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BETWEEN US

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Upon watching Rafael Palacio Ilingworth’s micro-drama Between Us I kept getting snippets here and there of John Cassavetes’ Faces played in a hipster key for today’s younger audience not used to close-ups and long, drawn-out sequences of banter. Indeed, there is a similarity borne perhaps from the need to tell urban stories of marital woes (and I’m not even going to reference Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, which yell at me or not, is also at the root of this cute little movie). A couple of thirty-somethings, Dianne (Olivia Thirlby) and Henry (Ben Feldman) are starting to go through the aches and pains of being together for six years and wonder why they’re still together. [Reader, if you’re in this situation, chances are, you shouldn’t be, but then you wouldn’t have a movie.] A simple visit to one of these overprices minimalist apartments provides ample room for all their fears to surface up like a wound that was once thought healed. Dianne wants it for practical reasons and plus, the market. Henry fears it’s too cold for his more eclectic style. Me, I just kept thinking what do both of you do to afford something that surely must cost a fortune? But I digress. It’s the jumping off platform to subsequent scenes that display how different they are, how much farther apart they are drifting, and how unwilling either one of is to confront the other. After a nasty fight both seek the company of others; Dianne drifts off to a tentative flirtation with a colleague and winds up with a performance artist (Adam Goldberg) and Henry strikes it up with a student (Analeigh Tipton, a dead ringer for Michelle Williams and probably the brightest note in this movie) who appears as a free spirit straight out of the swinging 60s. Ilingowrth’s Between Us is a bit too loose and casual despite strong performances. Even so, it does deliver the difficult premise of two people who can’t seem to be together but also don’t seem to know when it’s time to call it quits.

[On Amazon Instant Video and other VOD platforms.]

MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

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The ghost of Yazujiro Ozu fills the observing eye that is director Jin Mo-young’s, capturing the tiniest moment of quotidian domestic activities in this often humorous, but ultimately heartbreaking documentary My Love, Don’t Cross that River. Husband and wife Jo Byong-man and Kang Gye-yeul have been together since she was 14 and he was about 20. They have been through the worst of times together, struggled through poverty, raised six out of twelve children, (some who make brief appearances here for Kang’s birthday, an event that ends in tears, implying some prior, off-screen family dysfunction), and now live alone, in near peaceful solitude, going through simple activities like lovers who just met and are still entranced by each others presence. Watching them play through the snow, splash each other with river water, or exchange chrysanthemums as Jo sings to Kang is moving, indeed. One not need to know the language or even pause to read the subtitles; as a matter of fact, I found myself entranced by the sheer expression of love that these two, who have been together for 75 or 76 years (they can’t quite remember), could express to each other. So, imagine what happens as Jo’s health declines and they go through the loss of one dog (Kiddo, a poodle) and see another one, whom they call Freebie, give birth to seven puppies. It’s a slow, but resigned march to the inevitable, one that Kang knows well. While she says she accepts what has to eventually happen, one cannot be prepared for the sheer outpour of emotion that overwhelms the camera and lingers on — again, much in the style of Ozu — as she begins the process of mourning. This is one of the most devastating “little movies” I’ve seen in a long time. If you see it, have a box of Kleenex handy, and do tell your loved ones how much they are worth to you. If anything, this remarkable documentary is evidence of the power of love (as cliche as it may sound), but also, the frailty of life itself.