Andrew (Michael Kelly) and Claire (Jicky Schnee), a young couple, hope to start a new life by moving from the city to a dilapidated, old schoolhouse located on a farm in the countryside. Carol (Rhoda Pauley) owns the farm and takes care of her niece, Maria (Ana Asensio), a blind, mysterious woman who spends her time looking after her pet bird that’s perched in an outdoor cage. Meanwhile, Lucy (Morgan Taddeo), the young daughter of a local farmhand, seeks attention by befriending Andrew, Claire and Maria. Andrew and Claire drift farther apart from each other emotionally and the precise reasons for their deteriorating relationship aren’t revealed right away. Co-writer/directors Craig Macneill and Alexei Kaleina trust your intelligence because they opt to bringing out the characters’ dark secrets very gradually and not spoon-feeding information about them thereby creating a quietly tense atmosphere filled with small surprises. No one expresses his or her feelings explicitly; instead, their eyes and other body language provide the medium by which they primarily express themselves. The only one who doesn’t come across as laconic and emotionally detached is Lucy---she also provides the film’s only source of brief, much-needed comic relief. The performances are mediocre for the most part, though, but what truly stands out is the lush, often breath-taking scenery that becomes a character in itself. Even simple scenes like the wind blowing the leaves on trees or a storm arriving in the distance help to enrich the film’s tone and, at times, to reflect the innate feelings brewing in the characters. The same can be said about the use of poetic imagery, i.e. the bird trapped in a cage, and The Afterlight’s very relaxed pace that’s reminiscent of the kind of pace you often find in European cinema, i.e. Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light and Aleksandr Sokurov’s Father and Son. On the surface, you might think that not much actually happens, but if you’re a patient, perceptive viewer who appreciates attention to detail and use of symbolic imagery, you’ll notice a lot going on beneath the film’s deceptively simple surface and feel haunted by the powerful and haunting final shot which won’t be spoiled here. At a running time of 1 hour and 27 minutes, Afterlight is a quietly intense, engrossing and intelligent drama brimming with haunting imagery and poignant lyricism.
Ahead of Time
Bran Nue Dae
In 1969, Willie (Rocky McKenzie), a teenager, lives happily with his mother, Theresa (Ningali Lawford-Wolf), in the small fishing port of Broome, Australia. He’s in love with his good friend, Rosie (Jessica Mauboy), an aspiring singer, but he’s too shy to ask her out and, on top of that, he has to deal with a handsome young bandleader, Lester (Dan Sultan), who attempts to steal her heart away. His mother sends him 3,000 miles away to the town of Perth to attend a Catholic boarding school where the head priest, Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush), drives him up the wall with his strict rules. Willie yearns to return to Broome to be with his soul mate, Rosie, and beloved mother, so he boldly escapes from the school and sets out for a long journey back home while Father Benedictus, driving a Mercedes, tries to a hunt him down. Along the way, he meets and befriends a hobo (Ernie Dingo) who’s actually his estranged Uncle Tadpole. They both hitch a ride to Broome with two hippies, Annie (Missy Higgin) and Slippery (Tom Budge). Director/co-writer Rachel Perkins, together with her co-writers Jimmy Chi and Reg Cribb, blends comedy and drama with irresistibly entertaining musical numbers. Just when the plot starts to deviate from comedy, the characters start getting into a song-and-dance number---even inside the boarding school’s church. Sure, some of the comedy seems a bit silly at first, but it’s meant to be silly in an offbeat, campy sort of way that’s concurrently refreshing and uplifting. You’ll find yourself emotionally captivated by Willie’s spiritual and physical journey as he encounters a variety of lively, eccentric people who affect him in their own way. Each actor and actress gives a high-spirited performance, especially the talented Geoffrey Rush who easily sinks his teeth into the role of Father Benedictus. He and everyone else appears to be having a lot of fun onscreen and, given that fun is often contagious, so you’ll probably have a lot of fun as well by watching them. Many of the musical numbers not only feel invigorating, but will also tempt you to tap your toes and perhaps even snap your fingers to the tuneful beats. At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, Bran Nue Dae manages to be an invigorating, campy and high-spirited journey well worth taking. It’s one of the most delightful, heartfelt and crowd-pleasing musical comedies in years.
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Alex Lippi (Romain Duris) works for a company where he must break up couples by seducing the women, but, only when they’re truly unhappy and, as a general rule, he doesn’t actually go as far as sleeping with them. With the help of his sister, Melanie (Julie Ferrier), and her husband, Marc (François Damiens), the company’s co-owners, he has always succeeded with his assigned missions. A new client, Van Der Becq (Jacques Frantz), offers him a large sum of money if he’s able to separate his daughter, Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), from her fiancé, Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln), within ten days. Alex becomes her chauffeur to try to get to know her better, but his biggest challenge is that, for the first time, he must woo a woman who at least appears to be happily in love with her man. The lengths to which Alex goes to accomplish his goal won’t be spoiled here, but it’s worth mentioning that the comedy ranges from slapstick to just plain offbeat and whacky without veering toward downright silliness as long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief. Romain Duris has impeccable comedic timing and oodles of charm, so it’s pleasantly diverting to watch him sink his teeth into such a fun role—although he did get to show off his comedic chops in Molière and Russian Dolls as well. A great romantic comedy ought to be not only funny, but also grounded in reality at least to some extent, which can be said for Heartbreaker. Alex and Juliette have great chemistry together, and, even though the screenplay by Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner and Yoann Gromb does have its fair share of contrived, oversimplified and cheesy scenes especially toward the end, there’s never a dull moment to be found. Director Pascal Chaumeil maintains an appropriately brisk pace and includes many picturesque shots of the French Riviera, a.k.a. Côte d'Azur. The sold-out audience at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, where the film had its New York premiere, were frequently laughing out loud and cheering for Alex the whole time, so you can be rest assured that Heartbreaker is a crowd-pleaser. At a running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes, it’s a refreshing, pleasantly diverting romantic comedy that offers plenty of laughs, escapism and charm.
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