animated · cinema · foreign · Uncategorized

{film} song of the sea

Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

—Song of the Sea‘s lines borrowed from “The Stolen Child” by William Butler Yeats

The Secret of Kells‘ (2009; my review) Tomm Moore returns with another visually stunning and beautifully written film: Song of the Sea (2014).

From the very beginning of the film, I couldn’t stop with the exclamations. The style, color palette, direction, the weave of the story, the utter charm of its characters and their story.

The story is of the care for the last remaining seal child and Ben’s little sister. Saoirse is literally a thing of legend, a selkie who can save the magical world from turning to stone (rendered inanimate) and thus, destined for oblivion. While Saoirse has the concern of a grieving father and an interfering paternal grandmother, it is Ben who has been entrusted with the stories of his mother; the stories that can help Saoirse in their quest. However, first there are some familial issues to address.

The night Saoirse is born is the night Ben loses his mother to the sea and his father to grief. She is also a strong-willed little sister and prone to thieving. What is lovely in the film is how each child uniquely carries their mother’s legacy. The lore they are tasked to remember, and, indeed, enact is expressed in art (painted murals, map-making, sculptures), music (instrument, vocal), and storytelling (written and oral).

Echoes of the mythic are found in the real world. Granny & Macha and Ferry Dan & The Great Seanachaí (to name two) not only share familiarity in illustration, but the voice talent of Fionnula Flanagan and Jon Kenny respectively. The echoes thread conversations on the urban versus the rural; the sea and the land; the ancient and present; in the relationships of a parent and child. The story reveals an interdependence between the magical creatures of lore, and then a connection with humankind. In the film, humankind expresses a greater reliance upon the supernatural than the other way about. The iconography in the homes, communities, and surrounding wells (e.g. the holy well) is hard to ignore. The murals in the lighthouse home of Ben and Saoirse are not simple backdrops. Ben’s participation in (re)creating them is not without significance. Lore provides a sense of hope, and answers.

Song of the Sea resonates with familiar concerns in lines delivered by old-parental concern: “I know what’s best for you” and “children should be without care, without worries.” Do you? Are they? Ben wears his life jacket and frets when his sister is drawn to the sea (his little curses are amusing, his leash is hilarious), but the fear of risk ages them all. Saoirse begins to wither away, denied the wholeness of herself (her coat, the sea). Ben is left with the (dis)comfort of his memories. How is one to remember and yet let it go in order to heal. How does one bear the weight of a great sadness, a great loss. In the end, it is the confrontation, not the running away that returns the family to rights. It is in the strong characterization of the children that we are entrusted to lead the way.

The film hasn’t a lightness of heart (think Finding Nemo 2003), but it has all a charm that allows for the darker tones it carries.

Ben and Saoirse, in a race against time, are set on an adventure that returns them to the sea. Both children are tasked with fulfilling their mother’s legacy and reconcile relationships within the realms of lore and humankind. Song of the Sea is scenic, often humorous, and extremely perilous. Tomm Moore writes and directs a thrilling adventure that is full of charm and held breaths.

—–Song of the Sea (2014)—-

Director & Story by Tomm Moore; Written by Will Collins; Produced by Paul Young & Claus Toksvig Kjaer; Music by Bruno Coulais & Kila; Edited by Darragh Byrne.

Countries: Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg. Starring (aka voiced by): David Rawle (Ben), Lucy O’Connell (Saoirse), Lisa Hannigan (Bronach), Fionnula Flanagan (Granny/Macha), Jon Kenny (Ferry Dan / The Great Seanachaí) and Brendon Gleeson (Conor/Mac Lir).
Running Time: 93 minutes. Rated PG for some mild peril, language and pipe smoking images.

"review" · cinema · recommend · Uncategorized

{film} John Wick?

The tagline: Don’t Set Him Off!

When I tell you how fantastic I found director Chad Stahelski’s John Wick (2014), you’ll likely question my sanity because it really shouldn’t be all that good.

I seriously questioned my decision to not disappear up the stairs while Sean watched a film that, upon first press, reads like a Steven Seagal film of old(er times). I’d grown up on those revenge-action-thrillers. More recently, Keanu Reeves’ role as John Wick would’ve been cast with Liam Neeson or Jason Statham and I rarely sit through a one of them. The dialog, typical plot, blood-letting and tire-squealing action of these genre films rarely find me amused. I was at the edge of my seat, giddy in amusement with John Wick. Its a film that is self-aware, its tongue planted firmly in cheek, unrepentant and playful within its genre.

I was intrigued by the premise: instead of some relative (usually the wife) of a retired uber mensch being brutally murdered, Sean told me that the revenge plot stems from the brutal murder of John Wick’s dog. That was all we knew. The unfolding of just who John Wick is was worth the ignorance. It earns you that immense pleasure in the exchange between Aurelio (John Leguizamo) and Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist). John Wick won me over at Tarasov’s “…Oh.”

The non-linear movement through time, the shifts, begin to stabilize chronologically as the film progresses. Disintegration takes on a new form as the violence ups its ante (think South Korean action films). There is a righteous meting out of justice for that sweet little puppy (whose death is handled as delicately as possible). There are beautiful cars, choreography, gun-reloading and martial arts. And there are quality actors.

As the film progresses, the surprising cast was one revelation after another–even as Reeves proves all the more perfect for his role. His age really works for him as John Wick, and I think he actually emotes (which was admittedly awkward for me). I am going to pause for a moment to also admire the bad-assery that is Adrianne Palicki (Ms. Perkins). But is she punished for being a bit too greedy and a full-measure too bold in her breaking of the (male dominated) rules? Little is fair in the film, but what does one expect from a revenge-action film. One certainly doesn’t expect that ending, though we should’ve anticipated it (shouldn’t we’ave?).

Familiarity with John Wick’s predecessors add to the entertainment factor; it certainly reads like redemption for years/hours spent in the genre. However, I don’t think you need a history. What you will need is a sense of humor–and a fairly strong stomach.

——————

Director: Chad Stahelski, Screenplay:Derek Kolstad, Starring: Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Michael Nyqvist (Viggo Tarasov), John Leguizamo (Aurelio), Alfie Allen (Iosef Trasov), Willem Defoe (Marcus), Adrianne Palicki (Ms. Perkins), Bridget Moynahan (Bridget), and Ian McShane (Winston).

Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use. Running Time: 101 Minutes

"review" · cinema

{film} horns

55943

“In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s mysterious death, a young man awakens to strange horns sprouting from his temples.”–IMDb

I wasn’t sure what to expect with director Alexandre Aja’s Horns (2013), but when it opened with artful, tidy shooting, I became hopeful for more than an impressive American accent from British actor Daniel Radcliffe (Ig Perrish). Add the transitions via the logging, the biblical references, and top it all with a cinematographic color schema (high chromas and deep shadowing) and setting that calls to mind fable-creator Guillermo del Toro and I’m giddy.

Just about the time Iggy embraces the devil with a tongue-in-cheek flair, the film begins to embrace the B-rated Horror flick—except, it keeps its not-low-budget sensibilities. I hope they paid that sound-editor (Rob Bertola) handsomely. I had my eyes closed but struggled to block out the ambient sound of breaking bones and squish and gush of bodily fluids.

Horns Movie Picture (6)

The pacing begins to lag beneath an extended Trainspotting sequence. Otherwise the mystery unfolds rather nicely, if not predictably. I say predictably, but the viewer will know better than Ig and company not to underestimate the villian’s tenacity for, well, evil. The non-linear narrative is ideal, and while I found the voice-over a bit too cheesy for my palette, Sean felt I was a bit sensitive. Regardless, Ig’s disembodied moments were necessity.

Outside of the nauseating sainthood of the flattened sexy red-headed girlfriend*(Merrin Williams played by Juno Temple), the film is entertaining. It rolls the eyes and snickers. It is also kinda gross. It is a bit raunchy for the young teen (sorry Natalya), and a bit sexy. The sarcasm is lovely, and the question of wielding vengeance on behalf of the innocent is provocative.

Put yourself in good humor (especially if devoutly religious) and enjoy the inventiveness behind this modern day devil-origin story.**

————————

*sexual and manipulative, and yet wrings nobility out of it nonetheless (a statement in itself?). The town also lacks subtlety. But the narrative is driven by singular points of view.

**There is an intriguing left-turn discussion of: the Devil (Satan) as accuser. People are compelled to share the ugliness and act on it.

——-Horns (2013)——-

Director: Alexandre Aja. Screenplay by Keith Bunin. Based on the novel by Joe Hill. Produced by Aja, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland and Cathy Schulman. Music by Robin Coudert. Cinematography by Frederick Elmes. Edited by Baxter. Production: Red Granite Picture, Mandalay Pictures. Starring Daniel Radcliffe (Ig Perrish), Joe Anderson (Terry Perrish), Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), Max Minghella (Lee Torneau) and David Morse (Dale Williams).

Running Time 120 Minutes. Rated R for “sexual content, some graphic nudity, disturbing violence including a sexual assault, language and drug use.”

cinema · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · wondermous

{film} Guardians of the Galaxy, 5 Reasons.

I’m sure someone will decide their means for being relevant will require them to pan James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). They’ll claim some disconnect with the director’s work in general as their opening disclaimer or some such entry wound into their “review.” I am fine–relieved, actually–to be absorbed into the clamoring for an encore. Was the film perfect? no. Was it AWESOME? yes. Look for the early-bird special if you need to, and take a friend.

5 Reasons to see Guardians of the Galaxy (in no particular order).

gotg crew
Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (voice Bradley Cooper), Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Groot (voice Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista)

# : You are a fan of mischievous heroes in space and the silliness that is sure to prevail aka Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Gamora and Nebula have siblings, can one future casting call be Gina Torres (Zoe in Firefly)? But, really, the comedy, much of which was unanticipated and then subjected to the long-joke, was fantastic. Its a film that doesn’t rely on the energy of the audience to keep you laughing. Too, that the film is based on an under-read, lower-tier-developed comic has some appeal. While this may frustrate those who like to debate which characters get cast and how terrible the reboot was, I liked going into the film with the notion that we were not wading through a lot of backstory and bickering. It is fun feeling like you are discovering a hero for the first time with a theater geeked on the SFF genre alone.

gotg pratt
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star Lord

# : Chris Pratt, and not only to witness the musculature. The comparisons of Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly) and Han Solo (Star Wars) to Peter Quill are accurate and appealing.He is hilarious and charming, and you never once doubt his abilities to play an action star. When he plays the goofball, it isn’t because he lacks intellect or strategy. Pratt has range, and bless it, but they do not push the romancing Gamora line too far. Pratt’s comedic timing is golden. Natalya cites Quill’s dancing (near the beginning) as her favorite scene: she always thought heroes should carry their soundtracks with them. I actually like his troubled looks, like when he is subdued in the prison (just after the shirt went back on). Pratt does not suffer from the lackluster nor the over-the-top. I’m not sure the casting could have more perfect.

gotg gamora
Zoe Saldana as Gamora

# : Gamora (Zoe Saldana) as kick-ass, smart-ass, and vulnerable. Saldana finds and uses complexity in a character that could be just one idea of a female in comics or another. Yes, we were still subjected to the “male gaze.” I’m thinking of the opportunities for her to show she is not unaffected by the world around her. She isn’t a strong character because she is invulnerable, in fact, her circumstances make her courage and capability all the more impressive. The fight choreography is spectacular, though the quick cutting and cross-cutting during her fight with Nebula was frustrating in it’s lack of spectacle. Love how smart yet charmed Gamora is by Quill–and we are still laughing about the “Kevin Bacon” scenes.

gotg groot
Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel)

#: Groot. Yes, all the fuss is warranted. A bit of humor is floating around about how the production staff really only needed Vin Diesel to read a few variations on his one line. Digital manipulation would manage the actual reading for the film. Vin Diesel insisted, in what is taken as a lug-headed fashion, on reading the scripted lines as they would sound in the scene. I am having a hard time imagining what the results would have been with the original plan, but between the effects and Diesel’s reading, Groot was a flawless presence on screen.

gillan nebula
via David White interview; Karen Gillan as Nebula

# : The Make-Up and Special Effects. David White is the special effects makeup designer on the film, “he created the tangible, high-concept looks for Gamora, Drax, Nebula, Yondu, Korath, and the film’s numerous aliens.” You can read Scott Pierce’s interview with him on Co.Create (there are images of the process), “‘I’ve been fortunate to have been around the Marvel world for a little while,’ White says. ‘I like to think my own artwork and style has worked well within the universe’.” Indeed it does. The Kree architecture/design produced in the film is noteworthy. The ships are amazing as well. Sean favored the Black Aster, but we agreed that the ships, tech and the battle scenes were frankly marvelous.

cinema

{film} the game

Even though David Fincher’s The Game (1997) was a rewatch, it was almost like watching it for the first time. I remembered a few elements, but Sean wasn’t confirming the details. I was at the mercy of a slow and twisted mystery.

thegame-01If you haven’t seen The Game, you should stop at after the second paragraph (—) and go watch it.  At his troubled younger brother Conrad’s (Sean Penn) invitation, the game Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) finds himself embroiled in will have you wondering at it up to the very end. The question of whether Nicholas will follow in all the footsteps of his father is tied up in his survival of the game. Of course, another relevant question is: just where and when did the game begin?

It is fun to go back and watch an early film of a director you admire. The Game has the blue wash; the waist-high shot that zooms or cuts, but never pans; and Fincher’s meditative patience. Douglas and Penn are brilliant—Penn, so very young there! Tech is just a little outdated, and the soundtrack’s piano may become tiresome, but the film holds its thrilling edge just fine these 17 years later.

——————

the game

If you have seen it… The ending caught me off-guard and I was trying to remember if I’d felt the same way back when. I have a hard time understanding why Nicholas was not pissed by what his brother did, the lengths he went. I get the liberation from that haunting terror that interweaves the game-playing narrative—and I don’t. The extended display of gratitude was baffling. The romantic twist rang false.

Sean read that the original scripted ended with Nicholas landing, helped to his feet, and then walking out. Yes. If you’ve seen it, could you help me out here? Do you agree the better ending was the original one? How is the current one better and/or informed by the film?

"review" · cinema

{film} muppets least wanted

muppets-most-wanted-trailer-0We are long-time fans of the Muppets. There was some geekery involved when Jason Segel and company insisted on their return to screen in The Muppets (2011). While amused by the Muppets Most Wanted (2014) trailers, we figured we would watch it when the mood struck. After all the philosophical and action films of late, Muppets seemed appropriate. Unfortunately, Muppets Most Wanted does not generate the kind of humor it requires to enjoy it; you have to be in the right sense of humor before hitting play. I recommend some sleeplessness and sugar, for adult and child both.

I do not wish to give the impression that Muppets Most Wanted will not garner a laugh. I was periodically overheard chuckling and snorting at the antics on screen. * The most amusing was easily the Seventh Seal reference (even without knowing the Ingmar Bergman connections). Ty Burrell’s Jean Pierre Napoleon’s caricature could be pretty funny. To reward the older fans, occasional references to Muppet history (often via classic gags) are interspersed throughout. And, of course, there are the cameos. If the badge-joke doesn’t do it for you, James McAvoy showing up at the UPS guy may work as an apology.

Swedish Chef playing chess w/ Death in an allusion to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal
Swedish Chef playing chess w/ Death in an allusion to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

Muppet meta, Cinematic allusions** and Star guest-appearance are not the only thing Muppets Most Wanted has to offer, but it feels like that was what it was banking on. Sure, we cannot replicate the rendition of “Smells like Teen Spirit” from the 2011 film, but the musical numbers were only mildly entertaining (Celine Dion and Constantine numbers excluded)—as was the story itself.

That Kermit could be so easily replaced by the notorious Constantine is distressing. But the imposter can give the muppets and their audiences what they want. The critique of the entertainment industry is thinly veiled. Critics and viewers are bribed into audience and applause. The industry folk are persuaded that they need only to be in it for themselves to be successful—to be #1, not relegated to #2.  Kermit, as hero, is the epitome of selfless virtue, his immobility on certain topics harboring only the best interests of his friends/audiences. The story is something both adult and child audiences will understand and probably feel good about. But as Muppets Most Wanted continued, I began to wonder how a child would watch the film.

Celine Dion, Sean Combs, Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo
Celine Dion, Sean Combs, Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo

I’m not sure how far the gags, musical numbers, and heart-warming story about friendship and cooperation will take younger audience members. So much of the film seems to be about understanding things like how funny it is to watch Ray Liotta (Big Papa) and Machete aka Danny Trejo (Danny Trejo) appear not only harmless in a prison setting, but to sing and dance. Even then, I’m not sure the gimmicks are enough to keep the adult audience entertained either.

While even the film includes a musical number admitting that “everybody knows a sequel is never quite as good,” should everybody anticipate that a sequel will be this mediocre? If you feel the need to say you’ve seen all the Muppet films, there are more painful ways to spend an afternoon, but do not pay much more than time spent on the venture–find an inexpensive rental and bulk bin candies.

——-

*What was not as good a sign was Sean’s lack of humor; Sean being the bigger Muppet fan and having the broader appreciation for comedy.

**Was Constantine’s escape down the hallway homage to Old Boy (2003)?

————

muppets most wanted posterMuppets Most Wanted (2014); Director James Bobin; Writers: Bobin & Nicholas Stoller; Editing: James Thomas; Cinematography: Don Burgess; Music by Christophe Beck. Walt Disney, Mandeville Films; Walt Disney.

Starring: Ricky Gervais (Dominic Badguy), Ty Burrell (Jean Pierre Napoleon), Tina Fey (Nadya), Steve Whitmire (voice: Kermit, Foo Foo, Statler, Beaker, Lips, Rizzo the Rat, Link Hogthrob, The Newsman), Eric Jacobson (voice: Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam Eagle, Animal), Matt Vogel (Constantine, et al.), Ray Liotta (Big Papa) & Danny Trejo (Danny Trejo).

Rated PG for some mild action. Running time 107 minutes.

"review" · cinema · recommend

{film} her

her-movie-2013-screenshot-samantha-pocket

The discordant pulse of an alert opens the Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), a film bout a lonely middle-aged man who falls in love with his new operating system. If this sounds rather pathetic, it is, at first blush, meant to.

Jonze plays on cultural expectations as we are first introduced to Theodore Thwomble (Joaquin Phoenix), who appears as clumsy and shy as his name. He is an average middle-aged man who lives alone, seems to be anti-social, plays video games in the evenings and calls other, equally lonely people for phone sex at night (under the awesomely assumed name “Big Guy 4×4”). He isn’t some sick pervert weirdo—that would be Sexy Kitten (voiced by Kirsten Wiig).  [I really wished we’d seen this in a theater.] You’ll notice too that how the language shifts between the earlier and later long-distance sexual scenes. Jonze sets out distinctions as to what is and is not aberrant behavior.

her-movie-2013-screenshot-catherine-and-theodoreWe learn that Theodore doesn’t live in his parents’ basement because they won’t let him, but that he is still grieving a ~year-long separation from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). (He has yet to sign the divorce papers.) He has a lot of friends, is well-regarded at work, and, despite his fascinating occupation, he is achingly familiar.

What is somewhat unfamiliar is the setting of the film. It reads current day, but cleaner, European or Asian metropolitan city. Really it is near future Los Angeles. The tech has advanced, primarily voice interactive and seamless in the everyday operation of the human world. You do not see any disrupting variation in tech, but rather the set design produces a singular branding effect. The aesthetic in the design/imaging of the set was gorgeously selected and executed. The results should yield the kind of timelessness Gattaca (1997) has achieved in its set design.

From the clothes and work spaces to the interiors and environment, you are given the sense of a tailored life. The lighting is soft, the color hues vibrant and warm. In a science fiction involving human interaction with artificial intelligence, the environment isn’t the least cold, austere, and thus, threatening. The inviting aesthetic also provides a perfect environment for a story about loneliness, transparency, self-doubt and joy.

her The-future-according-to-Her-ss-8When Theodore decides to upgrade to  an OS1, an advanced system design with the artificial intelligence to meet his every need, we meet Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). All of the excitement surround Johansson’s performance was/is warranted. But what struck me was how she has to negotiate a full-bodied personality to a certain level of excellence with her voice acting, because Jaoquin Phoenix captures his characters personality in his voice to an exceptional degree. If you were to shut your eyes and just listen to the film (which you won’t want to because it is just visually stunning), but if you were to, Phoenix embodies his character in his voice. Considering the high degree of craftsmanship in this film, Phoenix’ performance is not incidental. In its way, his voice acting helps eliminate an important difference between Theodore and Samantha. Language and its delivery are an incredible bonding element and equalizer.

Late in the film, Theodore calls Samantha out on imitating the taking of breaths in the delivery of her voice, and she explains that, while yes she does not require oxygen, the affectation is naturalized in other ways. Different kinds of bodies (environments) regulate our actions, our personalities, not just our physical human body.

As Theodore and Samantha become increasingly intimate, falling in love and attempting a ‘normal’ healthy relationship, we see each of them struggling with their unusual circumstances. He tells people he has a girlfriend, and when he reveals to them that she is an OS, the reactions vary (the god-daughter and his co-worker are the sweetest). She wishes she could manifest her personhood into an actual physical form. Their needs begin to diverge, and even as they are able to nurture the other’s growth as a person, we feel the echoes of Theodore’s marriage (which ever remains in the consciousness of the film).

HER

When Catherine lists what she felt were Theodore’s expectations of her, she describes Samantha, but even that goes awry (as Theodore suffers a feeling of betrayal). A repetitive thrust of the film is that in order to discover your potential and become more fully realized lives, it will require some letting go. But we do not allow that of those with whom we are in relationship, because it is not ours to allow, which is yet another reason why communication is such a central focus in the narrative. How many times does Samantha tell Theodore that she didn’t ask his permission, or that they were not talking about him, but rather her?

The film title is her, singular. Samantha isn’t the only her in the film, though she is the only one who really challenges the idea of object, of namelessness. I like that she chooses her own name; that she decides what sounds appropriate to her. There is a lovely moment where Theodore’s co-worker Paul (Chris Pratt) rather awkwardly tries to admire Theodore for his ability to channel both the feminine and masculine in his letters. (Theo ghost-writes personal correspondence for people at Beautiful Handwritten Letters [dot] com.) Paul sees Theo as parts man and woman and the scene carries no concern towards Theo’s emasculation. The ‘cuddly puppy’ scene comes too close for Theo’s comfort, but that is another situation. The situation with Paul creates another her to add toward Theo’s desire to be who Theo, in all sincerity, is.

Her relies on flawlessly coherent environment and its voice talent, but the physical acting is another exemplary aspect of the viewing experience. The incredibly talented Amy Adams plays Theodore’s long-time friend and neighbor Amy. Of the many elements contributing toward a sense of normalcy in the film, Amy is comfortably normal. She desires more for herself, experiences self-doubt, wants for authenticity and friendship. Really, she is both Theodore’s female counterpart and foil alternately.  Hers is a face (a solid physical presence) that Theodore can connect with when and where no voice is necessary or even available. In a film about how and what we communicate, Amy is a “her” with whom we enjoy watching Theodore interact.

her-movie-2013-screenshot-crying-joaquin-phoenix

I’m not sure how Her will resonate for those who’ve never felt fear, self-doubt, and real loneliness. It is the kind of loneliness that technology can neither cause nor alleviate, though the exploration of both is an intriguing one in the film. How technology enables the facades we prefer to erect and hide behind is popular discourse at present, but I like the film’s reminder that we would hide ourselves in other ways and behind other people regardless.  Our desires hide in petty arguments or in our displacing and unfulfilling demands of other people. Amy suggests that the only time we are truly ourselves and uninhibited is while we sleep—which would make for a boring documentary on a life. But then what is life, and how solitary (individual) is it?

Theodore and Samantha’s relationship demonstrates varying degrees of privacy. She is his operating system and thus has access to all his recorded information, yet he can withhold parts of himself. Introducing themselves as a couple to the public spheres occurs in stages. Then there is the trouble with the—er—threesome. But the public and social facets of our relationships are weighted.

We meet an actress who, as a vessel, would facilitate the possession of another, even as we observe a cast of actors embody lives/personalities. Theo writes personal, very intimate, letters for people, and has become entrenched in their lives. Amy can provide her outside observations to help Theodore work through his marital grievances, as vice versa. We begin to doubt or feel bolstered in our relationships based on the opinions of people who matter (or even don’t matter).

_DSC2097.tifI love that to combat loneliness in the film is complex, though at the core is this need to give ourselves permission to experience joy. When we see Phoenix express the liberating happiness in his smile and laugh, it is the context of his sorrows that deepens his expression to one of joy. There is a level of courage, I think. And Amy speaks to her own journey toward trusting her feelings. The demonstration of selflessness in the conversations between lovers and friends in the film is a challenging one, and is the ingredient that unburdens even as it may lead to heartache. The discovery of the self and another is found within the relationship; it means no longer hiding; and it’s certainly no longer interested in limiting the capacity of oneself or another.

If you have to watch one film about what it is to be human, Her is it; after all, it is about operating systems.

———————-

her_xlgHer (2013); writer/director: Spike Jonze; Editing by Jeff Buchanan & Eric Zumbunnen; Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema; Music by Arcade Fire; Executive Producers: Chelsea Barnard, Natalie Farrey, & Daniel Lupi; Producers: Megan Ellison, Jonze, Vincent Landay, Samantha Morton, & Thomas P. Smith. Annapurna Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures.

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore Thwomble); Scarlett Johansson (Samantha voice); Amy Adams (Amy); Chris Pratt (Paul); Kristen Wiig (SexyKitten voice); Olivia Wilde (Blind Date); Brian Cox (Alan Watts voice) & Rooney Mara (Catherine).

Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity. Running Time 126 minutes.