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Reviews for February 27th, 2015

Documentary Round-Up

      The Widowmaker tackles the issue of heart disease in America, and raises awareness of coronary calcium scans while tracing the history of heart stents. More Americans die from heart attacks than from cancer each year, so it's clearly a serious problem that demands attention and further exploration. Fortunately, director Patrick Forbes knows how to inform you through well-balanced interviews and to engage you emotionally through human interest stories. He hooks you in by opening the doc with a terrifying, frantic 911 call from someone who's loved one is having experiencing a heart attack. Throughout the doc, you'll learn about how the heart stent was invented, and how it helps to treat weak blood vessels. When it comes to the coronary calcium scans, a procedure that detects early signs of heart disease, that's where the doc becomes even more fascinating because Forbes includes interviews with some doctors who are for it and some who are against it. Those who are for it have a sound argument for why many other doctors opposite it: coronary calcium scans aren't profitable enough compared to stents. The Widowmaker is ultimately eye-opening, vital and refreshingly well-balanced. By the time Forbes bookends the film with another frantic 911 call, it will already have changed the way you look at heart attacks forever. Oxford Films opens The Widowmaker at the Quad Cinema. The doc My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn follows director Nicholas Winding Refn during the production phase of Only God Forgives. Some of it is insightful and amusing or both, i.e. when Refn compares violent action scenes to sex, but mostly director Liv Corfixen, Refn's wife, shows the day-to-day struggles of her filmmaker husband with missed opportunities to gather more revealing insights about him. Perhaps the doc could have used more distance from its subject because there are too many moments that, while intimate, make you feel like you're watching someone's home videos. Everyone has a different life behind the curtain than they do in front of the curtain, so at least you get to see what Refn is like as a human being behind that curtain as he interacts with his kids and wife. It's hard to deny that Refn is a brilliant, talented filmmaker, though, and that fact still remains by the time the film ends after an hour. Corfixen doesn't ask enough provocative, profound questions, so you're ultimately left with a peak behind the curtain that has more potatoes than meat. Radius-TWC opens My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Eastern Boys

Directed by Robin Campillo

      Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) meets a Ukranian hustler, Marek (Kirill Emelyanov), at Gare du Nord in Paris and pays him to come to his apartment for sex. That doesn't quite go as planned because, instead, a gang of hustlers and their leader, Boss (Daniil Vorobyev), show up at Daniel's apartment and ransack it. Marek and Daniel eventually do have sex-for-pay, and Marek comes back repeatedly to service him. However, their sexual bond gradually blossoms into much deeper and serious relationship.

      Writer/director Robin Campillo has created an engrossing story filled with surprises, warmth and tenderness. What begins as a dramatic thriller turns into an emotionally-charged, beautiful and complex romance between two human beings from different cultures, generations and well as social classes. The dynamics of how their relationship evolves not only hold your interest, but also feel believable. Campillo is in no hurry to rush from plot point A to plot point B. He makes the most out of the quiet moments and moves the film at a slow enough pace so that it breathes thereby allowing you the get absorbed and emotionally invested by what you're watching. There's even a slight amount of suspense as you wonder how exactly Daniel and Marek's relationship will end up because a lot of complex emotions are at play between the two of them. The fact that none of the scenes veer into melodramatic or contrived territory is a testament to the sensitive, organic screenplay.

      The film's emotional tenderness not only comes from its screenplay, but also from the very natural performances by Olivier Rabourdin and Kirill Emelyanov. They have chemistry together and know how to find the truth or essence of their characters without over-acting. Most importantly, they're both brave and talent enough to be emotionally naked in front of the camera. One can only wonder how challenging it might have been to shake off their roles emotionally. Either way, though, by the time the end credits roll, you'll feel deeply moved and haunted, especially when it comes to the final scene that's quietly powerful.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by First Run Features.
Opens at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
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