A gracious account of the early stages of Colette's life, this show has the ingredients of a first class item. Visually it is fabulous - the beauty of Knightley, the production of historical detail, the balanced photographic tableaux, the vivid interiors, and the long takes that draw the most from the actors, scenes and performances. The screenplay advances smoothly, with direction and editing that seem completely assured. Knightley finds and maintains the core of the character, who develops from ingénue, to young wife, to frustrated intellectual and artist, to finding sexual and professional adventure, and then to reaching a powerful maturity. The supporting roles are understated, without surrendering the film to being just a star vehicle; throughout, they are directed and performed to an equally fine standard as Colette. Comparing say A Quiet Passion, this film does not reach as deep emotionally, nor does it speak and bring to life much of Colette's actual writing. It takes a more external focus and is less powerful for that. Not a fault, but rather a decision that enables the Colette film to appeal to a wide audience, to give very fine entertainment, while delivering the key historical facts and illustrating eloquently the obstacles faced by a brilliant woman writer.
This story had the potential to be a sharp historical account of the development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s, if it had focused on interesting science, politics and espionage. The scenes with present-day Joan and her son deliver most of its substance and the key facts. The young Joan was inventing the bomb, a member of a secret wartime team of scientists, and she was also a Russian spy. However, the film treats her less as a cool head, and more as a slave to romance. Compare The Imitation Game - in this film, we needed greater details of 'the quickest mind in atomic physics'; and how she operated. Just as in life she was apparently treated as though she were invisible, or the tea lady, so the film skates over her importance. Even then, the romances are patchy, the sex scenes embarrassing. The other Russian spies are exceptionally beautiful, charismatic and glamorous; who would not have picked them out? Logical threads get fuzzy, the screenplay and editing jump around, with key plot devices introduced towards the end. People looking for a period piece will enjoy the lavishly produced English scenes, cars and clothing, plus hairstyles. People who want an insight into the events will get some. To understand Joan herself, you have to wade through all the padding, while it's the scenes with Dench that deliver the essence of the story.
Redford and an exceptionally fine supporting cast create a sophisticated, grown-up tale of whimsy and romance. Yes this may have been a true story, yet its real charm lies in the weaving in gently of people's deep wishes and feelings. Visually, it is remarkable how interesting the old faces look and how they sound. Meanwhile, Affleck presents like a young Redford, the brooding good looks, the distance and assurance, down to the moustache and flopping hair - his detective role is more of an alter-ego than a nemesis. The sensuality in the film revolves around him and his beautiful wife; watch for their breathtaking dance. Spacek's lovely presence balances the Redford persona and there is no sex scene: a good decision. These and the other supporting roles bring contrasts and harmonies (Waits' spoken voice literally), all played by superlative actors including an all star line-up and very good child actors particularly the little daughter. The ensemble eliminates the vanity element. All of that is a fine directorial achievement. It's not a screenplay likely to appeal much to the fast paced rhythm of younger audiences. The gun of the title is a notable non-starter. This is a film full of wisdom, kindness, fun and humour and, in line with Forrest's own story and no doubt without coincidence Redford's too - it is brimming with happiness.
A close up of the performing sensation that is Lady Gaga, who is a worthy musical successor to Garland, and whose powerful presence carries the film. There are also first class guitar riffs and solos, and a big effort by Cooper in playing the rock star. The film delivers an unvarnished view of the life of music stars in general - perhaps its main virtue. Gaga and Cooper give a lot, but the show should have been about two thirds of its length. It lacks the sophistication of the Garland/ Mason. Gaga is a better musician than she is an actor, though it wouldn't have mattered if the screenplay had been more developed, the directing more objective and the editing more ruthless. Cooper's persona tends to hide the character's inner life; there are only a couple of intense close-ups where you really see within Jack. Compare American Sniper, where the role is relatively narrow, but shows a complex inner life. A fine support cast fills the screenplay, and provides relief from the stars' moribund tale. A lot of the dialogue is mumbled and slurred. Visually the film is unpleasant. Cooper looks permanently unwashed; Gaga apart from the early stages and maybe the final scene is styled hideously; the concert arenas are cavernous; the interiors are claustrophobic, and their home is finished in ugly, bare wood. The music consists mainly of sentimental rock and pop/ rock power ballads; while it keeps going like that, you can start wondering how many more of those you want to hear. The film drags on through its depressing and well-known stages; but, since most people will go not to this for the cinema so much as for the stars, those you do get in spades.
This succeeds in spelling out what life is like for, and around, an alcoholic, and a person with quadriplegia - in this case, the one man is both. It also delivers strong messages about drink driving, the morals of making the wrong assumptions, and about how people treat one another in profound circumstances. It is a story of triumph over adversity. As cinema, it is less engaging. The title is more humorous than the film. Phoenix is less interesting than in say Inherent Vice. The screenplay repeats numerous, and ultimately voyeuristic, examples of the physical problems. It aims for a graphic naturalism, but the dialogue is forced. Sometimes it is inaudible. The direction is monotonous; the editing is padded. We get the standard formula, of a flawed man who lands intimacy with improbably ideal women. Yes, it is a vote for recognising that people with disability have a love life. But here, the women are little more than objects; how many blank, glossy-mag close-ups of Mara did it need? Compare Coming Home, where Fonda was presented unglamorously, with a powerful, complex role in the story. The AA members provide caricatured interest. The screenplay could instead have opted for deeper wit and characterisations in these roles. Even the inner path from tragically hapless drunk, to successful creative artist and human being, is written simplistically. He starts drawing, someone publishes him, and then he is away. What happened within him, to bring about that change? In this show, alcoholism and disability are the main ingredients for a low kind of humour, and it misses the opportunity to do justice to the full story and the people in it.
A fine documentary, this show about the life and career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also about developing the law, and through it a nation, intelligently and according to fairness, justice and principle. In their dealings with Ginsburg, leaders from both sides could find common ground; there is plenty of wit and humour. You see good for the future, in all of the young people and especially women, who are inspired and taught by Ginsburg's example, her advocacy in the Supreme Court, her majority judgments and her dissents. Ginsburg's legal achievements are told simply and clearly, her life story and marriage with touching emotion. Plus, she has excellent fashion sense, is a workout inspiration and right up to date with social media. Though Justice Ginsburg is described as having a retiring personal manner, when interviewed she gives fearless, razor-sharp observations and displays keen comic timing; she is sparing with words, and the film delivers these items sparingly. It would have benefited from some more: maybe that leaves a thirst. Every potential office-holder, say, all senior high school students - should have this item on their curriculum. For women, but not only women, aspiring in the law, but actually in any field, this is an excellent manual on leadership.
Sci fi /horror must be plausible and this is not. Spoilers follow. For the front part of the show it's entertaining enough. But cinema is about suspending disbelief and that gets a deep workout in this film. You can score points by spotting the many failures of logic large and small. Why are some sounds dangerous while others of about the same volume are not? If the creatures can be baited and killed by guns, and there are millions of guns in the world, why have the creatures taken over? How do you keep a baby's face perfectly still through the night? Was the grain silo filled from this family's crops, or drawn upon by the family, and if so how was it done silently? Had no one ever noticed the six-inch nail? In the whole world, now almost emptied of people, did no one else manage to think about putting two and two together about how to use sound? Then - the answer (not really a spoiler), you realise that the gun will, once again, save the day - the solemn nodding at the end tells you that this part at least is to be believed. The camera lingers over the rifle's curves like the proverbial lover - much more sensually than it does over the lovemaking adults. As for the special effects, there's nothing wrong with a film being derivative of a classic like Alien - see for example 'Life' which, despite not being the greatest show ever made, was worth seeing for its utterly mundane plausibility on how we might get invaded. But here, the monster lacks brio. It has Alien-like jaws, but in trying to make it different, the design makes the face disappear and the creature loses character and has no sense of irony, mischief, vindictiveness, or humour, unlike the original, or the sheer, brutal alienness as in Life. Instead of being a superb athlete or organism, it looks and often moves like a gangly geriatric. Despite being able to hear whispers from miles away, it can't hear only inches in front of it a racing heartbeat, a woman labouring (albeit with screams suppressed), gasps, frightened breathing, the trickle of blood, or the rustle of clothing. The film extolls the bravery and wit of the male characters, gives the children important achievements including one child who is hearing impaired, and in a nod to feminism it shows women's strength - except that the feminism here remains in praise of the real star which is, unsurprisingly, the gun. This is a lavish production in the way of the emperor's new clothes. Still, it could be useful - parents might return home and try telling funny, smart but rowdy kids that you have just seen a whole movie where the obedient children made no noise at all for more than a year.
An unsympathetic tale about a woman suffering a mental health crisis; the title itself is an accusation. Nathalie has a breakdown following her husband's departure and marriage to a younger woman. She risks becoming an outcast - a profound disgrace for this respectable bourgeois mother and professional. She falls into a pattern of saying blunt and upsetting things to the people around her - the jealousy of the title. She criticises her teenage daughter's youth, beauty and social life; she interferes in her best friend's marriage; she rages at the initiatives of a smart (younger) new teacher at the school where Nathalie teaches. There is usually an element of truth in what she says - truths that her family and friends don't want to hear; though the film ends up simply calling these her "errors". Hormones appear to be the cause of Nathalie's problem: the film stops short, but not far short, of openly advertising medical treatments for pre-menopause, possibly lasting for years. It would have been appropriate to write the character older, because the pre-menopause theme was needlessly unflattering to lead actor Viard. Perhaps the truth of the story was secondary to pharmaceutical promotion: it is common for French films to promote national industries. The film delivers a series of pitiless, semi-humorous or embarrassing scenes of Nathalie's social faux pas, while the other characters are irritatingly self-righteous and pure. The overriding value here is conformity with social norms of behaviour, or else. Somehow, Nathalie gets through her troubles - she swims, does yoga, makes a kind friend, starts apologising profusely to everyone, yet we don't see how she achieves this within her own mind and emotions. She just pulls herself up by her bootstraps. This film is not the sharp psychological comedy/drama that it promised to be. Nor is it feminist, despite its female focus. It's more of a rather ageist, blunt and nasty lesson for people and especially for women in Nathalie's situation - shape up or ship out.
We might wish these times were back. In the present-day age of blocking, deleting, etc., this story is set in 2002 when social media was still young and it was less of an instant thing to cut off an annoying loved one. It is a vote for caring mothers; how an ordinary mother and daughter work out their differences, not by algorithms, but in the living everyday. Hooray for the attractive Lady Bird, who gets to have it all - a great education, her ambitions, her freedom, and the warmth of being close to her devoted mother, family and best friends. The characters are mostly well crafted. Her father in particular is a wonderful, beguiling, soft man; this is an exceptional, hypnotic acting performance, amplifying the emotional energy of his scenes. The nemeses in the form of cynical youths provide sharp foils to the main characters' desire for happiness. The film concentrates on Lady Bird's progress of change, and less on personalities: the mother and daughter roles are presented in low relief, with moderate levels of drama. There are few if any extremes and melodramas. There is tragedy however in the best friend, a brilliant student, who will not go on to study - it passes by you quickly, as if this is the natural way of things and perhaps it is. This girl, more talented and a nicer person than Lady Bird, is picked up, dropped and picked up by Lady Bird at will; she is overweight and perhaps of mixed race too, and she loses all future prospects as well as misguided love, while Lady Bird, the slim, white and conventionally pretty one wins. Again, Lady Bird's mixed race siblings provide comic relief, but as characters are underdeveloped. The film doesn't seem to be making a statement about inequality; yet it is unequal. Otherwise, the young people are treated respectfully and it largely avoids the common sauce of nudity, violence and death. The film tracks carefully Lady Bird's evolution from child to adult, it does not lecture, delivers plenty of laughs and is full of pleasing visuals. It is a piece of American life, language and thinking. If the show lacks some excitement and the clear plot markers that we are used to, it supplies a relatively natural treatment and charm. It does not however dig deep, nor does it tackle its own cultural assumptions, and it remains a lightweight item.
Unhappy start. Walked out of this at the early scene of animal cruelty. To the long litany of the tormenting and killing of animals for entertainment, sport or in the name of the so-called arts, we now have Haneke's hamster. And to add to the vileness, the treatment of this animal receives a parallel with the mother. Wasn't it this director who filmed the smashed aquarium and the fish suffocating on the carpet - unfortunately I remembered this too late to avoid the film. Should have known better. The half star is because you cannot post without putting a rating, so the little animal can have it. For the film - minus five.
A sophisticated black comedy and satire, on the themes of the ageing boy-man wanting indulgence, about how people ignore reality, and how they change in order to be fully human. In his mind, Woodcock is always talking to an idea of his mother, who died in his early childhood, and in his behaviour he requires to have everything just so, which makes for amusing domestic scenes. He is a dress designer for the super wealthy, there is anti-semitism in the background, the streets outside the studio are dark and cold: but reality doesn't touch him. From one pompous gown to the next, the outfits reflect his narrow persona. In contrast his lover is unafraid. She works on him using dangerous methods to teach him tenderness and openness. A turning point comes when he realises that his prize wedding dress is ugly. The film is flawlessly made with excellent acting by the whole ensemble. Day-Lewis' character is fully considered and played to the hilt. The seamstresses are heroes who weather every storm and make each dress on time, entirely by hand: their monumental skills and steadiness are the rock of the business, and they balance the high-camp archness of everything else in the film, again, contrasting the obsessions to the reality. The film's superb ironic twist lies in the dresses: you expect them to be exciting, fabulous, inspiring, but while they are expensive, they are also rigid, charmless and look unwearable. The heroine is destined permanently to wear shades of puce - luckily she has the wit not to care, as she is not in love with the clothes. In an embarrassing, funny fracas, the characters rescue an awful creation from abuse by its owner. The hero's relationship to food is emblematic of his development. You are not deeply moved by this show, nor transported by flights of romance. But you do have a fine time with how it makes its points about the need for empathy and humanity: the humorously named lead character learns to bend. This is quality brain material, with generous trimmings of fun.
This is better not judged by ordinary measures, with the three men who really did stop the terrorist acting in the three leading roles as themselves. They do a fine job, even if it is obvious they aren't professional actors: this is the key quality of the film. You can sit through the front part of the show, and think that you have seen more exciting bios and travelogues. But the threads are there: the young boys playing soldiers, the stockpile of toy guns and a real gun kept at home, the willingness to question the status quo and the mothers who stuck up for them with the schools and who stuck together too, the responsibility and decency instilled in the boys, the teamwork, and the men's interest in bigger themes - some philosophising, and some family history. The film also points out that the Russian army drove Hitler to his final bunker. Stone's early physical workouts are impressive and the men's various military training, including life-saving, kicks in. The terrorist was armed with a Kalashnikov and hundreds of rounds, plus a knife. As one of the men says, it was one in a million that the rifle misfired when Stone ran straight at it. The three men were on the train unarmed, and in a mortal struggle they took the terrorist down without shooting. You might think you know this story from newsfeeds. But the awarding of the Legion D'Honneur to the men is greatly moving, as is their return home as heroes. Another of the men, quoted by the French President, said "you have to do something". So the questions are there: if you believe in and keep guns, but on the day you are unarmed, what would you do? And if you are against guns and never use them, what would you do? Retracing the path with the men themselves, you are a big step closer to the action than you get from regular products, either fiction or documentary, and that makes this interesting, and good cinema.
A strong social commentary and drama, precise, fast and uncompromising, there is no relaxing here. It is hard to watch. The film deserves a place in cinema studies because it tracks opposite to most screen treatments of violence and disadvantage. It presents a thorough condemnation of violence. The show is unromantic about these things - they are unpleasant; yet blood and guns are scarce, even though every scene is loaded with real or latent violence. Nothing turns out all right in the end. Audiences hoping to become judge and jury on Tonya could be frustrated, when the film shows that the truth is variable, depending on who someone is. People from the wrong side of the tracks will soon recognise scenarios when the points and the prizes go to others who are the right fit but not the best. Here, supporting characters strike weird notes: the outrageous, two-dimensional mother, played mercilessly by Janney; the cartoonish thugs; the well-spoken husband, who presents like a crazed version of Somerset Maugham. They contrast with the film's realism on the various judges; the real power. The scenes between Tonya and the judges express the key to the story: watch for the one in the car park. Robbie delivers Tonya's struggles and inner life; Robbie is low on embellishments, big on intelligence, determination and drive. When at the end you see the newsreel of Tonya's biggest skating win, Robbie has been as close to that blinding energy as anyone could ask for. The film is a no-waste exercise: scenes are blunt, editing is ultra sharp, production is enough and no more; the film doesn't care that the teenager scenes look too old or that in them Robbie resembles Princess Diana. The acting rejects useless nuance, the plot does not need twists. You will get the point: how people are wrecked. Wherever you sheet the blame, the tragedy of the two young women, Tonya and Nancy, is heartbreaking. The picture of Nancy's face at the end begs the question - how could she know whether the medal was awarded to her only for her skating, or for other reasons? Tonya lost her skating future completely, her reputation, and a great deal more. This show is not a fable. It is a stark picture of the layers of society, and it points too at the power of corporates - it is America, and every other place. What a brave production to put on such unpalatable themes, to mostly avoid the conventional idols of violence and guns, to cut Stanislavsky to the bare essentials, and then to inject the show with vicious humour, while mounting a cogent moral philosophy about society and inequality. To knit all of that out of a last-century ice-skating scandal - who would have thought?
This is like two films cut and pasted together: Hawkins' charming and lovely character, her handsome aquatic boyfriend and their good friends, versus the crude and maniacal Cold War machine. The first group are written for adults, sensitively and with a witty eye to modern sensibilities. The lovers are both mute of words; the supporting roles supply the substance that makes up for this silence, and are directed with grace and depth. The villains on the other hand are drawn baldly, simplistically, and exhibit a lot of unartistic violence. Maybe that markets to a wider audience, yet it misses the opportunity to lift the film. The evil would have been better if it were more implied and less slapstick gore. The story is about love at first sight - the creature doesn't revolt the lady in the beginning, she doesn't end up loving him out of pity, or because he is a gentleman at heart (King Kong, Beauty and the Beast). Nor is it awful (Alien Resurrection 3) or cruel (Anderson's Mermaid). It is a straight-out mutual attraction: love for these two is easy. From the beginning, they beguile each other; and later, Hawkins' sleek nudity complements his scales. When he emerges fully from the water with glistening abs and quads, the unspoken chorus is: What a man. Because the film weakens, and chooses violent display over philosophy, this is not a classic like King Kong or The Creature From the Black Lagoon. But it is worth seeing for the fine acting, the beautiful production in 1960s style, for its ironic take on the Cold War, its sense of humour, and most of all for its spectacular, lyrical love scenes.
This is one of a long line of Australian films about that country's Indigenous history that are documentary, not only a fictionalised story. Indigenous people made this film and the Indigenous actors here, while their film acting is superbly fluid and transparent, are not just acting. The history of their people is alive in them, as if the voices of the past are speaking now. That is a testament to the Indigenous survival. The influence of Indigenous people on today's Australian culture is such that the white actors' performances ring true with thorough understanding, and the cinema was full of non-Indigenous Australians. The film has the mark of inevitability - everyone is expecting to see these atrocities that happened in the everyday, during the taking of the Australian land mass. For Indigenous people, survival meant living through slavery, crime and betrayal. The predictability of this story underlines artistically what lies in the DNA of the country. Today, many Indigenous people live in third world conditions; nearly all child prisoners in jails are Indigenous. So the film is not surprising, and the audience did not go to see it for that. There is a desire to hear the Indigenous story told by the people themselves. Plus, the Indigenous style of telling is possessed of a great quick wit, a sure dart of communication, that gets you before you know it's coming. This story is told simply, with strong production values. The landscape and the dwellings are unremittingly harsh, with one exception - the stock horses looked like show specimens. Why not get the horses instead from among the thousands in the dogger sales, and give them a future? Otherwise, the film's value lies in its reality and lack of sensationalism: it's not about thrills, but the grind. In the age of gratuitous cinema violence, in contrast there is nothing extraneous here, though there is violence aplenty. Thinking of an outback tour? Make this film a part of your homework.
Hollywood trains all of its finest powers in the right direction. A film to influence present day events by telling their history. It is flawlessly made, and not a star vehicle, despite its big star load. The emotional high point is when Kay Graham walks away from the Supreme Court, watched in silent awe by a line of young women flanking her path. Kay's leadership of these events was - and is - a unique moment in US history and the history of US women. Streep is probably older than Kay Graham was then, but Streep's age underlines the vulnerability of this lone woman in the currents of great power. Still, Graham's autobiography reveals that she had had to find enormous inner strength, and strength of mind, in the years leading up to and after her husband's shocking death; it is not surprising that she was able to lead in not only the Pentagon Papers, but also the Watergate publications. The film shows in detail how precarious a job it is, to publish a dangerous truth to power. It depended not just on the people at the top of the Washington Post, but on the determination and skills of those below and around them; plus some luck when things had fallen through the cracks. It shows how important the US Constitution is - the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects not the governors, but the governed. The entire cast is very fine, with excellent ensemble scenes. Perhaps the standout, luminous, if brief, performance comes from the junior government attorney, whose brother is over there, fighting the Vietnam war, now known by everyone to be unwinnable. The film concludes that the war was continued 70% in order to save the US from humiliation. It would interesting to know what the Pentagon Papers said about the drive to keep supplying munitions - and whether it is true that American soldiers would throw away their issue rifles when they could use a captured Kalashnikov instead: the opening scene begs the question of readiness. The film has thrilling scenes of the newspaper being made and climbing up fast and high off the presses: it presents an unstoppable image. Put it on the history curriculum. Not to be missed.
A comedy noir and melodrama, that is promising on the themes of today's social issues. It delivers plenty of ironic laughs, but probably is not too amusing to people who have suffered the same tragedies. It begins assertively with McDormand looking and acting tough. ranges through a roll call of controversy- policing, discrimination, rape, violence, suicide, free speech, institutions. At times it strikes false notes, as when the Dinklage character is the subject of too many jokes at his own expense; or when ageing small-town males are paired with improbably young and glamorous women. The Harrelson character is yet another in the well-trodden formula of older white male spirit guide. Most of the roles including McDormand's character soften as the show goes on: ok these other shows weren't comedies, but compare the unshakenly-written roles of Fonda in Georgia Rule, Hunter in Strange Weather, Redgrave's n Secret Scripture, or Huppert's in Valley of Love, all concerning older mothers dealing with great loss. This screenplay smooths everything down eventually. The soft-centre approach weakens the depth of the black comedy, and the power of the comment. That makes it easier as a conversation piece. But unlike the great classics of social criticism through comedy, in the final result this show does not thoroughly mean it.
A visual tour de force, this is a projection of Van Gogh's art by the 100 or more artists who painted every scene. It is rich with animations of the real-life actors, who are painted convincingly in the Van Gogh style, using scenes based on his actual and famous paintings, which spring astonishingly to life as the action arises. Alternating with the Van Gogh pictures are biographical flashbacks, which are painted or drawn in black and white photo-realism, again of a very high artistic quality. The story involves an inquiry into the circumstances of Van Gogh's death. In this, it is less satisfying dramatically, with loose ends, not grasping the nettle, and stopping short of an accusation of mortal envy. The Gachet interview scene seems too easy and forgiving. The alternative explanation of the fatal gunshot, a mischief by an errant youth, also lacks reality because the inquisitor never questions the (then) boy. The film apologises for the failure of those around Van Gogh to save him. This show is in no way humorous, yet it is recalls The Life of Brian, where Brian's followers parade by, complimenting him for sacrificing himself, instead of rescuing him. Here, the film dwells on Van Gogh's forgiveness of the unforgivable - "don't blame anyone" he is reported to have said, as he lay dying needlessly of an untreated gunshot wound, while several characters come by to see him. The film produces evidence that he was not suicidal, and that suicide was unlikely in the circumstances, and then it goes soft. The critical point about Van Gogh's art is his reach into the condition of the poor, farm workers, women and the hard struggle of life, and into nature. He related most easily with and lived among working people and peasants: in that sense he was a traitor to his class. To combine these sentiments with his artistic power must have driven his well to do friends to distraction, particularly those who wished they could paint. If as it seems Van Gogh also won the heart of a bourgeois woman, half his age, the resentment he inspired must have run deep. The film dips its toes into this unpalatable water, and then weakens, in favour of vague philosophising - was it just Vincent just being Vincent, and did it really matter whether he committed suicide or was killed. Really? Van Gogh's paintings were both sophisticated and fearless; he had enormous generosity of spirit. This film is loving compliance more than it is loving Vincent, and in the end it leaves him to the wolves.
Wait as you might for greatness, this charmless, low-brow piece is strictly cashing in, with the special effects the main item and which keep you watching, and absorbing the generous degrees of product placement. In a semblance of doing something meaningful, it is laced with hooks and triggers - religious pointers such as the God figure, represented by Ford whose Heaven is Las Vegas with an endless supply of label whisky; the infantile Son figure of Gosling; and a remotely wafting Spirit figure. Female roles consist of stereotypes: the severe, older career woman; the pure woman; the "fallen women" - what they all have in common is that the women are only happy when self-sacrificing. Picking up on the trend exemplified by the misogynistic Ex Machina, of showing the sadistic abuse of, by and between women with the excuse that they are robots, this film also appeals to the lower sexist fantasies. In an unsavoury scene, Gosling's character and the camera relish for too long on the killing of a female enemy. The film is advertising for gambling, booze, exploitation and a certain electronics brand, and for robotics. In particular, the idea represented by the tenderised Gosling role, that is in our interest for humans to merge with the robots. The bad guy is a boring type who lives in an architect-designed cave that is apparently cleaned by other people after he messes it with the blood of violence. Like in Ex Machina, he is the below-average guy who lives the worst of his dreams. A poorly dressed, inarticulate, deeply unattractive type, he yet commands armies of designer women, whom he can create, maim, kill and dispose of at will. Our saviours will be the pure white people; those who comply with them and merge with the machines will survive; the rest will live on a vast garbage dump. Still, this film takes itself really seriously. The screenplay and editing keep drumming things in, to the point of becoming comical: the "woman" strokes the back of Gosling's head with four hands; then that wretched pony keeps turning up just in time; or when Ford stares disbelievingly at his anachronistically styled - and much younger - past flame (didn't he meet her in 2029 not 1940?), as if he is about to take a piece out of the producers for putting him in that situation. Her role and styling, if they were intended to pull emotional strings about the 1940s, would be doubly facile wrong for that. Don't worry about dozing off: the film's story overall is a well-trodden path that you can join at any point. At one brief moment, Gosling can contain his acting no more and lets fly. Otherwise, for all its deeper faults, the show's biggest failure is to be humourless and monotone. It lets down the work of the effects team. Still, if you stick the film out, you may start laughing at it. One star - for the nice old dog, whose fate we never learned.
Rarely do we see a film of great emotional power, and this is one. Not in spite of the way it speaks, but because it creates its own code and language: you are entering a unique space. Just as Emily's innocent-looking poems carry a vice-like, visceral grip when you actually read them, they roar into life under Cynthia Nixon's now-present and urgent speech, and a masterful screenplay written in its own poetry to harmonise with Emily's. The film is assiduously careful in its study of Emily, her time and place in history, and the selection of poems from her extensive body of work. Everything in the production is perfectly constructed. Nixon may yet be compared to the greats for her release of the character's inner life into the open, physically wrenched by Emily's drive, and her frustrations. The supporting roles are all exceptionally fine - to name only a couple, Emily's diminutive mother transports scenes into ethereal, poignant dimensions, plangent with missed experience of the world; Emily's dear, tender brother becomes like a ferocious animal in his anger, lust and grief. The themes of the film are grand - the lives of women, self-fulfilment, the importance of happiness and experience, religion, friendship, love, marriage, loss, grief and death. It demands that you take your life and wring everything that you can from it, and waste no time in doing so. The special effects, so sparingly applied, are astonishing - even just an opening door is breathtaking, in an alchemic scene hovering between love and death. Who would think that genteel 19th century Massachusetts, and the life of a young reclusive woman there, could reach so far today into the dark corners of soul, and then urge you to hurry up and live, pushing you out. Every word in this script is important and would repay viewing more than once to get it all. I cannot remember a more attentive cinema audience. What a pity you can't get more than one Oscar per category - this deserves at least a couple, and just for best film, to start with.