REVIEW: The Killing of Two Lovers

A slow-burning, brutal drama about a man struggling to grasp his failing marriage. Machoian’s debut is gritty and packed with emotion. 

★★★★

Writer/director Robert Machoian’s first feature follows David (played by Clayne Crawford), a man desperately trying to keep his family of six together during a separation from his wife.


REVIEW: Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi satirises Nazi Germany in his latest comedy-drama kitsch.

★★★★★

Following the gargantuan success of his previous directorial effort, the Marvel epic Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi returns with a more lighthearted yet emotional film. His new movie, Jojo Rabbit, is an adaptation of Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies.

Starring a roster of actors such as Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, and Stephen Merchant, Taika has meticulously selected a cast that will deliver the laughs that his script so deserves. Waititi not only wrote and directed this sweet-natured film, but he also stars as Jojo’s friendly imaginary pal, Adolf Hitler. You know, the evil führer who notoriously sent 6 million jews to their death. Definitely a role model that a ten-year-old should look up to!

When Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) discovers that his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), has been harbouring a jew within the walls of their home, he is conflicted with his own moral judgement and the views of the Nazis including his imaginary buddy. We soon discover that Rosie had lost a daughter; the reason behind the choice to secretly keep Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), the Jewish teenager, safe. The human condition draws Jojo closer to Elsa throughout. As he bonds with her via conversations through the wall, he realises that he must choose between the Nazi ideals, and his mother’s fugitive. This realisation only comes to the dismay of the Hitler inside his head.

Johansson’s portayal of Rosie Betzler is mesmerising. Here, Taika writes dialogue expertly showcasing maternal instinct. Jojo’s uncertainty between his mother’s wishes and the Nazi ideology is emphasised by the caring nature of her character and his naivety. The equilibrium of the darkness and the light lifts the film from comedy to tragedy with ease.

Jojo must bravely keep his mother’s secret, a tall task for a small boy afraid of the consequences. But after all, as Elsa says, is he really a Nazi or is he just “a ten-year-old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club”?

At this time of political uncertainty, Waititi has reminded us that there has been worse which we have overcome, and which we can now laugh at in retrospect. His sharp, satirical script and the enthusiastic comedic performances from his stellar cast make young Jojo’s tale an enjoyable watch throughout. “Heil Taika!”

Jojo Rabbit was released in the UK on 3rd January 2020.

By Ryan Burdett


REVIEW: Beautiful Boy

Chalamet shines with an Oscar-worthy performance portraying Nic Sheff, an isolated teen, struggling with drug addiction.

★★★★

Beautiful Boy, starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, chronicles the story of adolescent Nic Sheff’s battle with an addiction to crystal meth and his father’s struggle to help him to rehabilitation.

Known for comic acting in movies such as Anchorman, this is perhaps Carell’s most serious role to date. David Sheff’s concern for his son is expressed from the outset, “there are moments that I look at him, and I wonder who he is”. This is just an echo of his frustration at the disconnection he’s facing with his son. Throughout the film, we see David endlessly researching the effects of drug use as well as a few traumatic scenes in which Carell’s character is visibly broken by the unawareness of Nic’s whereabouts.

This is undoubtedly Steve Carell’s best role since 2015’s Foxcatcher, delivering heartfelt emotion to his onscreen son and wife (played by Maura Tierney). Timothée’s career has advanced even further with this gut-wrenching addition to his filmography, which includes Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, for which he received an Academy Award nomination.

There’s a pivotal scene in which Nic and David meet in a cafe in San Francisco which quickly turns into Chalamet’s character requesting money. David responsibly declines, causing Nic to erupt in a raucous of upset. Of course this is where the performances by both lead actors are most interesting as the tension between the characters builds and the atmosphere is apprehensive.

Director, Felix Van Groeningen, set up two cameras on each character to capture true reactions in real-time. His choice to emphasise the argumentative nature that Nic has towards his father, as well as David’s helpless response, gives the audience an even sharper understanding of their father-son dynamic.

But drama aside, the film is based on a true story - the memoirs of David Sheff, and his son, Nic. This tale of a young man’s nasty addiction is all too real. Groeningen’s film highlights the grim reality of drug addiction as overdose is currently an epidemic in the US. Last year, 72,000 Americans died from drug overdose which shows just how widespread this issue is.

Groeningen doesn’t accentuate the dark side of drugs though, or glorify it whatsoever. Instead, the film revolves around the effect it has on Nic’s family, including his young step-brother and step-sister. “I want them to be proud of me”, he whispers. His determination to change his own life, although perhaps unsuccessfully for the most part, is what makes his flawed character so likeable. However, Chalamet’s natural onscreen charm may also play a part.

Although there’s definitely some issues structurally, Beautiful Boy is a wonderful character study on how little you might know about someone so close and what they’re going through, but also the effects of addiction; whether that’s gambling, alcohol, or drugs.  The performances from both actors make this drama fully engaging and emotional. It’s the two different angles on the same story that set this film apart from other tales of drug addiction because the intrigue is placed upon the dynamic between father and son.

Beautiful Boy was released in the UK on 18th January 2019.

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