perhaps the younger brother made it while he marinated in a low-paying job making tools? We’ll never know; Dolan does not give us answers. In a way, this is closer to Woody Allen’s Interiors, in which that family was also on verge of destruction because of some inner fracture that has divided them all.

What is true is Dolan continues to deliver on his films (despite other critics’ negative reviews). The man knows how to tell a character study of people caught in a hell called home, unable to leave, as the people in Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel.

It’s Just the End of the World is available on Netflix.

FLOWERS (LOREAK)

 

FLOWERS
Spain
Director: Jon Garano and Jose Mari Goenaga
Runtime: 97 minutes
Language: Basque

Mostlyindies Grading:

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Criminally under-screened when it made its way to US Cinemas in the fall of 2015, Flowers for Ane as it is also known is a quiet mood piece that has parts of a simmering mystery whose arms have a greater arc — namely, that of the one that relates disparate characters to one another via the disguise of a bouquet of gorgeous flowers.

Ane (Nagore Aranburu), a woman in her forties it seems, has been diagnosed with menopause. It doesn’t help that she’s already trapped in a dead marriage, but one day she opens the door of her house to an eccentric gift: a bouquet of flowers, from a stranger. No return address, nothing to attach it to. The flowers become a regular appearance — one bouquet a week — and it’s a cause of embarrassment for her, and places more strain on her marriage. She has her suspicions of who may be sending them, and an accident a coworker suffers, in which a pendant of Ane is found in his car, seals her suspicions.

From then on she pays tribute to her dead coworker, not knowing his wife Lourdes (Itziar Ituno), a tollbooth employee, has seen her leave bouquets of flowers at his memorial. Lourdes has been in a love-hate (or, let’s put it frankly, a hate-hate relationship) with her now dead husband’s mother Tere (Itziar Aitzpuru). Think the comically strained relationship between Debra Barone and Marie Barone, remove the comedy, amp up the passive aggressiveness, and you get the picture. These two women can’t stand each other. How Loreak manages to balance this trio of women who eventually reach a sort of inner peace within themselves — of sorts — is a trick that both directors are keen to pull off; however, the story’s deep symbolism, of people connected by acts of random kindness and the ubiquitous flowers, might be a little too outre to bear, even at a lean 95 minutes. And the final piece of the mystery — that of the sender, and his motives — might reveal there’s more to the story than we’re being told. Even so, Loreak is a solid melodrama about human compassion.

Flowers is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

 

L’ATTESA (THE WAIT)

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

attesa1

There is an undercurrent of similarities between Anne, the grieving mother in Piero Messina’s debut feature film L’Attesa (The Wait) and the grieving mother and widow she played a little under a quarter of a century ago in Krzystof Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue). Both women start off losing a loved one, but where Julie retreats into her inner world and virtually disappears into the streets of Paris only to find herself through her dead husband’s last musical composition for the Unification of Europe, Anne remains a mystery only unto herself and the loss that pains her. I’m perfectly okay with that–I tend to gravitate to stories where characters move within their own little psychodramas that may or not have a perfect resolution. However, L’Attesa suffers from too much pretension and too little substance and fails to bring any closure on any level, and that to me is a problem.

We know from the start that Anne has lost her son Giuseppe. We don’t know how, but that it seems, doesn’t matter. We next see his girlfriend Jeanne (Lou de Laage, previously seen on this side of the pond in the excellent movie Breathe [Respire], which debuted here at the 2015 Rendezvous with French Cinema) arriving for a visit. It seems Giuseppe had invited Jeanne to visit him at his mother’s house before the events that start the movie. When she arrives, she’s greeted with a silence that is frankly, unsettling — almost Gothic. It doesn’t help that the house is darker than the mansion in The Others save for some dim blue lights coming from the stained glass windows. It also doesn’t help that the hostess (Anne) is so out of sorts it’s a wonder she can even speak. That no one in the house informs Jeanne what has transpired is an oddity in itself, and makes me wonder, am I in the middle of a thriller? Is something else amiss that I’m going to eventually find out? Is Giuseppe a male version of Rochester’s wife, in Jane Eyre, locked in a dungeon or an attic and perhaps Anne is deranged? And if she is, what mess has Jeanne gotten herself into?

attesa

No. L’Attesa plays its cards firmly against its chest and reveals rien. We are left with two women continuously circling each other, attempting to make conversation, observing, yet never totally giving in. Why Anne makes the choice she makes is beyond any comprehension unless there’s that “verbalizing would eventually make something unthinkable real”, but even then — it just strains credibility and turns a story that had enormous potential into images in chiaroscuro that really don’t amount to much. L’Attesa only saves itself from being a terrible mess by the performances of Juliette Binoche and Lou de Laage who foil each other perfectly. Other than that, it’s an okay debut for Piero Messina (who has worked as assistant director for Paolo Sorrentino and it shows), but not much else.