RAW (France | Belgium/18/99mins) Directed by Julia Ducournau. Starring Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss. THE PLOT: Justine (Garance Marillier) has been a vegetarian all her life, when she goes through a hazing ritual at veterinarian school however, the young woman finds herself hungering for something more than the diet she has known all her life, something that will have disastrous consequences for her entire family. THE VERDICT: French Belgian film ‘Raw’ has already been scrutinised after a screening at the Gothenburg Film Festival in Sweden caused people to leave the cinema, but although ‘Raw’ presents itself as a horror film, it is more a coming of age tale, with some unconventional, violent and frankly stomach churning moments thrown in for good measure.
Garance Marillier leads he cast as Justine, and doe a great job of playing a young woman away from home for the first time and overshadowed by her older sister. Dialogue in ‘Raw’ is minimal, but Marillier conveys such emotion through her gaze and body language that more talking would have just cluttered the screen. Marillier also makes easy work of turning Justine from an innocent young woman into a sexually confident young woman, as well as a predator when it comes to what he feels her body needs. The rest of the cast features Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss.
Writer/director Julia Ducournau has created a film that is a cannibalistic struggle on the surface, but added layers underneath to explain the character and her move away from childhood into adulthood. The allegory is dealt with very subtly, and although statements are made about characters early on in the film, these are allowed to gently blur and shift over the course of the movie. The horror elements of the film are few and far between, but are squirm inducing at the best of times, although surprisingly it is not the eating that is the most troubling, more the purging. There are a lot of questions asked in the film, not all of which are answered, but there is enough given that the audience is not left hungry for more.
In all, ‘Raw’ is a disgusting, thought provoking and decidedly feminist film that just so happens to tell its tale through the metaphor of cannibalism. There are some incredibly nausea inducing moments, but Garance Marillier carries these off with ease and flair. It would have been a more satisfying feast, however, if a little more of the mythology of what is happening to the character was fleshed out further. RATING: 4/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
TABLE 19 (Finland | USA/12A/87mins) Directed by Jeffrey Blitz. Starring Anna Kendrick, June Squibb, Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant. THE PLOT: After she is dumped by the Best Man via text, Eloise (Anna Kendrick) steps down as maid of honour at her oldest friend’s wedding, but decides to attend the wedding anyway. Finding herself at table 19, with other people who, in Eloise’s own words, should have known better than to RSVP yes, Eloise soon learns that she is not the only one keeping a secret at this wedding. THE VERDICT: Written for the screen by Mark and Jay Duplass, it would be easy to dismiss ‘Table 19’ as a stereotypical, fluffy rom-com, but there is a darker emotional core to the film that makes it engaging and sweet.
The cast of ‘Table 19’ is made up of Anna Kendrick, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolori and Stephen Merchant. These are the characters seated at table 19, and each of the cast are given the unusual chance to round out their characters well on screen – even though this is clearly Eloise’s story – and allow the audience to connect with the dumped girlfriend, the former nanny, the married couple who are in trouble, the young man told to go to the wedding by his mother, to meet someone and the disgraced family member who is not really able to hide his secret. Much of the humour in the film comes from Stephen Merchant’s character; the actor’s timing is charming and often brilliant.
Mark and Jay Duplass’ screenplay takes the wedding rom-com and plays with the tropes that we are familiar with seeing in these films. There are plenty of laughs to be had with this quirky and sweet film, but the Duplass brothers make sure that the film has tons of heart for the audience to connect with. There are times when the pacing of the film struggles to keep the audience fully engaged, however, and there are character choices made that feel as though they are more in keeping with the rom-com genre, rather than turning it on its head.
Jeffrey Blitz is an Oscar nominated documentary director, but has cut his comedy chops on the TV shows Parks and Recreation and The Office. Blitz does well in making sure the audience identifies with the characters and roots for them, while making sure that the over the top elements of the film are played for laughs, and get them. There are times when the pacing struggles, and the to-ing and fro-ing in and out of the hotel becomes rather tiresome, but there is a strong and warm heart to ‘Table 19’, which just about makes up for this.
In all, ‘Table 19’ is a gentle comedy with a dark emotional heart. There are plenty of laughs to be had with the film, and tons of touching moments, but there are also times when ‘Table 19’ stops poking fun at the genre it is lampooning, and gets a little too caught up in the rom, and loses the com. RATING: 3.5/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
GOING IN STYLE (USA/12A/96mins) Directed by Zach Braff. Starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margaret, Joey King. THE PLOT: After he witnesses a bank robbery, and learns that not only has his pension vanished, but his mortgage repayments have trebled, septuagenarian Joe (Michael Caine) convinces his lifelong pals Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) to pull off a daring heist, a heist on the very bank that dissolved their pension fund. THE VERDICT: Directed by Zach Braff, and based on the 1979 crime caper film of the same name, ‘Going in Style’ is a charming film that lives and dies on the performances and chemistry between Arkin, Caine and Freeman.
Michael Caine leads the cast as Joe, a man who has refinanced his home, and finds himself in trouble when his pension vanishes and his mortgage trebles. Caine is not afraid to goof around and play up his age in the role, and his relationship with his friends and family in the film is warm and charming. Alan Arkin plays a more curmudgeonly character as Albert, and obviously has a whale of a time playing a cranky man who constantly talks about when he is going to die, and being “too old to hold a grudge”. Morgan Freeman plays Willie, a character with a secret, who just wants to “live better than I am”. The rest of the cast features Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher Lloyd, Joey King, Matt Dillon and Ann-Margaret.
Screenwriter Theordore Melfi – who previously brought us Hidden Figures and St. Vincent – has adapted the 1979 version of the film for this new remake. The story differs greatly from that of the original, making it less of a far-fetched caper, and more of a slightly less far-fetched justice by robbery tale, as well as a story with a warm heart and a decidedly happier ending. There are plenty of laughs throughout the film, and the central trio bring warmth and heart to their relationships with one another and their families. There are times when the warm up to the crime seems particularly over the top and unnecessary, however, and the ending of the film feels longer and more drawn out than it possibly needs to be.
As director Zach Braff steps away from the particular brand of existential whimsy that he is known for, and makes a heist film with plenty of laughs and heart. Braff shoots and directs the film like a crime caper, while adding in music choices that fans may not expect from the director. There are issues with pacing throughout the film, as well as some scenes played for laughs that do not necessarily fit in with the tone of the rest of the story, but with ‘Going in Style’, Braff proves that he is not just a one trick pony.
In all, ‘Going in Style’ is a warm and charming comedy that sometimes struggles slightly with pacing and tone. That said, Arkin, Caine and Freeman are wonderful together, and while it may seem like we have seen films like this before, there are enough laughs and charm to the film to make it an enjoyable ride, where the audience cannot help but root for three men whoa re obviously at the end of their tethers. RATING: 3.5/5 Review by Brogen Hayes
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (France | USA/12A/93mins) Directed by Raoul Peck. Starring Samuel L. Jackson. THE PLOT: Based on the unfinished manuscript ‘Remember This House’ by James Baldwin, I am Not Your Negro examines the relationships, tensions and often outright fear and hatred between the white and African-American populations of the US. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson – who stands in for the late James Baldwin –the film is also interspersed with footage of Baldwin himself, and draws a powerful comparison between the unrest and violent incidents in Ferguson in 2014, and the 1963 riots in Birmingham Alabama. THE VERDICT: As mentioned, ‘I am Not Your Negro’ is a powerful and surprisingly anger free look at the relationship between the white and African-American populations of the US in the 1960s. Author and social activist James Baldwin originally wanted to write a book on the subject, based around the lives of three of his friends; Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr – which he also wrote about in his book No Name in the Street.
Samuel L. Jackson takes on narration duties for ‘I am Not Your Negro’, and gives an uncharacteristically sombre and measured performance as he reads through Baldwin’s words. These words are beautifully, carefully written, and shine a light on the political situation in the US at the time when the manuscript was written, as well as Baldwin’s own feelings about the issues, and his reluctance to return to the US from France, where he had been living.
James Baldwin’s words are measured and beautifully put together, giving weight and strength to his arguments and ideas, as they are presented without hate or fear, but just as he sees the world he lives in. Director Raoul Peck has put together a film that combines images from the riots in Alabama, footage from speeches by Malcolm X. Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr with juxtaposing images from white American culture that both shock, and show up the differences between the two populations. As well as this, the film includes Baldwin himself speaking at Cambridge College debates in 1965, on the topic “The American Dream is at the expense of the American negro”. When both speaking himself or when Samuel L. Jackson is providing his words with a voice, James Baldwin comes of as reasoned and educated, while also being passionate and resolute in his beliefs.
Peck paces ‘I am Not Your Negro’ incredibly well, breaking the film up into chapters such as Witness and Heroes, and while this gives structure to the film, it never overwhelms it. Other than Baldwin’s own words, little information is given about the author and social activist, but this is not needed to understand the power and grace of his words, and allows audiences unfamiliar with Baldwin to seek out his work in the future.
In all, ‘I am Not Your Negro’ is a thought provoking, powerful piece of cinema that both gives a history lesson to the audience, while shining a light on the cultural problems and race relation tensions in the US today. Sadly, the film has become ever more topical with the current US President in power, an outcome that even Baldwin could not have predicted. RATING: 5/5 Review by Brogen Hayes