21 December 2018.
It seems this week is the official release of THE BOOKSHOP which I already reviewed a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it’s the only film I can recommend this week – the others are all missables, except for MARY POPPINS RETURNS which I hear is excellent, but I have not yet seen. Will report on it next week. Have a warm and loving Christmas, and hopefully a healthy and peaceful 2019. And keep seeing the GOOD films!
THE BOOKSHOP ***1/2
More English than this you can’t get: it’s late 1950s in a small seaside hamlet in England.
Florence, a young widow, wants to open up a bookshop in her cozy home on the bucolic high street. A jealous grande dame is opposing her at every turn. A mysterious, elderly widower takes a liking to the young, courageous book lover. And the townspeople love to gossip – curious biddies and the menfolk too.
There is a languid quality to the film that will bring down your stress level and let you float on the nostalgia of its narrative, told from the memories of the little girl who helps in the bookshop. Character actor Bill Nighy (“Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “The Boat that Rocked” and “Skylight” on stage, among his more than 146 roles) is once again immensely real and touching as the solitary widower, and his delicate, hesitant occasions with Florence are moments of grace. Emily Mortimer plays the mousy but determined Florence, while Patricia Clarkson, a favorite actress of the director, is the wonderfully haughty grande dame.
The Catalan director, Isabel Coixet, of such gentle, enigmatic films as “My Life Without Me”, “The Secret Life of Words” or “Elegy” (with Clarkson and Ben Kingsley) has again created a discrete world melding heart and mind. Like her other works, this one has won multiple prizes at various film festivals, including 3 Goyas (the Spanish Oscars) for Best Film, Direction and Screenplay.
ROMA ** (vo Spanish)
This latest film by Oscar-winning Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) has been receiving rave reviews since it won the top award at the Venice film festival. I really can’t see why it won the Golden Lion, or any reason for all the fawning. But then Cuaron is part of the esteemed Mexican Triumvirate of directors, which includes Alejandro Inarritu of “21 Grams”, “Babel” and “Biuitiful”, and Guillermo del Toro of “The Shape of Water”. They are all winners of Oscars and other prestigious prizes, adored by critics and international film festivals. So there is the awe factor.
This one is simply Cuaron’s stretched-out story of his childhood, mainly dedicated to the young maid who raised him, and obviously portraying the upstairs/downstairs mentality of the time and the country. Its bit of a dull family soap-opera and its navel-gazing had me yawning and checking my watch – bad sign…
No doubt its provenance and B&W cinematography have bewitched the critics. I would put forward that all its aspects have been done before, and better – as in the powerful 2007 “La Zona” about the have and have-nots in a rich enclave of Mexico City; the immensely touching 2015 Brazilian film “The Second Mother”; this year’s gentle gem of an Argentinean film about a recently-fired maid finding her inner self in “The Desert Bride”; or the B&W magnificence of the Polish film “Cold War”. These works told their stories with real thrills, magic and love, but did not have the fame of Cuaron as director… Critics tend to latch on to a favorite son, and laud everything he creates.
See it if you must – I was under-whelmed….
L’EMPEREUR de PARIS *1/2 (vo French)
If you’re into bloated history and period adventures, intrigues, constant violence and Vincent Cassel doing his usual tough guy antics as the redoubtable Eugene-Francois Vidocq at the beginning of the 19th century, this is your film. Very dark and quite forgettable.
Another superhero from DC Comics? With such wooden acting and dialogue, amateurish special effects and forced scenario, leave this one for the 10 year-olds. But then they’ll get all that violence…
Did Nicole Kidman really need the money? Jason Momoa as Aquaman is a gorgeous hunk – too bad he’s stuck in this film.
LE GENDRE DE MA VIE – (vo French)
I can’t bother to critique such inanities… The French can make some great comedies – this is not one of them.
Truly, save your time and money.
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.