Drama

THE MIDWIFE/SAGE FEMME

Writer & Director / Martin Provost (SERAPHINE, VIOLETTE)
Stars/ Catherine Deneuve, Catherine Frot, Olivier Gourmet and Quentin Dolmaire

Two great Catherine’s of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot, headline the absorbing drama, THE MIDWIFE.

Midwife Claire (Frot), a late forties single mother of adult son Simon (Dolmaire), returns home from work one night to a surprise voicemail left by her father’s former lover, Béatrice (Deneuve). Quite keen to keep the unwanted reunion a short-lived one, Claire discovers that letting go of Béatrice isn’t as straightforward as she may have hoped, after receiving some unexpected news.

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Boasting suitably splendid performances from its leading ladies and featuring excellent characterisation, THE MIDWIFE adds another healthy arrival to the French cinema world.

Before the revelation of that aforementioned unexpected news, THE MIDWIFE introduces the small number of activities and people that form the essential parts of Claire’s life. For a short time from Béatrice’s appearance, some mystery surrounding their connection in the past and the cause for their long separation is upheld. This segment of the film draws in enough curiosity to help maintain further investment once it is no longer concealing past secrets of its core characters. As it continues, the focus from writer/director Martin Provost shifts to the meaningful development and trajectory of the two women’s interactions. For viewers who may appreciate a little more, THE MIDWIFE has some extra depth in identifying the role that Claire and Béatrice are playing in one another’s lives. This is especially pivotal to comprehend when evaluating the concessions made by the sometimes inexplicably kind-hearted Claire.

Not every facet of their shared time together will be of equal interest to everyone, however, the most important moments are the ones that occupy the majority of screen time in this French drama that delivers the goods.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ PG (Mild themes and coarse language)

Trailer / THE MIDWIFE/SAGE FEMME

Moviedoc thanks Palace Films for the invite to the screening of this film.

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HOME AGAIN

Writer & Director / Hallie Meyers-Shyer (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen and Lake Bell

The daughter of film writer, producer and director Nancy Meyers (THE INTERN, THE HOLIDAY, SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE), Hallie Meyers-Shyer, makes her writing and directing feature film debut with the romantic comedy/drama HOME AGAINAs is the case for the maker of this movie, the lead character here also happens to be the daughter of a talented and successful film director.

Alice (Reese Witherspoon) leaves her musician husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), in New York to return to her father’s home in Los Angeles with their two daughters and attempts to start up her own interior design business. Struggling to cope with the recent separation, a chance encounter with three young men who are trying to break into the movie business, aspiring director Harry (Alexander), writer George (Rudnitsky) and lead actor Teddy (Wolff), brings the change needed in Alice’s uneventful life.

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A so-so date with the movies, HOME AGAIN is as routine as the leaves of a tree in autumn yet is just as warm and comfortable to be in the presence of as sitting by the heater during a cold winter morning.

Being an easier film to watch rather than being a particularly good one, its prime audience is bound to let HOME AGAIN get away with being completely foreseeable and average in every way possible. Perhaps one challenge to this being accomplished though are the reactions from a few of the characters to certain scenarios that do make them and this movie less likable. Even the casting is quite hit and miss itself, as too are the acting performances. Reese Witherspoon certainly does hold her own in the lead role and her co-star Michael Sheen brings a needed whiff of fresh air inside HOME AGAIN when he later appears, however they’re not the right mix together in portraying the separated and possibly rekindling couple. Lake Bell, who sporadically appears as a pompous client of Alice’s, is filling a role that is ultimately rendered useless. As for the trio of guys, Nat Wolff (who you know from PAPER TOWNS) isn’t given enough to do with his character, Jon Rudnitsky (best known for SNL) always looks uncomfortable and the handsome looking Pico Alexander can’t quite give a performance that’s equally as cool as his name. The overplayed suaveness that is displayed too often from him makes his character less charming and more cloying.

Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s risk-free entry into the movie-making business is as textbook yet mildly pleasurable as seeing flowers bloom in the spring time.

2 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Coarse language)

Trailer / HOME AGAIN

Moviedoc thanks Entertainment One for the invite to the screening of this film.

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GOOD TIME

Directors / Benny and Josh Safdie (HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT)
Stars/ Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Necro, Taliah Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi

At the conclusion of its final credits during a screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, GOOD TIME was the recipient of a six minute standing ovation where it was also selected to compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or.

In New York, two brothers, Connie and Nick Nikas, attempt to rob a bank that does not go according to plan and results in Nick (co-director and co-editor Benny Safdie) being taken to a Riker’s Island holding cell. Desperate to free his mentally challenged brother, Connie (Robert Pattinson) turns to extreme measures, including his older girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and a bored teenage girl, Crystal (Taliah Webster), to obtain the bail bond required for his brother’s release.

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An outstanding score, a career-best performance from Robert Pattinson and extremely well thought-out writing ensure that GOOD TIME is more than worth your dime.

An independent American crime drama, GOOD TIME admirably allocates ample time to its lesser details and characters, enriching them on its way to becoming a cut above its mainstream counterparts. Aside from the Nikas brothers, all other characters are only briefly seen. However, with all small part players being written with characterisation that’s as colourful as the film’s neon design, they won’t be only briefly remembered. We see many movies belonging to this genre that either omit, skip or conveniently contrive connecting points to pull off their heist and reach the finish line. Not GOOD TIME. This film earns further positive recognition in just that area. A heist scene that is as riddled with tension as any other you’ll see, a timely twist and a more than satisfying conclusion are all ideal examples to give of the astute writing and execution of this immersive film.  Audiences are constantly left in the dark as to what the next turn in this tale could be and where this will lead to.

GOOD TIME is necessary to see in cinemas, purely to gain the full experience of the award-winning electronic score by Daniel Lopatin, best known under the recording alias Oneohtrix Point Never. It truly is a stand-out.

3 ½ stars

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Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong violence, coarse language, drug use and sex scene)

Trailer / GOOD TIME

Moviedoc thanks Potential Films for the link to watch and review this film.

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FINAL PORTRAIT

Writer & Director / Stanley Tucci (BIG NIGHT, THE IMPOSTORS)
Stars/ Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Sylvie Testud, Clémence Poésy and Tony Shalhoub

FINAL PORTRAIT is an enlightening retelling of Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s (Geoffrey Rush) numerous attempts to complete his portrait of young American writer and art admirer James Lord (Armie Hammer). It is 1964 in Paris when Alberto makes the flattering offer to draw his friend James, who is spending a few days traveling the French capital. Told from James’s perspective, FINAL PORTRAIT follows the trials and tribulations of both men as the neurotic artist battles both artistic and personal problems in this biographical comedic drama.

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From even his childhood years during the early 1900’s, Alberto Giacometti showed a keen interest in art. The life events of this post-impressionist artist that occurred from then to the timeline depicted here have surprisingly never been told in a feature length picture. However, they certainly deserve to be (and hopefully will be) someday.

Better known for his on-screen work, writer/director Stanley Tucci focuses on several days in the latter part of Giacometti’s life, in this moderate yet finely made film. Content with regularly and casually observing rather deeply exploring any of its themes and characterisations, FINAL PORTRAIT is an undeniably lightweight film that has tendencies to sometimes meander and linger in repetitiveness. Nevertheless, those who fancy this edited snapshot will take a liking to Tucci’s piece of work courtesy of the director’s firm handling of a basic story and peculiar characters, the reasonable pace over a short duration that has been applied and a terrific performance from Geoffrey Rush (who knew he could speak French!?). These aspects of the film keep this UK production a serviceable one.

3 stars 

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Mature themes, coarse language and nudity)

Trailer / FINAL PORTRAIT

Moviedoc thanks Transmission Films for the screening invite to this film.

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VICTORIA & ABDUL

Director/ Stephen Frears (FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, PHILOMENA, THE QUEEN)
Stars/ Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Michael Gambon, Tim Pigott-Smith and Eddie Izzard

It took over one hundred years from its occurrence for this true story to be publicly told. Based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Shrabani Basu, VICTORIA & ABDUL is a comedic drama about an unlikely friendship that came to fruition.

Reprising the role she previously played in the 1997 biographical drama MRS BROWN, Judi Dench again reigns supreme as Queen Victoria during the late 1800s. Bored and disinterested in her daily affairs, her Royal Majesty takes an instant liking to a tall, dark and handsome servant named Abdul (played by Ali Fazal), who broke the number one rule to not make eye contact with his Queen. Over several years, Abdul, who is a Muslim Indian, and Queen Victoria, begin to form a close bond, which causes quite a stir among her family members and close associates. 


The honest story of a genuinely remarkable and beautiful friendship is tarnished by the intrusion of an unnecessarily high supply of seemingly fabricated and overplayed farce.

Right from her opening scenes, where her Royal Majesty is having a royal snore before sloppily dining a meal fit for a king, VICTORIA & ABDUL deliberately enforces an undeniably featherweight tone. These frequently occurring, yet infrequently funny scenes go too strong on the slapstick, diminishing much of the inherent class and worthiness befitting of the film. Its misguided attempts to be too comedic become less of a problem as the developing friendship gains the traction it deserves. The screenplay’s realisation and revelation of the value that Abdul is bringing to his Queen’s life, who is having her mind opened just as much as her heart, and Judi Dench’s excellent performance do keep VICTORIA & ABDUL as close to the film experience it ought to be, even if sometimes the trajectory of their friendship is a little unclear, and even rather uncomfortable. As they grow closer, the nature of this film transitions to become a more poignant one, yet without much of the effect intended.

Though undoubtedly let down by its screenplay written by Lee Hall (writer of BILLY ELLIOT and WAR HORSE), VICTORIA & ABDUL is also a major disappointment from an experienced director who has previously handled a regally depicted movie with sophistication and class in the past.

2 ½ stars


Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and coarse language)

Trailer / VICTORIA & ABDUL

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the pass to watch and review this film.

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mother!

Writer & Director / Darren Aronofsky (NOAH, BLACK SWAN, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM)
Stars/ Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris

Right now, mother! is the mother of decidedly mixed reactions. A movie that is at first completely unfathomable before it can ultimately be considered a work of pure genius. It’s an incredibly mysterious drama masquerading as psychological horror that was the recipient of booing and standing ovations at the Venice Film Festival. And it is one of the rare films to be handed an “F” cinemascore from moviegoers in the U.S, which is the worst possible score a film can receive. Some critics have even labelled mother! the worst film of the century! Though it is kind of awful to watch, there is no need to get carried away!

All you need to know regarding the synopsis is the following (just in case you’re one of many who must give in to your curiosity): in a very large home, a couple peacefully reside (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem). One day, totally out of the blue, their tranquil existence is quickly shattered upon the unexpected arrival of two uninvited guests (played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). 


Once all is said and done, there remains two key reasons as to how mother! has missed its opportunity to be a masterpiece. This enigmatic film, which at first rarely allows your gaze to move far from the screen until it becomes borderline unwatchable, is so much challenge for so little reward. Also, for a film that is ultimately not open to interpretation, it studiously leaves itself exposed to an excess of just that.

Now, don’t be conned into believing that you’ll be leaving the cinema with any real answers. The final few scenes of mother! may provide some closure to you for one of several understandings to be gleaned, at best. It isn’t until any post-viewing research is conducted (if you care enough by then) that you’ll need to wait to uncover this movie’s cunningly crafted secret. Even still, several of its ambiguities have been purposely left unanswered and up to your imagination to decipher.

Where the creator of mother! deserves recognition is in his highly original and innovative thinking. Although not a lot makes a great deal of sense at the time it occurs, mother! successfully summons immediate intrigue that takes a considerable amount of time to burn off. There is no doubt in my mind that a courageous performance in a mightily challenging role for Jennifer Lawrence keeps viewers deeply invested much longer than the film deserves. The poor darling is put through hell and deserves a sympathy card from each of you who risk seeing this!

On a final note, it is well within the intellectual capacity of writer/director Darren Aronofsky to creatively incorporate its truth in a less arrogant manner than is opted for in mother! Though a feeling of appreciation for his idea later arrives, that appreciation remains heavily burdened and restricted. 

2 stars

Hint – If you have seen mother! and remain completely puzzled, go onto the IMDB website and take note of the original title of this film. Still unsure? Let me know!

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong themes, violence and coarse language)

Trailer / mother!

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures for the pass to watch and review this film.

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IT

Director / Andy Muschietti (MAMA)
Stars/ Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Jack Dylan Grazer and Chosen Jacobs

Even Stephen King himself has endorsed this first chapter of a planned two-part feature film retelling of IT, stating that a “wonderful job” has been done. The fact that this cinematic adaptation is much closer to King’s 1986 novel than what the mini-series produced four years later was, will no doubt be a significant contributor towards his positive feelings.

It is late 1980’s in the town of Derry, Maine. A number of individual kids – the stuttering student Bill (Lieberher), the granny-glasses wearing Richie (Wolfhard), Beverly (Lillis), who lives with an oppressive family member, the overweight library visitor Ben (Taylor), as well as Stanley (Oleff), Mike (Jacobs) and Eddie (Grazer) – are experiencing some form of bullying. United by their bullying encounters, as well as separate horrifying confrontations with beings that represent their worst fears, the newly formed group search for a frightening, shape-shifting entity who adopts the appearance of a clown, named Pennywise (Skarsgård).

An alluring visual design, innovative horror sequences and a largely unknown, yet talented ensemble cast do indeed ensure that IT consistently floats its viewer’s boat.

For starters, the tone is darker. Much darker, which is made clear by a menacing and superior opening sequence partially seen in the record-breaking film trailer. Heed that as both a warning and a recommendation! It’s a tone that easily settles itself into and all throughout this horror film. Even so, IT is quite a thrill to watch as it teases and taunts viewers in equal measure. A frequent supply of creatively conceived and ominously designed visual scenarios together with the camaraderie of its characters and its production give this film both a freshness and taste of nostalgia that is easy to embrace. These slickly executed scenes and the amalgamation of its narrative display the real skill and vision that director Andy Muschietti possesses. IT also impresses by way of a strongly written script that truly seizes upon its full potential and is more than capable of engaging its audience. A sub-plot revolving around the history of the kids’ hometown and the film’s themes (some of which are very heavy), are genuinely compelling. On a lighter note, the jocular banter that is exchanged among the younger cast members is highly amusing and even breaks a cinema convention or two along the way. The support and the strength that they lend one another has real substance too.

This old clown is up to new tricks that are guaranteed to feed you a fright or five.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (Strong horror themes and violence)

Trailer / IT

Moviedoc thanks Roadshow Films for the screening invite to this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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