Movie review: Mudbound

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before I start reviewing the major awards contenders, let’s look at one that is on the fringe of the awards voters radar. It’s the Netflix awards offering – Mudbound.

IMDb summary: Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.

Writing

Mudbound was written by Dee Rees and Virgil Williams. I thought that the film’s writing was solid and interesting, though, for the first part of the movie, I wasn’t sure what story it was telling: whether one about a black family’s experience during the WW2 or one about soldiers in and after the war. Only in the second half of the film did the two plotlines converge and made one whole narrative, while the first half seemed a bit confused and all over the place. The domestic set-up, one about a white family moving in next to a black one and having the stereotypical overtly or secretly racist relationship, was average and slow. The foreign set-up – the flashes to the soldiers’ lives during the war – was much more interesting than the domestic front and I wanted to see more of those scenes. It was especially interesting to witness a black man’s encounters with the Europeans. I haven’t seen that aspect explored much on film before. When the two plotlines did meet, Mudbound explored the interplay between race, class, and PTSD. The gender issues, as well as the comparison between black and white families’ distinct problems, were also included.

From the technical point of view, the movie started at the end and then flashed back to the begining of the story. A lot of elements of the plot were given through extensive narration: some of the narration was chilling, and, thus, effective, while other parts seemed annnoying and not essential. As per usual with the film on race, it elicited feelings of anger and disgust. This film, more than any other, portaryed the most radical side of racism in the 20th century the US very overtly, therefore, the feelings it evoked were extremely strong too. And yet, Mudbound ended on a hopeful note and had a message of love not hate. The mixed race friendship as well as the concluding origin of a mixed race family were two strands of hope that were achieved through a lot of pain, hurt, and suffering in the course of the movie.

Directing 

Dee Rees directed Mudbound and did a good job. As I have already mentioned, I wasn’t fully on board with the setup and thought that parts of it were very slow. However, Rees did a brilliant job with crafting striking visuals as well as with weaving the two plot strands neatly together in the second part of the picture. The song, which played during the credits – “Mighty River” by Mary J. Blige, was a lovely touch too.

Acting

Mudbound’s cast was quite stellar. Carey Mulligan (Suffragette, Far From The Madding Crowd), Jason Clarke (Dawn, Everest, and Terminator Genesys – that last film kinda ruined all subsequent performances of Clarke’s for me), and Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad and its spin-off) were all great in the film, though the stand-outs were definitely Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Detroit) and Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken) – their scenes together were fascinating. The actress who is, deservedly, getting the majority of the awards’ recognition for this movie was Mary J. Blige – she is a singer too and was actually the one to perform the end credits song for this film. Her acting performance was amazing too: quiet but very powerful.

In short, Mudbound is a well acted-drama about an old-school subject that is still, sadly, super topical.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Mudbound trailer

Mudbound_(film)

 

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Movie review: Suffragette

Movie reviews

Hello!

One of the good things about living in the UK is getting British films early. However, nowadays, finding time to review them is pretty problematic. So, in honor of Suffragette’s limited release in the US (a week later), let’s review it!

IMDb summary: The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

Feelings

Personally, I get really angry when watching movies about minority rights. Although, I should not call women a minority, since we inhabit half of the world. Anyway, Suffragette, like 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom, The Butler, and a plethora of other movies, angered me in a good kind of way – in a way that makes you want to do something with your life and change the world for the better. For this reason, I believe that everyone should watch Suffragette. In addition, I appreciate movie industry’s efforts to bring important issues to the forefront. How many people would actually research historical facts themselves? But when you put the same story into a visual media format, it instantly gets more attention.

Story&Writing

The film’s script was written by Abi Morgan – a British playwright and screenwriter. I have not seen her previous films, but would love to check them out someday, when I have time to do that. I believe that she did justice to this story. I would like to discuss a few plot points:

  1. The thing that really added a lot of flame into my overall angry/inspired physiological state after watching the film was the male characters. And not the ones who were actual douche bags. The main character’s husband was a terrible person. He acted like a victim and then just gave his son away. Even the detective, who was trying to stop Suffragette movement was a more likable character since he at least could justify his actions by saying that he was only trying to enforce the law (though, the law was definitely wrong that time). But the husband, who should have been supportive, was a complete disappointment. The film did a great job of reversing the roles of male characters and playing upon the viewers’ (or at least my) expectations.
  2. The movie also portrayed the fact that not all women wanted to fight for the cause. And while I disagree with their decision, I still believe that they were entitled to choose. I have already explained to you that I believe in feminism (contemporary way of fighting for women’s rights) as a choice when I reviewed Cinderella. Also, I have recently studied lots of fairy-tales in my English course at university and definitely realized that these stories are not as black and white as one might think.
  3. I loved how the film portrayed Suffragettes as a group. Although the movie focused a lot on one individual, you could still sense that she was a part of something bigger.
  4. Lastly, the end credits included the list of historical dates when women received voting rights in various countries. And sadly, some of the dates were not past but present ones. This just shows that the fight is not over and we have a long way to go. The film’s narrative also portrayed the idea of a long fight: the film was set in 1912 and the actual voting rights in the UK were received only in 1918 (partly) and in 1928 (fully). Other countries established equal voting even later.

Directing&Visuals

Suffragette was directed by Sarah Gavron who had her start making documentaries and later transitioned into narrative films. It is not really surprising that this film was made by a female director since it tackles women’s issues. However, I am really happy that it was directed by a woman, because I do not think that a male voice could have brought this story to live in a proper way. Although, I am not the kind of movie goer who pays a lot of attention to gender, race or skin color of a director, screenwriter or an actor and I believe in absolute equality, I still think that some individuals can tackle some issues better than others. I love how I contradict myself in the same sentence. Eh, what the heck: we can have ‘to each their own’ and ‘everything to all’ in the 21st century.

Talking about the visual aspects of the film, I have to admit that I did not really noticed them since the narrative was so strong. It overpowered both the Mise-En-Scene and Cinematography or it would be better to say that all three elements worked in perfect unison to create a flawless continuity. On a side note, some scenes for the film were filmed in the actual Houses of Parliament! 

Acting

  • Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts was a great leading lady. Her on-screen transition was simultaneously heartbreaking and empowering. Mulligan did a great job. I am a fan of hers – especially loved her last film – Far From The Madding Crowd – where she also played a strong female in a male world in a slightly different (earlier) period. She has also previously worked with the screenwriter of Suffragette in 2011’s Shame.
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn was also amazing as one would expect. I became a fan of hers back when she was in Harry Potter films, but I also really loved The King’s Speech, Les Miserables and Alice, which she also has starred in. Interesting fact, according to Wikipedia, Bonham Carter is the great-granddaughter of H. H. Asquith, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1908–16, the prime years of the suffrage movement, which he opposed. Great granddaughter is going against her great granddad’s will – props to her.
  • Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst was also a nice addition to the cast. However, I can definitely understand why a lot of people were angry about the false advertisement. Streep had one scene/speech in the film and one encounter with our main character and while she definitely played an important figure of the movement (the leader), she should not have been put on the poster of the film. I would not even call her a supporting actress in this film, at best it was a cameo appearance.
  • Natalie Press as Emily Davison. Interestingly, I was not familiar with this actress only a few weeks ago, but then we watched the short film Wasp by Andrea Arnold in the film class. I really enjoyed that short movie, which portrayed raw social realism realistically. It was one of Press’s early films and she was great back then and is still a great actress now. She should have had that 3rd spot on the poster because of that spoiler-y reason at the end.
  • The cast also included Anne-Marie Duff as Violet Miller. I loved the contrast between her’s and Mulligan’s characters: one was becoming more fearless and independent, while another had to lose her independence for, again, a spoiler-y reason.
  • The two males of the film, whose stories I have already discussed were played by Brendan Gleeson (the detective) and Ben Whishaw (the husband). Previously, I have only seen Gleeson in Harry Potter films as well as in Edge of Tomorrow and Stonehearts Asylum. He will also star in In the Heart of Sea later this year. Speaking about Whishaw, I am a fan of his since Cloud Atlas, so it was quite weird to not like him as a character because he usually plays very likeable ones. He will also star in In the Heart of Sea, which comes out on Christmas, but we will also see him in Spectre next week. He will also be in The Danish Girl – another quite controversial film, which I can’t wait for. Whishaw sure is having a busy 2015.

All in all, Suffragette was a great movie about an important issue. While it might not be an entertaining film to watch, it is definitely an important one. This historical and, at the same time, very recent story was brought to life by amazing on screen performances and splendid off screen work.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Suffragette trailer

suffragette-2015-movie-poster

Movie review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s take a break from big summer blockbusters and Hollywood comedies and review a British independent film Far from the Madding Crowd, which might be an awards contender later this year.

To begin with, I would like to admit that I am a huge fan of British classical literature, I especially adore the novels and the authors from the late Romantic Period/Victorian Era. (I’m currently reading Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte). I also really enjoy movies made in the UK and made by the people living there. I feel like they are very refreshing and a nice break from Hollywood. I tend to watch a lot of motion pictures that come from Hollywood, so it’s nice to squeeze in a refresher once in a while. (I limit myself to these 2 countries (UK and US) because I know English language the best out of all foreign languages). In short, to my mind, British films have a unique style and an extraordinary view on the world, which I really admire.

Despite the fact that I would consider myself to be a book nerd, I haven’t actually read the Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd before going to see the film. I usually try to read the book before watching the movie but the circumstances worked against me this time. However, I have already got this book from the library and I am eager to read it. In addition, this is not the first time when Hardy’s novel is adapted into the motion picture – this is the 4th film based on this classical book. 

IMDb summary: In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Visual appeal

Victorian England is one of my favorite historical eras, so I really loved the setting and simple but beautiful decorations of this film. Most of the action took place in a rural area which had amazing and breathtaking scenery of nature. The costumes and the hairstyles were also magnificent and true to the historical facts as far as I know.

Directing 

The film is directed by a Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Sadly, I am not familiar with his work but I really liked what he did in this movie. The cut-to-black transition seemed a bit abrupt sometimes, but they worked well other times, so maybe he should have cut the number of those and revisited their placement. The film’s screenplay was written by David Nicholls – an English novelist and screenwriter. This is not Nicholls’s first time working with classical literature as the main source. He wrote quite a few screenplay’s for BBC adapting Dickens’s, Bronte’s and even Shakespeare’s works to the small screen.

Acting

This movie has a pretty well know and accomplished cast:

Carey Mulligan star as the main character Bathsheba Everdene. I loved how Bathsheba was a strong, independent woman but was still able to be soft on the inside. She was a hopeless romantic and made mistakes in the name of love, but always went back to being a powerful, intelligent and free – an extraordinary occurrence when you considered the time that she lived in. I really enjoyed Mulligan’s performance. Although, my favorite role of hers is still the one in Never Let Me Go – another small British film – a dystopian romance with Keira Knightley and ex-Spider-man Andrew Garfield. Carey was also really good in The Great Gatsby as Daisy. No matter how much you hate the character of Daisy, you cannot not to admit that Mulligan is amazing in that role. Also, as an author and youtuber John Green has said in a Crash Course video on The Great Gatsby – you don’t have to like the character to enjoy the story. Anyway, I went off topic, let’s go back.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Gabriel Oak – one of 3 love interest of Bathsheba. Gabriel was the most like-able character of the film. His intentions were always pure, his actions – selfless and his words – always truthful. Matthias Schoenaerts did a really nice job. The only other movie of his that I saw was The Loft (the remake version) which I enjoyed, although everybody hated it. I’m interested to see the original Loft where Schoenaerts  plays the same role as in the remake.

Michael Sheen plays William Boldwood – the character who receives the saddest and the most undeserving end. Although, Michael Sheen is a very famous and established actor, I was introduced to him in the Twilight movies. Don’t judge, I was a 12 year old once too. Although, the Volturi family was the best part of that franchise, so maybe it’s not that bad that recognized him from there. I at least know who he is right? Let’s move on.

Tom Sturridge was Sergeant Frank Troy – the last of the love interests. It took me some time to get pass his mustache but his charisma turned him into a definite scene-stealer. Though you could sense that he was bad news, you couldn’t resist him, his smile or his witty tongue.

Juno Temple stared as Fanny Robin – a character who also got an undeserving end. I feel like she was the opposite of Bathsheba – a weaker woman, who depended way too much on the man, Frank Toy to be precise, and, as a result – ended up the way she did (NO SPOILERS). But you can’t really blame her – she was a prisoner of her era and a convict of the circumstances. I would love to see more of actress’s Juno Temple’s work. I have only seen a few movies that she was in and she had really minor roles in those. 2013 Chilean-American psychological thriller Magic Magic seems to be the best option for those, who want to really see what this actress can do.

Music

This movie features a song by Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, which I really enjoyed and listened quite a few times outside the cinema. You are welcomed to hear it here: Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. I also really loved the opening and closing instrumental tracks as well as the Far From the Madding Crowd Love Theme. You can find all the soundtrack here.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film for many reason, which are stated above in my review. I would love to see this film getting some attention during the awards season, although it is unlikely for that to happen. Anyway, it wins my own personal Oscar, which is much better that any Academy Award or Golden Globe.

Rate 5/5

Trailer: Far From the Madding Crowd trailer

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