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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 16.Nov.21

Blurred Lines   Räuberhände
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
Blurred Lines
dir Ilker Catak
scr Gabriele Simon, Finn-Ole Heinrich
prd Gabriele Simon, Martin Heisler
with Emil von Schonfels, Mekyas Mulugeta, Katharina Behrens, Nicole Marischka, Godehard Giese, Luissa Cara Hansen, Ogulcan Arman Uslu, Adnan Devran, Burak Can Aras, Robert Besta, Thomas Linz, Erdogan Sandikci
release Ger 2.Sep.21,
UK 8.Nov.21, US 16.Nov.21
21/Germany 1h30

Is it streaming?

uslu, mulugeta and von schonfels
With a spark of youthful energy, this drama often feels like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, with improv-style dialog and a bustling ensemble surrounding the teens at the centre of the story. The sometimes very bold narrative is always on the move, travelling through startlingly powerful scenes as the action moves from Germany to Turkey. So it becomes a remarkably involving exploration of complex affection between two young men.
In between doing homework, Janik (von Schonfels) and his half-Turkish best pal Samuel (Mulugeta) are constantly up to something. Janik's friendly middle-class parents Ella and Jona (Marischka and Giese) offer Samuel an escape from his chaotic housing-estate home with lively mother Irene (Behrens). Janik's girlfriend Lina (Hansen) wants them to take a romantic holiday, but Janik isn't so sure. Instead, he and Samuel take their long-planned trip to Istanbul, even after their friendship is tested by Janik's impulsive actions. The question is whether their bond is strong enough to see them through some fundamental disagreements.
With the close connection between these boys and their families, it's fascinating to see them grapple with how the economic and ethnic differences between them might actually mean something they'd never considered before. Samuel feels his only option is to join the military, while Janik can consider an elite university. And Samuel knows it's a mistake when his mother attends the birthday party Janik throws for him. Scenes are a swirling mix of amusing interaction and darker underlying drama. And the shift from Germany to Turkey opens up some powerful themes.

The bromance between Janik and Samuel is powerfully played by von Schonfels and Mulugeta, keeping things tight but skilfully understated. Their performances remain complex and full of textures as they explore their bond through a series of parties, nights out and several unexpected challenges, most notably a transgressive drunken encounter between Janik and Behrens' mercurial Irene. In Istanbul, Uslu adds even more charisma as a fast-talker who adds several wrinkles to the boys' journey.

Director Catak uses surreal, dreamlike touches to augment the emotional undercurrents, sometimes as a deliberate provocation. When they get away from home, Janik and Samuel find the freedom to interact on more equal terms, relying on each other as they change their lives together. Getting past what has happened isn't easy, but they consistently show up for each other and clearly have a deeper attraction to as well. Which adds some remarkable intensity to the more emotional scenes.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 8.Nov.21

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir-prd Angeles Hernandez, David Matamoros
scr Angeles Hernandez, David Matamoros, Antonio Hernandez Centeno
with Pepe Ocio, Ivan Sanchez, Maria Ribera, Erika Bleda, Teresa Manresa, Albert Perez Bort, Nacho San Jose, Quim Ribaudi, Ivan Lapadula, Sergi Corominas, Jose Mut, Luz Juanes
release Sp Aug.20 mff,
UK 12.Nov.21, US 19.Nov.21
20/Sp 1h24

Is it streaming?

pedro, ocio and sanchez
Echoing with nostalgia, this beautifully produced Spanish drama catches up with close friends who haven't seen each other in years. Filmmakers Angeles Hernandez and David Matamoros take an internalised approach that cuts through polite surfaces to the bigger issues and longings underneath. The plot unfolds in a style that's gently meandering but also quietly intense. Although the enigmatic style of storytelling keeps the audience at a distance.
Reunited after a 16-year gap, lifelong friends Nacho and Denis (Ocio and Sanchez) catch up on their lives. Now successful lawyers, Nacho and his wife Marta (Ribera) are unable to have children of their own, while Denis and his wife Carmen (Bleda) enjoy their more freeform artistic lifestyle as they try to raise funds to start a restaurant. So Nacho makes a proposal that will help both of them: he'll pay Carmen to be a surrogate. But as these two couples make an agreement, a long-buried spark of attraction re-emerges between Nacho and Denis.
Several wrinkles emerge in the narrative, as each character has his or her own issues to grapple with, adding hints of tension at every step. In smiley flashbacks to their teens, Nacho and Denis (then Ribaudi and Lapadula) are always with Isaac (Corominas), but we must wait to learn what pulled these inseparable friends apart. The filmmakers withhold key information until they're ready to drop various bombs, and keeping us ignorant of things the characters know leaves the film without an involving point of view.

The four central actors give their roles vivid personalities that echo through their attitudes and physicalities. Ocio's Nacho is open and to-the-point, while Sanchez gives Denis a loose, life-loving quality that bounces nicely opposite Bleda's artistic and sensual Carmen. By contrast, Ribera's businesslike Marta remains sceptical about the whole process, bearing the pressure from her family. She feels that children give meaning to marriage and life itself. Scenes in which Marta bonds with Carmen are beautifully played. And Ocio and Sanchez create some intense chemistry together.

Even if the film holds us at arm's length, there are warm and engaging currents running all the way through, adding unexpected textures to the interaction between characters. It's fascinating to watch Nacho and Denis re-discover their youthful passion and affection, something they've pushed aside for decades. And the secrets that emerge are compelling and haunting. Less interesting are the more melodramatic clashes, which feel heightened and rather unconvincing. But the exploration of crippling but subtle homophobia is provocative.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 12.Nov.21

Petite Maman  
Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE

Petite Maman
dir-scr Celine Sciamma
prd Benedicte Couvreur
with Josephine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stephane Varupenne, Margot Abascal, Flores Cardo, Josee Schuller, Guylene Pean
release Fr 2.Jun.21,
US Sep.21 tff, UK 19.Nov.21
21/France 1h12

41st Shadows Awards

london film fest

Is it streaming?

josephine and gabrielle sanz
With a disarmingly open perspective, this film that pulls the audience deep inside. It's deceptively simple, a warm and witty tale of a young girl who engages playfully with those around her while subtly taking things in. But of course gifted filmmaker Celine Sciamma is saying profound things about how childhood is a junction between the past and future. And she lets the audience find the message themselves.
After her beloved grandmother dies, 8-year-old Nelly (Josephine Sanz) travels with her parents (Meurisse and Varupenne) to clear out granny's house. Bored, Nelly runs off into the nearby woods to find the secret hut her mother built as a girl. There she meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), an 8-year-old with the same name as her mother. And at Marion's house, she realises that there's some sort of time travel involved, as Marion's mother (Abascal) is Nelly's grandmother. As the two girls bond over just a few days, both Nelly and Marion make some key discoveries.
With just a hint of the fantastical, Sciamma uses unflashy lyricism to send Nelly on an Alice-like journey into the wondrous reality of her specific place in time. Which of course makes the story that much more universal. The film swirls with the power of inherited memories, ingeniously portrayed using twin actresses who echo each other but remain distinctly separate, living in different versions of the same home. Both love to play boyishly in the woods, and also to dress up and create girlish fantasies with their dolls. And all of this feeds into a quiet exploration of identity.

Each of the actors gives a remarkably transparent performance, centred around Josephine Sanz as the curious, tenacious Nelly. She has a beautifully layered connection with her mirror image Marion, played with equally likeable inquisitiveness by Gabrielle Sanz. Their silly play-acting and a moment of giggle-inducing cookery are hilariously entertaining, and when Nelly tells Marion the truth, Marion takes it in stride, intrigued to learn things from the future. Meurisse, Varupenne and Abascal also bring emotional power to their scenes.

Along the way, Sciamma finds sweet moments without ever sentimentalising them, and she keeps the emotions raw and sometimes painfully honest. Each character adds subtle hints about a range of bigger issues, such as Nelly's tomboy tendencies and Marion's fragile physical and mental states. The film allows these young girls to be alert and intelligent, agents in their own maturity who are able to understand blindingly complex situations on an instinctive level. And they still know how to be silly enough to make each other laugh.

cert u some themes 15.Nov.21

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