Jay Reeves stars in this true story written by Nick Santora (The Most Dangerous Game, The Fugitive), directed by Reginald Hudlin (House Party (!!), The Great White Hype, Marshall) and produced by Mark Ciardi, p.g.a. (Secretariat, Miracle) and Gordon Gray (Million Dollar Arm, The Rookie), who both sound like they like sports movies as much as us!
Interrupting boisterous and graphic sex scenes – the bright lighting and unblinking editing verging on pornography – with wildly dramatic outbursts, Sarah Portelli and Ivan Malekin’s ambitious relationship-drama, In Corpore, is told as four improvised vignettes, each story – in isolation with exception to the first and last pieces – offers a unique look at contemporary relationships.
The connective tissue shared by these stories is in their thematic tempo, with each story grappling with the repercussions of its leading players’ relationship quandaries: adultery, independence, monogamy, and sex-work.
This extravagance in themes makes for otherwise unwieldy viewing, most notably with heavy-handedness as each quartile reaches desperately for the melodramatic high note. A feat that, per the opening paragraph, persistently circles back to a vivid sexual-embrace that feels more like a celebration of sex-positivity than it does a meaningful motif.
However chalky, merit is present in the film’s casting of a talented and diverse array of actors; all of whom remain committed to the filmmakers’ improvised vision.
Filmmaker/steelworker Robynne Murphy’s previous film that appeared at the Sydney Film Festival was Bellbird, way back in 1974. She was part of the first intake to AFTRS’ [Australian Film Television & Radio School] filmmaking course. Women of Steel sees her combine knowledge accumulated in both careers.
Picturesque Wollongong, south of Sydney, was a different story in 1980 when the behemoth BHP Steelworks dominated the skyline, spewing forth pollution by the tonne, supporting over 20,000 mostly migrant workers. Among these, only a handful were women and ‘The Big Australian’ [BHP] wanted to keep it that way.
Denied jobs at the steelworks – the city’s main employer –working-class/migrant women refused to accept discrimination. Taking their cue from the Aboriginal Tent embassy set up in 1972 outside parliament house in Canberra, a group of shunned women set up a tent outside BHP’s factory gate demanding equal opportunity. Putting up banners, handing out fliers, creating petitions, they slowly gained the support of company employees, ironically burning coal in a steel bucket to keep warm, supplied by workers from one of BHP’s coal mines.
Their struggle unfolds into the first ‘class’ action suit against the company, taking them to the High Court of Australia and changing the rules for women throughout the country.
Murphy’s film is a story of perseverance and comradeship told with emotion and humour, mostly through archival footage and interviews. It’s an important piece of filmmaking about this country’s industrial relations history and should be seen by a wide audience.
Student David (Nicholas Prattes) seems to the butt of a lot of jokes in his class. Bespectacled and clinging on to his camcorder like a security blanket, he looks like he wouldn’t hurt a fly. And if Norman Bates has taught us anything, it’s not to trust people who go out of their way not to hurt flies.
Directed by first timer Diego Freitas, My Dead Ones is a Brazilian horror/thriller that, at times, acts like a modern interpretation of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom.
Seemingly with no family, David’s apathy to his bullies is shown to be a mask when we see him using online fraud to charge an expensive new digital camcorder to one of his tormentor’s bank accounts. Aside from petty theft, when he falls head over heels for his classmate, Jonatas (Andre Hendges), something else seems to awaken in David.
He takes to recording his elderly neighbour, Maria (Neusa Maria Faro) and having had his fill of that, takes her life, before uploading the footage to the Dark Web. Like dancing to WAP on TikTok, David’s crime goes viral and, with his face blurred in the footage, he relishes listening to people talk about his handiwork. Meanwhile, Maria’s death is not the end of the actress’ role and the OAP becomes a spirit guide to the young David, encouraging him to dig into his past and, ultimately, kill more people. Something which David is all too happy to do, whilst balancing his love life with Jonatas.
While the film aims for a dreamlike quality in some scenes, My Dead Ones feels unnecessarily nebulous. Not everything makes sense to begin with and that’s deliberate. The film is clearly leading to a big reveal, with David’s hallucinations interfering with his day to day life. Unfortunately, the film’s slow pacing can have you feeling impatient to skip to the end.
Having someone like David as your protagonist means asking the audience to be a wilful participant to his crimes. David is no Patrick Bateman, and his lack of charm or wit makes for a slightly forgettable killer. Of course, no one is suggesting a serial killer should be someone you want to emulate, but you can feel so indifferent to David, you almost forgive his bullies for breaking his camera at the start of the film.
There’s a lot to like in My Dead Ones, but when the interesting premise about internet fame is pushed to one side in favour of mysterious flashbacks and twisty twists, it leads to a finale that ends on a whimper rather than a bang.
Not enough movies open with people having sex in an X-ray room! After a picture of this intimate moment circulates around the hospital, it sets off a chain of events that are absurdist, making a gleeful lack of sense at first glance, but gradually turn out to be surprisingly dramatic and moving.
Here are some other things one can expect to see in this movie: A wedding ring that looks like the end of a Sonic The Hedgehog level, a singing catfish, a commercial starring a gorilla sans Phil Collins, sharing underwear, van-sized sinkholes opening up on the streets of Seoul, and one of the weirdest narrators of any film.
Between the incessantly symmetrical framing, the quietly insane specifics and episodic progression of plot, Maggie is like Wes Anderson collaborated with Bong Joon-ho on an episode of Scrubs. It starts by making the audience question exactly how many medical officials have risked radiation poisoning for a nooner at this hospital, and then digs its heels into all manner of bizarre imagery that basically take abstract thought processes and make them literal through the visuals.
However, while the name of the game is light quirks, the actual subject matter is morbid and confronting, rooted in some of the fundamentals behind socialisation; namely, being able to trust that the other person actually means what they’re saying. The film finds various ways of depicting the erosion of trust between people, whether it’s down to dishonesty, cynicism, and even violence. It lulls the audience into a false sense of kooky security, only to pull the rug out from under their feet, one carefully-timed pull at a time.
As much as the humour could have easily devolved into randomness for randomness sake, it maintains a certain magnetism through earnestness and clearly-not-caring-if-you’re-not-along-for-the-ride, aided by fantastic production values.
Koo Kyo-hwan and Yi Ok-seop’s script is riddled with ear-candy quips, Lee Jae-woo’s cinematography is gorgeous, and the eclectic English-language soundtrack is killer (Maxine in particular is a serious groove).
Much like the works of Bong Joon-ho, Maggie uses odd narrative ideas and developments as a Trojan horse to make sharp and biting observations about the human condition. It serves as a gripping, if bonkers, reminder that the faith we put in other people is extremely volatile, and not even the most intimate of X-rays can reveal all that’s on the inside of someone.
As blockbuster after blockbuster pushes its release date back until 2021 and beyond – a result of bloated budgets requiring billion dollar plus box office hauls just to turn a profit – smaller, smarter films with less demanding bottom lines reign supreme in the cinema. The latest example of this is Alone, a stripped back, lean and effective thriller that may just be a tad too familiar to be considered a classic.
Alone tells the story of Jessica (Jules Wilcox), a recently widowed woman who is driving a U-Haul trailer across the United States to visit her dad. Along the way she keeps running into The Man (Marc Menchaca), who first appears to be an obnoxious dickhead on the road, then an apologetic weirdo and then something far, far worse. Something, in fact, that could mean Jessica’s death. And that’s it. That’s the premise in all its simple elegance. The small cast, the short runtime and the initial emphasis on road travel all make Alone feel like the classic Spielberg thriller Duel (1971), which was light on exposition but chockers with slow building tension. So too is Alone, with most of the film unsaddled by endless monologues or chatty sequences, with director John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) wisely letting the action speak for itself.
Of course, a film like Alone is nothing without great performances. And while Jules Wilcox acquits herself extremely well in the lead role, it’s Marc Menchaca’s creepy, nuanced performance as the deranged stalker that’s truly memorable. From the first moments where he’s apologising for his poor driving etiquette, to his undermining of Jessica in later scenes, he’s a truly despicable villain and you can’t wait to see him bested.
Alone is a slick, engaging, well acted and effectively directed little thriller. It certainly won’t win any points for originality, and at times its beats are a little too familiar, but a couple of stellar performances, a subtle mastery of mood and a genuinely cathartic climax all combine to create a very solid night out at the movies. Although, just quietly, it’s probably best to see Alone with someone else.