Oscars weekend fast approaches and the film world can settle back down again afterwards, abandoning all the endless preening as pictures attempt to get noticed. It’s too late now anyway so we get a number of smaller releases that fell outside the awards bubble. And amongst true stories, family discord and the life of outsiders, there’s an awful lot to enjoy.
Director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg seem to have hit on a specific form of filmmaking together. After Lone Survivor brought them to the gritty true story genre, they’ve since made Deepwater Horizon about the disastrous oil spill off the Louisiana coast, and now Patriots Day, a retelling of the Boston Marathon bombing. Wahlberg plays a police officer involved in the case, but it’s an ensemble piece working though events. It’s also handled with the kind of tact rarely seen from Hollywood.
Xavier Dolan is a disgustingly talented director, having now made six films while still in his mid-20’s. The latest, It’s Only the End of the World, opened last year in Cannes to the most polarising response he’s yet received, though he did walk away with the Grand Prix at the festival. Adapted from an acclaimed play, it follows the return of a young playwright to his family to inform them he’s dying. Cold and distant before emotion breaks through, and featuring an excellent cast including Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux, it’s a remarkable film.
It should now be clear that adapting Daniel Woodrell makes for good cinema. The American writer who often sets his books around the Ozarks region in Missouri has seen Ride With The Devil and Winter’s Bone come from his work. Now there’s Tomato Red. Set in the kind of place no one wants to end up, the story follows an unlikely trio as they attempt to break free from the bottom of a ladder people like them are rarely allowed to climb. Tension ratchets up steadily via a number of standout scenes, and the direction often subtly changes to keep the narrative fresh. It’s a hard and uncompromising look at life on the outside.
Snubbed by the BAFTAs, because the British film awards does like to ignore the most exciting British filmmaking of the year, American Honey now arrives for you to own. Andrea Arnold’s dreamy cross-country journey with a group of travelling salespeople floats along to its own tune, wrapping stunning visuals into a razor sharp picture of the America rarely seen on either coast, or around the rest of the world. Newcomer Sasha Lane is a revelation in the lead role, and Shia LaBeouf turns in the best work of his career. This is worth owning, and worth returning too.
Well that’s it for another week and another month. See you next time for Hugh Jackman’s last hurrah.