Film Review: “Rose Plays Julie” is “The Parent Trap” with teeth

Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor take a familiar long-lost-family story – and add a dark, vengeful twist.

By Ryan Gibley

The story of an adult searching for the biological parent who gave them up at birth is played as screwball comedy in David O Russell’s Flirting with Disaster and as wrenching melodrama in Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies, both from 1996. The discordant mood of Rose Plays Julie, from the Irish writing directing team of Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, offers none of the comforts of those genres.

The spadework has already been done before the film begins: Rose (Ann Skelly), a veterinary student with a pale, haunted face, knows that her birth mother is an actor named Ellen (Orla Brady), but calling her and hanging up is as far as she has got.

Rose watches footage of Ellen playing a cop, opening fire on a young woman who morphs into a snarling fanged ghoul. The clip strikes a chord, and not only because she has just come from a lecture entitled “Euthanasia and the Healthy Animal”. Perhaps she sees herself as monstrous, too, and liable to be put down – or as someone who was lucky to escape such a fate.

Posing as a potential buyer, she visits Ellen’s house, and encounters her own adolescent half-sister. As she creeps from room to room, Rose seems like a potential cuckoo in the nest – though it’s truer to say that she is the fledgling booted out of the tree, come to claim her rightful place

It isn’t confrontation she desires, but acceptance, clarity, love: “Do you ever think about me?” she wonders. When Ellen takes her into the middle of the woods – a classic fairy tale setting – she gets an explanation she hadn’t bargained for. Rose had imagined herself as the product of a besotted but panicked young couple. In fact, Ellen was raped. As Rose hears this, Skelly indicates from beneath the cover of her arctic expression the collapse of everything she thought she knew about herself. Birdsong fills the air, making no concession to her torment.

Having put her energies into that bid for maternal recognition, Rose is now compelled to find her father, too. All these years later, Ellen still can’t say her attacker’s name, so she types it into Rose’s phone. There is a jolt of grim humour when the word “Peter” produces the suggestion “Andre”. Good old autocorrect, always hopeless at reading the room. Except for when Ellen starts to key in Peter’s surname (“Doyle”) and it helpfully offers “Fouled” instead.

Peter (Aidan Gillen) is a celebrity archaeologist who has published a book called Below the Surface. “What I’m most drawn to is unlocking the past,” he says. Rose has the same mission. Having always felt her identity to be amorphous, she has no trouble pretending to be an actor called Julie (her birth name), who wants to join Peter’s dig as research for a role. The wig she wears for the task adds a femme fatale touch.

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Film review: “Ali and Ava” is an understated triumph

By Peter Bradshaw | The Guardian

There’s a tremendous human warmth to this love story from writer-director Clio Barnard, a social-realist tale that you might compare to Ken Loach’s Ae Fond Kiss (though Loach might not have made the landlord the good guy). It’s a drama of autumnal love conquering the divisions of race, the disillusionments of middle age, the discomfort of parenthood and grandparenthood, and the tensions of class.

Adeel Akhtar is Ali, a likable, happy-go-lucky British Asian in Bradford whose family is well-off. They own properties and insofar as Ali has a job, it is going around collecting rent, and he is a genial friend to the tenants and their families. Ali sees himself as a frustrated DJ and a musician: his house has a converted basement “mancave” where he keeps his extensive vinyl collection. But Ali has a terrible secret: his wife Runa (played by the excellent Ellora Torchia) has outgrown her puppyish husband intellectually and they are separating. Rather than confess this shaming fact to his family, the couple are still living together.

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‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

In Nicole Riegel’s feature debut, Jessica Barden stars as an Ohio teenager who strips buildings of metal to earn cash.

Holler begins with Ruth (Jessica Barden), its protagonist, running. She’s racing to drop trash bags into the flatbed of a truck, where her brother, Blaze (Gus Halper), is waiting. They high-tail it from the scene and sell discarded cans to Hark (Austin Amelio), who pays them chump change for metal. Soon, they will graduate to higher-stakes scrap work: stripping deserted buildings of wiring for larger payoffs, with even bigger risks.

The central question of the movie is whether Ruth will summon the courage to run again, to flee her hometown. The director, Nicole Riegel, making her feature debut, shot the film in the section of southern Ohio where she’s from. Riegel has said that Ruth’s story was inspired by her own challenges leaving the area. Even the medium — Super 16-millimeter film, in the era of digital — adds to the ambience of rusting, abandoned machinery.

Ruth has little overt incentive to stick around. She hides an eviction notice under a flower pot. Her mother (Pamela Adlon) is a drug addict in a county jail. But Ruth gets an unexpected — and, to a condescending teacher at her high school, impractical — offer of college admission: Although she had prepared the application, she never submitted it. Blaze did that for her.

The film strikes an unanticipated false note with its ending, which initially seems too easy — a way to avoid resolving conflicts. But despite a parting smile, and the music of Phoebe Bridgers over the credits, the final moments become bleaker upon reflection. The only way to end this story is to abandon it.

 

Source: ‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

Movie Review – Kate Winslet triumphs in a moreish murder mystery, “Mare of Easttown”

 

Mare of Easttown (Sky Atlantic) is a millefeuille of misery, as exquisitely layered and as moreish as the real thing. In rural Pennsylvania, we meet a small-town cop, Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet). World-weariness, the weight of professional responsibility and – we discover later, although the clues are there – family tragedy show in every line of her body, every heavy step she takes. She rarely smiles. She is not surly or grumpy – she just doesn’t have the energy for anything else, after doing her job and taking care of her family.

Life takes out of Mare more than it puts in – especially since 19-year-old Katy Bailey, the drug-addicted daughter of Mare’s high-school friend Dawn, disappeared a year ago. If you can have a defining performance this late in a career, this is surely Winslet’s. She is absolutely wonderful – and ably supported by the rest of the cast.

This is a defiantly unglossy US. Easttown is a bleak, impoverished place, full of overlapping sadnesses. As the tiny, tight community’s police detective, Mare sees and deals with most of them. Drug and alcohol addiction is rife. One of the earliest scenes shows Mare attending the scene of a burglary – another burglary, we understand – at the house of a woman called Beth Hanlon (Chinasa Ogbuagu, in a small but heartbreaking role; she is due to return in later episodes). It is her brother, Freddie (Dominique Johnson), on the hunt again for things to sell for his next fix.

When Mare tracks him down, Beth punches him publicly, cries to Mare privately (“God forgive me, but sometimes I wish he would just fucking die and get this over with”) and declines to press charges. Mare tells a junior officer to phone the company that has illegally cut off his heating to get it restored and – limping on the ankle she sprained chasing him down – gets on with her day. It is an interlude that does little to further the plot, but is the essence of the series in microcosm:fully realised characters with deep, conflicting emotions, united in the face of encroaching forces greater than themselves.

The main arc weaves through this perfectly conjured study of a community and how it endures. Neither seems secondary to the other. Mare of Easttown is as much about the psychology of terrible events and how they are absorbed by – and affect – those around them as it is about solving the crime at its heart.

Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a single teenage mother (although, again, nothing like the TV drama stereotype) is found dead after the town’s young people congregated for a party in the woods. Erin had left early, having been beaten up by Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing, the vicious girlfriend of her baby’s father, Dylan) and stumbled away to her unwitting doom.

The town, now with one missing and one murdered girl, is deeply disturbed. A new investigation into the former is ordered alongside the new murder case and a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters, in an impressive change of pace since he was seen as Pietro in WandaVision), brought in to assist Mare. Through him, we see the limitation and the flaws in the policing and practices in a small town, as well as the benefits. It is another layer of complicating interest in a show that has already generously provided.

Add a love interest for Mare, in the form of the writer and guest lecturer Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce, playing him with just the right amount of easy, intelligent charm); Mare’s daughter, Siobhan, keeping her sexuality a secret from her overstretched mother; and Mare’s ex-husband, Frank, getting engaged to his girlfriend and there is almost too much to enjoy.

As the twists and turns of the cases are revealed, it becomes a show greater than the sum of its already considerable parts. By the time you get to the revelation at the end of the second episode, you become less stunned by the news itself than you are by the computation of what it will mean for all involved. Everything and everyone is real and you care about every tiny part. Wonderful.

Source: Mare of Easttown review – Kate Winslet triumphs in a moreish murder mystery

NPR Review: ‘Promising Young Woman’

In the dark comedy Promising Young Woman, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) works at a coffee shop by day and hunts sexual predators by night. She goes to bars, pretends to be falling down drunk — and then confronts the men who try to take advantage of her.

“When I was growing up — and I think still probably it’s the case now — in movies, getting women drunk to sleep with them, filling up their drink more than you’d fill your own, waiting at the end of the night to see who’s drunk at the club, girls waking up not knowing who’s in bed next to them — it was just comedy fodder,” Fennell says. “We live in a culture where this sort of stuff is normalized.”

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