Call Me by Your Name is a tender and warm coming of age story that beautifully captures that peculiar mixture of melancholy and exhilaration that so often accompanies a first love. Set in Italy in the 1980s, it is a subtle, sensuous, and gorgeous film. The pacing is pastoral and languid, lending the characters a lived-in and complex feel as they explore their surroundings. It sports a timeless plot about self-discovery and sexual exploration, with impeccable performances. Director Luca Guadagnino has perfectly executed one of the most heartbreaking and satisfying films of recent memory.
In a strange paradox, executing a proper farce demands preternatural planning. Stray but a little from the knife’s edge, and the tone can spiral out of control as the conflicting elements of the film separate like a broken sauce. Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire suffers such a fate, though it isn’t for lack of effort or a gripping central idea. The film tries to position some idiosyncratic characters in a bottle, shake everything up, and let them shoot guns at each other for 75 minutes, but too many of these elements are just a bit off the mark. The characters and the performances mostly hit, and the inciting event feels reasonable, but the organization and the length of the fight strains comprehension and ends up being to repetitive to hold the spectator’s interest. Free Fire does a better job than most genre-bending farces, but ultimately it just feels too boring for a movie centered around a free-for-all firefight.
I’ve got a pair of sweet trailers here, and they both look like high-octane, shoot-em-up action flicks, though they have wildly different tones. Free Fire is going to be the first to hit theaters, and features an insane collection of talent along with a humorous concept. Baby Driver is similarly stocked, and an Edgar Wright film is always worth checking out – especially given the recent hype coming out of the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. Fortunately, we’ve got some trailers to hype us up.
Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is a remarkable piece of cinema, especially from a first-timer. Parker controls this entire endeavor as writer, director, producer, and also stars as the slave Nat Turner. This is a powerful but sad film, though there is a kernel of hope at its center that Parker tries to work from. Based on a the real-life slave revolt led by Nat Turner in the early 1830s, the film offers incredible acting, but suffers slightly from narrative issues and some muddled thematic material. Of course, Parker takes some poetic license with the actual history, and while some of these help the story, others are more egregious and unnecessary. The most definitive aspect of the film is its profound spirituality, which Parker leans heavily on for dramatic justification of Turner’s rebellion, and also as the source of his leadership. Indeed, this is a film about not only racial injustice, but spiritual deliverance. Parker is sometimes lost with exactly where to focus the rebellious spirit, but these small mistakes cannot mar the overall poignancy of his message.
The films of Guy Ritchie succeed best when they blend comedic elements with a strong circuitous narrative set on the fringes of society. Usually, that fringe is some underground criminal element, but with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ritchie puts his inimitable aesthetic to work on the period spy thriller. Though the plot can feel fairly derivative at times, the stars ably carry the film forward and offer some surprisingly funny moments amid the tradecraft and action set pieces.