LOVERS ON THE ROCKS – Beast (2017), dir: Michael Pearce

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There are films you know you’ll enjoy after the first few minutes and Beast is one of them as it sets off to a powerful and laconic prologue. Shots of the magnificent Jersey landscape set the canvas of this painful and crude story, and a pertinent metaphor about captive killer whales instantly draws an accurate psychological portrait of our heroine, Moll.

As the genres of drama, romance and crime thriller blend here, Michael Pearce tells an eerie tale where beasts feed from the ones closest to them or camouflage their monstrous nature with fake smiles and bounded heads, or prey on the weak when their passions are beyond control. The story is complex and smart and the performances impeccable and thrilling. The film has a dreamlike quality where Moll and Pascal experience their romantic love but takes a violent turn when deep inner confrontations occur in the face of the inevitable resolution of the tragedy.

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The two lovers give their first kiss on the edge of a rocky cliff, one wrong step and the fall is uninterrupted. It’s crystal clear right away that there are no half measures with this relationship, it is the kind that brings about radical change and reformation in one’s self. Jessie Buckley gives a haunting and magnetising performance that keeps you glued to the screen, and Johnny Flynn delivers a complicated character, an odd combination of a vulnerable rabbit and a cunning, lethal fox.

Moll’s evolution throughout the film is an ode to liberation but also a cautionary tale against the obsession of love. She rejects her suffocating family, and her overbearing and psychologically abusive mother thanks to the strength and encouragement she draws from Pascal, a man of animalistic presence and natural integrity.

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Pascal is the one who suggests that mistakes are for everyone and are better left in the past. However, up till the end Moll is bearing the guilt of a childhood mistake, which took immense dimensions due to her mother’s consuming fear. I couldn’t help but think that Moll is made to believe she is dangerous and wild when in fact, if she had been treated with more kindness, she would have thrived.  Her flaw is magnified and the daily humiliations she succumbs to compromise her ability to control her impulses and to think rationally.

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Beast brought in mind Wentworth Miller’s Stoker (2013), directed by Park Chan-wook. The relationship between India (Mia Wasikowska) and her uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode) bear similar elements to that of Moll and Pascal. Lead performances and cinematic style differ considerably but both films tell the story of two individuals who have always been lonely in a rejecting world and finally, find acceptance and a liberating push through their relationship. For India and Moll this takes the form of a sexual awakening and a journey of self-discovery that takes them in the darkest corners of their minds.

Another noticeable similarity is that of the ending, Moll and India set themselves apart from the madness of their “partners in crime” by acting as improbable avengers. The catharsis of both endings also proves that despite natural and primitive inclinations, it is the choices we make in critical moments that define us.

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After watching Beast, you might be numb by the amalgam of complicated emotions it evokes, feel like driving somewhere far and enjoying the view over a craggy peak. You might also contemplate upon the apocryphal realities we resort to, to crush the fantasy, or alternatively to protect it is a double-edged sword. Finally, you might admit the common belief that opposites attract and liked repel is true only when it comes to magnetism.

 

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Innocent and the Damned – You Were Never Really Here (2017), dir: Lynne Ramsay

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With her fourth film director Lynne Ramsay delivers an immersive, hypnotic thriller deplete with imagery of emotional pain and dreamlike visual lyricism enhanced by a powerful, throbbing score. No wonder she won herself the award for Best Screenplay and Joaquin Phoenix received the award for Best Actor in 2017 Cannes Festival.

The film was conceived and executed with evident influences from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011). It introduces as to Joe, an unimaginably hurt creature able to spread monstrous, gore terror but also experience fear, guilt, love and tenderness.

I can’t recall a similar introduction to the main character before. Several minutes go by until we actually see his face but first, we get a glimpse of a habit of his, that of putting a plastic bag around his head, asphyxiating and reaping it off just in time. My instinctive association was that of sexual fetishism but Joe is more complicated than that.

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We later see him leaning off the edge of a train platform when a woman with a bruised face is peeping behind a pillar; she recognises the pain perhaps… or has indulged in similar thoughts herself? Joe has suicidal fantasies daily; hanging off the edge of train platforms, asphyxiating, playing with knives over his open mouth, trying to drown himself after a severe loss and in a climaxing diner scene towards the ending he fantasises shooting himself point blank.

As a child he remained powerless against the menace of an abusive father. His legacy however passed on as Joe hasn’t dismissed his father’s appetite for violence, nor his favourite weapon, the hammer. Is the hammer empowering him as by representing his worst childhood fear, it turns him into the ultimate terror, or is it perhaps a joke on his father, now that his son is liberating abused kids with the same tool that once served his old man’s perversion?

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Joe still suffers the aftermath of the abuse under his skin but thanks to his line of work (he is a hitman but also, retrieves kids that were abducted for sex slavery), every victim he saves may represent an attempt to save his younger self. However, in spite of acting in retribution this doesn’t amount to a cathartic, healing process that could grant him his freedom from past nightmares, instead he carries them around with him every moment.

In a particular scene where he lies beside his mother’s killer, holding his hand you see he is embracing a brother’s journey to the other side and making it almost his own. For all his hypnotising fantasies involving death, he is able to make that connection with the afterlife through a fellow hired gun or keeping company to him as a substitute experience to the one he would like to have had with his mother.

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Joe is capable for love, compassion and sacrifice. He is caring for his mother and showing his affection by cleaning her fridge, seating by her bedside until she falls asleep and helping her polish the silverware while accompanying her in their favourite song. Later on, he will launch on a risky, vengeance mission to save Nina.

Joaquin Phoenix is sensational and shows great skill and capacity to creatively adopt an overly used persona and make it his own. His piercing eyes alone tell a complex, scary story and his ability to violently shake you and remind you that you know nothing of torment is astonishing. Towards the ending, during the mansion scenes in the absence of lines his talent radiates as he employs physicality to take us through Joe’s crisis. I believe that Phoenix’s performance elevates the character to the cult pantheon next to personas like Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver, 1976), Dae-su (Oldboy, 2003), the Bride (Kill Bill, 2003-04), Léon Montana (Léon, 1994) to mention a few.

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Ramsay abandons linear narrative for a more rich and interesting approach that embraces flash-backs and quick-fired visions. In essence, she is throwing a few pieces of Joe’s psyche puzzle here and there and are not enough for us to construct an elaborate, clear storyline. They suffice however to spot his most recurrent, haunting visions and the initial trauma that marked his later life. She also indulges us with extreme close-ups to transmit his extreme pain and loneliness.

She likes to shoot through surfaces for instance standing on the other side of the platform we observe Joe through the passing train or when engaged in a gory fight, we enjoy dizzying shots through the glass ceiling. In a remarkable, dreamlike scene where his mother’s body is drawn to the bottom of the lake, we see her hair floating in a slow-motion capture, in the same way a few scenes back the camera focused on Nina’s hair. That is a beautifully-poetic connection between the two characters, followed by a vision that more clearly associates the two in Joe’s mind and will push him to emerge from his passivity.

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Lynne Ramsay’s visual poetry is dressed with a shrill, muddy score, where electronic, polyphonic pieces intertwine with chilling, high dynamic range compositions, able to cause vertigo and despair. In particular, the “Dark Streets” track encompasses haunting, electro abyss. Jonny Greenwood’s work is always excellent and unique and earlier this year earned him an Academy Award nomination for composing the score for his lifelong collaborator’s latest film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (he has also composed the score for Inherent Vice and The Master, both films featuring Phoenix).

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After the film you might check Lynne Ramsay’s previous work (it’s only three films so there’s no excuse not to…), similarly delve into Greenwood’s compositions and admit that Joaquin Phoenix has a raw quality about him and a capacity to convey pain that only few of his colleagues have. Also, you might feel ready to engage more actively with the pain of others, or perhaps your very own despair. Finally, you might try to capture the feelings you would experience if you led a life where you could disappear and leave no traces behind, as if you were never really here at all.

An Amphibian Affair – The Shape of Water (2017), dir: Guillermo del Toro

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Guillermo del Toro named The Shape of Water his best film so far and he might be right to think so. Admittedly, the film represents a distinct and mellow fairy tale that not only is masterfully shot but also, carries important symbolism and commentary on human nature.

The characters that surround the two unlikely lovers are unique caricatures; the sensitive gay neighbour, the chatty, good-hearted colleague, the spy doctor with a conscious, the cocky, brainless General and the cruel racist and sadist Colonel. In an imaginary world, replete with villains and heroes, were find our outwardly couple, a mute woman and an amphibian creature with special powers. Although a romance like this pushes the boundaries of our tolerance to imagination, their relationship is approached so delicately and sensitively that becomes smoothly integrated into our soft fantasy circle.

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The opening scene is a miraculous entrance to Elisa’s world and introduces us to the blue and green shades that colour the film. In that first glimpse of our heroine, floating in her sleep in Alexandre Desplat’s melancholic score she strikes as an underwater Amélie. The circular movement of the del Toro’s camera feels almost like a dancing sequence that familiarises with the space and the characters by also enabling a feeling of visual cosiness, warmth and comfort.

In Elisa’s kingdom where silence reigns, so does loneliness until she makes a new friend in the secret government laboratory where she works. That new friend is a male humanoid amphibian that succumbs under daily torture and is soon to be terminated. If there is one thing we can say about the monster is that it looks gorgeous, powerful and fragile all at once.

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The first half of the film can definitely be considered its best part, its most romantic and dreamy compared to the slightly disjointed, out-of-tone action of the second. The courtship and establishment of trust is the most exciting and captivating state we find our protagonists in. Sally Hawkins assumes a demanding role that relies completely on physicality and she does a great job. Elisa’s sensitivity and independence are radiating, her courage and determination make her glow. Her soulful eyes transmit her sweetness and capacity for love but also her painful loneliness and unbearable sentiment from the upcoming separation. She seems delicate and soothing while a fire is burning inside her.

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Richard Jenkins is superb as the sensitive, reality-avoidant friend. His struggle to find companionship has left him with a fridge filled with hopeless unsavoury, green pies and a handful of life lessons. Michael Shannon is haunting as the impersonation of pure evil and draws a thick, dark energy into the film. Octavia Spencer gives a funny and distinctive performance, and Michael Stuhlbarg is remarkable in conveying his moral struggle.

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As a child Guillermo del Toro was marked by the cruelty and injustice done to the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and now he has finally made cinema do right by him. A team of experts assisted him in his vision, creature designer Mike Hill, Legacy Effects Supervisor and co-creature designer Shane Mahan, and visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi brought the “Asset” to life and Doug Jones employed his acting skills to complete the task.  The team managed to give us an attractive figure with a perfectly-shaped mouth, expressive, wet eyes and an impressively impeccable body with cyan details on his forehead.

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The Shape of Water is a film created with meticulous care and passionate cinematic love. Its details and unique fabric comprise del Toro’s masterful vision and place the film among the classics with a several scenes amounting to perfection. The dreamy opening scene, the man seating on the bus stop bench holding four balloons and a cake, the first time Elisa and the Creature gaze into each other’s eyes, Giles opening the flooding bathroom door to find the couple sharing a glowing hug, the camera following two rain drops becoming one and the magnificent lightening of the ending scene are the most memorable gems for me. However, despite its beauty and profoundness, the film doesn’t render the hypnotic fairy tale that is promised by its riveting opening.

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After the film you might feel like going to the nearest beach for a swim, bring to mind other unlikely love stories from both art and life and contemplate whether Giles’ advice to his younger self (“Take better care of your teeth and fuck more”), no matter how superficial could actually leave no room for future regrets if acted upon. Finally, you might embrace the film’s argument about loving the “otherness” as experience has taught us that the greater the difference between two individuals, the more fascinating are the discoveries in on another and in oneself while sharing a loving relationship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poisonous Collusion of Rival Lovers – Phantom Thread (2017), dir: Paul Thomas Anderson

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It is incredible how immersive is the experience that Anderson gifted us with his incredible, precious creation that resembles an elegant poem. A film that is as dramatic as anecdotal and funny by highlighting the comedy that thrives in uncomfortable and absurd moments of hyperbole. Excellent angles, stills and shaking shots, portraits and landscapes, a plethora of gazes at a beautiful time and space. An unconventional film about extraordinary people that engage in a challenging relationship. Anderson delivers a film so beautifully shot and crafted that lures you into the obsessive control of the couturier, the rebellious passion of the muse/waitress, and the struggling influence of the sister.

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Jonny Greenwood’s orchestral score is truly magnificent and elegant as it intertwines with instrumental classical pieces that enable our transportation into 1950’s London. Don’t be surprised if you feel the pavement under your feet, your fingertips sliding over the fabrics, if you can notice every line on the protagonists’ expression and sense every breath they draw. Anderson constructed a robust world with such impeccable performers embedded that each moment gradually intensifies the cinematic experience and delves you deeper into the soul of its personas.

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) has been carrying a devastating burden throughout his life, calling it a curse and has yet to get over his mother’s death. It seems that by experiencing the loss of his first and most intense love, his mother, who taught him generosity and giving has by admittedly, tragic irony caused him to stubbornly refuse to love anyone ever again. He is not lost completely though to the darkest misery of a loveless existence, his relationship with Alma inevitably restructures his life and mindset.

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The genius of the film lies in the powerful and genuine characters that even in prolonged silence reveal layer by layer the complexity of their psyche. Reynolds in his stillness and persistent gaze, dressed with an overly sweet smile unveils a sickening desire to control every detail in his environment and within him of course by banishing his instincts and feelings. From the first date with Alma, it becomes apparent how desperately he needs to grasp onto his rules and firm convictions.

Reynold’s sister (Lesley Manville) acquires a haunting presence over his life. He seems not to bear life without her, even her absence for a few hours disorients him, however she constitutes a constant reminder of his fears and self-limiting lifestyle. Alma is portrayed with ample naturality and piercing expressiveness by Vicky Krieps who proves herself a charismatic partner to Daniel Day-Lewis as they share with both talent and chemistry.

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There are stunning scenes that elevate Phantom Thread to a classic. For instance, the scene where a jealous Reynolds seeks Alma in despair at the colourful and tacky New Year’s party is breathtakingly intense and dramatic. There are no words in this scene but the performances have an emotional transparency that spurs various thoughts around love, relationships and introspective analysis. The surprise dinner scene is a delicious game involving the power of will, comical exaggerations and a deep sadness. Towards the end, again the dinner scene is terrific as the game continues between the two until the climactic moment of surrender occurs, layered with the release of their passion.

In Phantom Thread we witness two diametrically opposed individuals fighting in their own unique ways to stay together while maintaining their selves intact. Reynolds’s way is to provoke with his spoilt, childish manner and to violently persist in his absurdities. It appears that his ultimate goal is to find a worthy rival that can earn his respect and trust, both necessary to enable his surrender. Alma’s way is an initial submissive stance that is later replaced with a fierce and brave confrontation and declaration of independent will.

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Their conflict has a personality of its own and spreads over the different stages of their relationship, from their first encounter to their cohabitation, to their marriage and finally, to their utter openness and mutual understanding. Unorthodox and peculiar, the resolution is made possible by the accidental discovery that one can fulfil the other’s desire and experience pleasure simultaneously.

Reynolds seems to have no control over his obsessiveness but Alma seems to have come up with a… creative way to disarm him and return him to the infant stage where he can always revive the experience of having a mother figure taking care of him. Alma on the other hand perceives love as the absolute closeness and craves to bring her strong-looking partner to a state of weakness and total physical and emotional dependence on her thus, to fulfil her need to be a nurturer and the centre of his world.

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Are these characters troubled? Certainly! But so are we all, trapped in our shortcomings and subconsciously, if not purposefully seeking the people who can cater to our needs. This scandalous conflict resolution brought La sirène du Mississipi (1969) in mind, where Julie (Catherine Deneuve) and Louis (Jean-Paul Belmondo) experience the same oxymoron contradiction that marries lust and loss.

To leave yourself entirely defenceless in the care of the one you love by embracing the dangers but also admitting to the dark hedonism of this state is a powerful experience to convey through storytelling and as Truffaut did in 1969 so does Anderson in this spellbinding ghost story. In the history of cinema, we can find love stories underpinned by seemingly harmful acts, like in Suspicion (1941) or My Cousin Rachel (2017) however in Phantom Thread the act becomes a mechanism for catharsis and we suspect, a tactic for bringing harmony into the relationship, a remedy almost.

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After the film you might feel spellbound and mesmerised by Anderson’s vintage world and its’ captivating performances, you might immerse into Greenwood’s score, indulge yourself with some delicious pastry for breakfast while contemplating about how obsessive you can become with your cyclical habits. You might also place yourself in this unorthodox couple’s shoes by reconsidering the value of seemingly absurd or dangerous acts and by acknowledging the risk of initiating or/and admitting the darkest side of one’s sexuality.

Labour of love – God’s Own Country (2017), dir: Francis Lee

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Francis Lee’s directorial debut is a raw, realistic, and sensual love story between a miserable farmer and his newly hired worker. In an attempt to present the harsh realities of the farming life in addition to not fitting in as he’s experienced it himself, Lee gives us a story so impactful and true to human nature that is impossible to leave one apathetic.

The material is tough but the lead performances are superb, with both Alec Secareanu (Gheorghe) and Josh O’Connor (Johnny) enjoying a captivating chemistry and being exceptional in delivering the emotional depth of their characters. Ian Hart (Martin) and Gemma Jones (Deidre) are brilliant and crudely affective as Johnny’s disabled father and firm grandmother.

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Our first image of Johnny is that of a lonely alcoholic, trapped in a torture of a life. He is not enjoying the company of friends, lovers, or his family and his work is in fact, forced labour. He has no control over his demise and that leads his family to treat him with contempt, pushing him even further to the road of alienation and anger. Johnny’s idea of human contact is so distorted that he is not able to tolerate being touched or kissed, resembling that of a scared animal that first attacks and then runs off.

Gheorghe on the other hand, is calm, grounded, confident and tender. Being an immigrant, he employs sensibility and discipline which comes in complete contrast to Johnny’s carelessness and indulgence. It is remarkable how piercing and emotive is Secareanu’s expression opposite to O’Connor’s tormented look. Johnny’s cry for help is answered in the most compassionate and loving way, granting him acceptance and leading him to a precious connection with a fellow man. The cathartic scenes that follow his surrender to Gheorghe’s affection are disarmingly affective. As Johnny opens up little by little, we witness his life’s shape changing as well.

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Apart from the great scenes between the two leads, there is another I truly loved between Johnny and his father. The particular scene brought East of Eden (1955) in mind, where Cal (James Dean) and his father (Raymond Massey) have a similar purifying exchange marked by those two little words, “Thank you” that seem able to wipe clean years of harshness and bitterness in seconds.

Experiencing the film, it felt as a sensational piece of reality, a precious lesson on the transformational power of love and on the strength necessary to seek a better life by being truer to oneself. In God’s Own Country the silence and loneliness of the Yorkshire countryside is beautifully captured and the relentless and yet, rewarding labour of its people is explicitly presented with honesty and realism. The romantic story that is born and evolves in those landscapes has an impressive intensity and passion that fits the absoluteness of its surroundings.

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After the film you might feel like praising the power of love, experience compassion for the lonely, avoid eating lamb or any livestock for a while, take a trip to the countryside, contemplate about how your surroundings reflect upon your mood and behaviour and finally, you might judge whether you’d be brave enough to oppose to your family’s expectations regarding your work, love life, etc. by following your own path.

A ‘Good’ Beat Story by the ‘Poker Princess’ – Molly’s Game (2017), dir: Aaron Sorkin

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Molly’s Game is a woman’s psychography with juicy incidents and legal repercussions embedded in it. Sorkin’s script never disappoints as characters fire their brilliant and profound lines to each other with great velocity and precision and thus, amaze and impress us while also, saving the slightly overlong film from feeling tiring. Daniel Pemberton’s score dresses the film in energetic, upbeat tones, melancholic pieces and thrilling bursts as we’ve seen in his previous works Steve Jobs, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Counselor, etc.

The opening scene serves as a dynamic introduction to the competitive, distinguished and smart character of Molly Bloom, a true survivor and determined fighter. Molly is a sassy, impetuous and charming woman with a one-of-a-kind story and so, represents a symbol of both femininity and feminism. Jessica Chastain’s voiceovers are guiding us through Molly’s experiences and life lessons while the film bounces back and forth in time between her childhood, her career steps and the present-time lawsuit.

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The incredibly talented Chastain employs the body language signs and the smooth, thin voice that help her pass for the 22 year-old Molly (when she is in fact 40). To witness her transformation is tremendously exciting, as Chastain’s captivating confidence achieves a magnificent connection with the audience. By staying true to the fiery and sexual real-life persona, she executes a powerful female role beautifully, with precision and absolute focus and makes it impossible to take our eyes off her.

The scenes between Chastain and Idris Elba (her lawyer) are remarkably well-acted and resemble the quickest ping pong game of witty lines. The stories of the players involved keep up the interest; the eerie and villainous ‘Player X’ (Michael Cera), the listless and silly-looking ‘Bad Brad’ (Brian d’Arcy James), the tragic figure of Harlan (Bill Camp) and the mumbling caricature of Douglas (Chris O’Dowd) give the film its’ unique poker flavour.

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After having experienced admittedly traumatising events Molly seems powerless and passive when defending herself against the prosecution. To her rescue comes of course, her lawyer and a demonstration of his conviction of her innocence and – despite having broken the law – integrity escalates to an intense argument. Although I recognise the necessity of the scene, it slightly bothered me that Molly’s independent and unapologetic demeanour had to be diminished toward the end of the film and that she should be passionately defended by someone else. I recognise however, that showing Molly defeated and humiliated enhances the story’s credibility, as even the toughest fighters can reach the end of their rope.

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A genuinely funny and emotional scene is that of Costner (Molly’s father) and Chastain, taking the form of a humorous hubris against psychotherapy and shedding light to the unspoken sorrows that drifted them apart. The first argument her father makes is that her subconscious motive behind running the high-stakes games was to control powerful men, having being supressed by his demanding attitude as a child. He soon revokes this as it was only meant to provoke her and set her tongue loose regarding the main pain between them.

It got me thinking however, whether this argument could in fact, stand. Looking at the film and how Molly used her sexuality, to simply manipulate players and preserve her position, I’d say that she wanted power, period. Reigning over a male-dominated industry certainly granted her an even greater pleasure for going against the unwritten rules but overall, she was not aiming to control powerful men but simply, powerful people.

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After the film you might give poker a try, google Molly Bloom, explore Chastain’s filmography to the last, be reminded of how decisive our style choices are in shaping people’s opinion of us. You might imagine whether you’d have pleaded guilty or not, had it been you in Molly’s place. Also, the film might bring forth concerns about your risk love or aversion, whether you’d have the grit to go against the law, or how deeply corrupted you’d end up being by greed for money and power. Finally, you might reconsider the realistic distance between success and failure.

Delusion and self-absorption crisis – Brad’s Status (2017), dir: Mike White

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Self-absorbed and tormented is the status of Brad as we find him beating himself up over the unfulfilled successes he once hoped for himself by comparing his life achievements with those of his college mates. Brad reflects upon the ambitions of his youth, his wife’s influence, the conflicted feelings regarding his son’s potential future success and that of his old friends who in his eyes have far exceeded anything he has accomplished. Voice overs as the storytelling device give us access to the perplexity of Brad’s emotions and perception of the world, the real one and the one created by his fantasies around the lives of his friends.

The film has an unsettling disharmonic score that feels like irritating and rough sound circles and matches perfectly with Brad’s introspective, obsessive analysis of his situation. On paper Brad is not a likeable character and the opening scene makes sure to illuminate his absurdity and neurotic preoccupation with measuring success. However, Mike White’s script draws a daringly honest and sarcastic picture of a middle-aged man who is taking inventory of his life and that brings out our empathy for him, as we recognise his weaknesses and egotism in ourselves.

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Ben Stiller (Brad) is transparent, vulnerable and affective with carefully measured expressiveness and focus.  Austin Abrams on the other hand projects a calm power and sensitivity as Brad’s son, Troy whose confidence and security get shaken due to his father’s high emotional investment into securing him a place in Harvard and at the same time, his questioning the value of sending him to college at all.

White’s script is piercing and impactful by shedding light to dark corners of the human psyche and giving us access to the mind of a man who submits himself into compulsive and agonising comparisons. Towards the end, Brad meets one of his old and very successful friends, in a beautifully acted and thus, uncomfortable to watch restaurant scene and the realisations he comes to carry him to a musical catharsis. In the final scene, we are given a slide hope that he might be exiting the phase of taking stock or at least, beginning to appreciate the good things in his life, his loving family for instance.

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After the film you might fear the moment you will experience a midlife crisis, think about how you measure success and remember that friend you will always feel competitive towards. You might also, contemplate upon Troy’s words about how we should only care about the opinion of our loved ones, as the rest of the world is too self-absorbed to even notice us and finally, be honest about the extent of your vanity and the length of egocentric inner dialogues that go through your mind every day.