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CODA Review | Sundance Film Festival

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2021’s Sundance Film Festival is underway and despite being virtual this year, if the first film I saw is anything to go back it looks like it’s going to be just as packed full of great films as the festival would be in person.

The film’s title, CODA is an acronym for ‘Child of Deaf Adults’ and the film follows teenager Ruby, played remarkably by Emilia Jones, who is the only hearing person in her deaf family. Ruby is torn between her family and their fishing business and following her love of singing in this incredible coming of age film. CODA is actually an English-language remake of the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier and after watching CODA, it really makes me want to seek out the original.

A still from CODA by Siân Heder, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Ruby is vital to her family’s fishing business as she’s the only hearing member of her family but then after signing up for the school choir in an attempt to get closer to Miles, her crush, she ends up finding a passion for music and for singing. Naturally her parents, who can’t even hear her singing to know if she’s any good, aren’t too impressed by this and would rather she stays with them to help support their fishing business instead of going to music college.

It would be very easy to dismiss CODA as being rather formulaic and generic in the sense that it does follow all the usual tropes and it does tick all the boxes of what you’d expect to see in a coming-of-age film, but it also does so much more than your standard film about becoming your own person and finding yourself. The main reason is because of the central characters.

At the film’s heart is Ruby, a CODA and her deaf family- all of whom are actually played by deaf actors. The fact that writer/director Siân Heder is telling a fairly standard story that we all know about the teen girl who has to find herself and break free from her family from a perspective that we never really get to see in many films makes this film so much better.

Eugenio Derbez appears in CODA by Siân Heder, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Mark Hill.

As well as this, Jones is fantastic in the lead role and really brings the character of Ruby Rossi to life. The film juxtaposes the silent scenes between Ruby and her family that take places in ASL and the scenes of Ruby singing so well taking the film from quite pensive scenes, to louder scenes of Ruby truly finding herself. Despite the fact that there’s a lot of sign language (with subtitles) in this film and a lot of scenes with no spoken dialogue, it’s still a really sincere and heartfelt film

Overall, CODA is a really exquisite film that’s full of heart and emotion and despite the fact it largely sticks to the fairly generic tropes of the coming-of-age film, it’s CODA’s unique and compelling characters that really makes this film as charming as it is.

★★★★★

CODA premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section.

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Netflix | Jupiter’s Legacy – Official Trailer

The first generation of superheroes have kept the world safe for nearly a century. Now their children must live up to their legacy in an epic drama that spans decades and navigates the dynamics of family, power and loyalty.

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Genre:

Action, Adventure, Drama

Release Date:

May 7, 2021

Director:

Steven S. DeKnight, Marc Jobst, Charlotte Brändström, Christopher J. Byrne

Cast:

Josh Duhamel, Ben Daniels, Leslie Bibb

Plot Summary:

The first generation of superheroes have kept the world safe for nearly a century. Now their children must live up to their legacy in an epic drama that spans decades and navigates the dynamics of family, power and loyalty.

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Drama

The Father (2020) Review

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Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman shine in Florian Zellers heartbreaking, Oscar nominated drama.

Originally written for the stage by Florian Zeller, The Father has been adapted for the big screen with Zeller at the helm, his first film directing credit. The story follows Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) who refuses all assistance from his doting daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) as he deals with progressing memory loss. As his condition worsens, Anthony begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and his sense of reality.

Anthony Hopkins, who is nominated for Best Actor at this years Oscars, completely steals the show. He is able to portray calmness and then snap in an instance. This is up there as one of the greatest cinematic performances I’ve ever seen, it is truly heartbreaking to see the deterioration of a human being right in front of your very eyes. On the other hand, seeing the impact that the deterioration can have on the persons loved ones is as equally heartbreaking. This role is played to a tee by Olivia Colman, who is also in the Oscar running for Best Supporting Actress. She continues to put in fantastic performance after fantastic performance.

Zeller’s screenplay is top notch. It’s compact, sharp and snappy, with the capabilities to make the audience giggle and tear up within seconds of each other. The audience encounter differing moments throughout the course of the film, from heartfelt moments of intimacy between Anthony and Anne to moments where neither character recognises the other.

Being set in just one location for the majority of the films runtime, the set design of the flat plays a pivotal role in the audiences understanding of Anthonys deteriorating mind. With each passing scene, something about Anthonys environment changes, leaving both the character and the audience in a state of confusion.

It is unsurprising to see the film pick up six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It is a fully deserved recognition of a film that highlights the effects of a truly insidious disease. Whether it will end up walking away with one of the biggest prizes come Oscar night is yet to be seen, but if it was left up me, it definitely would (keep an eye out for my Oscar predictions coming soon).

The Father is available now on PVOD in the USA and will be available in cinemas on the 11th June in the UK.

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Drama

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

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I am a Revolutionary”

Judas and the Black Messiah is the true story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, and the ultimate betrayal by William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), an FBI informant who infiltrated the Blank Panther Party, that led to Hampton’s demise.

Darrel Britt-Gibson, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

It’s only February but this is already going to end up as a strong contender for the best film of 2021. The story is hard-hitting, powerful and devastating and the screenplay is top notch, never missing a beat. Director Shaka King is able to make a wholly compelling, ticking time bomb of a film. It’s hard to believe this is his first major cinematic project, incredibly accomplished.

The sheer driving force of the film are the two, absolute powerhouse performances from Kaluuya and Stanfield. Kaluuya is electrifying throughout, his “I am a revolutionary” speech caps off a wonderful, award worthy performance. He gets better in every film he does with each performance feeling like a career best. Stanfield, on the other hand, is more subdued than his co-star, allowing for the audience to find compassion and understanding in a traitor. The supporting cast are also fantastic throughout. Jesse Plemons, the legendary Martin Sheen and, in particular, Dominique Fishback all shine.

This is not the first time we have experienced a historical biopic and it certainly will not be the last time. Where this film is different to the normal biopic, however, is with the choices made throughout the film. Right from the beginning up until the end, this a smart and stylish picture throughout.

When the Academy Award nominations are announced on the 15th of March, it would be fantastic to see this in the running for the biggest prizes come Oscars night. Unfortunately though, I can see it being overshadowed by The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Judas and the Black Messiah is available now, in the US, on HBOMax and will be available in the UK on the 26th February 2021.

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