A fuss was made recently about The Upside, an American remake of foreign-language film Les Intouchables. Few saw its purpose, given the success of the well-loved original, but I took exception. While I appreciated many aspects of the French version, I also understand that films not in the English language don’t feel accessible for everyone. Many people simply don’t have the tolerance required for subtitles or dubbing, which is okay. There has been a comparable hoo-ha about Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher, a largely faithful remake of critically-acclaimed Israeli film Haganenet. To those up in arms, I say: why can’t we just enjoy both?
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A barnstorming twist closes Destroyer, the riveting new film from Girlfight director Karyn Kusama, but this is more intrigue crime drama than compelling thriller. Nicole Kidman leads as haggard antihero Erin Bell, an LAPD officer – with complex history – who could easily warrant a franchise to deliver her own extreme form justice. Staggering around with a potent feline vulnerability, Kidman is unrecognisable in every sense, bar that hers is yet another recognisably stellar performance.
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BAFTA nominated by fourteen, Liv Hill continues her path to stardom in James Gardner’s bleak but deeply affecting feature debut. A kitchen sink drama in the vogue of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake and, more recently, Mark Gillis’ Sink, Jellyfish boasts an impressive authenticity in its handling of knotty upsets and great resonance in its storytelling. The viewing may be grim but the reality is much worse.
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From the writers of A Dog’s Purpose – aka Nietzsche and Me – comes this cuddlier replicant of roughly the same premise. There’s still too much morbidity here for the tottering target market but the real takeaway is as upbeat and saccharine as they come. Think Homeward Bound meets The Fox and the Hound. Dog meets boy, dog gets lost, dog finds boy…or does he? Jeopardy!
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A revelatory performance by Melissa McCarthy is the foremost attraction of Can You Ever Forgive Me, the sophomore film from The Diary of a Teenage Girl director Marielle Heller. Based on true events, this is a relatively low stakes take on criminal activity, albeit one with a winning streak of black comedy down the spine. McCarthy shines at every turn in an increasingly rare reminder that she’s a talent to be reckoned with.
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Boxed into an old school 4:3 ratio, First Reformed is a crisp, elegant and divinely constructed think piece from a top of his game Paul Schrader. Ethan Hawke gives a career best performance in the role of a man conflicted by his faith, personal tragedies and brutal awakening to the world around him, which, he comes to realise, shares his suffering. This is a film that dares to compare its implicated audience to God in a Lacanian conception of the viewer-screen relationship and hits hard with its emotional resonance.
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In just over a month’s time, Green Book may well be named Best Picture at the Oscars. That’s quite the achievement considering that, just six years ago, its director was one-third responsible for the lamentable Movie 43. On the other hand, the recruitment of Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as either half of a road-tripping odd-couple was always a good sign. Amid waves of controversy, most will fail to see how so a touching a film could ever be remotely disliked.
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