2 HEARTS (2020)

October 15, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. We’ve seen it before. Two stories, seemingly unrelated, yet parallel. Only this time it’s based on a true story, and the 2017 book “All My Tomorrows” by Brian Gregory. Director Lance Hool and co-writers Veronica Hool and Robin U. Russin serve up a touching and inspirational story of how the lives of families can intersect, and how triumph can come from tragedy.

Admittedly, the film has a bit of Lifetime Movie Channel look and feel. It even begins with some conventional philosophy on life courtesy of our narrator: it’s either a miracle or it’s not, and life either happens to us or for us. These are neither particularly thought-provoking nor deep, however, they do set the stage well enough for the story. We first see an unconscious Chris Gregory (Jacob Elordi, THE KISSING BOOTH) being wheeled on a gurney into the surgical area of a hospital. His loved ones are obviously concerned. We then cut to a period many years earlier as a young Cuban boy passes out on a soccer field. We learn Jorge Bolivar has a lung disease, and has been told at various stages that he wouldn’t live past 12, 20, or 30 years old.

Despite the different time periods, we see the symmetry with the romantic interests of the men. Modern day college student Chris (also the film’s narrator) literally bumps into Sam (Tiera Skovbye, “Riverdale”), and the two become ‘Safety Buddies’ on campus – offering a ride to those students in need. An older Jorge (Adnan Canto, “Designated Survivor”) locks eyes with flight attendant Leslie (Radha Mitchell), which kicks off a whirlwind globe-trotting romance. Chris is a middle-class boy whose parents (Kari Matchett, Tahmoh Penikett) are loving and demanding. Jorge is part of a wealthy Cuban family forced to relocate to Miami due to political pressures under Castro.

Keeping up with the time period for Jorge and Leslie involves spotting the clothing styles and technology hints, and very few viewers won’t know where this is headed well before it gets there. The two staged weddings provide all kinds of cuteness, as does goofy, easy-going Chris. Life perspective is one of the key takeaways here, as is a fact that most people should already be well aware: organ donors make a difference and mean the world to those impacted. The film ends with a note on the Gabriel House of Care, a non-profit worth researching.

watch the trailer

 


MAUDIE (2017)

July 8, 2017

 Greetings again from the darkness. As the saying goes, “opposites attract”. It seems the bond between Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis and her reclusive employer/husband Everett Lewis prove this so – at least at first glance. However, digging deeper, as director Aisling Walsh and writer Sherry White do so expertly here, we discover an abundance of subtle similarities and life events that connect these two … showing yet again that real life is often stranger than fiction.

Sally Hawkins delivers her best performance to date (and a slam dunk Oscar nomination awaits) as Maud. She somehow manages to look even smaller on screen and capture the twisted, painful posture and movements of one stricken with severe arthritis. Ethan Hawke is Everett, the local fish peddler who lives like a hermit in his one-and-a-half room shack on the outskirts of town. Our first glimpse of Maude has her sneaking a cigarette on her Aunt’s porch while she listens to family members argue about who has to care for her. We first see Everett has he stomps into the general store demanding the shopkeeper write out and post his job opening for domestic help.

Filmed in Canada and Ireland, cinematographer Guy Godfree captures the harshness of the seasons and, more impressively, the claustrophobic and sparse living conditions of Maud and Everett’s tiny home (nothing like the HGTV segments). Maud’s sweetness and never-ending ability to find joy in the moment contrasts with Everett’s cantankerous and even initially cruel approach. These polar opposites are both societal outcasts, but eventually develop respect and yes, even love (though such a word would never be exchanged between the two). Hawkins and Hawke share two especially fabulous scenes – their initial meeting in his house, and a many-years-later emotional exchange on a bench. Hawke’s character is a bit challenging for the audience, but Hawkins captures our heart immediately.

Supporting work is minimal, yet effective, as Zachary Bennett plays Maud’s brother Charles, Gabrielle Rose is her Aunt Ida, and Kari Matchett is Sandra – the New Yorker with the fancy shoes who first spots Maud’s talent. Much of the story focuses on Everett’s pride and Maud’s joy/spirit, while slowly they both gain a bit of fame thanks to her artistic talent and their living arrangement.

Ms. Hawkins has long been an underrated actress (despite last year’s Oscar nomination), and her turn in Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) was proof she could carry the lead. Here, seeing her hoist such a real life character and story on her hunched back is a thing of beauty and is not to be missed. It’s an artful movie about an artist and making the best of life. The film’s music is perfectly understated and features acoustic guitar, violin and piano. It should be noted that the end of the film features a clip of the real Maud and Everett, and their house has been preserved and displayed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

watch the trailer: