JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Summer 1993 | Detroit | Split (Directors: Carla Simón, Kathryn Bigelow, M. Night Shymalan) - January 7, 2018

Summer 1993 | Detroit | Split


3.5 3.5

Reviewed for the 2018 edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Further variety to the awards season

Estiu (Summer) 1993
Carla Simón
97 mins, 2017
Three and one half stars

How does one cope?

The death of a parent well before their time is a bitter pill to swallow. In this instance, six-year-old Frida (a stellar performance from Laia Artigas)¾already fatherless¾chooses to close into herself and largely shun the outside world (including many relatives who feel her pain, but are unable to pull the young girl out of the depths of despair).

There is a strong feeling¾due to the deliberately slow pace that may send some to the exits before the first reel is over)¾that Simón is using this first feature as personal therapy.

Happily, the jazz-infused score (courtesy of Pau Boigues and Ernest Pipó) keeps the flow moving even as almost everyone gets to dance away the blues.

Tellingly, Simón slips in a few moments of “evil” in Frida that can trace their way back to John Steinbeck’s Cathy in East of Eden.

This film is certainly worth a look, but fails in some ways to fully develop the backstory as to why Frida must wait so, so long to truly mourn her mother’s virus-related passing. JWR

Kathryn Bigelow
143 mins, 2017
Three and one halfstars.

Could happen anywhere

Released in the same year as LA 92, Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 and Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri (cross-reference below), Bigelow’s entry into the cops-gone-bad sweepstakes, sadly¾it’s not her fault¾comes across as merely routine rather than a searing indictment of those who routinely abuse power and don’t see anything wrong with that. (Thank goodness those days are long gone…).

There’s a first-rate ensemble cast (headed by Chris Chalk as Officer Frank), a fine score (courtesy of James Newton Howard’s creative mind), and¾as usual¾stellar cinematography from Barry Ackroyd,.

Yet when all is said and dead, the uneasy feeling that even bold films such as these will do very little to bring the country together even as the current administration prefers to pull it apart. JWR

M. Night Shymalan
116 mins, 2016
One and one half stars

A thriller that fails to chill

From the opening sequence (introduction to three teenaged girls who are suddenly abducted in a parking lot), there is no sense of unease and precious little mystery as to where this film is going. The premise sounds fine (man with dissociative identity disorder¾James McAvoy tries his best to bring his multiple personalities to largely creepy life¾kidnaps the girls at the apparent bequest of personality no. 24, whose first appearance should result in the last of the trio of beauties), but the victims never really convince that they are in very serious trouble.

The backstory of a deer hunting subplot, does nothing but telegraph the outcome. The mentally ill man’s doctor (Betty Buckley boldly jumps into the fray, but her last act seems more a relief than a disaster.

If forced confinement appeals to your inner movie lover, better to take a look at Room (cross-reference below). JWR

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