May 23

“Disobedience” Film: Desire Faces Oppression

Ultimately, this is a gently humane portrait of an enduring problem facing men and women in all manner of fundamentalist communities: the notion that choice has anything to do with who we desire. Sara Stewart, New York Post, reviewing Disobedience

An award-winning book (2006) of the same title written by Naomi Alderman, the new film Disobedience is about Ronit (Rachel Weisz), who returns to her estranged family in London following the death of her father, an Orthodox rabbi. It turns out an old male friend is now married to Esti (Rachel McAdams), with whom Ronit had had an adolescent love affair.

The trailer:

Selected Reviews

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, advises viewers to “try not to think about where you already know it’s going and appreciate how it builds, and how it’s about a lot more than sex. At its most intense and powerful, ‘Disobedience’ is about courage and claiming one’s life…”

Stephanie Zacharek, Time: “Cuts deeper than your standard forbidden-love story, largely because the actors are so attuned to their characters’ anguish.”

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “…(T)he scenes between Weisz and McAdams are fascinating, each actress listening closely to the other, paying attention to every nuance. It doesn’t reach the scope of Grand Tragic Romance, but then, it isn’t meant to. These were two women whose normal adolescent crush was banned. In a way, time stopped for the both of them.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “‘May you live a long life,’ are the words exchanged frequently in this insular community. But for Esti and Ronit, it’s ultimately the question of how you live a life that gives the film its soulful resonance. Their scenes together achieve a stabbing pathos that never crosses into sentimentality or sham.”

Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times: “…shows a generosity of spirit toward its three central characters; as with all good movies, it ends with you wondering what happens to the characters afterward.”

Dec 11

“Philomena”: The Difficult Search for Her Long-Lost Son

The Stephen Frears-directed Philomena is based on British journalist Martin Sixsmith‘s nonfiction book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. Steve Coogan, who plays Sixsmith in the film, co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Pope.

When the film opens, Philomena (Judi Dench) is about to admit a major secret to her adult daughter: about 50 years ago, as a young unmarried woman, she gave birth to a son in an Irish convent. At the age of four Anthony was then given by the nuns to an adoptive couple—with no regard for his mother’s wishes or feelings.

Sixsmith, who’s been bounced from his civil service position in the wake of a political scandal and who’s therefore in need of career redirection, agrees to help Philomena find her son—despite his distaste for writing “human interest” stories.

Watch the trailer below:

PHILOMENA

Claudia Puig, USA Today:

Philomena is still a devout woman, despite her cruel treatment from severe Irish nuns as a young girl (sensitively played in flashbacks by Sophie Kennedy Clarke). She was bound in a kind of indentured servitude at the convent — three years of labor in the convent laundry in exchange for the medical care she and her young son received.

Philomena Lee’s cheery strength and quiet determination is deeply moving. She will not be made into a victim, nor does she lose her abiding faith.

Inkoo KangVillage Voice“‘After the sex, I thought anything so lovely must be wrong,’ the vulnerable but unflappable Philomena confesses about her first time, lowering her head in pensive regret. Her slow journey toward finally feeling worthy enough to hold her head high is surprising, upsetting, and not to be missed.”

MARTIN AND “PHIL” 

Inkoo Kang, Village Voice: “Since the film’s structure is based on a series of revelations — each one unexpected and unfailingly moving — they shouldn’t be recounted here. But it gives away nothing to say that their long trip together provides plenty of opportunities for the two characters to passionately debate religion and journalistic ethics, while the friction between their worldviews offers silent commentary on the perniciousness of British class inequality.”

MAIN THEMES

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “Director Stephen Frears compassionately chronicles an emotional personal odyssey and intelligently explores a larger socio-cultural issue. The shame that the Catholic Church imposed on unwed mothers is made palpable. The church in Ireland is also exposed for profiting from the adoptions of these babies.”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “What’s particularly shocking is the ability of some of these women to see the unwed mothers in their charge as almost subhuman, as outside the realm of normal consideration. The result was an epic distortion of Christianity, with people lobbing first and second stones who had no business even getting near a rock.”

OVERALL REVIEWS

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “Philomena makes a winning holiday movie, embodying the ideals of what the season is truly about: forgiveness, kindness and goodwill toward one’s fellow man.”

Inkoo Kang, Village Voice: “Given that grim premise, Philomena is remarkably funny, with stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan amiably sharing the comic spotlight.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “It’s profoundly moving and thoroughly mind provoking, but despite the poignant subject matter, I promise you will not leave Philomena depressed. I’ve seen it twice and felt exhilarated, informed, enriched, absorbed and optimistic both times. This is filmmaking at its most refined. I will probably forget most of what happened at the movies in 2013, but I will never forget Philomena.”