A House Made of Splinters
Simon Lereng Wilmont
Shelter the little children
One can only wish that this captivating documentary was actually fiction; thanks to Putin and his cronies it is an awful truth.
Many parents with young ones have their families thrown into disarray: many fathers dying in defence of their homeland, too many mothers taking to drink to numb the pain. When situations go from bad to worse, the children are temporarily “housed” in a state-run shelter (in this instance in Eastern Ukraine) for a maximum of nine months. During their stay, the heroic staff try to find (a) a parental situation able to properly care for their charges, (b) a foster home willing and capable of becoming surrogate parents, (c) an orphanage where the tender young lives will live until coming to the age of majority.
Wisely, the film is largely seen through the eyes and actions of children: begrudgingly waking up with a whistle in their ears, working through daily exercises, chowing down in the mess hall, kicking up a storm on an imaginary dance floor, smoking an illicit cigarette, savouring the one Christmas present, and forging friendships that, hopefully, will last a lifetime.
On the flipside, dozens upon dozens of familial cellphone calls going unanswered, and precious few visits by addled parents to even say hello to their progeny.
By the end of the production, only one thing is sure: even as some of the “inmates” leave for, hopefully, better lives ahead, there are more knocking on the door.
This film ought to be required viewing for the egoist extraordinaire of Russia. JWR
The perils of investigating your own murder
Imagine what a kinder, gentler world we would have today if it was Vladimir Putin languishing in jail rather than Alexei Navalny.
Miss this film at your peril; Roher lets everyone (good guys and bad guys) speak for themselves, as we should all be allowed to do. JWR
Everywhere Everything All at Once
Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Laundry, taxes and life
In a year when Jordan Peele’s Nope, S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR and Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave failed to snag nominations (cross-references below), it is difficult to understand how the Daniels’ “two universe, no waiting flick—a production that really never decides what its overarching point of view is”—did.
Combining family tensions, sketchy IRS receipts, an alpha universe, a mature pig (literally), under-the-hat raccoon, dildos from the far side, Kung fu expertise (real or imagined), life-exploding bagels, Google eyes (especially staring out of boulders) and late-inning redemptions (both familial and financial) provides many entertaining surprises but no real thread or point.
The few highlights are the performances from Michelle Yeoh as the beleaguered Evelyn Yang and Stephanie Hsu as lesbian daughter, arch enemy “out there”, Joy. Also shining brightly is editor Paul Rogers’ deft ability to cobble together cinematographer Larkin Seiple’s complex frames, no matter which “world” they’re in.
Make of it what you will, but for my money the artistic trust needn’t have gone to another universe to make their points about relationships and just, collectively, getting along together. JWR