Saturday, December 31, 2016
Written & Directed By: Lukas Moodysson
Cinematography By: Marcel Zyskind
Editor: Michal Leszczylowski
Cast: Michelle Williams, Gael Garcia Bernal, Marife Necisto, Tom McCarthy
While on a trip to Thailand, a successful American businessman tries to radically change his life. Back in New York, his wife and daughter find their relationship with their live-in Filipino maid changing around them. At the same time, in the Philippines, the maid's family struggles to deal with her absence.
Idealism can only go so far in cinema sometimes. Watching this film is like being preached to, bough director Lukas Moodysson tries like always to make the film seem more naturalistic. Almost to a point where we feel more like a fly on the wall watching the characters. The film feels downright manipulative and heavy handed. We get the message and the emotions it brings up. Though it makes the film way too long.
We understand some of the scenes are built for us in the audience to see relationships build up and define the characters. As they all seem to go for slow burns.
I appreciate the fact thankfully that the film doesn't go in for shocks and cheap scares. It does feel like a complete story and leaves you feeling down by the end.
Unfortunately director Lukas Moodysson hasn't made a complete return to the heights that he maintained with SHOW ME LOVE and LILYA4EVER maybe as those films focused on youth and were more coming of age tales one of promise and one a tragedy. He faltered heavily at least for me with the film A HOLE IN THE HEART. This film is more of a return to form from the depths of that experimental film. This film feels like a indie film with a mainstream sheen. Probably the closest he has come so far to making a mainstream film.
The film also commits The sin of not only feeling boring but just not being that interesting. Despite good performances.
Though a regal cast, Both Michelle Williams and Gael Garcia Bernal both seem too good for this film. That might have been more affective with less well known stars in the roles.
Part of the problem is Gael Garcia Bernal's character makes no sense. I understand that his character is bored and is seeking an escape from the temptation to go back to basics from is upbeat life and like most middle aged men is looking for some authenticity in life and experiences. Which leads to worse temptations. It's interesting but not believable from what we know about the character. It seems like an off motivation that we have seen way too many times before to truly care about and casting someone who is a minority doesn't change that fact. We get the fact that he feels privileged and carries that guilt. He want to go back to the simple joys of his youth. Which could be interesting as we all know you can’t go home again. Yet he is successful enough to even want or try that where as everyone he meets is just trying to survive and doesn't have that luxury. It's an interesting story in itself but the basics do the story make it feel false.
Though the fact that he got an unknown and it seems untrained people to play a lot of the films roles is inventive and experimental. Which is in the film-makers nature and the closest he gets to it.
Natthamonkarn Srinikornchot in particular is so beautiful and natural in her role that her lack of acting experience of course helps out the realism in the film. At least in her scenes. It also leaves you wanting more since they are. Not professional actors. So this will likely be their only movie roles. You want to see more of some of them or wonder whatever happened to them. (Think Jaye Davidson of THE CRYING GAME) happily they will always be remembered for that role and that performance. If the film is also good. You can always go back and watch them and see them in that moment of time. Like an insect frozen in amber to view for posterity. Unfortunately this is not one of those films. So it is highly doubtful Anyone would ever want to watch this film again.
I would say wait for cable to watch this film, but only if you must. As it feels like a film liberals would watch to feel better about themselves. Being open to other cultures and the harsh life in third world countries. Observing and wanting to help but being perfectly fine in their ideals. Rather than doing anything g once they have escaped back to their normal life. Exposing them as hypocrites. Pardon my screed, but this film seems to dramatize an ideology more than be cinema.
The film just feels as always with Moodysson's films. More like a sociology lesson mixed with drama. Which usually works but at this point it feels like he is trying to teach basics to an advanced class
Though a regal cast Michelle Williams and Gael Garcia Bernal both seem too good for this film. That might have been more affective with less well known stars in the roles.