Immigration, unrepentant death and bomb bays: who could ask for anything more?
99 minutes, 2020
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic makes the world seem worse than ever, it is instructive to remember just how bad we have all been to each other thanks to arbitrary borders, out-of-control bureaucracy and familial upheavals.
In many ways, Woodley’s film is a two-hander—a battle of will, wits and reluctant honesty between an experienced immigration officer (England) and a hardened, compassionate-at-times refugee (Eritrea).
Lena Headey plays the no-nonsense claim reviewer with grit and gusto, fuelled on by a water bottle (another one provides a decidedly different result several continents away) that helps mask the inner turmoil of the recently divorced mother whose child is held captive by her ex. On-the-run Haile had the audacity to disobey a direct order from his superior officer, sparing a life at the risk of his own. His harrowing journey, ending up in a dangerous lorry ride from France to England, is artfully laid out in Helen Kingston’s non-linear script. Kudos also for Jon Mushcamp’s angle-rich cinematography—always at one with the story’s direction.
Serving as the department’s “referee”, Jack Gordon provides just the right tone of patient supervision even as secrets are revealed that might well change everyone’s outcomes.
One of the most telling lines of the production comes from Haile’s lips: “I’ve always been unwanted.” He speaks for millions of the displaced, scorned or helpless, forced from their countries for all-manner of reasons, and—increasingly: “Will they bring the virus with them?”—shown the door from countries who espouse freedom, but only when it suits them. JWR
Why Don’t You Just Die! (Papa, sdokhni)
99 minutes, 2018
Here’s a very dark film that celebrates, blood, betrayal, corruption, greed/graft and familial dysfunction run amuck.
Essentially a two-hander between Russian detective-extraordinaire (Vitaliy Khae plays Andrei with appropriately blood-curdling gusto) and the hapless boyfriend (Aleksandr Kuznetso soars as the manipulated hammer-bearing “liberator”, wearing his frequent blood spatters with aplomb) of his ever-selfish daughter (Evgeniya Kregzhde is just OK in the complex role).
Sokolov’s greatest success is reminding us succinctly that you can’t choose your relatives (but, perhaps, your friends), before despatching nearly one and all to early graves; leaving just a single laugh to be had. JWR
98 minutes, 2019
The allure of flight
I must confess that war movies are not at the top of my must-view list (“Why can’t we just get along?”). But remembering that my long-departed father trained in a Lancaster (never to see combat as the war had ended), I was curious to take a peek inside.
Alas, Burn and his cowriters: Andrew Burn, Sam Parsons, have come up with decidedly weepy, melodramatic narrative that is far too saccharine to be believable.
The saving grace is James Griffith’s original score and, most especially, the contributions to it by trumpeter Dick Stacey. JWR