This thriller wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, which is a good lesson to all those people who read critics’ reviews before deciding whether they will go and see a film.
I’d noticed that most newspapers were giving this a far from glowing review and had decided to give it a miss myself. However, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode on Radio 5 convinced me otherwise. They didn’t mind the film; in fact Mayo quite like it. I was also inspired to watch it when I heard Nicole Kidman’s candid interview with Mayo, in which she was both gracious and honest about her bad movie choices, notably the disastrous Grace of Monaco. She didn’t wriggle out of the discussion nor make excuses. In fact, she stood by her decision to continue to make films that tested her and accepted that sometimes those choices won’t always be the right ones. Good for her, I thought.
Having read all four of Jussi Adler-Olson’s Department Q novels, I was keen to see how the first one, Mercy, would translate to the big screen. Renamed The Keeper of Lost Causes, the film follows the book very closely and successfully manages to negotiate the tricky path of having to deal with two parallel narratives interspersed with lots of flashback.
The opening scene is moody and tense. It drops the audience right in the middle of a story, and we’re not sure why we’re there. The scene ends abruptly with gunfire and before we’ve had time to work out what it’s all about, we’re transported to police headquarters to meet our main characters.
It’s not often that a film comes along that blows you away. I thought I was going to see an over-long film, a meandering story about a small boy growing up, but I wasn’t prepared for this extraordinary piece of film-making. It brings out so many emotions in you as you watch it. And the biggest emotion of all is love. You really begin to love these characters, despite their flaws, and you want to stay with them. At least I did.
This is an absorbing yet ultimately disappointing film set in a picturesque 1960s southern Europe. It tells the story of a rich American couple, Chester and Colette MacFarland, who are on a grand tour of Europe. In Athens, they meet a young American tour guide, Rydal Keener (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis), who agrees to take them on a tour of the market the following day. Chester (played by an outstanding Viggo Mortensen, Lord of the Rings) is quick to mistrust Rydal, even though we learn that he has earned his own wealth by deceptive means. His wife (Kirsten Dunst, Spiderman) seems sweet and innocently unaware of her husband’s business, but as time passes we learn that she is not as naïve as she first leads us to believe.
Within hours, the trio are tied up in a crime of murder and deception, which they cannot escape, and the tensions and suspicions soon start to unfold. We, the viewer, cannot be sure at first where this is going to take us. There appears to be an undercurrent of sexual attraction between the two men or is it a father/son-like attraction? Colette is drawn to Rydal and he to her, but we’re not certain that this is true for either or both of them.
Le Passé (The Past)
Dir: Asghar Farhadi, French/Iranian, 2013
This is an emotional drama with a strong cast of characters, which unravels slowly in twists and turns to keep you wondering who you should sympathise with and who you can trust.
The first shot is of Marie who has come to collect Ahmad, her estranged husband of four years, at the airport. They first see each other through a glass panel and try to communicate. However, neither can hear the other and perhaps this is what the director is touching on as his theme for the film: how we spend our lives not properly listening to or understanding each other.
Ahmad has come to Paris from Tehran, to sign divorce papers so that Marie, who is pregnant, can marry her new partner. Marie insists that Ahmad stays at the family house, in order to spend time with Marie’s daughters from a previous relationship and with whom he was once obviously very close. Ahmad learns that Marie and her eldest daughter Lucie are not getting along. Ahmad tries to bring mother and daughter back together, to reconnect, and soon discovers a secret, which Lucie has been keeping to herself, and which is causing her a lot of heartache.
Into this mix comes Marie’s new partner, Samir, who has a young son and whose wife is in a coma, having tried to commit suicide. Again more secrets are slowly revealed along the way until, at the end, although all is resolved, the viewer is left with so many questions to work back through. I had to sit in the cinema for five minutes afterwards to try and piece it all together. My friends and I continued to discuss it all the way home as it certainly raised many questions for each of us.
I loved this film and found it totally engrossing. It was refreshing to see a film, set in a Parisian working- class environment and the domestic scenes were incredibly natural and real for me. The performances by the children are outstanding in this film, especially Samir’s young son, who brought tears to my eyes in several scenes. As for the adult actors, you’ll recognise Bérénice Bejo from The Artist and Tahar Rahim from A Prophet. All of the adult performances were brilliant.
Verdict: a must-see if you like strong character films that don’t race along but move at a measured pace. It’s totally absorbing and is a good film to watch with a group of friends as it leaves you asking lots of questions afterwards, which you’ll want to talk through with somebody over a glass of wine.
Top tip: Watch the end carefully or else, like me, you might miss it and will need to find a clip on YouTube to replay it.