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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.May.23

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
dir-scr Carolina Cavalli
prd Moreno Zani, Malcolm Pagani, Mario Gianani, Lorenzo Gangarossa, Antonio Celsi, Annamaria Morelli
with Benedetta Porcaroli, Galatea Bellugi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Monica Nappo, Margherita Maccapani Missoni, Michele Bravi, Lorenzo Levrini, Fabian Gibertoni
release It 13.Oct.22,
US Mar.23 ciff, UK 2.Jun.23
22/Italy 1h33

venice film fest

Is it streaming?

bellugi and porcaroli
With her feature debut, Italian writer-director Carolina Cavalli takes an assured, stylised approach to follow a complex young woman as she embarks on a witty journey to begin moving forward with her life. Despite an often absurdly ridiculous tone, the film digs profoundly into ideas that are bracingly timely, gently unpicking big themes to find moments of powerful resonance. And its collection of offbeat characters is wonderfully entertaining.
At 25, Amanda (Porcaroli) feels betrayed by her life, bemoaning boyfriends she never had. Moving back to Italy after many years in Paris, her mother Sofia (Nappo) and older sister Marina (Missoni) urge her to make at least one friend, nudging her back to childhood pal Rebecca (Bellugi). But Rebecca is locked in her room and won't talk to anyone, and her mother Viola (Mezzogiorno) doesn't seem too worried about this. As she coaxes Rebecca out of hiding, Amanda flirts with a random dude (Bravi) at an underground rave and befriends a lonely old horse.
While much of the film feels meandering and random, there's method to Cavalli's storytelling as it observes the microscopic shifts in Amanda's attitude. Yes, she's wealthy, entitled and selfish, but she's also genuinely searching for her place in the world. Each small success she achieves, even if by accident, bolsters her confidence, especially as she discovers that someone might actually like her. Most engagingly, the world she lives in feels like its own fully formed universe, heightened and refreshingly camp but always grounded in real emotion.

Porcaroli gives a remarkably committed performance in the title role, balancing impatience with a deeply internalised yearning. She may stomp around complaining about everything that might have been and the way nothing goes her way, but she also has an earnestness that's compelling. So it's telling that her scene-stealing 8-year-old Jesus-loving niece is so drawn to her. And each member of the supporting cast plays their characters with the same jumble of hilarious eccentricities, hinting at their own off-screen epic journeys.

There are similarities between this film and Joachim Trier's The Worst Person in the World, another nuanced, blackly comical portrait of a young woman who seems to do everything wrong as she tries to work out who she is and how she fits in. Cavalli's approach is darker and even more provocative, challenging audience perceptions by revealing sympathetic details in someone who might quickly be labelled as a self-absorbed slacker. Yes, she's privileged, but there's more going on here. And almost anyone can identify with that.

cert 15 themes, language 6.Feb.23

A Place of Our Own   Ek Jagah Apni
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

A Place of Our Own
dir Hassath, Sushil, Rinchin
scr Rinchin, Maheen Mirza
prd Hassath, Sushil, Rinchin, Neeraj Churi
with Manisha Soni, Muskan, Aakash Jamra, Mahima Singh Thakur, Shivani Bajpai, Suman Dhurve, Shubham Lariya, Tanveer Ahmed, Paritosh Acharya, Sudipta Bhattacharya Saxena, Harshita Narnaware, Badal Singh
release US Mar.23 sxsw,
UK Mar.23 flare
22/India 1h28

bfi flare film fest

Is it streaming?

soni and muskan
From India, this gently observant drama explores the situation for trans women in a society tilted against them. Made by the Ektara Collective, the film avoids politics to find universal resonance, noting that even in a free country life can be harshly limited for minority groups, creating a vicious cycle of personal and economic challenges. And the cast and crew infuse scenes with warm humour and honest emotion.
In Bhopal, charity manager Laila (Soni) is frightened by invasive behaviour from a neighbour, seeking support from close friend Roshni (Muskan). But when they confront her landlord (Ahmed), he evicts her. Now both women must stay in another friend's flat while looking for a home. But one estate agent (Acharya) says it will be difficult because of the "dubious nature" of the trans community. And as they continue to search with the help of their tuktuk-driver pal Sharukh (Jamra), they face a range of obstacles and bigotries while helping each other maintain an optimistic outlook.
Around town, Laila and Roshni are continually sidelined in everyday situations, which is made more difficult because their families have rejected them. So in one powerful moment, Laila dresses as a boy to can visit her ailing grandmother. But when Laila complains, Roshni reminds her that "none of us have easy lives". By contrast, a colourful musical interlude traces a happy day out to the river with a group of diverse friends.

Newcomers Soni and Muskan add astute undercurrents. Soni plays Laila as a woman exhausted by the prejudice that surrounds her, while Muskan's Roshni is more matter-of-fact about how things are, trying to make the best of the situation while also ready to put up a fight. She also knows that police, doctors and officials won't be any help. Together, they make earthy jokes while wryly observing the awkward, ignorant or cruel people around them.

As the film follows these two plucky women, it notes a rage of challenges that face trans people who are marginalised and struggle with basic processes like renewing an identity card, all while facing the threat of violence in a society that simply turns a blind eye to it. The salient point is that they are not a separate culture, but part of society as a whole, and certainly not an enemy. These ideas have pointed echoes all around the world, which allows the film to become an important cry against fear and hatred.

cert 12 themes, language 10.May.23

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir-scr Jalmari Helander
prd Petri Jokiranta
with Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila, Arttu Kapulainen, Elina Saarela, Ilkka Koivula, Max Ovaska, Joel Hirvonen, Pekka Huotari, Tinwelindon Belbog
release Fin 27.Jan.23,
US 28.Apr.23, UK 26.May.23
22/Finland 1h31


Is it streaming?

Set at the bitter end of World War II, this action-thriller's title is a Finnish word for determination and resilience. But writer-director Jorma Helander has a lot of pitch-black fun with the premise, maintaining a Wild West sensibility with virtually wordless scenes, grisly violence and a steely sense of morality. Infused with an absurd sense of irony, the film is also outrageous enough to become a cult classic.
In the wilds of Lapland, Aatami (Tommila) has just discovered a huge vein of gold when departing Nazis pass through the area. Engaged in a scorched-earth withdrawal from Finland, the unit's commander Bruno (Hennie) catches a glimpse of Aatami's treasure and decides he'll take it with him. Bruno and his cohorts approach Aatami as merely a nuisance until they hear of the legend that he is actually a fearsome, unstoppable force. Indeed, the previous invading Russian army nicknamed him "The Immortal". And he's certainly not going to give up his gold without a serious fight.
Assembled in chapters, the plot follows Aatami from one ambush to the next, each one more gruesome than the last as he matches or exceeds the ruthless assaults from the Germans. But even their most brutal methods underestimate his almost superhuman tenacity. To prove their vileness, the troops have a truckload of abused women they have kidnapped as playthings, and when Aatami discovers them he does a lot more than just rescue them. The only dialog is spoken by the Nazis (in English), while Aatami takes the strong-silent route, engaging in sudden ambushes, miraculous survival and remarkable acts of mercy.

At the centre, Tommila has steely presence as the wordless Aatami, and yet his thought processes are clear, anchored in his primal survival instincts. It's a terrific performance, full-bodied and fierce, but also imbued with touches of earthy humanity in his rejection of pointless cruelty (and his connection with his loyal dog and horse). By contrast, Hennie plays Bruno as a man driven by anger, frustration and greed, so his flailing actions can only lead to a colourfully climactic demise.

Because the film is set out as a modern action movie about a retired commando cutting loose on nasty villains, there's little attention to the period setting. Indeed, Helander simply uses Nazis as baddies without even a nod to narrative or thematic complexity. But his inventively stylised visual approach, the story's driving momentum and Aatami's astonishing perseverance make the film both gripping and entertaining. And the undercurrent of gallows humour makes it a proper guilty pleasure.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.May.23

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