BARDO: FALSE CHRONICLES OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS (2022)

November 24, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Many filmmakers mine their own lives for projects, making their work personal, revealing, and sometimes invasive. It’s easy to label these works as narcissistic, and by definition, that would be accurate. However, some of the finest films from our most interesting writer-directors fall into the autobiographical (or semi-autobiographical) category. Examples include Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963), Cameron Crowe’s ALMOST FAMOUS, and Woody Allen’s STARDUST MEMORIES. This time it’s Oscar winner Alejandro Inarritu looking inward. Inarritu won his Oscars for THE REVENANT (2015), and his previous nominations include BIRDMAN (2014) and BABEL (2006), and those are in addition to his other standouts: BIUTIFUL (2010), 21 GRAMS (2003), and AMORES PERROS (2000). He’s joined on this project by his BIUTIFUL and BIRDMAN co-writer, Nicolas Giacobone.

The film begins with a Terrence Malick-like dream sequence of a man leaping and flying through the desert as his shadow follows below. Next, we see a woman giving birth in a hospital as her husband lends support. Only this time, the mother and doctor agree that the baby didn’t want to come out, so they put him “back in.” The father is Silverio (Daniel Gimenez Cacho, (BAD EDUCATION 2004, CRONOS 1993), and it’s quite obvious he is representing our real-life director, Mr. Inarritu. A few years later we are informed that Silverio, a respected journalist and documentarian, has become the first Mexican selected for a prestigious award in the United States.

Griselda Siciliani plays Lucia, Silverio’s wife, and she is integral to his life, yet we witness much of his life outside of their relationship. The film struck me as a metaphysical exercise as an artist turns his lens into selfie mode. It seems as though Inarritu is coming to grips … and sharing his philosophy with us … that emotions drive the reality of our truth. Stated another way, truth is an illusion of emotion. Our emotion skews how we view everything. Additionally, he examines (his own) midlife crisis, and the corresponding insecurities, dreams, fantasies, and doubts. And since much of this occurs in his native Mexico, spiritual and cultural aspects enter into what we see, as does the uncertainty of time as an element.

Inarritu and cinematographer Darius Khondji capture some startling imagery, including a sequence on the dance floor, a segment where bodies drop in the street, and a bag of Axolotls being held on the train. Much of the film has a surreal look and feel, but then there are moments that are more emotionally grounded – like the terrific rooftop exchange between Silverio and his friend Luis (Francisco Rubio). In contrast to that heartfelt conversation, there are the moments when Silverio seems to be heard by others without his speaking. “Move your mouth when you speak”, he is told … yet, his thoughts are conveyed.

The use of sound is masterful, and is crucial to numerous scenes. A second watch will allow me to more fully appreciate this aspect. However, at two hours and thirty-nine minutes, Inarritu likely had many thoughts and ideas, and we find ourselves wishing things were a bit tighter on the editing side. Still, while the film may be self-indulgent and ego-driven, it’s also spectacular and stunning filmmaking. There are some slyly comedic touches, and the best may when this Netflix production doesn’t shy away from taking a jab at its competitor, Amazon.

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SHE SAID (2022)

November 18, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Allow me to open with how I fully support the idea of telling (and re-telling) these stories and exposing those behind the many instances of intimidation and abuse that occurs in and around the workplace. Newspaper articles, magazine articles, TV shows, podcasts, books, and movies all find an audience and help educate and enlighten those who might become more attuned to the topic. So, even though most everyone knows the saga of movie mogul and chronic abuser Harvey Weinstein, there is a place for director Maria Schrader’s (I’M YOUR MAN, 2021) film … even as an imprisoned Weinstein continues to face additional charges in various states. Rebecca Lenkiewicz (IDA, 2013) adapted the screenplay from the 2019 book by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey; a book based on their New York Times investigation and series.

Carey Mulligan stars as Megan Twohey, and Zoe Kazan as Jodi Kantor. Twohey is the more veteran and hardline of the two, while Kantor is more sensitive and keyed into the feelings of the victims. We see Twohey working on a Trump story prior to the 2016 election, but Schrader’s film mostly revolves around these two hard-working and focused women researching the Weinstein story, while also making sure we understand the added pressures of being working and career-minded mothers of young children. Some scenes are even shot within the actual New York Times offices, and of course, we get the obligatory exterior building shots as well.

One of the biggest takeaways from this is the continuous challenges reporters face when trying to get sources to go on the record for a sensitive story. Added complexity here comes in the form of Non-Disclosure Agreements, settlements, and hush money. In fact, much of the screen time involves the reporters trying to talk to people who aren’t legally allowed to talk, and to verify just how many instances of “settlements” occurred involving Harvey Weinstein.

Supporting roles are covered by Patricia Clarkson as Rebecca Corbett, Andre Braugher as Dean Baquet, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Madden, Samantha Morton as Zelda Perkins (a terrific scene), and Ashley Judd, who plays herself – the one who kicked this into the headlines. We get the feeling the filmmakers hoped this would be a modern day ALL THE PRESIDENTS’ MEN (1976), though it has more in common with SPOTLIGHT (2015). Where this film struggles is that most of us know the story so there are no ‘aha’ moments, and the best parts are the interviews with those playing the victims … and there simply aren’t enough of those moments. Instead, we see a lot of reporters on the way to investigate, or preparing to report, or taking notes … but the real crux of the story eludes us and we are left wondering if this movie is strong enough given the real life impact of Twohey and Kantor. Kudos to Schrader for never showing Weinstein’s face, but instead focusing on the women.

Opens in theaters November 18, 2022

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THERE THERE (2022)

November 18, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s understandable why we ended up with so many Pandemic-based movies. Writers need to write. Actors need to perform. Filmmakers need to make movies. Even the trickery can be accepted given the unusual circumstances. With his latest, writer-director Andrew Bujalski, the father of Mumblecore, delivers an unusual ensemble piece – one where the actors share scenes, but not the set.

The opening sequence is easily the film’s best and most interesting. Lili Taylor and Lennie James awaken in the afterglow of their first hook-up. Things obviously went well … and plenty far … and now two grown-ups are trying to figure out the next step. He seems to be upbeat and optimistic about their spending more time together, while she sports her battle wounds by assuming things won’t work out … going so far to ‘joke’ about him murdering her. With very little effort, it’s obvious to see the two actors are not in the same room despite the cleverly edited shots blended to pretend otherwise. The interaction between the two characters says much about ‘no-longer-youngsters’ and their attitude towards new relationships.

It’s in the next scene where we begin to catch on to Bujalski’s approach. Lili Taylor meets up with her AA sponsor (Annie LaGanga) for some tough love and some awkward conversation. It happens this quickly … the film begins to veer off and leave us wondering about the characters we are meeting. Our fears are solidified in the next sequence when Ms. LaGanga confronts her son’s teacher (Molly Gordon) in what comes across as an inhumane manner. And Ms. Gordon’s reactions are equally unlikely. So through three vignettes, we have met four characters, and now we don’t much care for three of them. By the end of the film, we find ourselves not really liking anyone we’ve come across.

Jason Schwartzman plays sketchy attorney to an equally-sketchy tech guru played by Avi Nash, and Schwartzman’s character is later visited in the night by his mentor-ghost (Roy Nathanson). What we have is a series of interconnections that overlap and tie-in the lives of multiple characters. Between each segment, there is a musical interlude where we see Jon Natchez performing the music. It’s an odd, experimental, extremely talkative approach to COVID cinema that seems to play on our many insecurities and frustrations. It’s difficult to imagine too many finding this entertaining now that so many new features are being released, so it’s best to keep in mind that the actors, crew, and filmmakers all continued to work in spite of the many challenges.

Available in theaters and On Demand beginning November 18, 2022

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THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (2022)

November 3, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. IN BRUGES is a cinematic litmus test. It turns out, whether someone is a fan of that movie or not is a particularly dependable indicator of similar or disparate tastes in dark comedy material. For me, it’s a film I never tire of … whether re-watching in its entirety or catching just a few scenes while surfing. The plot is bleak, yet we laugh. The characters are sad, yet we are charmed. It’s the perfect blend of character, story, and setting … and proves how exceptional and precise screenwriting can be. So why am I writing so much about a movie from 2008? Well, that film’s writer-director, Martin McDonagh, is back, and he’s brought along that film’s co-stars, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

Now don’t think this is yet another in the endless stream of Hollywood sequels. It’s not. These are (much) different characters in a (much) different setting. What does remain the same is the onscreen magic when Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson collaborate with writer-director McDonagh. It’s how some singers are meant to sing one song (Sinatra belting “New York, New York”), or how some athletes are tied to a particular team (Sandy Koufax to the Dodgers). These three talented men are at their best when working together.

Padraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson) have been best buddies for most of their lives. Every day at 2:00, Padraic fetches Colm and they head to the pub. One could set their watch by this. That all changes one day when Colm refuses to answer the door when his pal knocks. Later that day, he informs Padraic that they are no longer friends, as he refuses to waste another moment drowning in inane conversation, and instead will focus on fiddle music and living his life to the fullest. Padraic is shook and confused … as are the bartender and the other folks in this quaint (fictional) seaside village in coastal Ireland. There is a certain symmetry with the civil war playing out on the mainland and this break in a friendship. A crack about not knowing why the sides are fighting in the war adds yet more symmetry as Padraic searches for meaning in the rift.

When Colm finally tells Padraic that he doesn’t like him anymore and he doesn’t want his old friend speaking a word to him, we initially understand and agree with his reasoning, even if it seems a bit harsh. Padraic is a bit of a bore – a man satisfied with his work as a milk farmer and spending off hours petting Jenny, his pet donkey, before blowing a couple more hours chatting at the pub, and ultimately retiring to the tiny cottage he shares with his erudite sister Siobhan (a superb Kerry Condon, “Better Call Saul”, “Ray Donovan”). Dull, dim, not a thinker … all descriptions of Padraic we hear, though his self-reflection finds a gentle, kind soul – mostly harmless and enjoying his daily life. Well, that is, right up until his best friend locks him out.

The interactions between Padraic and Colm are fascinating to watch. The two actors play off each other so well, we find ourselves hoping they will be together on screen without a break. It’s here where McDonagh’s script really shines. Ms. Condon as Siobhan and Barry Keoghan (DUNKIRK, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, 2017) as Dominic both play significant roles  (as does Jenny the miniature donkey). What initially seems like commentary on a shattered friendship between two men expands significantly thanks to these two characters. It reminds us that our network, regardless of how small, has an impact on others, even on a remote island in Ireland. The script and actors blend here to drive home the point.

Siobhan begins to question her own existence and how she might pursue her own dreams. Local boy Dominic is the son of an abusive policeman, and his troubles seem to run deeper than just being the town oddball. He likely has mental issues, yet occasionally shows flashes of hyper-awareness. He befriends Padraig after the split, and his unconventional personality never quite sits well with others. When Dominic’s own dream gets shot down, he doesn’t possess the capacity to handle it well. The story and the island sustain tragedies, both small and large, and to top it off, there is a creepy old woman in the village who has visions of death.

Once we have settled into the drum beat of the split between Padraig and Colm, McDonagh raises the stakes, bringing an unusual form of violence into the proceedings. This catches us and Padraig and the whole of the village off guard, and makes for a stunning visual and eye-opening shock. There is no way to go into further detail without spoilers that should not be conveyed. What you need to know is that this is expert filmmaking, superb screenwriting, and the best acting of Colin Farrell’s career … leading the way for other excellent performances. Facing one’s own mortality is never easy, and we can each relate to Colm’s search for meaning as he sees time slipping away. The film also treats us to the best ever confessional scene, and more frequent uses of the word “fecking” than we’ve ever experienced. The beauty of the island is shown, but never featured. Instead, McDonagh does what he does best – delivers memorable characters and dialogue and unforgettable surprises. He also makes us wonder if our laughter is socially acceptable, causing us to be thankful for the dark theater.

Opening wide in theaters on November 4, 2022

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CAUSEWAY (2022)

November 3, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. A soldier’s injuries come in too many types to describe, and we often see the emotional side is every bit as difficult to recover from as a physical injury. PTSD is frequently explored in films, and in Lila Neugebauer’s first feature film, it corresponds to a severe brain injury. Combining on the screenplay were co-writers Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders, and their ‘quiet’ approach works thanks to superb performances from Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry.

We first see a silent Lynsey (Ms. Lawrence) being taken into the care of Sharon (a terrific Jayne Houdyshell). Lynsey rarely speaks and her motor skills are corrupted. Sharon must help her with such mundane movements as picking up a glass of water, brushing her teeth, using the toilet, or even standing. The recovery from a brain injury is long and arduous and never guaranteed, but we flash forward to see Lynsey’s progress and ultimate return to her hometown of New Orleans where her further recovery will occur.

Her mother (Linda Emond) isn’t there to pick Lynsey up from the bus stop, and it’s our first indication of the long-ago disconnect between mother and daughter. Lynsey is determined to recover and be cleared for redeployment. The military was her initial escape from this life, so she’s banking on it happening again. Her goal is to have her neurologist (Stephen McKinley Henderson) sign the waiver, clearing her for active duty. To help her cause, she takes a job cleaning pools, and when her truck’s carburetor dies, Lynsey meets shop owner James (Brian Tyree Henry), and the two quickly establish a friendship.

Lynsey and James are both broken, lonely souls who share the pain that accompanies pasts highlighted by trauma. Neither is quick to discuss, but we soon enough learn about the roadside bombs that got Lynsey, and enough of James’ story to understand why he drinks and smokes and is understanding of her situation. Jennifer Lawrence has an emotional scene with her brother (Russell Harvard), and her scenes with Ms. Emond convey exactly what we need to know, but it’s her scenes with Brian Tyree Henry that showcase the highest standard of grounded acting … characters we believe exist. Although the script shortchanges the struggles involved with recovering from a brain injury, the two actors capture the essence of broken souls in need of this unlikely friendship.

Streaming on AppleTV+ beginning November 4, 2022

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THE GOOD NURSE (2022)

October 26, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. A film focusing on a single mom who works as a dedicated and caring and overworked ICU nurse, and who is diagnosed with a heart condition requiring a transplant, and who is trying to hang on to her job long enough to secure medical insurance, and who is a loving mom to her two young kids, would normally have enough drama and stress to carry the story. But that’s not nearly enough for filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, who has written three outstanding screenplays: THE HUNT (2012), A WAR (2017), and ANOTHER ROUND 2020). Here he’s directing a Krysty Wilson-Cairns (LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, 2021) adaptation of Charles Graeber’s book about the man who may very well be the most prolific serial killer in history.

Jessica Chastain plays nurse Amy Laughren, who is faced with numerous challenges both at work and at home. Despite needing a heart transplant, she keeps this secret from her employer so that she can work the last few months needed to gain health insurance through the New Jersey hospital where she works. Strained beyond reasonableness, she sees hope when a new nurse is hired. Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) discovers her secret and offers to help her – not just with her patient workload, but also with her parenting responsibilities. Charlie is a Godsend for Amy.

Too soon, doubts begin to show. One of Amy’s patients dies unexpectedly, and the hospital administrator (Kim Dickens) calls the police, in what is a defensive move to protect the hospital’s business rather than uncover the truth. The detectives played by Noah Emmerich and (former NFL star) Nnamdi Asomugha feel handcuffed in their investigation as the hospital blocks their efforts at every turn. Their suspicion focuses on Charlie and his strange work history of being dismissed by 9 previous hospitals.

The obvious evil here is a medical professional who kills patients, but the enabler of this evil is a hospital system that values reputation and finances over the morally correct decisions. Both are frightening and both are dangerous. Cullen killed at least 29 people, and is suspected of killing upwards of 400. Lindholm sticks to a drab palette to match the grim subject matter, and both Ms. Chastain and Mr. Redmayne take low key approaches to two characters … one heroic and one truly dangerous.

Streaming on Netflix beginning October 26, 2022

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TAR (2022)

October 21, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. I seriously doubt that I’ll ever skip a Cate Blanchett movie. She’s won two Oscars and has been nominated six times. She’s consistently the best part of her movies, and often the best in a full year of movies. Here she stars in the first film in 16 years from the remarkable writer-director Todd Field. His two previous films, LITTLE CHILDREN (2006) and IN THE BEDROOM (2001) combined for eight Oscar nominations, and more importantly, established Mr. Field as a rare and unique filmmaker of great depth. Having Field reappear and cast Blanchett generated a heap of excitement from this film nerd.

Ms. Blanchett stars as Lydia Tar, a piano virtuoso, the conductor of the famed Berlin Orchestra, and a true musical genius. She’s a rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) from the classical field. Her music (and her life) is a quest to uncover/discover what the composer meant with each piece. Lydia is sometimes rough on her wife Sharon (Nina Hoss), but frequently dotes on their young daughter … while otherwise living a relative selfish and self-centered life. We also see this true persona in how she treats her young assistant Francesca (Noemie Merlant), who quietly aspires to become a conductor, while efficiently keeping Lydia on track each day.

The film begins with “New Yorker” writer Adam Gopnik interviewing Lydia as a stage presentation in front of a live audience. It’s his introduction of the Maestra where we learn her background and the proficiency that has garnered her such respect (as well as jealousy and animosity). Throughout the film, many real musicians (past and present) are referenced, and that detailed research is alone enough to earn respect for what Mr. Field has accomplished here. The stress and laser-focus on Lydia as she prepares for the final symphony in her Mahler portfolio (his 5th). We witness the meticulous detail that goes into managing the music and musicians, and this leads to handling the dismissal of veteran who is slipping, and the addition of a brilliant young cellist named Olga (Sophie Kauer). We are never quite sure if Lydia’s attraction to Olga is limited to her skills with the bow.

Of course, any perfectionist at the top of their industry is subject to backlash and criticism. Is Lydia abusive? Is she exploitive? It seems the answers may be affirmative, and likely what drives her art. It’s quite discomforting to watch as she covers her tracks after the suicide of a former pupil, but I’ll admit to a certain feeling of satisfaction as she verbally spars with another student over gender semantics … actions that of course come back to bite her.

Ms. Blanchett is fascinating and mesmerizing to watch. She is at the top of her game playing a perfectionist who is at the top of her game. However, it’s clear this film isn’t likely to strike the right notes with mainstream audiences. It’s an arthouse film about art, and thus is filled with dialogue and much less actual music than you might expect for a film about a world class Orchestra conductor.

Opens in theaters on October 21, 2022

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MY POLICEMAN (2022)

October 21, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. This is one of those prestige movies that simply isn’t as important as it portends to be. That doesn’t mean it’s unwatchable, only that it lacks the emotional weight and depth to which it strives. Director Michael Grandage (GENIUS, 2016) is working from a script that Ron Nyswaner (PHILADELPHIA, 1993) adapted from the 2012 book by Bethan Roberts … itself inspired by the true story of writer EM Forster.

The film employs a familiar structure, alternating between the 1950s and 1990s, utilizing two sets of actors playing three main characters. Pop star Harry Styles and his handsome face and lush head of hair plays young police officer Tom, who one day at the beach is introduced to the lovely and educated Marion (Emma Corrin, Lady Di in “The Crown”). The two begin spending a good deal of time together with Tom being the perfect ‘gentleman’, even after an extended courtship. He introduces art-loving Marion to his friend Patrick (David Dawson, ALL THE OLD KNIVES, 2022), a museum curator who has many common interests with Marion … including that of Tom.

The decades-later episodes find Marion (Gina McKee, IN THE LOOP, 2009) inviting stroke victim Patrick (Rupert Everett) to convalesce at the seaside village home she shares with long-time husband Tom (Linus Roche, BATMAN BEGINS, 2005). What we learn is that Marion has done so out of guilt and Tom is not happy with her for doing so, and completely avoids his long-ago friend by taking an inordinate number of walks with his dog along the shoreline. If the two time periods aren’t enough for us to understand these relationships, older Marion begins reading Patrick’s diaries from those past years and learns the details of what she suspected all along. This cruel invasion of privacy goes far beyond the doubts her younger self had when she saw the portrait of Tom that Patrick drew, or the time Patrick hired Tom as an assistant on art excursion to Venice.

The film opens with Dean Martin crooning his classic, “Memories are Made of This”, and while it may be an obvious precursor to what we are to watch, it’s always a pleasure to hear Dean on a modern sound system. The three characters navigate (quite poorly actually) a messy taboo triangle of love, passion, and deceit, making for a mostly sad story from all angles. It may stress the 1950’s attitudes toward sexual preferences, but mostly it shows how the past is always present … always hovering, even over once-close friendships and loves.

The film opens in select theaters on October 21 and on Prime Video on November 4, 2022

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TILL (2022)

October 21, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Don’t look away. Whether referring to Mamie Till-Mobley telling family members to look at the disfigured boy in the casket, or to the general counsel to all citizens in this day of division, the sentiment is the same … see with your own eyes so that you understand the injustice. Writer-director Chinonye Chukwu (CLEMENCY, 2019) and her co-writers Michael Reilly and Keith Beauchamp allow us to see the tragic story of Emmett Till through the eyes of his mother, and it’s a powerful approach. It’s Mr. Beauchamp who has diligently researched this story for almost 25 years, and was the driving force behind the 2005 documentary, THE UNTOLD STORY OF EMMETT LOUIS TILL.

The film certainly benefits from the powerhouse performance of Danielle Deadwyler (THE HARDER THEY FALL, 2021) as Mamie Till-Mobley. Mamie’s love and concern for her 14-year-old son Emmett (a terrific Jalyn Hall) is only surpassed by her strength and dignity after his death … and all of this is masterfully portrayed by Ms. Deadwyler in her surefire Oscar contending role. We see just enough of young Emmett to realize he’s a well-raised, considerate, and fun-loving boy who sometimes stutters. He’s so excited for his trip from Chicago to Mississippi to meet some of his relatives, while seeing and doing new things. It’s 1955, and Mamie tries to caution Emmett on the differences between their world at home and the southern world he’s about to enter.

There are varying accounts of what Emmett actually did or didn’t do to Money, Mississippi store clerk Carolyn Bryant (played by Haley Bennett, SWALLOW, 2019), but the shock of seeing Emmett’s disfigured face and body is handled brilliantly here, and though the actual violence occurs off screen, the impact remains. Against all of her motherly protective instincts, Mamie seizes the power of the moment to have a photograph taken and demand an open casket so that the world can witness the result of the atrocity. Her ability to think clearly catapulted the case to national attention, and allowed Emmett Till to become a name and example that is still studied today.

The supporting cast includes Frankie Faison (Mamie’s father), Whoopi Goldberg (Mamie’s mother), Sean Patrick Thomas, Tosin Cole (as Medgar Evers), John Douglas Thompson, and Jayme Lawson. The trial of the men accused of beating and killing Emmett plays a part here, but the only real courtroom drama occurs when Mamie takes the stand. It’s in that moment when Ms. Deadwyler truly shines and allows us to feel a mother’s pain and disgust. Afterwards, we get a taste of her activism … something she continued until her death in 2003 at age 81. Filmmaker Chukwu benefits from the performance of Deadwyler and the years of research by Mr. Beauchamp, and she delivers a film that allows us to experience a dark moment in history from a different perspective – the eyes of a mother.

Opens in theaters on October 21, 2022

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RAYMOND & RAY (2022)

October 15, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Hey, you know that Dad we hated … the one that ruined our lives? Well, he died and I need you to come with me to the funeral. Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia (ALBERT NOBBS, 2011) starts his film in this manner by having Raymond knock on the door of his half-brother Ray’s cabin door in the middle of the night. They haven’t seen each other in five years, but their shared bond is an ill will towards the father who stirred such misery during their childhood that neither have made much of their time since.

Raymond (Ewan McGregor) is a persnickety type; a pent-up bundle of anxiety who has gone through a couple of divorces and is currently separated from his third wife. Ray (4-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke) is his opposite – the former addict (7 years sober) puts off the ultra-cool guy vibe with rumpled clothes, tousled hair, and non-stop flirtations. His talent with music was never encouraged by the father and has since been a source of frustration. In other words, these two grown men are messes due to the resentment they’ve carried for their father and his inexcusably poor parenting.

At first, we assume the two men are going to sit around reminiscing about their horrible memories of dear old dad. Instead, they hop in the car and head out of town to the funeral. It’s here where they begin to piece together the last years of their father’s life. Bedridden at the end, he had a room in a former (and younger) lover’s house. Lucia (an excellent Maribel Verdu, Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, 2001) welcomes the men with the surprise disclosure that her young son is their half-brother. At the viewing, they meet dad’s nurse Kiera (the always terrific Sophie Okonedo). No, she doesn’t have another half-brother for them, but she zeroes in on Ray and his approach to the proceedings.

More surprises await Ray and Raymond, not the least of which is that dad’s final wish was for them to dig his grave by hand. At the grave site, they are joined by dad’s flamboyant pastor (Vondie Curtis Hall), as well as others with a bond to the man in the pine box. Most of these people are unknown to Ray and Raymond, and they begin to realize the man they’ve held in contempt went on to live a full life. Veteran actor Tom Bower has limited screen time as the dad, and overall the cast is strong and deserving of a script that could take the topic and these characters much deeper. Hawke is especially good as the brother holding in so many emotions, while McGregor plays off of him quite well. While there is nothing here we haven’t seen before, we do wish the cast had more to work with.

The film will have a limited theatrical release on October 14, 2022 prior to screening on AppleTV+ beginning October 21, 2022

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