‘The Northman’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Robert Eggers has easily become one of the most interesting filmmakers to watch in recent years. The Northman is his third film and it feels as if he has perfected his style. He has managed to create a balance between his visual storytelling and his linear script for audiences to appreciate. Even though this is an independent film, mainstream audiences will for sure appreciate Eggers’s approach to Viking lore and the world he created for these characters. The way he structured this story worked extremely well because of the emotional connection to his protagonist and his quest. It felt like an old story being shared with audiences for the first time and it was intriguing.

We meet Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak/Alexander Skarsgard) who is on the verge of becoming a man when his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) is brutally murdered by his uncle Fjölnir The Brotherless (Claes Bang). His uncle ends up kidnapping the boy’s mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress who reminds him of his vow — save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father. After two decades of living on his own and learning to kill, Amleth is reminded of his quest to avenge his father. He has all the tools needed to do this. And with the help of some witchcraft, he is guided by his father on this journey.

Eggers’s previous films had leaned heavily on experimental elements; style over substance if you will. Whereas in this film the visuals enhanced this simplistic narrative to emotionally connect with Amleth’s quest. There is one particular sequence Eggers designed to show that Amleth’s beating heart was tied to his family tree and that was the most beautiful thing to show on-screen. Even though Eggers did not shy away from the brutal violence known to come from the Vikings, it was impossible to look away because of how visually interesting he made those scenes.

The Northman ties in the witchcraft through Prince Amleth’s environment affecting his path. It did not overpower his quest and the focus was always on his father’s blood pact at the beginning of the film. Whether it was through animals coming to him, or the brilliant use of the score to elevate the witchy elements used throughout, it never directly felt like the witchcraft was actually performed. Instead, it felt like it was a lingering presence. Everyone in the cast played their roles well, but Nicole Kidman stole the spotlight in act four, that one scene left me stunned and showed how great of an actress she is. This had the perfect balance of Eggers’s style, baseline experimental elements, and a hero’s quest to make this film feel like a Viking epic.

‘The Green Knight’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There are medieval tales that capture the essence of the nobility and honour within the kingdom. We have been told the stories of powerful rulers, gallant knights, and bewitching women. David Lowery’s The Green Knight, shows the journey of King Arthur’s (Sean Harris) headstrong nephew, Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) as he embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight, a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. It is a journey of a noble knight, seeking honor and validation from his King. Through its symbolism and stunning imagery, Gawain is placed in a dreamlike plain to explore the true meaning of Knighthood.

First and foremost, this perfectly suits the A24 library. It almost feels like the most polished entry. The Green Knight is a very simple tale, but it’s David Lowery’s direction and Andrew Droz Palermo cinematography that elevates the entire film. Like any medieval story, there is witchcraft involved, which allowed Lowery to have a multilayered story through powerful imagery. We do get the surface level of Gawain’s journey, after he beheads the Green Knight, he must wait a whole year, before he receives the same fate in return. The witchcraft comes into play when testing our noble knight out in the forest. Not only is this Gawain’s journey, but the audience is experiencing this journey in a different way.

From the moment this film begins, Lowery brings you into the world he has created. You are fully immersed in the time period, the Kingdom, and the medieval lore. It feels like you are entering a different realm and it works beautifully. Gawain flows in and out of reality, we see the witchcraft take hold of his mind, showing him two different paths, the easy one and the difficult one. What would a young knight do to achieve greatness, to achieve honour? How far would he be willing to go? Again, it’s simple on the surface, but once you peel back these layers, and dive into these obstacles in such a visceral way, the moral judgement shifts.

The Green Knight explores knighthood and the obstacles one might face to prove themselves honourable. Things such as love, lust, and greed, can all cloud one’s judgement, it is all how you choose to overcome those obstacles. These aspects can most definitely parallel anyone’s decisionmaking and that is why it’s such a wonderful journey. As the viewer, you will completely lose yourself in the beautiful imagery on scenic landscapes on screen. And when the third act challenges Gawain, you end up questioning how you would approach his situation. The story has so much depth because of the visual storytelling. It’s hauntingly beautiful and the journey will leave you fulfilled.

‘Shiva Baby’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Life is all about the choices we make. Whether they are well-thought out, or out of desperation, all of these decisions make an impact. Deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life, at the age of 18, is probably the most stressful situation possible. Majority of teenagers are not thinking about their careers but they are forced to. Some know the path they want to take, and others struggle trying to decide what interests them the most. It is extremely hard. Others are dependent on their family, and some take matters into their own hands, wanting to break free from their sheltered home life. Shiva Baby perfectly displays the mind of a college student and what it feels like to be in their position.

Writer-director Emma Seligman tells a simple story of a college student, named Danielle (Rachel Sennott), who runs into her sugar daddy, at a Jewish funeral service with her parents. The structure of this film is what made this so interesting to watch. Seligman placed key moments throughout the film, and she slowly built up tension quite effortlessly. Every single time we think Danielle may be in the clear, something else would happen, and sends you spiralling with Danielle. The setting; picture a small house, filled with people, all gossiping and chattering away, while you’re trying to think of your next move.

Rachel Sennott is absolutely incredible in this role. She showed such range and knew when to take it to another level. Even though this played out like a typical coming-of-age film, it also doubled as a horror film. Danielle’s secrets swirling around the house, older women gossiping about her being a failure, and her raunchy private life creeping into her perfect family life. What was so impressive about this film was Seligman’s ability to project Danielle’s anxiety so it fills the space around her. Danielle feels it, the people around her add to the anxiety, which then creates this suffocating atmosphere for the viewer.

Shiva Baby is filled with many twists, which are effortlessly placed within the story, to make Danielle’s situation worse. The reason why it doubles as a horror film is because of the disorienting score that accompanies the film. It is not overused, it is subtle, and there are cues to show the beginning of another twist. It is intoxicating, anxiety-inducing, and perfectly written to show how college students struggle with their identity. Truly fantastic work from everyone, your eyes will not leave the screen, and it will put you in trance. Do not miss this film.

‘Pink Opaque’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

A young man named, Travis Wolfe (Elijah Boothe) lives in Los Angeles, as a film student. He roams the streets of Hollywood, struggling to finish his thesis documentary project for film school before he can graduate. In Pink Opaque, Wolfe navigates a budding romance in his final year of college and reconnecting with his estranged uncle, which eventually leads to an unfamiliar look at his family history. The final year of college is always a struggle for young adults because there is so much pressure in moving forward, while still assessing your past and how you got to where you are. If college teaches us anything, it is how to handle pressure and persevere through very unlikely circumstances.

As Wolfe continues to date his girlfriend, Kristen (Ruby Park) against her older brother Bobby’s (Daniel C.) wishes. She is a dreamer just like Wolfe and you can see the genuine love and chemistry they had. Wolfe also had to deal with his uncle Robin (Chaim Dunbar). He is a veteran television producer who is struggling in his career and going down a very bad path. Wolfe needs to come to terms with this, while also processing his father’s suicide. There are so many emotional and mental obstacles that Wolfe needs to overcome during his final year of college and it seemed like everything was coming up to the forefront in order for him to cleanse his mind and soul, before graduating. Almost like a set up for a clean slate in the future.

Courtesy of Hot Buttered Content

The film is beautifully shot and director-writer Derrick Perry really captures the key emotional moments quite well. The film has such great moments to highlight the psychological and emotional state that the characters are in. Seeing Wolfe process everything in his final year of college is something everyone can resonate with, even if audiences do not share the same exact story. Everyone must process their past in order to move forward and placing Wolfe in his final year of college made the struggle very realistic. Everything can come to a head sooner or later if you do not deal with your demons as soon as possible. It shows that we have to face things head on, no matter how difficult it is.

Pink Opaque has a great cast, beautiful camerawork and a really emotional story. It is a film that shows how to process one’s past in order to move forward. It shows how to balance your work, love life and family all in one, while still developing individual character stories. We have all struggled with our past and we can relate to Wolfe, especially in regards to family issues because at one time or another, we have all experienced something like it. This is a very authentic depiction of Los Angeles and it really felt like you were there with these characters on this personal journey.

‘Jumbo’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Sundance Film Festival 2020 selection Jumbo, written and directed by Zoé Wittock, is an interesting exploration of sexuality and coming of age. We meet young Jeanne (Noémie Merlant), who works at an amusement park and is completely taken by these machines. These inanimate objects, fascinate her to the point, that she cannot stop thinking about them, especially one theme park ride, she calls ‘Jumbo’. Wittock does a great job explaining identity and explores queerness in a unique way. We all can say that, “love is love”, until someone questions who we love. The film shows the struggles of coming to terms with one’s sexual identity and the gender norms that are forced upon others.

Jeanne is incredibly shy, naive and reserved. She has had to watch her mother bring home men, who do not treat her well. Jeanne has had a skewed knowledge of relationships because of her mother. When Jeanne goes to work at the amusement park, she experiences a sense of liberation because no one can see her in the dark. She is no longer quiet, with the theme park attraction, she is free to experience this connection how she pleases. It is a great concept and the fantastical elements combined with a really grounded journey of sexual identity, worked extremely well for this piece. It was so interesting to watch, just to see the emotional connection Jeanne felt towards ‘Jumbo’.

The film does suffer from pacing issues and some empty dialogue that doesn’t add much to Jeanne’s development. There are two moments that stood out to me, ones that I will never forget. The first is the scene where she has a very intimate moment with ‘Jumbo’. The oil from the theme park attraction covered her naked body, slowly, and we see that Jeanne is reaching her climax. I thought the set up for this scene worked well because of the contrast of black and white. Society often looks at sexuality in two ways, either gay or straight, but there are others in between, that deserve the same level of attention. Society also looks at gender the exact same way, boy or girl, black or white.

The second moment, which I found a bit jarring was Jeanne having sex with a man who has been pursuing her. The choice to not have the camera on the characters was interesting. It is a sexual moment that Wittock did not want to show, instead she just wanted us to listen. The man is the only one making any noise, while Jeanne is silent. She is being taken from behind and it is not an intimate, emotional connection. Wittock then shows her face, after he finishes, and her eyes are filled with tears. That is not what she thought sex would feel like. How could something so intimate be so emotionless?

Jumbo is a an interesting watch because of Noémie Merlant, she completely took over the role and held the film together. She had such a beautiful understanding of Jeanne and how to portray her. Wittock took a chance on presenting societal issues in a very abstract way and it was impressive! You cannot take this film at surface value because it will lose the meaning of Jeanne’s journey. There is so much depth to this film and Wittock hits certain beats with ease. It is emotional, unique and a fresh perspective on sexual identity.