Tuesday 16 January 2018

Movie reviews: It Comes at Night, Sanctuary, The Midwife

  • It Comes at Night (15A, 92mins) ★★★★
  • Sanctuary (15A, 87mins) ★★★★
  • The Midwife (15A, 117mins) ★★★
Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough in It Comes at Night.
Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough in It Comes at Night.

Paul Whitington

At the start of It Comes at Night, a woman out of shot speaks softly to an elderly man. She tells him she loves him, then enters the frame wearing a gas-mask. The man shakes and shudders as two other mask-wearing figures wheel him outside in a barrow, shoot him dead and burn the body.

A terrible virus has gripped the world, and Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) have survived by taking wearisome precautions.

They live in a boarded up house in the woods, and have isolated themselves from whatever remains of the outside world. The dead man was Sarah's father, the latest victim of a horrifying disease that first presents itself at night. The family is surviving, efficiently, joylessly, until a man tries to break into their house one night, and Paul overpowers him.

Will (Christopher Abbott) insists he thought the house was vacant and claims he's only out foraging for his wife and son. And after tying him to a tree for the night to make sure he's not infected, Paul decides to believe Will, and invite him and his family to live with them. It will be a fateful decision for everyone.

Trey Edward Shults' film is lean, mean and mercilessly efficient, full of shadows and strange noises and nameless, unspoken dreads. It keeps things simple, has the courage not to explain too much, and seems to suggest that sometimes the unluckiest ones are those who survive.

Sanctuary is an Irish film to be proud of, a bold low-budget drama that broaches some delicate topics but gets the balance exactly right. A group of intellectually disabled young people are off to Galway City on a cinema trip, but Larry (Kieran Coppinger) has other ideas in mind.

He's smitten with Sophie (Charlene Kelly), and plans to book a hotel room so they can consummate their love. That won't be easy, and will involve the assistance of a care worker who soon begins to regret his kindness.

Meanwhile, chaos reigns at the cinema, and several of the group have repaired to a nearby pub to get locked. A collaboration between director Len Collin and the Galway-based Blue Teapot Theatre Company, Sanctuary is smart, well-paced and extremely funny, but also touching.

Martin Provost's The Midwife is French middlebrow heritage cinema of the dullest sort, but is made watchable, even likeable, by Catherine Deneuve's brave and touching performance.

Catherine Frot, another very fine French actress, stars as Claire Breton, a tireless and dedicated sage femme, or midwife. She's a gloomy soul, kind but distant, who eats organic, doesn't drink and has a regrettable tendency to lecture those less enlightened.

She has a grown-up son but lives alone and looks set to plod on grimly forever when a call from out of the blue knocks her off course.

Beatrice Sobolevski (Deneuve) is the former mistress of Claire's late father, a spectacular female who left him suddenly 30 years ago and has never been heard of since. Claire is not best pleased when Beatrice contacts her, but against her wishes is slowly drawn into the woman's ongoing psychodrama.

Beatrice has recently discovered that she has a potentially fatal brain tumour, and wishes to make amends with Claire before she goes. She may just be lonely, but either way Claire is in for some bracing life lessons from a woman who might be ill but is still a force of nature.

"I don't mind dying," Beatrice says, "I've lived the life I wanted." She's still living it, downing red wine and steak at lunchtime and grasping chaotically at every last moment of human experience.

Deneuve is wonderful in the role, and The Midwife is worth watching for her, though possibly for her alone.

Irish Independent

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