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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ONODA: 10,000 NIGHTS IN THE JUNGLE (2022)

October 15, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. There has been no shortage of conspiracy theories, either recently or historically, that have left non-believers bewildered at how ‘the other side’ held firm. Writer-director Arthur Harari and his co-writers Bernard Cendron and Vincent Poymiro bring the remarkable struggle of Hiroo Onoda to the screen. Onoda was a Japanese soldier who refused to believe WWII ended, and instead, continued his mission of resistance by spending thirty years in a Filipino jungle.

Onoda was only 22 when he entered the war in 1944. He is played as a young man by Yuya Endo, and in later years by Kanji Tsuda. The film goes mostly in chronological order, with only occasional flashbacks to Onoda’s “special training” by Taniguchi (Issey Ogata), his trainer and trainer. The passing of years is noted on screen, and we watch as Onoda’s squadron shrinks in size, holding at four for quite a while, before shifting to two, and finally only he remains. During the special training, Taniguchi declares, “You don’t have the right to die”, instilling a firm commitment to the cause in Onoda.

Also seared into Onoda’s brain is the proclamation of, “We’ll come back for you. No matter how long it takes, we’ll come back for you.” Still, it’s fascinating to see his determination to keep fighting, despite so many signs that the war was over. He viewed magazine articles and radio broadcasts as tricks to draw him away from his mission … going so far to decipher a coded message that was anything but that.

The young man who finally succeeds in lulling Onoda out of the jungle has his own mission – actually three of them: finding a panda, locating Onoda (by this time a legend), and tracking down a Yeti. It’s a bittersweet moment for the long-dedicated soldier, and he went on to live many more years as a home country icon – considered a nationalist man of honor by some, a murdering fool by others. The film, and Onoda’s saga, makes us question the point of war when it’s impossible to tell if the war is over or ongoing. Harari’s film is almost three hours, which is entirely too long … but significantly shorter than the time Onoda spent in the jungle.

Releasing in theaters on October 14, 2022

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THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING (2022)

September 25, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Most of us are quick to judge others. Often too quick. This superb (and bleak) feature film debut from writer-director Gaysorn Thavat reminds us that our initial judgments might just be an easy “out” for us so that we may go on about our way, oblivious to the struggles of others. There is observational commentary here on what it means for a parent to love their kids so deeply, for someone to believe in themselves whole-heartedly, and for the pain an institution can cause under the guise of doing the right thing.

Essie Davis (THE BABADOOK, 2014) delivers a ferocious and authentic performance as Bunny, who is much stronger than we might originally think. Is she more determined or desperate? We aren’t sure. She’s also very clever at times, though sometimes unable to control her emotions. Bunny’s focus is on securing housing so that Social Services will permit her kids to live with her. Currently, she’s only allowed supervised visits, and we see loves them intensely. Shannon (Amelia Baynes) is a disabled 5-year-old who loves her back, while Reuben (Angus Stevens) is an angry and frustrated 14-year old who just wants a ‘normal’ life that doesn’t involve foster homes.

Bunny is perpetual motion. She describes herself as self-employed, spending days as a “Squeegee Bandit” cleaning windshields at stoplights for loose change. She’s saving that change in a soda bottle that she keeps in the linen closet of her sister’s house. It’s here where she cleans house, cooks dinner, does laundry, and watches kids all for the benefit of getting to sleep on the couch. Her sister Grace (Toni Potter) is a late shift nurse whose husband Bevan (Errol Shand) is a d-bag in so many ways. In fact, Bevan is at the center of an incident with Bunny’s niece Tonyah (Thomasin McKenzie, JOJO RABBIT, 2019; LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, 2021) that cuts right to the heart of Bunny’s character. We see how she reacts and begin to understand how she arrived at this particular lot in life.

Thavat’s co-writers Sophie Henderson (BABY DONE, 2020) and Gregory King center much of Bunny’s actions around the birthday party she has promised daughter Shannon for her upcoming birthday party. Is Bunny fit to be a mother?  Most of the time we think she is devoting every waking moment to reuniting with her kids. However, in her worst moments, she lashes out and displays poor judgment, leaving us and Social Services with serious doubt. The past is brilliantly unfolded and never dwelled on because Bunny wakes up every morning optimistic about what lays ahead. There is a terrific sequence involving her attire, and Ms. Davis just nails the shift in tone. Hers is an award-worthy performance, if only enough people will see the film (which is doubtful). This New Zealand production expertly sets the stage with 4 Non Blondes “What’s Up” and then bookends with a different version by Willa Amai.

Opens in theaters on September 23, 2022

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BOTH SIDES OF THE BLADE (2022, France)

July 7, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. If you are one of the many who need someone to cheer for – a nice person – in order for a movie to work for you, then this latest from renowned French director Claire Denis (BEAU TREVAIL, 2019) is going to be a challenge. Ms. Denis co-wrote the script with Christine Angot (they previously collaborated on LET THE SUNSHINE IN, 2017), an adaptation of Ms. Angot’s novel.

Oscar winner Juliette Binoche stars as Sara, and we first see her whilst on an idyllic retreat with her long-time lover Jean, played by screen veteran Vincent Lindon. Sara and Jean are clearly happy and in love. When they return to Paris, we learn Sara is a talk show host for Radio France International, and Jean is a former Rugby star who has spent time in prison for an unspecified crime. His son, Marcus (Issa Perica), from a previous relationship is a troubled young man being raised by Jean’s elderly mother, Nelly (Bulle Ogier). Jean has little fatherly sense and makes only a negligible effort to help.

One day, Sara spots her former lover, Francois (Gregoire Colin), on the street. Maybe he sees her, maybe he doesn’t. Sara is overcome with emotion. Sara and Francois were together when she began seeing Jean. To make this the most French situation possible, Francois and Jean were friends and business associates at the time. It’s even implied that Jean’s crime was related to activities connected to Francois. So what happens next? Well, Francois phones Jean to offer him a chance to come back into the scouting business for a new sports agency. It’s at this point where Francois’ motivations come into question. Is he doing his friend a solid, or worming his way back into Sara’s life?

This becomes a love triangle even more complicated than most. Sara deludes herself into thinking she can once again enjoy the fruits of Francois, while also appeasing her beloved Jean. Jean is distracted by issues with Marcus, but also too proud to let Sara walk over him. On full display are the destructive effects of an affair and the lack of respect and appreciation for a strong relationship. When the power of lust and idealistic romance collide, things get emotional. Cinematographer Eric Gautier works wonders in confined spaces. We never feel like the characters have room to breathe after making another poor decision. It’s interesting to see how smoking and taking calls on the apartment balcony becomes the only “space”. The close-ups allow Ms. Binoche and Mr. Lindon to do what they do best. The music is by Stuart Staples and includes a song written especially for the film. Ms. Denis again proves adept at allowing viewers to interpret the actions of all-too-human characters.

Opening July 8, 2022

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OFFICIAL COMPETITION (2022, Spain)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Satire is one of the most challenging cinematic genres to get right. The script and performances are crucial, and the director must walk a fine line between too subtle and over-the-top. The long-time collaborative filmmaking team of co-writers and co-directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, along with co-writer Andres Duprat, strike just the right chord and deliver a gem that is funny, insightful, and quite entertaining. The film was well received at last year’s Venice Film Festival, but is only now getting distribution.

We open on Don Umberto Suarez (Jose Luis Gomez), a wealthy pharmaceutical businessman, as he peruses the many gifts that have arrived for his 80th birthday. He’s in a reflective mood and wonders what he can do to secure his legacy so as not to be forgotten. Suarez debates between building a bridge or financing a “great” movie, one that will stand the test of time. He knows nothing of the film industry, and doesn’t bother to read the best-seller book he secures the rights to. He then meets with eccentric film director Lola Cuevas (Oscar winner Penelope Cruz, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, 2008), yet seems oblivious to what we see – her vision runs contrary to his, as evidenced by her production notebook that looks like a teenager’s scrapbook from summer camp. She buys in to his “best cast” demands and leaves him believing “his” film is in good hands.

Ms. Cruz is so perfect in this role that even her giant frizzy flame-red wig is simpatico with director Lola’s intense personality as an auteur. Things really take off when rehearsal begins and her two lead actors arrive. Antonio Banderas plays Felix Rivero, a global movie star who lives the rock star life with women and sports cars. He’s the personality antithesis of his co-star Ivan Torres, played by Oscar Martinez, a self-absorbed stage actor who views his world as prestigious, while mocking the glitz, glamor, and money that rules Felix’s world. An architecturally stunning art institute funded by Suarez serves as the rehearsal site, since it sits empty and unused.

Felix and Ivan are to play rival brothers, and the tension that develops between the two men is hilarious … and further spurred by Lola’s acting exercises. She prods Ivan on the simple line, “Good evening”, forcing him to repeat it multiple times, just as she toys with Felix on his level of intoxication (a range of 1 to 10). To increase the tension, Lola has the men rehearse underneath a giant boulder dangling overhead by crane. As the two actors battle it out for respect from the other and favoritism from Lola, the humor escalates at the same pace as egos are wounded. After scoffing at the mention of Felix’s awards, Ivan secretly practices his Oscar-acceptance speech in his dressing room. It becomes clear that each of the men want what the other has: Felix wants prestige, while Ivan wants recognition.

There are so many terrific scenes and moments here, including a foreshadowed twist and a sequence that combines industry awards, an industrial shredder, and the strength of Saran Wrap. All three lead actors are having a blast, and the supporting cast lends authenticity to this skewering of wealth, ego, art, and the film industry. Especially effective in support are Irene Escolar as Suarez’s daughter who has been cast in the film, and Pilar Castro as Violetta, Ivan’s equally pretentious wife. This is satire at it’s finest, and the filmmakers (and Ms. Cruz) even nail the ending. Kudos to one of my favorite movies of the year.

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THE INNOCENTS (2022)

May 12, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Norwegian filmmaker Eskil Vogt wrote the screenplay for last year’s terrific THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD, and that’s just one of his collaborations with fellow countryman Joachim Trier. The two seem to enjoy, or at least have a knack, for creating films that take viewers out of their comfort zone. This is Vogt’s second feature as director, and you will likely find yourself questioning your ideals of the complexities of childhood and debating what makes a kid “good” or “bad”.

A family moves to a new apartment so that their eldest daughter Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) can receive the best possible treatment for her non-verbal autism (seemingly trapped inside her own body). Anna’s younger sister Ida (Rakel Leonora Flottum) spends an inordinate amount of time on her own as their mother (Ellen Dorrit Petersen is also Rakel’s real life mother; THELMA, 2017) focuses on Anna. Immediately we are struck by how cruel Ida is to Anna, obviously envious of the time her parents devote to the child in need. The film moves meticulously as Ida befriends Ben (Sam Ashraf), a young boy from the same apartment building. Ben has an ability to move things with his mind. His telekinesis is in the early stages, and Ida pushes him to develop his powers. One particularly disturbing sequence involves the two kids and a local cat at the top of the building’s stairwell. Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), another young girl from the building starts hanging out with Ida and Ben. This also draws in Anna, as the sweet Aisha has a connection with her and a way of communicating telepathically. It’s at this point where our brains shift into overdrive as we realize there is something supernatural going on.

As Ben’s ability grows, so does his sadistic nature. He reacts (often violently) to situations where he feels disrespected. At the same time, Anna and Aisha grow closer, and Ida and her parents are thrilled with Anna’s improved demeanor. As viewers, we come to realize that director Vogt has made the apartment building a character itself. Is the building behind the special abilities shown by these kids?  Or is it the ominous nearby forest? Why are the powers strongest when the kids are together? For a film that mostly progresses very slowly, there is much for us to take in – although we do wish more time had been spent on the makeup of all four kids. We are only teased with what other kids in the building are experiencing, but the supernatural aura is clearly in play.

None of the four child actors have any previous feature film experience, yet each is superb in their own way. They perfectly capture the curiosity and confusion that goes with childhood, and there is an insightful “kid” moment when Ida shows her one ‘talent’ to Ben. We are left to wonder if the film’s identical title to the 1961 classic is coincidental or purposeful. It’s not a remake, but it works as an homage. The staircase shot is even similar in the two films. Filmmaker Voigt excels at ensuring we believe something evil is just around the corner, yet he never rushes to the next moment. An eerie, ominous atmosphere is perfectly complemented by these four kids. Vogt’s dark film sticks the ending, and stays with us for a while.

Opening May 13, 2022

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ANAIS IN LOVE (2022)

April 28, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Barely five minutes in, we have concluded that Anais is a whirlwind of activity. She’s behind on her rent and yet turns the conversation with her landlord to fruit juice and a smoke alarm. This is the first feature film from writer-director Charline Bougeois-Tacquet who benefits greatly with the presence of lead actor Anais Demoustier. I have no idea if the name is a coincidence or whether this was written with her in mind, but we quickly realize that Anais is a mess … a charming mess and one for which hope remains.

Anais is always late. She walks, runs, or rides her bicycle everywhere. Her bright red lipstick is always on display, and she’s claustrophobic and prefers to sleep alone. The constant twinkle in her eye means folks look past her seemingly carefree approach to real life, as she makes the best of each landing spot in her directionless path(s) through each day. We observe and learn all of these things on top of the big secret she’s been keeping from her boyfriend Raoul (Christophe Montenez). During the exchange they have when he breaks up with her, she says, “You are violent in your inertia.” This may be my favorite line of the year. What others view as stability and dependability, Anais views as inertia and unappealing.

When Anais takes Daniel (Denys Podalydes) as a lover, it’s the older, married man who ends it by stating he doesn’t want his life to change. Anais shrugs and turns her attention and affections to Daniel’s wife, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, HUMAN CAPITAL, sister of Carla Bruni). Emilie is a famous author and Anais worms her way in by tracking Emilie to Normandy where she’s holding a symposium. Writing, books, and literature play subtle yet key roles throughout … as if Anais is trying to live out so many of the stories she’s read.

If there is anything lacking here, it’s traditional character conflict. Even the surprise collision of Daniel, Emilie, and Anais at the symposium doesn’t pack the dramatic or comedic punch we would expect. Anais is never much concerned, so neither are we as viewers. We are too enamored and intrigued with her energy and spirit to let real life cause consternation. The subplot with Anais’ mother is the closest we see Anais come to ‘normal’ emotions, but even getting to that point, is yet another whirlwind.

In theaters April 29, 2022 and On Demand May 6, 2022

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HATCHING (2022)

April 28, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. The exceptionally creepy creature leads us to believe this could be a terrific new addition to the creature feature genre. However, director Hanna Bergholm and screenwriter Ilja Rautsi expend so much time and energy on the metaphor aspect that we feel a bit bludgeoned by the end. Despite some wonderful horror elements, we find ourselves thinking, ‘alright, already … just stick with the creepy stuff!’

We open in a beautiful home with pristine design features, where a beautiful mother (Sophia Heikkila) is filming her beautiful family for her vlog, appropriately titled “Lovely Everyday Life.” Of course, we all know what happens to perfect little families in movies – the façade cracks. We get our first taste of beautiful mother’s not-so-beautiful true nature as she deals with the crow that flies in through an open window and destroys some of the beautiful decorations displayed in the home. Things get interesting when Tinja (a superb Siiri Solalinna), the 12-year-old gymnast daughter, recovers an egg from the intrusive bird’s nest and “mothers” it until the egg (the metaphorical façade) cracks open after growing to an enormous size. Out pops a bizarre looking “baby” bird that Tinja names Alli, after the song her family sings.

It doesn’t take long for Tinja (and us) to figure out what’s happening. The bird not only assumes Tinja is her mother, but it also takes on the emotions that Tinja keeps bottled up inside so as to not upset her overly-demanding mother. See, mom is a former skater and projects her dreams of glory onto her daughter through gymnastics. We never even get the impression that Tinja enjoys the sport, and it’s likely she does it because that’s the only closeness she gets from dear old mom … especially when compared to her little brother Mattias (Oiva Ollila) or dad (Jani Volanen). In fact, mom is so dominant over dad, that she’s taken on a side lover in handyman Tero (Reino Nordin), who she admits to loving in yet another inappropriate moment with Tinja.

Soon the bird is acting out Tinja’s private thoughts to extremes (a true monster in the closet), and no one is really safe. There are some creepy elements that tell us an excellent horror-comedy is in there somewhere. Watching Tinja sponge-bathe the creature and the replicant effects are both imaginative. Ms. Bergholm’s film premiered at Sundance, and if anything, it’s just a bit too ambitious with the metaphors. We can view this as a coming-of-age story for Tinja as she breaks the shackles of childhood for more independent thinking. And the most obvious interpretation is that of a mother so obsessed with perfection – especially as to how her family is presented to the outside world – that it requires an ugly incident (bird) as a dose of reality. This is clearly commentary on social media and how some become so committed to presenting and maintaining a certain image. As a horror-comedy, the film from Finland offers neither jump-scares nor laugh-outloud moments, but there is enough here for a decent midnight offering.

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PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT (2022)

April 15, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Jacques Audiard is one of the filmmakers who has won my cinematic loyalty through his consistently thought-provoking and entertaining films. His five features since 2005 have all been excellent: THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED (2005), A PROPHET (2009), RUST AND BONE (2012), DEEPHAN (2015), THE SISTERS BROTHERS (2018). This latest is a different kind of story for Audiard, and it’s based on the stories from animator Adrian Tomine. Audiard adapted the screenplay with Nicholas Livecchi, Lea Mysius, and Celine Sciamma (writer and director of PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, 2019). The result is a unique vision of modern-day love set in an area of Paris that is rarely featured in films.

Audiard gives us a REAR WINDOW-esque opening that lands on a couple evidently singing naked Karaoke. We are then informed, “It began like this.” Emilie (newcomer Lucie Zhang) is a tele-salesperson augmenting her income by renting out a room in her apartment … well, it’s her grandmother’s apartment, but she is confined to a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s. Emilie wants a female roommate and Camile is the first to schedule a showing. Only Camile (Makita Samba) isn’t female. Instead, he’s a handsome teacher working on his doctorate, and since there is a spark between he and Emilie, she agrees to let him move in. The attraction plays out as you would imagine, right up until Camile slams on the brakes and informs a frustrated Emilie that he has no intention of being a couple, and soon invites another lady friend over for an evening of intimacy. The micro-aggressions between Emilie and Camile escalate, and soon he moves out.

Next we meet thirty-something Nora (Noemie Merlant, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE) who is excited (almost giddy) to be headed back to law school. It doesn’t take long for classmates to mistake her for a popular online sexy cam-girl named Amber Sweet. The mistaken identity and bullying cause Nora to drop out and return to her previous profession – real estate. It turns out the local office is being managed by Camile, who, disillusioned with teaching, is looking for a fresh start by helping out a friend. Nora sets the ground rules and the two maintain a professional relationship, right up to the point where they cross the line and become lovers.

Audiard shoots most of the film in black and white, which gives it the timeless feel of so many French romantic dramas over the years. The difference here stems from the sexual dynamics and interconnected stories and characters all within Paris’ 13th arrondissement. One of the terrific storylines has Nora cultivating a chat relationship with the same Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth of the English rock band Savages) she was mistaken for. Personal grief plays a role with two of the main characters, while a dark family secret burdens another. This emphasizes how we each carry the past and it sticks with us regardless of the path we choose. The film also reinforces how there are invariably contradictions in how we see ourselves and our actual behavior. These characters may engage in casual sex, though by the end, it’s clear each wants more than they are willing to admit. Things wrap up pretty neatly in the end, but the road travelled is a bit rocky.

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MOTHERING SUNDAY (2022)

April 8, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Every writer has a story about what inspired them to put words on the page. What we have here is Eva Husson directing a script from Alice Birch (LADY MACBETH, 2016) who has adapted the 2016 novella from British author Graham Swift. We follow Jane Fairchild through three stages, as her work as a maidservant allows her to become “an occupational observer of life.”

It’s Mothers’ Day 1924 and Jane (Odessa Young, SHIRLEY, 2020) is anticipating her latest romantic tryst with Paul Sheringham (Josh O’Connor, EMMA., 2020). Both know this is their final time together, and they take full advantage. Jane’s employers, Godfrey and Clarrie Niven, are meeting Paul’s parents for a celebratory luncheon with Emma (Emma D’Arcy), the ‘proper’ woman Paul is to marry. Oscar winner Colin Firth (THE KING’S SPEECH, 2010) and Oscar winner Oliva Colman (THE FAVOURITE, 2018) play the Nivens, and deaths from WWI hang over all of these families like the darkest of clouds.

The story is told in non-linear fashion, with Jane and Paul’s final lovemaking session being that which all other events seem to revolve. We also spend some time with Jane in her 40’s as she is living with her philosopher husband Donald (Sope Dirisu), and then in her 80’s as she is celebrated as a renowned and prize-winning author. In this last stage, Jane is surprisingly played by the great Glenda Jackson, a two-time Oscar winner (A TOUCH OF CLASS, 1973, and WOMEN IN LOVE, 1969), who has only appeared in a handful of TV movies these past thirty years. Ms. Jackson turns 86 next month, and spent time as an elected member of Parliament. She’s always been an interesting person, and it’s terrific to see her back on the big screen – even if she only gets a couple of brief scenes followed by one substantial one near the end.

It’s a beautiful film and it’s sensuously photographed, though maybe a bit odd in that it focuses so diligently on the visuals (thanks to cinematographer Jamie D Ramsay), while actually following a woman’s journey into writing. Love (or lack of it) and grief and life’s transitions are all on display, as are the harsh realities of class differences. Ms. Young and Mr. O’Connor are both terrific, and though she has minimal screen time, we are stunned again at just how much emotion Ms. Colman can convey with her face.

Memories and recollections of “that day” play a crucial role as the mature Jane wrestles with writing her novel … one that her publisher expects to be a thriller. Of course, we watch as Jane’s story plays out, so we know where her writing is headed. The film has a vagueness to its storytelling that prevents us from ever fully engaging with Jane or any of the rich, sad people, yet it’s such a beautiful film to look at that we never seem to mind.

In theaters on April 8, 2022

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