Movie Review – Shoplifters

Shoplifters (2018)
Written & Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Osamu is the patriarch of a makeshift family living in the shadow of poverty in Tokyo. His partner Nobuyo is the mother with adopted son Shota, half-sister Aki, and grandmother Hatsue. Osamu and Shota routinely shoplift food from neighborhood grocery stores, having developed a system of signals and distractions. On their way home after a recent venture, they find Yuri, a little girl they have talked to before alone on her parent’s apartment balcony. Feeling sorry for her level of neglect they bring her home for dinner. Nobuyo helps Osamu bring her back after and they overhear Yuri’s parents fighting, her father hitting her mother, and the admission that they never wanted the child in the first place. Nobuyo decides to make Yuri a part of the family and from their life goes on as it always has. Until one day a news report announces that Yuri’s parents have filed a missing person report.

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Movie Review – Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière and Philippe Falardeau
Directed by Philippe Falardeau

At school in Montreal, two students discover that their teacher has hung herself in the classroom. The school works quickly to push the class past this event by repainting & rearranging the room while having a psychologist make periodic visits. A new teacher is found in a rush, Mr. Lazhar, an Algerian man who goes on about his experience teaching at a university in his former home country. Lazhar brings an approach unfamiliar to the students, emphasizing the techniques of grammar and spelling over more expressive forms of learning. He reads Balzac to the children and requires them to take dictation. One student, Alice, expresses her still simmering anger and confusion over the suicide of their teacher in an essay. This outburst causes Lazhar to re-evaluate his methods and the needs of his class.

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Movie Review – Elena

Elena (2011)
Written by Oleg Negin & Andrey Zvyagintsev
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Elena has been married to Vladimir for two years, having met him when he was hospitalized, and she was his nurse. This isn’t the first marriage for the two, but it is a comfortable, content one that can see them into their twilight years. Elena lived on the lower economic fringes of Moscow, and so entering Vladimir’s posh upper-middle-class lifestyle has been a blessing. However, Elena has a grown son with a family living in a decaying tenement. Her grandson Sasha has reached the age where, if he is not enrolled in university, he’ll be faced with compulsory military service. Elena implores Vlad for money she can give to her family, but he sees the whole lot as shiftless layabouts. Elena worries further when Vlad’s estranged daughter Katya comes back into his life. A moment will happen when she takes drastic action, but can she live with what she does?

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Movie Review – A Separation

A Separation (2011)
Written & Directed by Asghar Farhadi

Simin and Nader’s marriage has reached a turning point. Simin wants to leave Iran while her husband wants to stay because of his ailing father, suffering from Alzheimer’s. Simin is adamant that their daughter Termeh be given opportunities that cannot be provided for her in Iran. As an act of protest, Simin separates herself and lives with her family waiting for Nader to at least allow Termeh to leave with her. Nader is forced to hire a housekeeper and nurse for his father during the days and settles on Razieh, a deeply religious young woman with a daughter. Razieh becomes distressed when she must change Nader’s father after he soils himself but keeps coming into work because her husband is in significant amounts of debt. One day a series of events transpire that lead Nader to believe Razieh stole money from his bedroom and left his father tied to a bed. An argument ensues with tragic consequences that will resonant within the lives of all people involved.

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Movie Review – Black Swan

Black Swan (2010)
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John J. McLaughlin
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Nina is a ballerina working in a New York ballet company with aspirations of maybe becoming the lead dancer one day. Her chances arrive sooner than she realizes when prima ballerina Beth, aging and bitter about what the director has made her do over the years, is pushed aside for Nina in the lead role of Swan Lake. Thomas, the company’s director, is growing increasingly frustrated with what he says is Nina’s constraining inhibitions. While technically perfect she lacks the passion he wants to see and uses new company member Lily as an example of real emotion in the work. Nina’s mother doesn’t help things by creating a perpetual childhood in their apartment, treating the young woman the same as she did when Nina was a girl. All of this pressure begins to show the cracks in Nina’s psyche as she glimpses a shadow-self, a doppelganger wandering the streets living a life parallel to our protagonist. What is real and what is in the life of the mind begin to blur and dissolve.

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Movie Review – The Wife

The Wife (2018)
Written by Jane Anderson
Directed by Bjorn Runge

Elderly writer Joseph Castleman receives the call many artists dream about. He is being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, being told that he has made a significant contribution to the realm of writing in ways that will resound for generations beyond. His ever-loyal wife Joan listens on the phone extension and then prepares to care for and navigate her husband through the gauntlet of press and meetings to come. There is a secret behind her attentiveness to Joseph. They travel with their adult son to Stockholm where a week of formalities follows related to the prize. Tensions build when Nathaniel Bone, a journalist shows up and tells Joan he plans on writing an expose about Castleman, that he knows how Joan is tied to his success that he wants her to be the one to come forward first, on the record.

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Movie Review – Hugo

Hugo (2011)
Written by John Logan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Hugo is a boy living in 1931 Paris, holed up in the clockwork behind the scenes of the Gare Montparnasse railway station. He has ended up in this strange place due to the death of his father and subsequent death by drunkenness of his uncle. The only thing Hugo has left to remember his father by is a broken automaton his parent recovered from the museum where he worked. Hugo swipes clockwork toys from a store in the station to use as spare parts in rebuilding the mysterious machine. Eventually, he’s caught by Mr. Georges (Sir Benjamin Kingsley), the toy store’s owner who is curious about the strange notebook of sketches in Hugo’s possession. Hugo befriends Mr. Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the two work to uncover the secret behind the automaton. However, looming over our protagonist is the specter of the station inspector and being carted away to an orphanage.

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