‘Cherry’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Cherry which is directed by the Russo brothers is a harrowing look at the opioid epidemic in the United States. An army medic (Tom Holland) suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and becomes a serial bank robber, after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt. Although the story is interesting and handled the subject matter in a unique way, the film tried to do too much in the two hour and twenty minute runtime. If it weren’t for Tom Holland’s incredible performance – even though I think he was miscast – this would have been even more of a chore to sit through.

There are many issues that arise when adapting a novel to the screen. In the Russo’s case, the issue was the structure and overall style of the film. For it’s five part structure, showing the intertext of each chapter of Cherry’s life, simply didn’t work in this case. It was incredibly jarring for the tone of the film to shift during each transition into the next phase of his life. It also felt like the Russo’s were pulling scenes from their favourite films like Full Metal Jacket, Memento and Jarhead. It just felt incredibly messy and overstuffed with references to other films. The Russo’s attempted to show how harmful and addictive drugs can be, in a very brutal way, and I can commend them for that.

The reason why this was so uncomfortable to sit through was because of the character of Cherry. In my opinion, I don’t think Holland suited this role. I am not saying his performance wasn’t strong, or that he is a poor actor, that is not what I’m saying at all. It’s the fact that hearing his voice, seeing him do everything that he did in this film, just felt wrong. Unfortunately, Holland has a young-looking face, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can make roles challenging. Holland is beyond talented and this is one of the best performances he has given, I just wish the story was a bit more polished and the structure of the film was different.

Tom Holland carried Cherry on his back. He gave a phenomenal performance in a film that attempted to bury him at the same time. The style of the film constantly changes and the tone shifts, between ‘chapters’ or ‘acts’ ruins the pacing of the film. There are fourth-wall breaks that are completely unnecessary and the voiceover grew tiresome by the one-hour mark. The Russo’s wanted to try something different and I can definitely respect that, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t executed in a polished way.

I Care A Lot Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

As we all know, films can be a representation of society. Which means, that there can be genuinely good people as protagonists, or morally flawed, complex and bad people as protagonists. Some films want to showcase these disturbed protagonists with ideologies that counter the government or any system put in place. I Care a Lot introduced us to Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), a court assigned legal guardian, to the elderly, in their time of need. What Grayson does, is take hold of her clients assets and drains them of their savings. Could there be people out there who do this? Well, we sure as hell found out in this film.

This film shows the perseverance and ambition in achieving the American Dream. Grayson had been poor her whole life and in her eyes, the only way to gain more of a financial status is by cheating the system. Rosamund Pike was perfectly cast as Grayson, no one else could have played this role. Pike has mastered the role of a morally conflicted woman, with a flawed perception of society, who eventually executes the ideas in her head, in a very disturbing way. Sure, Pike only has Amy Dunne as a character that can be referred to, but Marla Grayson is in that tier performance wise. If Pike is so good delivering these roles to us, then why don’t we have her in more films that center on a layered protagonist such as this one?

The film had such a great cast. Pike, obviously steals the spotlight but Eiza Gonzalez, Peter Dinklage, Chris Messina and Dianne Wiest all went toe-to-toe with her. Pike was great on her own, with her vape pen, and famous smirk that showed, she was thinking about the next five steps. Even though Gonzalez had a small role, her chemistry with Pike was a stand out. When Pike shared scenes with Wiest, Dinklage and Messina, they all presented different levels of power and she matched all of them. It is an exciting watch because the cast elevated the script in every way. The plot twists were placed in the right spots and it didn’t lose its footing, until the third act.

I Care a Lot has a really twisted perception of the meaning of a court appointed legal guardian. Even though Marla Grayson does some very questionable things, we can still understand where she is coming from. Again, it is not sympathizing with the flawed protagonist, it is more so enjoying the performances of these bad people and hoping they get paid their due. It is a humorous thriller, with many exciting scenes, strong pieces of dialogue and multiple endings that will leave you stunned. The film is purely a showcase for how talented this cast is and a reminder that Rosamund Pike is a force to be reckoned with.

‘Umama’ Short Film: Interview With Talia Smith And Malibongwe Mdwaba


By: Amanda Guarragi

Umama written and directed by Talia Smith shows the true story of a mother whose son has gone missing. It is a story of love, loss and acceptance. The morning after Sibongile made a promise to celebrate her son’s academic achievement, she wakes to find he is missing. Sibongile (Connie Chiume) still goes into work and she must care for the children, of her employer, in order to get home and keep her promise. Before heading to NYU, Smith was born and raised in South Africa. She wanted to highlight these stories in the most honest way. Smith had a personal connection to the story because of her childhood. She had a second mother, which is an Americanized way of labelling her as a ‘domestic worker’. Smith wanted to showcase her heritage through these special relationships.

What started out as a class assignment for Talia Smith had turned into a very important film exploring South African culture,

“This is a very common South African story, but on top of that, non-South Africans can relate to the universal theme but also start to see South Africans, not only their stories, but their talent. There are so many incredible stories so I hope that comes across to non-South Africans audiences.”

– Talia Smith, Umama

The beauty of this story is the connection between Sibongile and the children she cared for, even the dynamic between the mother (her employer) and Sibongile. There is a level of respect and love that can only be felt by those who have experienced connections such as theirs. It is essentially like choosing your own family and at the end of the day, they will support you through anything. That is the love that is shared in this film. Sibongile is having a difficult time with her teenage son Thabiso (Malibongwe Mdwaba). She feels detached from his life but Thabiso is trying to venture out and create his own path.

When watching Umama, we see both perspectives in a balanced way. The worried mother, who is trying her best to work and raise her son. And the teenager, who is trying to survive his high school years by making the right decisions. When asked about his own connection to Thabiso, Mdwaba said,

“To be taken back to that sort of timeline, gave me the time to see the bigger picture and heal from those moments. It really spoke to the kind of work that I love doing. That’s any work that has to do with mirroring society, in the most truthful manner and rarely do we get those stories, where we are literally not fabricating anything and we are just telling it as it is.”

– Malibongwe Mdwaba, Umama

We have all gone through our own hardships, in our teenage years and Mdwaba used this character to heal from his own experiences. There was so much thought, care and love that went into this story.

What Smith and Mdwaba hope audiences gain from this story is the connectivity of human relationships. It does not matter how you are connected to the other person, all that matters is the love and respect that is shared. Smith has had discussions with psychologists that deal with families in a lot of these situations and she is trying to create a toolkit,

“Once people have watched the film, if you relate to a character you will be able to kind of see how you fit into that category and figure out something that you may need, or how you can help other people in your life find resources.”

– Talia Smith, Umama

To see an extension of love and support in this way through filmmaking, just shows how genuine Smith is. Her stories will always be rooted in something honest and personal. It is a reflection of how she sees the world and how she wants people to perceive it through universal themes.

Flora And Ulysses Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The magic of Disney is still incredibly powerful and shouldn’t be forgotten. What Walt Disney has created is a home for hopes and dreams. Whether you are a full blown adult, looking for a little bit of magic, or a little kid experiencing the Disney magic for the first time, these films will warm your heart. What is so wonderful about Flora & Ulysses is that it incorporates the big draw right now – comic book films – and combines it with Flora’s journey in finding a squirrel who has superpowers. Young Flora (Matilda Lawler) is trying her best to stay connected to her father (Ben Schwartz) after he separated from her mother (Alyson Hannigan).

You may think the star of the film would be the squirrel with superpowers – Ulysses is pretty cool – but Lawler’s performance is what held this together. The film may have dragged on a bit at certain parts but her hopeful, compassionate spirit is what carried the film. Within the first couple of minutes of meeting Flora, you will remember what it is like to be a kid again. Flora had a love for Incandesto and comic books. She loved superheroes because her dad was a comic book artist and she learned a lot from him. She applied the hopefulness and love from these comics to her everyday life but soon realized that reality wasn’t quite the same.

Matilda Lawler as Flora and Ulysses the squirrel in FLORA & ULYSSES, exclusively on Disney+

This hits quite hard, because as children, we all dreamed of the life we would want. We all thought of bigger and better things for ourselves. We were taught to dream big. And now that we got to a position in our lives, where the dream was has somewhat come true, it is not all it is cracked up to be. So we learn to take small the small wins as a positive and twist our reality to suit our dreams. Flora & Ulysses reminds us to look at our life and appreciate what we have, even if it is not what we thought it would be. That is the real story. Of course, the special effects with the flying squirrel was really fun and the humour that came with the family comedy worked really well.

Flora & Ulysses was a very fun watch and will bring you back to your playful childhood. This is a Disney film through-and-through. There were some jokes that I didn’t expect them to make that had me laughing. The whole cast is fun and Ulysses was absolutely adorable. The special effects for Ulysses actually impressed me and it brought the magic squirrel to life in a fun way. The film is wholesome, funny and enjoyable to sit through because of Matilda Lawler! If you want to have some fun and feel some Disney magic, you can catch this on Disney Plus, February 19th.

Cowboys Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Cowboys is a modern-day western with a deeply touching family story, that will give you some form of hope, in regards to parenting. Steve Zahn plays Troy, a troubled father who only has good intentions for his son. Troy has recently separated from his wife Sarah (Jillian Bell) over many issues. The film is structured incredibly well as the use of flashbacks is integrated to add more depth to the story, as Troy takes his son Jo (Sasha Knight) out for a camping trip. We see that Sarah is having a very hard time accepting that her trans son wants to live his authentic self.

It was really interesting to see how each parent approached the idea of their child transitioning into their authentic self. We see that Troy respects his son’s wishes and treats him as he would like to be treated. Whereas Sarah struggles with the idea of transitioning, or of feeling outside of your body. Sarah forces Jo to wear dresses and to act like a little girl, essentially forcing these gender norms upon her. It got to the point in the film that Troy couldn’t bear to see his son treated so horribly in his own house, so he plans to take him away from Sarah.

What we see on the surface is that Troy is trying to be the best father that he can be to his son. We see the father/son bond early on in the film and that is what stole my heart. If children are fortunate enough to have a parent who treats them with respect and allows them to be their true self, then it’s a beautiful thing to see. This film also gives audiences another lens to look through. Sometimes adults don’t realize what their children are going through because of their own busy schedules. They don’t notice that their child might be reaching it out without actually doing so. Parents need to be more aware of what their children are showing them, without using their words because sometimes it can be difficult to articulate.

Cowboys is a an important watch because of how candid the conversations are about a young boy knowing who he wanted to be. He was young enough to know how he was feeling and everyone should respect that. It’s a beautiful film that explores family relationships, trans lives and overall acceptance. The performances from Steve Zahn and Sasha Knight were fantastic and their dynamic will warm your heart. It is always lovely to see a father/son relationship on screen that is so wholesome and loving. The film was a pleasant surprise and is definitely a must-watch.