Flora and Son
About 75 minutes into Flora and Son, its script veers toward the self-reflexive. “What movie are you in?” Flora (Eve Hewson) snaps. “One without you in it,” her son, Max (Orén Kinlan), replies. This sort of exchange fits holistically into writer-director John Carney’s latest. It’s self-aware, sure, but it’s not meta. Like most of the film’s writing, it is entirely transparent in its machinations, going so far as to declare them at points. Supporting characters largely function as symbols rather than people. Continue Reading →
Love at First Sight
As an avid consumer of romance—be it in book, film, or television format—you learn to level expectations when a beloved story is adapted. That’s particularly the case amongst the recent spate of mid-to-low budget adaptations across the gamut of streaming services. Usually, the best-case scenario is they’re mildly enjoyable but ultimately forgettable. For example, there’s Prime Video’s recent adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue. More often than not, they’re absolutely dreadful. The less said about Netflix’s take on Austen’s Persuasion, the better. What is true, though, is that they’re very seldom genuinely good. Continue Reading →
Sitting in Bars with Cake
(Editor's note: A previous version of this review included the full name of the presumptive real-life inspiration for the film; upon a subsequent request to maintain their privacy, we have removed that sentence.) Continue Reading →
In a media landscape with fewer and fewer options actually targeted toward adults (often tied to the death of the mid-budget movie), audiences take the scraps they're given and make the best of them. This is the space that Jules occupies, a sci-fi fairy tale about the specific loneliness of senior citizens who feel isolated, ignored, and afraid. It’s also a thin, often ham-fisted take on a tale that could have had real legs in more capable hands. Continue Reading →
Defending Your Life
Welcome to the Criterion Corner, where we break down some of the month’s new releases from the Criterion Collection.
#1070: Secrets & Lies (1996), dir. Mike Leigh
Secrets & Lies - Criterion
One would be hard-pressed to find a more keenly-observed chronicler of everyday life than England's own Mike Leigh. While some of his films dabble in the historic and histrionic (Topsy-Turvy, Mr. Turner, Peterloo come to mind), it's in his modern-day profiles of the workaday Briton -- Life Is Sweet, Naked, Career Girls -- where his quiet, observational eye holds the most purchase. 1996's Secrets & Lies might well be the purest distillation of Leigh's kitchen-sink dramas; he touches on social issues of class and race, but only slightly, with none of the preachiness Ken Loach is occasionally guilty of. And in so doing, speaks volumes about those very issues while keeping its focus on its individual characters and how they navigate those spaces.
Secrets & Lies is about two worlds colliding: one belongs to Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste, masterful in her quiet calm), a successful middle-class optometrist who takes an interest in tracking down her biological mother after her adoptive one dies. The culprit, we learn, is Cynthia (a Cannes-winning performance from Brenda Blethyn), a brittle, middle-aged factory worker falling apart at the seams at her advancing years and her fractious relationships with her daughter and brother (a steady Timothy Spall). Hortense is Black; Cynthia is white -- dynamics that cause first confusion, then strife in these family dynamics, as Cynthia eventually brings Hortense into the explosive relationships around her. Continue Reading →