Soul Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Soul is the perfect film to end the year with. It is an animated film that reinstates the meaning of life and the purpose we serve in the world. It is beautifully animated because Pixar has perfected their rendering technology to make everything lifelike. The story is well-written and is incredibly heartfelt. Everyone has dreams or goals they want to accomplish at a certain time in their life. While trying to achieve those goals, they forget to live their lives.

This movie is one of the most important pieces to come out this year. I think everyone has lost themselves a bit during this pandemic. For the majority of this year people have reevaluated their lives and how they live. While watching Soul you will gain a new appreciation for life because director, Pete Docter shows us how wonderful the small things in life are through a character named, 22 (Tina Fey). We often question what our purpose in life is and as we try to navigate our way through this journey, we lose sight of the small things that can make us happy.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a music teacher at his local school and he has one student in his class that has soul when she plays the trombone. She loves playing and Joe can tell that it comes from such a special place. He knows that she was meant to play that instrument, much like his connection to playing piano. Joe is a wonderful music teacher because he believes in the connectivity and the artistic nature of music. There’s a feeling one has when connecting to art, it’s a special feeling and Docter presents it so well. The score from Reznor and Ross elevated the animation and will bring you into the atmosphere Docter created. It is a film that you will lose yourself in because of how stunning it is.

Courtesy of Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures

Soul is emotional and incredibly moving because it has conversations about the choices people make in their lives. What makes us fully formed people? Why do we have the need to find a purpose in life and if we don’t we consider ourselves failures? These are internal struggles that we have all faced, time and time again. There is one scene in a barbershop that I absolutely loved because of the conversation about career paths and life struggles. Life doesn’t always deal the best cards and everyone has to find a path that suits their situation, even if you stray away from your dreams.

The meaning of life isn’t something that can be explained, or even found, there is no answer to the age old question. Humans are placed on Earth to live, to simply exist, while experiencing the wonders life has to offer. Soul will make you appreciate all the memories you have, whether you remember your first bite of pizza ever, the first time waves crashed over your feet at the beach, or the first time you experienced a sunset, those small moments made an impact. That is why life is worth living. It’s not slaving away at your job, it’s not struggling to find your purpose, it’s simply living and that’s a beautiful sentiment.

Promising Young Woman Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

This is the film of the year. This is a film that takes all of the typical “take a girl home” tropes and flips it on its head. It is bold, daring and incredibly dark but in all the right ways. Emerald Fennell’s screenplay and direction is impeccable. She knew the story she wanted to tell and how to execute it to perfection. Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) has been seeking revenge for an incident that happened back in University and she is ruthless. Cassie has easily become one of my favourite characters of all time because of the way she carried herself in the film.

Promising Young Woman shows the treatment of women and the consequences that should come with it. We all figure that it is the year 2020 and well after the #MeToo movement, men would at least try to change their ways. But we continue to be disappointed, time and time again. This film is unlike anything I’ve seen and it is because of how the story is structured. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, only to pick back up and deliver one of the most controversial endings of the year. Some will agree with the ending and others will most definitely be infuriated. However, the ending of the film is the perfect reflection of how women are treated and what men deserve.

Carey Mulligan as Cassandra Thomas
Courtesy of LMKMEDIA and Focus Features

The story is just so well-written and the casting was perfect. We have never seen Carey Mulligan like this and that is why her name (and the film itself) deserves to be in the Oscar season mix. Mulligan gave such a thrilling, complex performance, she completely owned the role and understood Cassie so well. The supporting cast consisting of Bo Burnam, Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Jennifer Coolidge and Connie Britton really brought so much to the table to make this film work. Everything about this film was perfect in my eyes and it will definitely spark a conversation, which is the most important thing.

Courtesy of Focus Features

There are moments in this film that have stayed with me long after I’ve watched it. These key emotional moments are placed perfectly to showcase Cassie’s talents and the underlying misogyny that is evident in society. The soundtrack that accompanies the film reflects Cassie’s journey and the songs are chosen extremely well. The score also juxtaposes what happens in certain scenes, which creates a sense of anticipation when watching Cassie have certain interactions with others. There is an undercurrent of tension prevalent throughout the whole film and it’s because every single aspect of this film works so well together.

Promising Young Woman is the film of the year. Carey Mulligan gives the performance of her career and should be highly praised for her work. The character of Cassie Thomas essentially symbolizes all women who have been treated poorly or have been involved in something much bigger. It felt like a gigantic middle finger to men everywhere and it is a film that will leave its mark on you. Emerald Fennell’s film is crafted incredibly well to give everyone a sense of empowerment while serving justice to all.

Wolfwalkers Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Wolfwalkers is another pleasant surprise this year!

The story is about a young apprentice hunter, named Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) and her father Bill (Sean Bean), who journey to Ireland to wipe out the last wolf pack. The pair of them are seen as outcasts and they try to keep to themselves as best they can. Robyn is rather adventurous and does not follow her father’s rules. One day Robyn ventures into the forest with her little bow and arrow, and she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe.

The story is such a magical tale but it’s the animation that makes it soar into the hearts of audiences. It is so beautifully detailed and is designed to create an atmosphere that changes with the emotions of the characters. There are such rich colours that change from scene to scene, depending on the dialogue being exchanged and what it evokes. The magic presented by the wolfwalkers is stunning and is a prominent yellow that glows to heal any person, or animal.

Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

What was so lovely about the film was the relationship between Robyn and Mebh Óg MacTíre (Eva Whittaker), they were so playful with one another. It was great to see two very different characters adapt to each other and help each other in the end. Wolfwalkers is about friendship and how much power it holds through the symbolism of magic. Mebh saved Robyn and then Robyn did the same in the end. The power of friendship is a strong theme in any film but animation just elevates the theme to another level.

The film is beautiful to watch and there are plenty of moments that will leave you appreciating the depths of the animation. The way the animation is structured almost gives it a three-dimensional look, while it is designed as a two-dimensional ground. The images are stacked upon one another to create this depth and it was so interesting to see the difference from scene to scene. There was also fluidity with the animation of the wolves, which had a pack mentality, even through the movements. Wolfwalkers is the most magical animated film of the year. It has beautiful imagery, impressive animation and a well-written story about acceptance.

Nomadland Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Chloé Zhao’s Nomandland takes the audience on a journey through the American landscape, after Fern (Frances McDormand) loses everything in the Great Recession. She embarks on a journey of re-discovery as a van-dweller and finds solace in the community. Zhao’s direction and storytelling is mesmerizing and captures the subtleties of living.

What was so interesting about this film was the conversation surrounding the American economy and how retired workers choose to live, after they’ve been a slave to capitalism their entire lives. We, as people, lose sight of what is the most important because we are working in order to survive. Zhao choosing to focus on vandwellers was really eye-opening and hit such emotional chords. There’s such a human connection to this film and its characters, that the viewer will understand the decisions made by Fern and the rest of the community.

Frances McDormand as Fern
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The film is beautifully shot and the cinematography is the clear standout, the picturesque landscapes fill the screen, as we join Fern on her journey. It is a stunning film and it is understandable why so many people connected to it but it just was not for me. Frances McDormand carries this film and gives another wonderful performance but again, nothing really stood out for me. Zhao delivered on the technical aspects and her ability to ground her characters in a very humanistic story.

Nomadland is definitely the darling of the festival circuit and has every right to be. It has a strong story, beautiful imagery and a sense of peacefulness for its characters. Zhao is a beautiful filmmaker and has a great future ahead, she is a wonderful storyteller and raises strong questions about life after loss. The film is peaceful, yet draining because of the intimate, emotional conversations shared with its characters.

Sound of Metal Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sound of Metal is another film that pleasantly surprised me this year. It is such an inspiring film and it explores the lifestyle of the deaf community. It brings such authenticity and uniqueness in telling a story about someone losing their hearing. The reason why this film is being received so well is because of the choices that were made through the sound design of the entire piece.

The film is centered around a heavy metal band, called ‘Blackgammon’, which is just a drummer named Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) on lead vocals. The film opens with the two of them performing at a venue and the music was blaring. The camera is focused on Ruben, as he listens to the cues and drums his heart out. As the camera cuts to a close up, the sound changes, the music changes and we see something change within Ruben.

Riz Ahmed gave a fantastic performance because of how intune he was with his character and the importance of delivering this important story. The performance was more reactionary because his mind was going through a change. Everything surrounding him felt different, the sounds were different and his perception changed. This film heavily relies on cues and the incredible sound design. For the general audience to truly understand the deaf community, the execution of the story was crucial and Darius Marder did a great job in creating a strong atmosphere to explore this character.

Courtesy of Caviar Ward Four
(left) Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke

Having a musician, especially a drummer, gradually lose his hearing as we watch him play his set, was heartbreaking. Ahmed had so many layers to his performance because of Ruben’s troubled past as an addict and holding the persona of a rockstar. Olivia Cooke also gave a great performance as Lou because of how understanding and emotional she was in order to help Ruben. Cooke and Ahmed had great chemistry and they shared key emotional moments in the film that really made their love for each other so believable.

Sound of Metal is one of the most important films to come out this year. Marder told an original and very unique story, that gave the deaf community proper representation. Due to its brilliant sound design, the film allows audiences to be fully immersed in the story because they are experiencing the realization of loss through Ruben. It has wonderful performances, an educational, heartfelt story and great direction from Marder.