By Jennifer Merin
WeNews film critic
Friday, October 5, 2012
"Sister" offers a strong start to October film openings. But be sure to read all the way through the column and mark your calendars for "The Loneliest Planet," opening late in the month.
Credit: Courtesy of Adopt Films.
(WOMENSENEWS)-- October brings a superb run of relationship dramas, many of them featuring exceptionally strong and compelling female lead characters.
"Sister,"directed and co-written by French filmmaker Ursula Meier, is a stunning, affecting family drama about two kids -- a young boy and his older sister -- who are living on their own in a luxurious Swiss ski resort. This is a beautifully crafted, magnificently acted film about kids who've been left on their own and can't quite cope. It's a haunting, must-see film.
Andrea Arnold's cinematic version of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" presents the classic novel's bleak landscape and cruel human interactions in great and uncompromising detail. By casting a black actor (James Howson) as Heathcliff, Arnold highlights the class (and, now, racial) prejudice inherent to the well-known story. With brilliant performances and starkly beautiful cinematography, the film is likely to become a classic in its own right.
On a lighter and slighter note, "Butter" also opens Oct. 5. This comedy is set in a rural Iowa town, where the annual butter carving contest initiates a fierce and funny competition between local women. Small town politics, ambitions about artistry and racism are deftly satirized in the engaging scenario.
"In My Mother's Arms" is a heartbreaking documentary set in Baghdad, Iraq, where a student named Saif Husham looks after a small group of orphaned children whose parents have been killed or disappeared by warring political and ethnic factions. The kids are living in relative peace as a family unit, surviving on next to nothing in one room of a small rural house, when the owner decides to evict them. They have nowhere to go. At the end of the film, shot in 2010 by filmmakers Atea Al Daradji and Mohamed Al Daradji, their situation in not resolved.
"Simon and the Oaks" is a gripping movie about the enduring friendship between two Swedish boys who come of age during World War II. They meet at a prestigious private school in Gothenberg, during a period of heightened anti-Semitism. Simon is a bookish boy born to farmers, while Isak is a non-bookish lad whose dad is a Jewish intellectual. The relationship that develops between the boys and their respective parents is gripping. Directed by Swedish director Lisa Ohlin with screenplay by Linda Sronson and Marnie Blok, and based on a novel by MarianneFredriksson.
"Middle of Nowhere" focuses on Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), who drops out of medical school so she can dedicate herself to caring for her husband (Omari Hardwick), who's been sent to prison for eight years for an undisclosed felony. Four years into the stretch, Ruby finds herself financially strapped, emotionally exhausted, resentful of her husband and attracted to the driver (David Oyelowo) of the bus she boards frequently for a four hour ride to visit her jailed spouse. A slow narrative pace helps communicate her sense of entrapment. Written and directed by Ava DuVernay.
"Atlas Shrugged Part II" features Dagny Taggart coming up with a possible solution to the ever-increasing energy crisis and racing to save the world from a disastrous power failure. This sequel has a new director, John Putch, and cast, headed by Samantha Mathis as Dagny.
"The Sessions" puts Helen Hunt in control as she plays Cheryl Cohen Greene, a professional sex surrogate hired to help an almost completely paralyzed man (John Hawkes), confined most of the time to an iron lung, to lose his virginity and experience orgasm. The film is based on the true story of Mark O'Brien, a Berkeley-based poet and journalist. Hunt's performance, much of it played in total and full frontal nudity, is astoundingly brave, generous and earnest, as is that of Hawkes. Both stars are garnering early Oscars buzz. Beyond their stunning performances, the film presents a provocative perspective on sex for pay, strongly supporting the notion that women have the right to use their bodies as they wish.
"Yogawoman" is a documentary that shows the increased influence of female yogis and yoga teachers around the globe. Filmmakers are Saraswati Clere and Kate McIntyre. The Los Angeles opening is Oct. 26.
"Nobody Walks" is a predictable, passionless and disappointing scenario about a marriage disrupted by the presence of a young pretty houseguest. Directed by Ry Russo-Young and penned by Lena Dunham. The title "Nobody Walks" is misleading. You probably will.
"That's What She Said" is a crass comedy about three gal pals (Anne Heche, Alia Shawkat and Miriam Shor) who trawl New York City in search of sex and adventure. These talented actresses deserve better. This script is one cliché after another. Directed by Carrie Preston and written by Kellie Overbey.
"Paranormal Activity 4" picks up with the same hand-held camera style as "Paranormal 3." There are scary new plot developments. But, no spoilers here. If you like the femme-centric franchise, you'll like this chapter. Good prep for Halloween.
"The Loneliest Planet" is the month's true standout. I love this breathtaking and exquisitely subtle film! The film, which opened in limited theaters in August, follows the shifting relationship of a young couple (Hani Furstenberg and Gael Garcia Bernal) on vacation in the remote mountains of the formerly Soviet country of Georgia. Charmed by each other and naively carefree about their surroundings, they hire a guide (Bidzina Gujabidze) to lead them on their trek. All goes well until an incident shatters their trust in each other and puts their relationship into a tailspin. Written by Julia Loktev and based on a short story by Tom Bissel. Inte Brioni provides marvelous cinematography.
"The Other Son," written and directed by Lorraine Levy, is an attitude-altering narrative in which the families of two young men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, are informed that the boys were accidentally switched at birth. The way they come to terms with their newly discovered ethnic roots is a moving revelation of our common humanity. Lovely message. Lovely film. Bravo.
In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada.
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