5 January 2018.
DARKEST HOUR (Les Heures Sombres) ****
Churchill, Dunkirk, Gary Oldman…quite a combination, and it all comes out brilliantly, thanks to tight direction from Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice”, “Atonement”), and of course a historical event that surpasses any fiction.
Oldman is unrecognisable as he becomes Churchill at one of the most difficult junctures in his political career.
His position as Prime Minister is precarious, with opponents poised to take over if and when he falters, and the terrible crisis of Dunkirk (May/June 1940) is looming (it helps if you have seen the recent film by Christopher Nolan), with hundreds of thousands of Allied men trapped on the beaches there.
The film is a detailed account of the moments ticking away up to Churchill’s decision for salvaging the situation, his crafty leadership and the strong sense of unity in the English character. It is superb, and Oldman may walk away with an Oscar for this role.
THE LEISURE SEEKER (L’Échappée Belle) ***1/2
This road movie, about an old couple driving off in their trusty camper ‘The Leisure Seeker’ towards Key West to visit Hemingway’s home, is a delicate homage to strong, loving relationships.
Its brushstrokes of feelings, amusing moods, moments of both love and exasperation are beautifully rendered by Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, who portray the errant couple. Errant, for they are supposed to be going into some medical facility – she for her cancer, and he for his evolving Alzheimer’s.
But like two kids, they decide to escape and live their waning moments together as they fulfil a lifelong dream. For he is a retired literature professor who has always revered Hemingway and Joyce, and still spouts their works in his lucid moments, and she has a plan in mind for the end of their journey.
The look on Mirren’s face when she tells her husband “I love having you back” when he momentarily recovers his memory is incredibly moving. Sutherland’s swings from absence to clarity are beyond brilliant – he deserves an Oscar nomination for this performance.
THE DESERT BRIDE (La Novia del Desierto) **** (vo Spanish)
The great Chilean actress Paulina Garcia, who portrayed the desperately lonely woman in “Gloria”, is back in a completely different role here.
She plays a shy, simple maid who is moving from Buenos Aires to a new job in faraway San Juan. On her way there, she gets side-tracked by a bit of shopping and a rain storm, and ends up losing her bag. In her quest to find it, she gets involved with a sly charmer named El Gringo (Claudio Rissi). Their innocent story is the golden thread that makes this different road movie a touching tale of love and self-discovery. It’s a moment of grace and goodness, thanks to the two Argentinean directors, Cecilia Tan and Valeria Pivato, in their first feature film, which was shown in Cannes 2017. You will come out of it illuminated…
MOLLY’S GAME (Le Grand Jeu) **1/2
More Hollywood than this, you can’t get – it’s slick, brash and empty, even though it’s based on a true story, with a vigorous performance by the striking Jessica Chastain.
She plays Molly Bloom, a fiercely competitive girl who goes from an Olympic skiing career to becoming the head of an exclusive gambling ring on the West Coast and getting into big-time trouble with the law.
It looks and sounds exciting, but the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin (award-winning writer for “The West Wing”, “A Few Good Men”, “The Social Network”) feels somewhat hollow, more style than content. Kevin Costner and Idris Elba try hard, but it’s all Chastain’s show.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.