Director Darren Aronofsky is not known for subtlety or crowd-pleasing. Afterall, his indie debut featured a mathematician obsessed with pi and orthodox Jews who thought his work was discovering the true name of God. He delved deep into every facet of drug abuse, focused a character study around a wrestler, used high-end ballet as a backdrop for a psychological thriller, and put Rock Giants in the story of Noah’s Ark. “Iconoclast” probably doesn’t do him justice.
In The Big Sick, ideas about cultural identity and family are united with a comedic style reliant on awkwardness and sarcasm, all in service of a brilliant romantic comedy plot. Kumail and Emily are growing into their new relationship, but a serious snag slams on the breaks. Then, a sudden illness befalls Emily and Kumail is forced into reconsidering everything that he just let go and the reasons why. The comedy and the characters in The Big Sick are great, but the way that the themes arise from this subject matter are far more poignant and impressive, resulting in one of the best romantic comedies of recent memory and strongest films in all of 2017.
Silence is vintage Martin Scorsese. The master’s techniques are evident in practically every frame, and his return to a religious subject matter is both fascinating and complex. Nearly three decades ago, The Last Temptation of Christ showed that Scorsese was capable of delivering a nuanced treatise on spirituality, and he has done the same with Silence. These topics are seldom tackled by Scorsese, so we should count ourselves lucky when the director is inspired by a story such as Silence, which has been in pre-production in some form for the last 25 years or so.