Pieces Of A Woman Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Pieces of a Woman is a heartbreaking film about the loss of a new life. It also puts into perspective how fragile we are as humans. Director Kornél Mundruczó shows the raw emotion and physical journey of a woman in labor. There are natural ways to give birth and Martha (Vanessa Kirby) wanted a home birth. There are horror stories that you often hear about, in regards to home births, but you never quite see the the aftermath. Mundruczó showed everything. It was uncomfortable, and rather painful to watch but the emotional connection established with Martha is incredibly strong.

The film is more of a character study centered on Martha. We see her quirkiness, energy and light in the beginning of the film. As she struggles to push the newborn out of her (for the first 20 minutes of the film) Kirby gives a very raw performance, one that you would see in acting classes. Mundruczó creates so much tension during the birth, that you feel something bad is about to happen, especially when the midwife begins to panic. There is a small moment of happiness, of complete elation when the birthing process is complete and then, it feels like someone rips your heart out and crushes it with their bare hands.

Vanessa Kirby
Courtesy of Bron Studios and Netflix

It has such a strong story and the performances from everyone, especially Ellen Burstyn were extremely strong. The structure and the pacing are the only issues with this film. It started off very strong and then there’s a lull in the middle. Kirby’s performance is internal and you can see the stages of grief as the film goes on. There are other issues that come up in regards to their child that move the story forward but it was extremely slow. Kirby’s performance carries the entire film until the very end, as she has minor confrontations with her mother Ellen Burstyn. The scenes are executed almost like a stage play, meaning the dialogue was heavy and the scenes were static.

The important thing that can be noted from watching Pieces of a Woman is that technology has allowed everything to be safer during the birthing process. There is a conversation between Martha and her mother, that was really eye-opening because they discuss how some mothers from older generations gave birth without the help of doctors in hospitals. They all had a midwife and had home births because there was no other option. The film explores the stages of grief, depression and anxiety from a mother’s perspective after the loss of her child. It is a very heavy film but it is a story that needs to be told in order to help further understand what can go wrong during the birthing process.

Mank Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have been waiting for David Fincher to grace us all with a new film. A Fincher film is always bold with its characters, meticulous in its camerawork and is always elevated by its score. Mank definitely had all of those aspects going for it but unfortunately something was missing. It did not feel like a Fincher film. If you look at his filmography and watch Mank, it just feels so out of place. When I say that Mank is the equivalent to Citizen Kane (as it should) it is not necessarily a good thing. Citizen Kane has the expectation of being the greatest film of all time and it is one of the most divisive film because of the argument surrounding the status of the film.

Fincher is extremely talented because he does his research. Mank is a film that pays homage to the Classic Hollywood studio system while modernizing it for today’s audience. However, the arguments Fincher raises in Mank are quite contradictory in how he views the cinema experience today. Fincher is a cinema purist, he has said so himself, yet he made a film for a streaming service. In Mank it is expressed that the studios needed to follow the money, that is the way of the future and it still is. Everything that is said in Mank is reflective of how this year went. Whether it be the cinema experience, the studio’s adapting to a different model or politics, Fincher seemed to wrap it all together in a nice little bow.

Mank exists as a parallel to Citizen Kane, it is literally its counterpart. If you enjoyed Citizen Kane then you will most definitely enjoy Mank. If you’re like me and understand that the technological aspects and narrative structure of Citizen Kane is something to be admired but the film does not really grasp you in anyway emotionally, then you will feel the same way about Mank. Fincher’s camerawork was beautiful, the cinematography was stunning and the lighting in true Welles’ fashion was captured perfectly. There were so many lovely aspects in Mank but the screenplay was just so dull, (I find this ironic because the story is about a screenwriter) there were moments where Gary Oldman woke himself up to speak a bit louder, so you could understand where the story was going but it just fell flat.

Courtesy of Netflix

When it was first announced that Fincher was going to shed some light on Citizen Kane I knew the kind of movie it would be. Fincher was trying to prove a point with this film, he wanted to make a film that presented the best of cinema, the golden age because he dislikes the current state of it. The film is a technical feat and will be up for Oscars but this is the most surprising entry in his filmography. For some reason it’s like he played it safe but he also boldly created a film that the general audience won’t even gravitate towards. This film was made with the intention to educate people on who Mank was but there is a hidden agenda in the way he presents this story.

David Fincher finally made the Oscar bait film that we have all been waiting for. It has the Classic Hollywood glam, detailed dialogue discussing the state of the studio system and political undertones that parallel the current state of America. It is a film that will leave you feeling cheated and confused because it has two sides of Fincher, instead of the one we all know and love. There are many wonderful aspects in Mank, there just should have been something more and I just can’t put my finger on it.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a beautiful piece showcasing how extremely talented its leads are. In Chicago, 1927, there was a recording session with Ma Rainey and her band. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and the white executives who wanted to control the sound of “Mother of the Blues”. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play written by the great August Wilson.

Director George C. Wolfe managed to create such a grand scale for Ma Rainey in the opening scene, as the audience is introduced to her in the middle of a performance. We see Viola Davis in her most unrecognizable and transformative role yet. It was so incredible to watch her embody this role and add a little bit of herself to this complex role. As we saw in Fences, Davis highly respects Wilson’s material and more importantly, she understands it.

Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane
(centre) Viola Davis

The direction had this dual sense of atmosphere. Even though it takes place in a recording studio, it did not feel stuffy and static, like other plays that have been adapted for the screen. Wolfe created two separate rooms that had separate energy from each other. What was most impressive was how Wolfe captured his actors. It felt like we were on stage with these actors, the close ups and tight knit camerawork that was used was extremely effective. Wolfe played with the fluidity of stage performing, while still creating a grander space within the frame.

Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane
(left) Michael Potts, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo

Not only did Viola Davis put on an acting clinic, but the late, great Chadwick Boseman was brilliant as Levee. We already know that Davis is one of the best in the industry but Boseman… Boseman was incredible in this. It is the second performance this year that has left me completely speechless. Boseman gave a heartbreaking performance, he was energetic, emotional and completely broken by the traumas of his past. In the room with the rest of the band, Toledo (Glynn Turman), Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and Cutler (Colman Domingo), he was the burst of energy like an electrical current being confined in that small room, that would spike during conversations.

Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane
(left) Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo

The entire cast was exceptional, there was never a moment where the energy fell, they all remained consistent with the high level intensity throughout. Levee wanted to be a star of his own, he wrote music for executive Mr. Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne) and the one conversation, which was such a pivotal moment in the film, was the band’s discussion about the white executives and being “spooked by the white man.” The entire monologue delivered by Chadwick Boseman will most definitely be his Oscar reel because of how moving it was.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom feels like such an intoxicating film once you settle into the story and the performances. Each member of the cast holds you and demands your attention whenever they are speaking. It feels like you are watching a play but Wolfe’s direction elevates it to capture powerful on screen performances.


Editor’s Note:

I won’t lie to any of you, this was extremely difficult to watch because of how wonderful Boseman was in this. It is hard to sit there and register that this wonderful, talented man is gone and he left us with this brilliant final performance. There are moments where you completely get lost in his character and then moments where you just watch him and get emotional. Hell, I cried while typing this out. Rest in Power King. Your last performance is one for the history books and it will be studied in the future. You signed off with August Wilson’s words and your legacy will live on forever.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Holy, Jingle Bells!

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two is the film that will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit! My favourite Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) is back and this time the story takes us to the North Pole and his workshop… well Mrs. Claus’s (Goldie Hawn) workshop.

It is a very solid sequel that builds upon Kate’s (Darby Camp) story and her relationship with her mother. It’s a very different Christmas for the Pierce’s as they celebrate the holiday on a beach, in Cancun, thanks to Claire’s (Kimberly Williams – Paisley) new beau Bob (Tyrese Gibson). The intention of the vacation was to bring both family units together to bond, as Bob and Claire take their relationship to the next step.

The wonderful thing about this sequel is that it brings the same Christmas magic as the first one and tells a heartfelt story about adapting to a new life, after grieving. It seems dark when explained in that way but the Christmas spirit created a lighthearted atmosphere in order to tell this story. Kate has the Christmas spirit because of her father and it is a beautiful thing to see. Kate is headstrong and wants to celebrate Christmas the normal way, her dad’s way but Bob just came in and decided to change everything.

Courtesy of 1492 Pictures and Wonder Worldwide
(left) Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Jahzir Bruno and Kurt Russell

The idea of moving on, from any situation, is easier said than done but when it comes to grieving a parent, there is no amount of time to even process the pain. Kate has wonderful memories of her father, even the song “O, Christmas Tree” has a special place in her heart and it’s associated to a memory. As Kate processes her possible new life with Bob and a kid brother Jake (Jahzir Bruno), she calls upon jolly old Saint Nick to help her with one final Christmas wish.

The story isn’t only about Kate, there is a parallel with the antagonist of the film named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), who has an interesting story of his own, involving Santa’s workshop. As the story unfolds Belsnickel and Kate have more in common than they thought, in regards to how to deal with their feelings of neglect. It presented such a great story that young children will definitely understand and allow parents to understand what their child could be going through. It is fun for the whole family with a great lesson to be learned.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two improves upon the same heartfelt story and elevates the action sequences from the first instalment. It is a film designed to make you feel warm and cheerful about the upcoming Christmas season, even though things may seem bleak. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn bring their charm to the screen to steal everyone’s hearts, as they both embody the true spirit of Christmas. It is lighthearted, very funny and wholesome.

Make sure to catch The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two on Netflix November 25th for a jolly good time with the whole family!

Hillbilly Elegy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Hillbilly Elegy is a film about generational differences, family dysfunction and psychological trauma that all stems from childhood. The film is adapted from the memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. There is a different way of life in Middletown, Ohio and the memoir explored how he was personally affected by his family. Ron Howard pulls career best performances from Amy Adams and Glenn Close but it just falls short as a whole.

The screenplay, which was adapted by Vanessa Taylor, seemed promising at the beginning of the film. There was a voiceover from a young J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso) explaining how life was for him, living with his family and what category they fit into in the grand scale of America. The film does dive into childhood psychological trauma and how each generation has somehow damaged the next.

It does not matter how it’s delivered, it can be any form of abuse, no matter how miniscule, children are most definitely affected. It felt like an endless cycle of trauma and misguided hatred within the family unit and that is what made certain scenes rather upsetting. The decisions made by generations before, somehow affects the lineage and all it takes is one family member to break the cycle and in this case, it was J.D. Vance.

Courtesy of Netflix Film
(left) Glenn Close and Amy Adams

My dear Amy Adams – an actress who has always gone above and beyond the script- has never had a bad performance, she was transformed as Bev and had incredibly strong, emotional moments. Watching her go toe-to-toe with a heavyweight like Glenn Close, was something I didn’t know I needed. Both have been underappreciated by the Academy for many, many years and if this film is what it takes, then so be it. The film simply does not work without the two of them.

Hillbilly Elegy had some strong moments but the editing made everything feel disjointed and episodic, rather than a fluid structure as a whole. The flashbacks were filled with traumatic emotional moments, that seemed to cut through J.D.’s peace in trying to get a summer internship. It is a film that does its job in blatantly showing real social issues, while allowing its stars to put on an acting clinic to carry the film to the end.

For Glenn Close and Amy Adams, make sure you check out Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix November 24th.