Sunday, March 29, 2020

Pride

Movie Name: Pride
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Matthew Warchus
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Paddy Considine, George MacKay, Andrew Scott, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Joseph Gilgun, Jessica Gunning, Faye Marsay, Freddie Fox, Joshua Hill, Chris Overton, Jessie Cave, Menna Trussler, Nia Gwynne, Liz White, Kyle Rees, Johnny Gibbon, Laura Matthews, Russell Tovey, Matthew Flynn, Monica Dolan, Karina Fernandez
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Celebrated theater director Matthew Warchus directed "Pride" to great acclaim in 2014, following his feature directorial debut in 1999 with the little seen, "Simpatico" (which featured Jeff Bridges, Sharon Stone and Nick Nolte). The film, based on real events, takes place in England, in the mid 80s, during the miners strike. It focuses on a series of characters, initially introducing us to Joe, a closeted 20 year old, who goes to London for the first time to participate in the Gay Pride parade. While there he meets the activist Mark, but also Jonathan and his partner Gethin, who have a bookstore, and Steph, a lesbian activist. Mark is intent on fighting for gay rights, but feels gays should show solidarity to the plight of the miners. This gay group find themselves in the Welsh mining community of Onllwyn, where they start collaborating with them to raise funds and help the families within the community stay afloat while the strike lasts. Even though not everyone is onboard with the help of the gay group, and even tries to sabotage their endeavors, Mark and his team manage to set up a hugely successful benefit concert to which most of the villagers show up, alongside many other attendees, generating quite a hefty load of money. As the strike comes to a closure, some personal news cause some people within the group to have meltdowns, but they manage to reconcile, just as the Pride Parade of 1985 is about to start.
Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford, manage to create with "Pride" a film that is both riveting, humane, humorous, and socially conscious. It tackles both the issues of the miners strike in the 80s, and the strides gay groups were trying to accomplish at the time, when AIDS was decimating and entire generation. It's a film that showcases characters as more than simple archetypes, aiming and deftly demonstrating how everyone can benefit from being compassionate, humane, and having the ability to look beyond their own realities. Even if some of the situations are handled somewhat simplistically, it's nonetheless a film that demonstrates the power of solidarity, of kindness trumping bigotry and discrimination. It's a film that manages to make a powerful statement without being preachy or populist. The entire cast is wonderful, with Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott, George MacKay, all creating wonderfully vivid performances. Worth watching.  

Pet Sematary

Movie Name: Pet Sematary
Year of Release: 2019
Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Starring: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz, Jete Laurence, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
After the success of the adaptation of Stephen King's "It", a new array of adaptations of his work has stated to come along. This one in particular, is a new adaptation, since there's a previous version of "Pet Sematary", directed by Mary Lambert, which premiered in 1989. The film follows the story of the Creed family, who move to a new property, in a somewhat rural area, in order to escape the stress of living in a big city. The property they've bought is expansive, and they come to find out through their friendly neighbor Jud, has a Pet Cemetery (which has a plaque with the designation "Sematary"). When the cat's family, by the name of Church, is killed by a passing truck, they decide to not reveal it to their young daughter Ellie. Jud informs Louis there's a way to avoid inflicting the pain of loss on the young girl. He takes Louis to the Pet Sematary and informs him that the locale has special abilities, which allow to bring things back to life. While in discredit, Louis does as Jud indicates, and much to his surprise, Church shows up at the house not much later. While the cat is indeed back, he's not really the same, and while the family is getting familiar with the area, tragedy strikes when Ellie is killed in a car accident. Not wanting to deal with that suffering, Louis takes his daughter's body to the Sematary, in hopes she'll also comes back to life. And she does, just not the same way he expected.
Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have had a brief career thus far, mostly specializing in suspense/horror films. Their take on "Pet Sematary" is close in tone to most of the narrative penned by Stephen Kind, save for the final act, which goes in a somewhat different direction. The film and the directors, succeed in building an environment of unease and veiled menace surrounding the cemetery, however, they're less successful in establishing the central characters as more than shallow archetypes for a perfect family. While Louis is a physician, and deeply pragmatic, his wife Rachel, lives with the guilt of feeling responsible for the death of her sister, when she was much younger (her sister suffered from spinal meningitis), and therefore shies away from dealing with that topic (in general and with her children in particular). The character that brings some extra depth and nuance to the proceedings is of course Jud, the friendly neighbor played perfectly by John Lithgow, who unwittingly sets the tragic set of events in motion, when he reveals the power behind the "Sematary". It's a film that doesn't necessarily add much to the previous adaptation, but does manage to feature more polished production values, including the beautiful cinematography from Laurie Rose and the effective score from Christopher Young. While not a bad adaptation, it isn't a memorable one. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Commuter

Movie Name: The Commuter
Year of Release: 2018
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern, Jonathan Banks, Killian Scott, Florence Pugh, Shazad Latif, Andy Nyman, Roland Moller, Ella-Rae Smith, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nila Aalia
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra continues his steady collaboration of films with Liam Neeson, with "The Commuter" being their 4 joint effort (following "Unknown", "Non-Stop" and "Run All Night"). The film follows the story of Michael MacCauley, a 60 year old married man, who previously worked in law enforcement, but is now working as a life insurance salesman. Michael commutes daily into New York/Manhattan, and as the story starts to unfold, we witness his day going progressively worse, as he's let go from his job. Having lost most of his savings and investments from the 2008 recession, losing the job at this point is a particular hardship for him (and his family of course). On his trip back home, he sits across a woman, who introduces herself as Joanna (she also adds she's an academic, someone who studies human behavior). She eventually makes a proposal to him: he'll get 100,000 dollars, if he manages to locate a passenger who doesn't belong on that commute, someone by the name of "Prynne", who has something stolen in their possession. Joanna tells him he has the first tranche of the reward in the bathroom, and the rest will be given to him upon accomplishing the feat. Michael finds the money, and suddenly finds himself in a rapidly escalating situation. Joanna, as it turns out, knows a lot more about him and his family, and blackmails him on their safety, if he doesn't uncover the identity of that passenger, someone who turns out is a witness on a killing that has ties with underground crime and even law enforcement. Michael has to use all his skills and strategy to somehow uncover who the passenger is, keep his family in safe, and avoid being killed in the process.
Liam Neeson has managed to create a career for himself in the past 12 years (in essence since the release of Pierre Morel's "Taken"), as a new and a bit more polished version, of what Charles Bronson was doing in the late 70s and during the 80s with Canon pictures. His characters are typically cut from the same mold: stoic men, with principles, incorruptible, who somehow find themselves in situations that push them to the edge of sanity and moderation. And once pushed far enough, his response comes in the shape of an unleashed fury and violence, that destroys everything in its path. The roles have some slight differences between them, but in essence are somewhat identical, and allow for Neeson to showcase his physicality and charisma, something he always has had as early as can be witnessed in Sam Raimi's "Darkman" for instance. "The Commuter" isn't as formulaic as the "Taken" franchise, since it tries to capture some faint influences from Hitchcock and his "Strangers on a Train", but those influences are quickly discarded in favor of some typical stunts and action set pieces that we've come to expect from these films (and that are also, to a certain extent, influenced by the style, aesthetically and editing perspective, of Paul Greengrass's Jason Bourne films). What barely salvages this film, is indeed its cast, with Liam Neeson finding good support from the always great Vera Farmiga, alongside Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks and Sam Neill. The cast makes the film worth watching, but just barely. Forgettable.

Burlesque

Movie Name: Burlesque
Year of Release: 2010
Director: Steve Antin
Starring: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Cam Gigandet, Eric Dane, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Dianna Agron, Glynn Turman, Terrence Jenkins, James Brolin, Julianne Hough, Isabella Hoffman, Michael Landes, David Walton
Genre: Drama, Musical
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
After a long career as an actor (he played small but interesting roles in Richard Donner's "The Goonies" and Jonathan Kaplan's "The Accused"), Steve Antin made his directorial debut with "Burlesque". The film follows the story of Ali, a young woman from Iowa, who is working as a waitress, but has dreams of moving to Los Angeles, and going into show business. She finally decides to move forward with the pursuit of her dream, and packs her meager belongings, moving to LA, quickly finding a place to live. She immediately starts looking for places to work, and accidentally discovers a club by the name of Burlesque. Intrigued she goes in, and becomes fascinated by what she sees. She begs for a job with the owner of the club, the charismatic Tess, who initially turns her down. Aiming for a way in, Ali starts waitressing, and finally gets a chance to showcase her dancing moves when one of the dancers becomes pregnant. The club is going through some financial hardship, something that slowly starts turning once Ali starts singing, and the crowds show up. However that's not enough to save the club, and Tess herself from near bankruptcy, that is until Ali figures a solution.
"Burlesque" is a quasi-fantasy musical film, existing in a land located between Rob Marshall's "Chicago" and Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge". What was so indelible in those two films, besides of course the fantastic performances and production values, was the consistency of its storytelling, and the universe that those filmmakers managed to create and deliver. Sadly with Steve Antin, the film desperately tries to tell the story of a rags to riches of a country girl (whose motivation is never quite made clear), who on the seemingly first day of looking for a job, instantly finds one, and rapid fire succeeds in getting a promotion to a dancing job (again, that's another thing that's never quite expanded upon, Ali's intuitively capability to dance professionally). While these fantastical coincidences aren't necessarily a detrimental factor in a musical, the characters that inhabit this film have little to no dimension, from Cher's club owner, who spends almost the entire narrative trying to save the club, Stanley Tucci's best friend role (and costumer?), who apparently solely exists to be in dressing rooms and behind the drapes, even Christina Aguilera, who after some challenges occur, seems undaunted by anything and whose character is pretty much one note all the time. Even if this film is intended as a fantasy, the odd combination of this superficiality with vague attempts at capturing the entertainment life in LA, seems disjointed and oddly anachronistic. As far as the musical numbers, and personal taste aside, the choreography on display is glitzy and flashy, but the best song of the entire film, comes courtesy of Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Star. This talented cast deserved a better script and more vision of its director. Forgettable.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Movie Name: Memoirs of an Invisible Man
Year of Release: 1992
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jim Norton, Pat Skipper, Richard Epcar, Steven Barr, Gregory Paul Martin, Patricia Heaton
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Following the independently financed diptych of "Prince of Darkness" and "They Live", director John Carpenter started the 90s with a big budget film, with this adaptation of H.F. Saint's, "Memoirs of an Invisible Man". Originally intended to be directed by Ivan Reitman, Carpenter took the reigns of the film, and as usual, made matters more interesting. The film follows the story of Nick Halloway, a stock analyst, who has spent most of his life avoiding responsibility and very much connecting in a meaningful way with others. While attending a presentation in a Laboratory, Nick who is hungover, decides to go to an office and take a small nap. Without knowing/realizing, the lab goes through a meltdown, which results in a substantial part of the building becoming invisible, including Nick himself. The CIA seizes Nick and a shady agent by the name of David Jenkins, plans on using him as a secret agent, which prompts Nick to escape. Nick eventually manages to recount his story to Alice, a woman he had a rapport with at a party, who believes him and tries to help him out. They both set out a plan to elude Nick's captors, which will allow him to start his life elsewhere.
John Carpenter had a fantastic output during the 80s, even if "Big Trouble in Little China" was a box office disappointment for Twentieth Century Fox, forcing him to work with smaller budgets, still releasing memorable features. While at first glance this film may seem an oddity in his career, is nonetheless something that ties to some of his recurring themes: the central hero, is an every day man, who is thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and who has to resort to his own abilities (and resourcefulness), to overcome towering obstacles. These every day heroes had been a part of some of his more well known features, such as "The Thing", "Starman" and even "Escape from NY". Using Chevy Chase as the lead actor, did tag the film more openly with the comedy genre, but the film manages to be both lighthearted, but also sufficiently dark to provide an adequate balance to the narrative. The supporting cast is uniformly good, even if Daryl Hannah doesn't have much to do, but the always reliable Sam Neill makes for an interesting sinister force. The visual effects are fantastic, and the score from Shirley Walker while not as iconic as Carpenter's own scores, is competently adequate. Worth watching!

The Last of the Mohicans

Movie Name: The Last of the Mohicans
Year of Release: 1992
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, Jodhi May, Steven Waddington, Wes Studi, Maurice Roeves, Patrice ChĂ©reau, Terry Kinney, Tracey Ellis, Pete Postlethwaite
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Director Michael Mann started the 90s with this impeccable adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same name. His previous directorial effort, the Thomas Harris adaptation of the book "Red Dragon", by the title of "Manhunter", while receiving good notices and reviews, flew somewhat under the radar. "The Last of the Mohicans" follows the story of Hawkeye, a native American, from the tribe of the Mohicans, who is in fact a white man who has been adopted by a native. Hawkeye, alongside his father, Chingachgook and his brother Uncas, find themselves directly involved in the British and French colonialist wars, when they save both daughters from a Colonel and some of the party that was accompanying them to a fort. As the Colonel negotiates with the French the terms of surrender, things take a dark turn, with old vendettas/resentments coming to the forefront, resulting in multiple deaths, and both women taken to a rival Native American tribe's locale. Hawkeye, who in the meantime has developed feelings for the older sister, Cora, goes in pursuit hoping to save her from a near certain death. 
"The Last of the Mohicans" managed to further cement Michael Mann's reputation as a unique storyteller. The film deftly mixes a somewhat brutal and violent approach to the depiction of the strains of war, particularly the one taking place in the 18th century, with the potent veiled eroticism and romanticism that emerges between the characters of Hawkeye and Cora. That relationship, more so than the grueling aspects of war, really powers this narrative, and makes this adaptation all the more memorable (there had been 4 other previous adaptations of the book, ranging from the 20s through the 50s). The film takes its time in defining the relationships between its lead characters, while also enhancing the adventure aspects of the narrative, utilizing the natural beauty of the landscapes where it was shot (which in a way becomes almost a character in the film itself). It's a film that does bring back memories of the classic Hollywood adventures, but with a modernist stance and edge. The cast is uniformly great, led by the always fantastic Daniel Day-Lewis, with great turns from Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May and Steven Waddington. The cinematography from Dante Spinotti is stunning, as is the score from Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman. A solid film from a great director.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

Movie Name: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle
Year of Release: 1992
Director: Curtis Hanson
Starring: Annabella Sciorra, Rebecca De Mornay, Matt McCoy, Ernie Hudson, Julianne Moore, Madeline Zima, John de Lancie, Kevin Skousen
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Director Curtis Hanson who had a somewhat discreet career in the 70s and 80s, finally started to ascend to bigger projects and features in the 90s, thanks in part to this film, which turned out to be a surprise success in 1992. Written by Amanda Silver (who is now well known for having restarted the "Planet of the Apes" franchise and is currently on the "Avatar" films writing team, alongside her husband, Rick Jaffa), the film follows the story of Claire Bartel and her family. Claire who is pregnant with her second child, is sexually molested by her obstetrician. After reporting the incident, more women follow suit, and the doctor wanting to avoid dealing with the charges, commits suicide. His suicide in turn, leaves his pregnant wife's life in disarray: she loses the child alongside all their belongings. Wanting to impact revenge upon the Bartel family, Peyton Flanders as she now calls herself, starts a series of plans to undermine Claire, both as a mother and as a wife. The people in her life however, suspect of Peyton's intentions, and while she manages to sabotage these people's presence and even in some cases, their lives, she eventually is discovered by Claire and the family. What follows is a game of survival for all parties involved.
"The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" belongs to the first part of Curtis Hanson's career, where his films were heavily influenced by Hitchcock's presence. Unlike Brian de Palma, who always went for a more unique approach in his films (and who has always tackled Hitchcock's legacy in a more feverishly and eroticized manner), Hanson was always more interested in the relationships that characters with different backgrounds and expectations can develop, and how clashes eventually surface and what outcomes come from these seemingly disparate paths crashing into one. "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" feels a bit indebted to Adrian Lynne's "Fatal Attraction", in the sense that it makes one of its central characters, the villainous Peyton, a threat towards the central family unit (much like the wonderful Glenn Close was in Lynne's film). However, and unlike "Fatal Attraction", Peyton doesn't want the family for herself, she wants some sense of retribution, which is where the script isn't as nuanced as the one from James Dearden's for Adrian Lynne's film. It's still a polished and well executed film, one that established the trio of actresses that inhabited it, particularly the always wonderful Julianne Moore. The cinematography from Robert Elswit is effective as is the score from the always underrated Graeme Revell. Entertaining.

The Forest

Movie Name: The Forest
Year of Release: 2016
Director: Jason Zada
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Eoin Macken, Noriko Sakura, Stephanie Vogt, Yuho Yamashita, Gen Seto
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
"The Forest" is director Jason Zada's directorial debut. The film follows the story of Sara Price, a woman living with her fiancĂ© Rob, in the US. She receives a call from the Japanese police, notifying her they suspect her sister is dead, as she was seen going into Aokigahara forest. Since Jess, her sister, is also her twin, Sara immediately grabs a plane ticket and travels to Japan in order to uncover what has happened to her. While investigating the disappearance, Sara makes friends with a reporter by the name of Aiden, who explains to her more details surrounding the Sea of Trees forest. He tells her how the place is known for being a place where people go to kill themselves, and that the forest supposedly has some darkness to it. As they set out to explore more, they uncover the tent which Sara identifies as being Jess's, and she decides to stay the night, something that Aiden and their Japanese host, Michi, strongly discourage. As she's unmoved, Sara decides to stay, with Aiden by her side. During the night Sara sees some teenager who tells her about Jess, and that she shouldn't trust Aiden. As dawn approaches and a new day starts, they decide to continue exploring, without waiting for Michi, leading them in different paths, with Sara's increasing paranoia, leading her away from Aiden. As she falls into a whole in the forest, she discovers more than she anticipated.
"The Forest" is a horror/mystery thriller which lives from the iconic aspect that surrounds the well known "Sea of Trees" in Japan (which was also used by Gus Van Sant in his own film of that same name, featuring Matthew McConaughey, Naomi Watts and Ken Watanabe). The film adds a supernatural tone to it, with supposedly the spirits of the deceased becoming part of this evil ecosystem that the the Forest hides within. Sadly the film for the most part, poorly illustrates the exploration of Sara throughout the forest, and her deep desire to uncover the location of her sister. Most of what we know about Sara is disclosed from her childhood memories and a particular trauma she focuses on. The screenplay never bothers to add substantial backdrop for the characters that inhabit it. Even the darkness that surrounds the forest, feels gratuitously demonstrated. There's never a truly unsettling motif built for why the forest has that "darkness" and therefore whatever scares the film tries to create, are always very episodic and not very effective. The cast tries to deliver conviction and genuine scares, but the film lacks a stronger point of view, and a stronger screenplay. Forgettable.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot

Movie Name: Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
Year of Release: 2018
Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Tony Greenhand, Beth Ditto, Mark Webber, Kim Gordon, Udo Kier, Carrie Brownstein, Ronnie Adrian, Kyle Dunnigan, Ron Perkins, Mireille Enos
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
After the not so well received "The Sea of Trees", director Gus Van Sant retreated to some directorial work on a few TV shows, only to return with this biopic on the life of cartoonist John Callahan. The film follows his story, from the 70s onwards, detailing his constant struggle with alcoholism, and how that impacts a most dramatic change in his life. While going to a party, he and a friend are involved in a car wreck, which leaves him permanently disabled, and tied to a wheelchair. Even with those problems, John continues to drink, until he has a realization that he can't keep going in that path, and that a profound life change is needed. He starts attending AA, where he meets the charismatic Donny, who becomes his sponsor and inspirational voice. Simultaneously, he also starts drawing constantly, submitting his work to publications who recognize his unique point of view and humor. The path to recovery is a long one, and John struggles to make amends with his past, but he finally starts seeing a direction which leaves him more peaceful with himself, and finally with life.
"Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot" is a return back to form for Gus Van Sant. The director, who in this case, is also responsible for the screenplay and co-editing of the feature, manages to create a film that is poignant, emotional, filled with humor, while also capturing a bit of the essence of this artist, struggling with his own demons, battling addictions and finding his own path in life. It's a film that has a non-linear aspect to it, which allows for John's narrative to be witnessed simultaneously at its worst, and also in a scenario where he has managed to dig himself out of the darkness in which he lived in (while also giving some insight to the works of the artist himself). It's a film that avoids sentimentality, choosing instead to portray the incidents and characters for what they are, without judging them, simply demonstrating the consequences of everyone's actions. It's superbly acted, with Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara all carving strong performances, something that extends to the briefer participations from Jack Black, Beth Ditto and Kim Gordon. The cinematography from Christopher Blauvelt perfectly captures the ebbs and flows of this artist's life throughout different decades, the same going for the always fantastic Danny Elfman, who once again creates a perfectly suited score. Worth watching, from an always interesting voice in film making. 

The Farewell

Movie Name: The Farewell
Year of Release: 2019
Director: Lulu Wang
Starring: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Shuzhen Zhao, Xiang Li, Aoi Mizuhara, Yongbo Jiang
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Director Lulu Wang has followed her debut, "Posthumous", with the critically acclaimed "The Farewell" which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival of 2019 to great acclaim. The film follows the story of Billi, a young woman living in New York, whose family is originally from China. Billi stays in touch with her grandmother in China, and much to her consternation and sadness, is informed by her parents that her "Nai Nai" is actually suffering from lung cancer, and only has a few months left to live (at least, according to her doctors). Wanting to avoid causing her distress, the family collectively decides not to tell Nai Nai about her health situation. Instead, they make up a quickly arranged marriage, one to be celebrated between Billi's cousin, and a girl he recently met in Japan. The wedding arrangement and celebration, will allow all of them to spend time with the matriarch of the family, and in a way allow for a heartfelt goodbye. Billi, currently going through some professional challenges, disagrees with the idea, and wants to tell her grandmother everything, but upon visiting with her and simultaneously remembering what was her life in China, starts questioning not only her choices, but also her future.
"The Farewell" is a well observed film, one that reminds me of the early films from director Ang Lee (namely, "The Wedding Banquet" and "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman"). Much like Lee's films, Lulu Wang's is an emotionally charged, mordant and incisive well observed narrative,  of what family means in Asian households. It's also a pertinent observation and reflection on how people/families moving away, distancing themselves geographically, removes the physical closeness but not the emotional bonds (and dynamics). "The Farewell" in particular is well constructed, since it allows in few scenes, to understand the relationships between the lead characters, namely from Billi with her parents, but also with her Nai Nai. It's a film filled with joy, sadness, sorrow, but also with the realization that love exists and persists beyond the physical presence of individuals. The cast is uniformly strong, with Shuzhen Zhao and Awkwafina creating two unique women, bonded by family, love and intimacy. A very well observed film, worth watching.