Another YearAnne Murphy
A married couple, who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years, are surrounded by less contented friends, colleagues, and family.
The seasons mark the passing of "Another Year", an astutely observed study of the human condition, and the small joys and inevitable regrets that accompany aging. There is a hint of humour softening the melancholic tone of the movie. Relationships are scrutinised with realism far removed from the escapist view of life that's typical on the big screen. The audience views desolate portraits of people without props like bucket lists or golden ponds, only the inexorable ticking of time.
Marcelline has the lead role in Turgenev's "A Month in the Country" and is in rehearsal for the stage production while rendezvousing with her real and imagined mid-life crisis.
This is a charming dramatic comedy about arriving at a certain life stage unfulfilled by the journey and irrevocably aging. Time ticks to an off-beat rhythm as players and characters collide, even the director's metronome can't restore a more even beat for members of the cast. It's the off-stage drama that is most engaging, where emotions are held in check only to emerge in theatrically inappropriate ways. Encore.
A man receives revelations from his elderly father: he has terminal cancer, and a young male lover.
"Beginners" is a poignant, tenderly-crafted portrait of a man's evolving relationship with his father, and the impact it has on other relationships in his life. The writer/director has told his unusual, autobiographical tale in a warm, quirky and original style, skilfully mixing the joys and sorrows in a way that is never over-sentimental or clichéd. The film is ultimately a celebration of life, love and hope. It shows us that in our experiences of love - finding it, and then holding on to it - we are all, at times, beginners.
The SessionsAnne Murphy
A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.
"The Sessions" is a surprisingly warm and funny film. The story is based in reality and the movie follows one thread of the incredible life of an accomplished and disabled man. Each session is a business transaction, yet even so the sex scenes are intimate, awkward, and explicit as well as tender. There is something remarkable about the man, his condition and the way he tackles life, love and relationships that makes compelling viewing. Strictly business?
Mandela: Long Walk to FreedomAnthony Macali
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood to presidency of South Africa.
Mandela was an extraordinary man, and his story moves at an extraordinary pace. The film wastes no time in rallying your sympathy, revealing some of the more surprising actions of the young leader in his battle with the unrelenting and antiquated oppression of government. We also discover the strong relationship he had with his wife, a woman equally passionate in her fight for freedom and equality, and a significant chapter in his life. Both performances are worthy of the iconic figures. It's a long walk, but a brief history lesson. Emotionally charged.
Les MisérablesAnne Murphy
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
You can hear the people sing. "Les Miserables" is a long song, with barely a spoken word to interrupt the stirring score. This is an operatic production of majestic proportions with a cast comprised of movie royalty who give all to their rousing performances. Sadly the connection between the central star-crossed lovers is the flimsiest construct in the film but most will forgive that and dream a dream. Vive la Révolution.
Winter SleepJan Di Pietro
A former actor runs a hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife and sister.
The Turkish landscape provides a chilling setting for this excellent drama. The script is audaciously intelligent, and demands serious investment from its audience. It's a marathon of dense dialogue that can become difficult with subtitles, but edge-of-your-seat performances will haul you through the emotional terrain and across the finish line. "Winter Sleep" addresses difficult social issues too. Poverty, health care, charity, and morality allow the director to dissect the human condition with confidence and poise. Be brave and face reality.
June, 1982 - The First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare...
"Lebanon" is a gripping ride. Shot almost exclusively from the tight confines of a rumbling tank, this movie is a superb example of minimalist filmmaking. The tension and intensity is palpable, as the film bears witness to the horrors of war, and we're left gasping for breath from the grimy, claustrophobic atmosphere. The antiwar sentiment is clear, with enough gritty action to match its political, religious and philosophical messages. Shell-shockingly good.
Martha Marcy May MarleneAnne Murphy
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
The fragile bonds of family come under scrutiny in this psychological thriller, and makes for tense viewing from the opening scenes right until the second it finishes. The film is dark and taut as memories are seamlessly threaded with the present. The film-maker is deft, using the past to explain today and develop a sense of impending threat in the audience. While watching it becomes harder to breathe as the story unfolds. Mal-adjusted mentality methodically manipulated.
A young FBI agent is assigned to observe the more senior Robert Hanssen, suspected of selling secrets to the Soviet Union in the biggest security breach in US history.
Join the investigation as you watch the screen closely, looking for clues and scrutinising every move. It's a real joy uncovering and unravelling the secrets of the case. The motives behind the characters are portrayed clearly in a story that holds true. This tense espionage drama breached all expectations.
The WayAnne Murphy
A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the "El Camino de Santiago," and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.
'El Camino de Santiago', or 'The Way of St James', has been a Christian pilgrimage for a thousand years and this movie shows why the walk is more travelled now than ever before. The story may be fiction, but the trail itself, the magnificent scenery, and the diverse experiences of pilgrims are real. Not everyone's path, but those who do watch will experience a melancholic and moving film. This way for a life affirming journey.
The Social NetworkAnthony Macali
A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook.
"The Social Network" is a telling portrayal of one the world's most unsociable guys. Expertly played, the punk billionaire is depicted as an obnoxious genius, his computer antics spurred by teenage anguish. The film is well informed and doesn't shy away from the geeky mumbo-jumbo, as it creates a real sense of the amazing scale and technical brilliance of 'The Facebook'. The first half of the movie is fast and exciting, but the second half tends to lag with unfavourable characters and court-room exposition. Nonetheless, 'FilmDude' likes this.
Father of My ChildrenWendy Slevison
A film producer struggles with suicidal despair amidst the collapse of his business.
"Father of My Children" explores the emotive subject of suicide, acutely juxtaposing the life of a busy young Parisian family before and after 'the event'. In this sensitive and authentic observation, anger, tears, secrets and stoic determination are all revealed as the people left behind struggle to continue on with life amidst their grief and the financial mess that is their legacy. Based on a true story (only minor details have been changed), this film is a poignant acknowledgement of the very significant issue of mental health in our world. Don't just see this film, talk about it.
Never Let Me GoAnne Murphy
As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school.
"Never Let Me Go" is a cinematic experience easy to be engrossed in, set late last century in a melancholic countryside dreamed up in storybooks. At its heart the tale is a haunting love story, but its soul holds grim secrets from the realms of sci-fi, and is told from an emotionally undeveloped point of view so restrained the audience may feel more manipulated than the characters. The plot dilemmas will fuel sober dinner-party conversations, destined to hold on.
We Need to Talk About KevinAnne Murphy
The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief - and feelings of responsibility for her child's actions.
Harrowing is the only way to describe "We Need to Talk About Kevin". It's difficult viewing, a chilling and disturbing movie. All credit to the director for the way the mother's haunting story unfolds, threading memories and recollections into the narrative as an explanation for the present. The actor's performances are outstanding while portraying situations more chilling than most horror plots. Maybe we need to talk, but in hushed tones.
The TurningAnne Murphy
A collection of 17 short films, each episode drawn from a different chapter of the book.
Each of the individual pieces to this film is a minor masterpiece, poignant in its own way, familiar stories of longing and regret in an unmistakably Australian setting. Presented as one three hour movie, "The Turning" asks much of its audience. The trouble is that the central linking thread is not always apparent, as each piece has its own writer, director and cast. It's not straightforward to spot the same characters in different stories; they’re more connected in the book than they appear on the screen. Quite a turn of events.
The Human Resources ManagerAnne Murphy
The HR manager of Israel's largest industrial bakery sets out to save the reputation of his business and prevent the publication of a defamatory article.
The plot sounds like the set-up for a punch-line; an HR manager, a journalist, a street kid and the Commissar's husband go on a road trip, as opposed to walking into a bar. "The Human Resources Manager" is a warm and satirical journey across the landscapes of Israel and Romania that reveals man's humanity towards man, and it's as funny as any good bar joke. If only more HR managers were this delightfully quirky.
Let the Right One InWendy Slevison
Oscar, a young bullied boy, meets Eli, a beautiful girl who turns out to be a vampire.
If you thought all the original ideas for vampire movies had been used up, think again. Set in Sweden, this film uses the icy, austere conditions to illustrate and emphasise the lonely isolation of its young protagonists. This film holds nothing back as it deals with issues of first love and bullying, contrasted against the violent world of the vampire. The young stars are astonishingly good, and this innovative movie rates highly among the alumni of its genre.
Arthur ChristmasWendy Slevison
On Christmas night, Santa's youngest son looks to use his father's high-tech operation for a mission.
"How DOES Santa deliver ALL those presents in one night?" Well, here is the answer, in this charming and engaging addition to the Christmas movie genre. Santa's family are just like any other family, so it seems, with their squabbles and power struggles. Ultimately the job must get done though, and despite some quirky yet substantial obstacles on this particular Christmas Eve, it eventually does. With voice work provided by a quite dazzling array of well-known actors, this delightful romp is guaranteed to imbue Christmas spirit into even the most cynical of viewers. Merry Christmas!
Blue JasmineAnne Murphy
A life crisis causes a vapid and narcissistic socialite to head to San Francisco, where she tries to reconnect with her sister.
This is a global financial crisis aftermath movie, where we are drawn to watching those who had it all, and their lives after the loss of that excess. How do you keep it together when your life comes apart? "Blue Jasmine" exposes a taut human fragility through its characters, family, lovers and strangers. Our simplicity is in full view along with our complexity and a confounding ability to see ourselves as we imagine we are. Sharp, dark and smart, in hues of blue.
Monsieur LazharAnne Murphy
At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.
While presented as a simple tale, "Monsieur Lazhar" navigates complex social issues; and the phrase 'deceptively simple' is fitting. Themes of loss and grief are explored within a classroom setting by focusing on teacher and pupil relationships. The result is a tender and moving storyline given life by an excellent cast. It is a pleasure to watch serious subjects played out with a deft touch that neither preaches nor moralises. Bring an apple for this extraordinary teacher.
My Year Without SexWendy Slevison
An understated look at love and life in middle-class Australian suburbia.
Watching this film feels a bit like peering in your neighbours' window and secretly watching them go about their lives. What you see is familiar in its detail, insightful in its observations, and at times confronting in its honesty. It boldly broaches the big questions, as well as the little everyday ones. Tenderly crafted, and featuring stellar performances, "My Year Without Sex" is an affirmation of the trials and tribulations of love, relationships, family and yes, sex.
A Dangerous MethodAnne Murphy
A look at how the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
"A Dangerous Method" documents the shared origins of what have become rival doctrines, following the professional friendship and falling out of the earliest proponents of 'the talking cure'. The actor's performances ensure compelling, if at times uncomfortable, viewing. The period in modern history is faithfully depicted and attention is paid to details which highlight the differences between the lifestyles and theories of kindred pioneers. Even more engrossing than the look is the dialogue; unsurprisingly the screenplay is based on a non-fiction book. No slips, Freudian or otherwise.
Inside Llewyn DavisAnne Murphy
A week in the life of a young singer navigating the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
"Inside Llywen Davis" provides an in-depth portrait of one man, and a reflection on life. The protagonist has been following a dream and starts to realise that he is living a mundane nightmare. There's no plot to speak of, and this portrayal of the daily grind captures a surreal quality. The cinematography is extraordinary, finding beauty in the grim of winter and grime of the city. As for the folky soundtrack, let's just say you can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles...
Looking for EricAnne Murphy
Eric, a postman whose life is descending in to crisis, receives some life coaching from Eric Cantona.
For the most part, the tone of "Looking for Eric" has a steady down beat of realism as individuals within a loosely connected family tackle emotional issues including loss and depression. The cast extends beyond family to encompass important relationships with friends, heroes, and deadbeats. The plot is refreshingly unpredictable with a triumphant, if somewhat incongruent, conclusion tacked on. All is forgiven as the credits roll... the audience feels good and Eric may have found what he was looking for.