Early Man marks Aardman Animation legend Nick Park’s first foray feature film since 2005’s Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The film is the story of a Dug (Eddie Redmayne) a member of a primitive tribe who after their homeland is threatened by Lord Nooth (a scene-stealing Tom Hiddleston), must band his tribe with the help of Goona (Maisie Williams), to win a soccer match for their homeland to remain safe.
While the stop-motion is beautiful, and the film boasts great vocal talent and some fun set pieces, the film isn’t quite as accessible for adults as Nick Park’s other outings like Chicken Run and the Wallace & Gromit series. It has a simplistic story and its jokes are often somewhat obvious and basic. Nevertheless, it’s still a very inoffensive film, that will entertain kids (especially those who are soccer fans). You can certainly do worse when it comes to kids films.
French filmmaker Francois Ozon follows up his brilliant Frantz with the ambitious but ridiculous and often grating psycho-sexual thriller Double Lover. Marine Vacht plays Chloe, a woman who falls in love with her psychologist Paul (Jeremie Renier). They decide to stop their professional relationship to ethically allow them to start a romantic one. All seems fine for a while, but when Chloe starts repeatedly seeing a man who looks like Paul, she starts thinking whether he is hiding something from her.
Vacht and Renier are both terrific, turning in bold and weighty performances, however, aside from some striking imagery and a solid first act, the film gets ridiculous to the point where the film begins to feel more like schlock than a legitimately thought-provoking film. The film is also unnecessarily nasty at times, with many scenes feeling like they are merely there for shock value. While it hits some of its ambitions I find it hard to recommend this film.
Sometimes the hardest watches are the one’s that stick with you the most, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s much-awaited followup to 2014’s Leviathan is a cold and exhausting watch, which is exactly what the Russian auteur wants you to feel. The story revolves around two parents (Maryana Spivak and Aleksey Rozin) going through a bitter divorce while spending as much time as they can with their new partners. Unfortunately, this results in the neglect of care for their son Alexey (Matvey Novikov, who breaks your heart whenever he’s on screen), who disappears after hearing that neither of his parents want to take care of him. Of course, his parents are distraught but also try to resume their current relationships as normally as they can.
The film is a slow-burner with the audience being forced to go through each painstaking step in the process of finding the son. Zvyagintsev is clearly a director in total control of his form, as we feel every bit of the exhaustion of the two thoroughly flawed main character are going through. However, it is entirely riveting, seeing these two parents who want their son back but can barely stand being around each other creates an uneasy tension throughout the film. The film definitely isn’t for everyone, as its pace is more akin to a Bela Tarr film than the normal procedural mystery thriller, but for those with the patience and the will to be put through the exhaustion and heartbreak Zvyagintsev wants you to feel, this a film I can not recommend enough.
None of us ever really believed notorious over-worker Steven Soderbergh when he announced his retirement from filmmaking earlier this decade. In the past year alone, Soderbergh released the hilarious heist-comedy Logan Lucky, released an interactive multimedia project Mosaic and has already shot another film with Moonlight’s Andre Holland, which will be his second foray into “iPhone” filmmaking. His first Unsane is a psychological thriller starring The Crown’s Claire Foy, as a Sawyer, a victim of stalking, who is seemingly randomly put into a mental institution after one session with a counsellor. She is adamant to the staff she is not meant to be there but due to her surprising herself with erratic behaviour, seeing a staff member who resembles her stalker and the entire staff simply not listening to her, she begins to question her own sanity.
A large part of the marketing has been directed about the film being shot on an iPhone and this aesthetic choice truly works, the film’s ragged digital look perfectly captures the slightly neurotic tension Soderbergh pulls off. The film is thoroughly intriguing and entertaining to watch throughout, though it doesn’t quite stick its landing, in a muddled and disappointingly cliché-ridden finale.
However, the film is an incredibly well made, unsettling and timely film, which shows how you can effectively make a film on any camera if you know how to implement it correctly.