A Separation (2011) Review

24 09 2012

Copyright 2011 Hopskotch Films

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I finally got around to seeing this film recently and, if you haven’t seen this one yet, stop what you are doing right now, go to the local redbox, and rent this tonight.  Seriously, it’s the best film of last year, and I don’t mind saying that in the first sentence of my review, which says a lot.

Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, this now Academy Award-winning film, stars well-known Irania actress Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi as couple Simin and Nader.  Together, they have a adolescent daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi).  They reside in Nader’s father’s apartment, who is essentially an invalid due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.  When Nader refuses to leave their native country and his father, Simin demands a separation, to which he readily agrees.  With Simin leaving the household, Nader hires a sitter for his father, Razieh (Sareh Bayat).  However, after having to clean up an accident his father has on her first day, she tells Nader she can no longer do the job; the drive is too far, and she has religious concerns over touching his father to clean him up if he soils himself.  She, however, recommends her husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), who is out of work and deeply indebted to creditors.  The following day, when Hdjat can’t make it to the house due to a court appearance, Razieh, who is pregnant, returns with her young daughter to do the work.  However, she leaves his father unattended during the day for personal reasons.  When Nader comes home to find his father tied to a bed and nearly at a point of death, he blows up at Razieh when she returns.  The scuffle includes a slight physical interaction on his part; she, subsequently, miscarries her child.  It’s left to the court and the families to decide whether Nader is responsible.

This film, made on a minuscule budget compared to even independent American films, is a powerhouse dramatic effort.  The acting, directing, editing, cinematography, and most of all, wonderfully dramatic story, come together to create an engaging, passionate and engrossing film that will go down in history as a classic.  It’s once in a blue moon that you get to view a film that is as truly cinematic as this, and its always a special occasion that will be savored in an your mind long after it’s running time is over.

It’s films like this that renew my hope in cinema whenever the general Hollywood “fodder” has be down about the industry.  I can only hope that I can be a part of a film as special as this one day.


Let the Right One In (2008) Review

25 01 2012

Copyright 2008 EFTI

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

I’m not really a very fervent fan of the vampire genre.  I feel these days that it is overused in everything from movies to novels to tv shows; it’s hard to trace when this vampire mania originally started, but it has definitely gotten out of control and is appearing everywhere ad nauseum.  Heck, I’m not even a fan and have seen two vampire themed movies in the past week!  That aside, however, this one did something unique with the subject matter and for that, I really enjoyed the film.

Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a 12-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a dreary apartment complex in Sweden.  In school he is bullied by a small “gang” of children lead by a little snot named Conny (Patrik Rydmark).  In his spare time, he has dreams of the revenge he hopes to one day get on his oppressors.  In the meantime, however, he weakly takes their daily taunts and physical abuse.  A strange man and his supposed daughter move in to the apartment next to Oskar, and around this time various murders begin happening around the city.  Because one of the murders was a child, Oskar’s mother restricts his playtime to the courtyard in front of their apartment building, and it is here one night he meets the girl next door, a pale, strange acting child named Eli (Lina Leandersson).  The two soon become fast friends and, though Oskar knows something is different about Eli, he still accepts her just as she accepts him for his shortcomings.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson on a very low budget in today’s terms for a feature film ($4,000,000), the movie carries quite an eery quality to it throughout. The cinematography and direction, mixed with the stark cold atmosphere naturally provided by the filming location, gives a very disjointed feel to the film.  Being a horror film, this almost unnerving mood fits the story perfectly.  Also, though it never says, I think the film is supposed to take place in the 1980s; either that, or Sweden is way behind technologically from the United States, as all the cars, clothing and housing had a dated feel to them.

The two young actors, Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson do a tremendous job in their roles.  Leandersson, especially, will likely have a long and varied career ahead of her.  Her subtleties in facial expression and body language to put across that she was really a 200-year-old vampire trapped in a 12-year-old girl’s body, was handled better than many adult actors could have achieved.  I also really enjoyed the maturity of the relationship between the characters of Oskar and Eli.  Even though they carried a certain amount of the innocence and naiveté of childhood, their relationship with each other was very much like that of a burgeoning relationship between two adults in the way they spoke to each other and interacted.

In short, this film was a unique and interesting take on the now over played theme of vampirism.  The acting, direction and story came together beautifully to present a film that holds up as a good coming of age drama, as much as it is a horror film.  If the cliches of the horror genre usually annoy you or become tiresome, then this is a smart, clever alternative that makes for a much better viewing experience.

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