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REVIEW OF DIRECTOR MICHAEL THELIN’S ‘EMELIE’

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Emelie_3A married couple hire a babysitter to watch their 3 children while they go out for an anniversary meal. The regular sitter is unavailable so they call upon the shy and reserved Emelie, little do they know that things will take a sinister turn once the children are left in her care…

‘Emelie’ is far from an original premise, however the film’s strength lies in how that particular premise is executed. Right from the outset the viewer is put on edge, with Emelie’s subtly increasing cruelty and a claustrophobic atmosphere the film grips you an doesn’t let go.

emelie3

A significant factor to the increase in tension is the fact that the danger is happening to children, this isn’t a bunch of reckless college kids that messed with the wrong girl. The 3 children are a range of ages with the oldest being in his early teens. Emelie exacts acts of psychological cruelty to each child but in such a way that they don’t really know its happening until after their ordeal. These acts gradually ramped up as the story progressed. We learn later on that these acts of cruelty are not just random, they are in fact tests for a much large more disturbing scheme. In one scene the oldest child catches Emelie on the toilet and is asked to open a tampon and hand it to her. Although this was such a simple scene it was like watching the build up to a murder, he was out of his comfort zone, embarrassed and vulnerable yet she revelled from it. These mind games were gripping if not frightening to watch.

These scenes are extremely effective because they relied on the naivety and innocence of childhood. The children complied because they had been taught to obey adults, they did these acts without question and even when they had doubts they were promptly pulled back into line.

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The character of Emelie was surprisingly fleshed out which in sometimes quite rare within the horror genre. She had an interesting and dark back story which made her intentions realistic but certainly not any less disturbing. Emelie was a villain you could almost sympathise with, she was doing these horrific acts for a very dark but real reasons. The film portrayed her as very human and a villain some people may even be able to relate to which truly an alarming feat.

The Verdict:

Emelie is a tense, well paced and claustrophobic horror thriller. With care and attention taken to flesh out key characters, the film shines in a crowded sub genre.

4/5

 

Emelie 2015, Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, 

 

 

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Comedy

Together Together | Review

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In Together Together, the main character creates an app named Loner where users can view strangers’ photos without ever having to contact them or see them again. It’s an incisive commentary on how social media and dating apps have allowed us to engage with someone for as long as we want and just as easily move on to whoever is next. But what happens when you genuinely connect with someone even though you know the connection cannot be permanent? That’s what happens when two people meet via a gestational surrogacy arrangement. Together Together, Nicole Beckwith’s refreshing and touching dramedy breaks free from the trappings of the rom-com genre by focusing on the power of platonic relationships. 

Matt is a forty-something, single man ready to become a father who enlists Anna, a 26-year-old barista, to be his surrogate. The pair make for an unlikely duo not just because of the age gap but also in their difference of temperament. Ed Helms’ Matt is a well-meaning but overbearing father-to-be, while Patti Harrison’s Anna is dry, witty, and a bit cold before opening up as their friendship develops. Throughout the pregnancy, they begin spending much of their time together during doctor appointments, dinners, and eventually, overnight stays. As the two grow close, audiences might expect to see romance blossom, but writer-director Nikole Beckwith seems to have no interest in the will-they-won’t-they story here.

There are certainly elements of a typical rom-com like witty banter and the sweet getting to know each other conversations. Still, Beckwith consciously chose to spotlight the rarely-portrayed platonic love between a man and woman rather than a romance. Anna and Matt are not only connected through surrogacy but also as people living life “alone.” In a poignant scene, Anna asks Matt why he is having a child alone, and he says he needs to move forward and it just so happens that he’s doing it by himself. He mentions a previous long-term girlfriend, but the film smartly does not delve into his failed relationship or the background of his decision to become a single father. Matt’s unconventional choice is shown to be a bold and earnest one rather than one of desperation.

Anna’s journey through surrogacy is also portrayed in unexpected ways. As a young woman who is not currently in contact with her family, she unwittingly finds herself growing attached to Matt even as he crosses the boundaries of a typical surrogacy arrangement. He drops by her work unexpectedly and questions her about her sex life. While Matt is open and excited to connect with the woman carrying his child, Anna is initially resistant and for a good reason. Anna’s friend and coworker Jules (played hilariously by Julio Torres) reminds her that this time is finite and whatever Anna and Matt are will have to change after she gives birth. Harrison adeptly plays Anna’s heartbreak of knowing this special time in her life will end soon while Matt’s has just begun.

Together Together’s clever and awkward humor and a deep bench of supporting comedic actors (Tig Notaro, Nora Dunn, Fred Melamed, Sufe Bradshaw) are what get the film going, but it’s the genuine tenderness between the protagonists that sustain it to the end. We see this in the film’s seemingly abrupt but fitting final scene. After intimately capturing Anna and Matt as partners in surrogacy, the camera focuses solely on Anna for the concluding shot as we see relief and sadness wash over her face. It’s a reminder that even the most meaningful relationships in our lives aren’t always meant to last forever. 

Together Together is now playing in limited U.S. theaters and will be available on VOD on May 11th.

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Blood and Money | If You Admire Tom Berrenger, You Should Of Course Watch This One

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I just want to get out there and bag my buck.

If you start watching this movie without any prior knowledge, you’d swear it was a flick from the 80s. A film period in which Tom Berenger also played in old-fashioned crime pictures such as “Someone to watch over me” or “Shoot to kill”. I’ll always remember this actor as Sergeant Barnes (the ruthless soldier with a hideous scar who wanted to kill all Vietnamese, no matter what age) from the legendary Vietnam film “Platoon”. It’s true that this all-rounder was a lot younger in this war movie. Tom Berenger has reached the blessed age of 71 this year. But that didn’t stop him from stumbling through the icy landscape of Allagash (a town in the North Maine Woods region) in search of game.

 

 

An old man with a heavy mental burden.

And you can take that stumbling literally. Not only is he an elderly man. Apparently he also suffers from a disease that causes him to cough up blood from time to time. So for Jim Reed (Tom Berenger), it’s a tough job to move through the thick snowpack. In addition, Jim also carries a very heavy mental burden. As the film progresses, this dark secret is revealed little by little. The fact that you see him attend an AA meeting gives you an idea of what’s the source of all his woes. An event that caused this ex-Marine to lose a beloved family member and the rest of his family refusing any contact with him. Actually it’s something similar that Rayborn is going through in “The Silencing”. Coincidentally a movie I’ve seen only recently.

 

 

Oops, wrong deer.

Blood and money” is a terribly slow film. In the first part, we get to know Jim who’s hunting for deer in the vast nature reserve. You witness the solitary life he leads in his converted camper. And the friendly relationship he has with the not so unattractive waitress Debbie (Kristen Hager) in a diner. A desperate woman who would like to leave that godforsaken place and who also has her domestic problems. And then there are the occasional talks with a kind of forest rangers who register those who enter or leave the nature reserve. In short, little to get excited about. Until Jim spots the deer he’s so desperately looking for. He aims and fires a fatal shot. Unfortunately, there won’t be a juicy piece of deer meat on the table during the Christmas season. Because he accidentally shot and fatally injured a woman. And when turns out she’s a member of a gang who just robbed a casino and Jim finds a gym bag full of dollar bills next to her body, you expect the movie to get more action-packed and exciting.

 

 

Non-exciting flick.

Well, that’s what you expected. Right? Forget it. That’s only partly true. It won’t become an impressive or spectacular movie after all. In the first place, you can’t expect a retired hunter with walking difficulties to behave like a crafty, in-shape kind of Rambo. I also had the impression that he always traveled the same route on a limited square kilometer. The advantage is that you can enjoy the idyllic snow landscape immensely. But I’m sure most viewers expected a different kind of entertainment than beautiful “National Geographic” footage. And secondly, you can expect really idiotic bad guys who, provided they had a certain amount of intellect, could have easily overpowered this old guy. The way they were tricked by him sometimes, was downright laughable. Besides finding the bag of dollar bills, Jim isn’t exactly born for luck either. You’ll figure that out every time he manages to capture a weapon.

 

 

It was kind of mediocre.

Blood and Money” won’t leave an everlasting impression. The story itself is nothing new. Only Tom Berrenger makes an impression, given his age. A character role pur sang. Unfortunately, they were unable to go into his personality deep enough. What happened to him in the past remained rather vague. Furthermore, the action part seemed rather amateurish. So it felt like a mediocre film. If you admire Tom Berrenger, you should of course watch this one. However, there are better thrillers that also take place in a snowy landscape.

 

 

My rating 4/10
Links: IMDB

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The Silencing | Great Cinematography From A Low Budget Film

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I need to see that girl.
She could be my daughter.

 

It’s always nice to see how actors from a successful television series cope in a feature film. And especially if the genre is quite different from what they played in that series. Here Nikolaj Coster-Waldau makes a decent attempt to show that he has more to offer than playing a king’s son who prefers to perform gymnastic exercises with his sister between the sheets. His performance here is on a similar level to that of Jaime Lannister in “Game of Thrones”. Convincing enough, but not exactly of exceptional quality. A role that doesn’t annoy you. But every time you see his face somewhere, you have to think for a moment where you know that face from. This is also the case here in “The Silencing”. I was like, “Damn, where do I know this guy from?”. Only after fifteen minutes or so, I could figure it out.

 

 

Where there’s grief, there’s booze.

The Silencing” itself is of the same level. Certainly not a bad movie. But also not a movie that’ll blow you away. The story felt a bit incomplete to me. There were some improbabilities (not to say completely nonsensical decisions). And the denouement with the disclosure of the perpetrator and his motivation, I personally found a bit far-fetched. The film had something “Silence of the Lambs“-ish but then set in an extensive, forest-like nature reserve. An area managed by Rayborn Swanson (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that has been given the name “Gwen Swanson sanctuary”. A reference to his daughter who has been missing for 5 years. It’s a place where animals can live undisturbed and protected, far from hunters and poachers. Rayborn lives an isolated life far from the civilized world. A way to silently grief about the loss of his daughter. Usually by consuming liters of alcohol. A bit strange because that’s exactly what caused that disappearance.

 

 

There’s a serial killer on the loose.

The story gets a little bit more exciting the moment a serial killer comes into the picture. Someone who probably watched “The Hunt” too much. What follows, is a cat-and-mouse game with the participation of the local female sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis, series-loving fans will recognize her from “Peaky Blinders”) who herself has her hands full with the stupidities her little brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a drug addict with a traumatic past.

 

 

Ridiculous things.

Without a doubt, this could have been a much better, coherent movie, provided the script was changed a bit. It’s linked together with hooks and eyes. Full of coincidences and ridiculous twists. Decisions are made that are too ridiculous for words. Alice’s surprising action at one point is understandable on the one hand. But on the other hand completely unreal. And the indifference that those involved show afterward as if nothing had ever happened, made me frown for a moment. Rayborn’s paint pot trick seemed so absurd and stupid that I spontaneously burst out laughing. Not exactly applicable to a serious thriller about a serial killer.

 

Mediocrity rules.

The Silencing” isn’t so great. A mediocre piece of movie. Actually, you could say that you’ve seen it all before in other movies. And much better movies too. Cinematographically it looks professional (despite the low budget) and the general mood is also good. But, when you love watching exciting flicks with nerve-racking suspense, you’ll be disappointed. The only thing I can’t say anything wrong about is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s acting. Solid and constant. Just like in “Game of Thrones“. Again a pitiful persona. But I’m sure I won’t recognize him in his next feature. Once again.

 

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

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