JWR Articles: Film/DVD - 76 Days | Last Three Days | Werewolf (Directors: Weixi Chen, Hao Wu, Brian Ulrich, Adrian Panek) - November 24, 2020

76 Days | Last Three Days | Werewolf

4.5 4.5

Two films counting the days; one lacking bites

76 Days
93 minutes
Weixi Chen, Hao Wu
Four and one half stars

“How could it have come to this?” 

  • COVID patient

With the COVID-19 pandemic‘s second wave now rearing its ugly head worldwide, it is instructive, humbling and—for so many “disbelievers”—to witness how four hospitals at the epicentre in Wuhan, China, coped with overcrowded ICUs and unpreparedness. 

And how prescient for the filmmakers to go about this—at times horrendous, at others heroic—task of documenting the good, the bad and the deadly during Wuhan’s 76 days of lockdown. 

Seeing dozens of desperate citizens trying to be admitted to an ICU with just 50 beds, is especially difficult to watch. Incredibly, there was no evidence of any official security to control the crush, with just one metal door separating the afflicted from their potential lifesavers. 

One of the most compelling stories centres on “Grandpa.” The aging fisherman (with a 4-year-old great-grandson to hug if he ever gets to return to his overcrowded home), not only has the virus but also suffers from dementia. In time, he becomes the rogue of the ward and it is amazing indeed to see how the hospital staff patiently care for both his body and his mind. 

On the opposite side of the generational gap, a first-time mother-to-be is admitted having already lost her water. The inevitable C-section is fraught with special needs and danger that is incredible to observe. Happily, “Little Angel” is a joy to see and the hungriest baby of the neonatal intensive care unit; sadly, COVID-positive mom, can’t even hold her love-and-joy until it becomes safe to do so. 

Of course, many, many patients do not survive. In most of these losses, it falls to Head Nurse Yang Li to personally deliver the devastating news to next of kin and personally—she feels it as her duty—to deliver what ever personal remains that are left (typically, fully sanitized cellphones, jewellery and ID cards) to the family saying, “Sorry, we did all we could, but couldn’t save/her/him…”. It’s hard to imagine those same scenes in North America. 

There are several visual aids that silently speak volumes: individualized artwork on the mandatory hazmat suits; helium filled plastic gloves with “Get well soon” magic marker messages used to keep oxygen tubes in their proper place and—most importantly—a sign seen in much of Wuhan’s locked-down neighbourhoods: “Staying Home Makes a Happy Family”. 

Denialists and those who are adamant that “COVID-19 is over” should be required to view this documentary, but, of course, never will: it’s just more “fake news”. JWR

Last Three Days
86 minutes
Brian Ulrich
Four stars

The four loves of Jack and Beth

Here‘s a fanciful take built around the exposition on love by C.S. Lewis (from his book, The Four Loves, 1960—he should have had a writing credit). Ironically, the earlier volume (based on radio talks) upstages the mystery, drama and violence of this tale of an LAPD cop trying to earn his stripes as detective.

Playing Jack, Robert Palmer Watkins has the boyish good looks and buff physique to be readily believable as the law enforcement officer trying to move up. His caregiver wife, Beth (Deborah Lee Smith, not quite as convincing in her Florence Nightingale, family tradition role) has her best moments when—apparently—the man of her dreams is slipping out of their bond.

The thriller hook comes in the form of LA gang wars between the Yakus and the Prajnas—most of that centring around the latest illicit drug from Japan that has extraordinary mind-bending/altering effects.

Providing the glue between the good guys (are there really any in 2020?) and the “criminals” is rogue cop Dave (the most consistent acting of the production coming from Thomas Wilson Brown) who would readily sellout his mother if that suited his desires.

Director-writer Ulrich’s début feature, a non-linear storyline (in the tradition of Christopher Nolan—cross-reference below) works well, providing a couple of real surprises and some tender, poignant moments, not least of which is the “under the tree” romance of the principals.

Let’s hope for another project, unleashing all of Ulrich’s own imagination. JWR

Werewolf (Les Rescap├ęs aka Wilkolak)
88 minutes
Adrian Panek
Two and one half stars

Lord of the Krauts

Director/writer Panek’s tale of “liberated” children from Nazi concentration camps in 1945, starts with much promise but can never decide where it’s going.

The wonderfully trained German shepherds are easily the stars of the production.

Viewers are left on their own to figure what the humans are really up to: young, old or butchered. JWR

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