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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 18.Nov.20

Divine Love   Divino Amor
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Divine Love
dir Gabriel Mascaro
prd Rachel Daisy Ellis
scr Gabriel Mascaro, Rachel Daisy Ellis, Esdras Bezerra, Lucas Paraizo
with Dira Paes, Julio Machado, Teca Pereira, Emilio de Melo, Thalita Carauta, Calum Rio, Mariana Nunes, Clayton Mariano, Luciano Mallmann, Clebia Sousa, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima
release Br 27.Jun.19,
UK Oct.19 lff, US 20.Nov.20
19/Brazil 1h41

london film fest

Is it streaming?

paes and machado
Stylishly directed and edited, this Brazilian drama satirises the rise of evangelical Christianity in the country, offering a vision of a near-future somewhere between The Handmaid's Tale and Brave New World. While the pacing is uneven, the inventive script quietly explores the boundaries of religious beliefs and the impact they have when they cross into the public sphere. And at its core, this is a darkly moving personal story.
In 2027 Brazil, where religious mania has taken over the national consciousness, 40-year-old Joana (Paes) is a bureaucrat who hates notarising divorce documents: her Christianity drives her to try to save these marriages. She's a member of the Church of Divine Love, which practices ritualistic swinging while reserving childbearing for married couples. But Joana and her florist husband Danilo (Machado) have been unable to conceive. After looking into adoption, Joana discovers that she's pregnant. And genetic scans show the baby isn't Danilo's, or anyone else's. Is it possible that she's been impregnated by God himself?
The clever script is peppered with witty observations, such as noting that Brazil is technically a secular state, even as civil servants bring their faith to work. Or the fact that Joana's dog has his own crazed sex drive, while the loving Danilo endures an upside-down red-light fertility treatment. The film's only sci-fi touch is the door scanner that cooly reveals people's secrets. Meanwhile, church services are like massive ecstatic raves, while Joana frequently visits a drive-thru pastor (de Melo) for prayer.

Paes delivers a fascinating performance as a woman who simply can't separate her religious beliefs from any part of her life. Her stubbornly obstructive nature at work contrasts with her true-believer devotion at church and her relaxed, loving relationship with Danilo, who is played with hapless likeability by Machado. They face each test with an earthy resilience, including the way they enter the partner-swapping rituals. And the crisis they go through has an intriguingly biblical echo to it.

Filmmaker Mascaro directs this in a remarkably matter-of-fact way, with long takes that make the most of the cleverly designed settings, from the bustle of Joana's government office to the pink-hued tranquility of the church. So the sex scenes are strikingly realistic, explicit without any lurid embellishments. And while the more shocking elements will bring attention to the film, it's the darker dramatic scenes that grab hold, recounting an involving, emotional journey that never overstates its staggering implications.

cert 18 themes, language, sexuality 16.Nov.20

Patrick   De Patrick
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
dir Tim Mielants
scr Tim Mielants, Benjamin Sprengers
prd Sarah Marks, Bart Van Langendonck
with Kevin Janssens, Jemaine Clement, Hannah Hoekstra, Pierre Bokma, Ariane Van Vliet, Bouli Lanners, Frank Vercruyssen, Janne Desmet, Jean-Benoit Ugeux, Louis van der Waal, Katelijne Damen, Josse De Pauw
release Bel 28.Aug.19,
US Sep.19 ff, UK 20.Nov.20
19/Belgium 1h36

Is it streaming?

clement, hoekstra, janssens, bokma, vercruyssen et al
A quirky black comedy set in a nudist camp, this Belgian film is also the involving coming-of-age story of a 38-year-old man. It's a clever story playing on issues that are sometimes uncomfortably easy to identify with. Along with wry humour, filmmaker Tim Mielants inventively weaves in thriller elements and several layers of drama. So while the setting, plot and characters are amusing, the film delivers a personal kick.
At a naturist campground in a forest in Belgium, everyone knows helpful handyman Patrick (Janssens), son of the owners Rudy and Nelly (De Pauw and Damen). When the stubborn Rudy (De Pauw) runs the finances into the ground and dies, Patrick becomes the boss. But he's distracted by the fact that his best hammer has gone missing. Not only is this obsession keeping him from grieving, but it's blinding him to both the economic problems and some rather out-of-control squabbles in the camp. Plus the fact that his mother has decided to move on.
The story plays out through Patrick's pained eyes like an epic mystery, as he searches for his hammer. Confessions from guests lead him on a wild chase that brushes against other events unfolding among the residents, including rock star Dustin (Clement), whose ignored girlfriend Nathalie (Hoekstra) takes a shine to Patrick. In addition, long-time visitor Wilfried (Vercruyssen) is furious that he can't have his usual pitch, and power-mad Herman (Bokma) is staging a coup.

Deadpan performances lace the minimalistic script with witty touches, as does the fact that everyone is blithely unclothed. At the centre, Janssens is terrific as the inexpressive, ludicrously focussed Patrick. He's a gentle soul who believes his master furniture craftsmanship is "just tinkering". Hoekstra has a nicely complex role as the only person who gets Patrick at all. And Clement is hilariously self-absorbed. Others in the cast provide plenty of interest and intrigue along the way.

This is a fiendishly clever parable about the way we avoid important things while giving all our energy to something relatively trivial. Even though these people are all vulnerably naked, there's a delicious irony in the way they hide themselves from each other, leading to a rather wonderfully staged brawl and some surprising emotional moments. There are also some twists in the tale as events unfold, and as Patrick begins to understand that taking control of his life isn't going to be easy. But he'll be glad he did it.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 12.Nov.20

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
dir-scr Stanley Tong
prd Stanley Tong, Barbie Tung
with Jackie Chan, Yang Yang, Ai Lun, Mu Qimiya, Xu Ruohan, Jackson Lou, Eyad Hourani, Brahim Chab, Tam Khan, Tomer Oz, Mohannad Huthail, Zhu Zhengting
release Chn 30.Sep.20,
US 20.Nov.20
20/China 1h48

Is it streaming?

This ambitious Chinese action adventure movie deploys globe-hopping espionage mayhem along with a lot of digital trickery. And of course there's also plenty of wildly outrageous fight choreography, often played deliberately for laughs. Veteran filmmaker Stanley Tong keeps it charging forward so briskly that we never have time to dwell on how preposterously silly everything is. It's pointless to fight it: disengage your brain and just have fun.
In London, accountant Qin (Lou) is abducted by money-hunting thug Broto (Chab). So Tang (Chan), head of China's Vanguard spy agency, assigns young agents Lei and Zhang (Yang and Lun) to rescue him. Once Qin is safe, they race to Africa to protect Qin's activist daughter Fareeda (Xu), who also has a nasty poacher (Oz) after her. But Broto captures Lei and Fareeda for his evil mastermind boss Omar (Hourani). And Tang mobilises a small army to find them, travelling from a Sahara outpost to a showdown in Dubai with yet another beefy goon (Khan).
The story leaps from fistfight to chase with only brief moments in between to sort of explain what's going on and let the characters interact just a bit. There's far too much information poured into the dialog, making it tricky to keep up with the chaotic plot. Each sequence is set in another colourful location. And the spies indulge in the full range of military tactics and undercover subterfuge, complete with a stream of whizzy gadgets. So it feels like a mashup of James Bond nerve with Johnny English goofiness. Yes, there are some appalling disguises.

The pace is so hyperactive that none of the characters gets a chance to resonate. The always engaging Chan charges around making deals and directing the troops, the also gets stuck right in the middle of every battle. Yang's Lei is both hugely likeable and fearlessly heroic, charming women, children and villains at every turn. He's a terrific leading man, gifted in the way he uses his lanky physicality. Xu's Fareeda is the only other character with texture, veering hilariously from brilliant to panicky to courageous, as needed.

Everything in this frenetic film is so over-the-top that nothing quite registers. Mammoth gun battles are numbing, and it's clear from the start that basic laws of physics don't apply, so any sense of peril is an illusion. Then the climactic action sequence throws in everything from a fleet of solid gold luxury cars to a gigantic murder-drone. But even if there's no suspense, at least it's a nutty guilty pleasure.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 12.Nov.20

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