Wednesday 19 September 2018

Cinema: I Got Life! - a celebration of the female spirit

Cert: 16; Selected cinemas

Agnes Jaoui is an irrepressible force in I Got Life!
Agnes Jaoui is an irrepressible force in I Got Life!
John Boyega in Pacific Rim

We're not entirely sure if "menopause drama" is an accepted cinematic genre but on the strength of this perceptive and buoyantly hilarious Gallic jewel, perhaps it's about time that we looked into it.

From the opening scenes, an irresistible glow is established. Agnes Jaoui gives a towering central performance as Aurore, who at 50 is starting to wonder is she becoming obsolete and invisible to the world, what with her folded marriage, impending grandparenthood and physical changes taking place.

All this is parked momentarily when she crosses paths with major old flame Totoche (Thibault de Montalembert) and glimmers of regeneration begin to blossom.

This is no mawkish slice of feel-good cheese, not for the most part anyway.

Writer-director Blandine Lenoir (who wrote the film as a response to her own anxiety about an upcoming milestone birthday) colours the screen with an ensemble of characters that, while absurd and comical and tragic in their own ways, all seem to ring true (Pascale Arbillot as Aurore's BFF Mano is a riot). Because of this, there is a beautifully involving aspect to I Got Life! that makes you feel as if you are sitting right at the dinner table among these individuals.

And then there are one or two scenes - such as an opera-filled dinner date at a themed restaurant - that sing with precision, punch and masterful skills of observation. Lenoir sees the absurd in life but also the aching undertows.

By the time the madly romantic denouement is playing out, the overall sensation is that of a celebration of the female spirit in all its beautiful, generous, chaotic, frustrating, determined and courageous wonder.

★★★★★ Hilary A White

A Wrinkle in Time

Cert PG, Now showing

Madeleine L'Engle's first novel in the Time Quintet series has legions of fans, especially in the US so the film version was always going to draw heat.

Ava DuVernay (Selma) directs what I suggest is a two-star adaptation if you love the book, three-star if you don't know it.

Pre-teen Meg (Storm Reid) is plagued with the insecurities of her age which are made worse by the class mean girl.

Worse, Meg and little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) don't know why their father (Chris Pine) disappeared suddenly six years ago, abandoning them and their mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

A possible solution comes via the appearance of a strange lady, Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who introduces them to the other celestial guides Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling).

The children, with Meg's friend Calvin (Levi Miller) follow the guides through the wrinkle in time that allows people to travel to other worlds. They're looking for their father, but along the way Meg learns self-acceptance and to embrace her flaws.

It's a nice, very sanitised message in a nice but weak film. The dialogue is like a series of speeches, it relies too heavily on songs, the visuals are overwhelming and the CGI weak. But this is unquestionably and unapologetically a children's film and they're not going to care about most of that.

A good Easter holiday cinema trip for medium-sized childer.

★★ Aine O'Connor

Unsane

Cert: 16; Now showing

Steven Soderbergh films often posit that the hardest thing to see is what's before your eyes. Unsane picks up a thread hinted at in the prolific US director's 2013 psychological thriller Side Effects about the lines blurring between being seriously addled and certifiably insane.

Soderbergh and writers Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer take the idea and find a range of ways to make us doubt what we're witnessing.

Claire Foy (The Crown) is at the centre of this as Sawyer, a slightly empty office worker who has relocated from her native Boston following a stalker incident. Things begin getting to her. She is having flashbacks of the trauma and imagines seeing her tormentor out and about, which is surely impossible. She thinks she is doing the right thing by seeking some emergency counselling at a local mental health facility. There, Sawyer ends up being involuntarily committed, despite desperate protestations.

This, however, is only the beginning of the fun in a film that finds Soderbergh at his mischievous best. Shot on iPhone with a prying immediacy to every frame, Unsane keeps you guessing up to the final moments as our level of sympathy fluctuates towards this not entirely likeable heroine. Centre-stage is Foy, who puts in a twitchy, sweat-browed turn. A willing and able support cast comprises Jay Pharoah, Joshua Leonard, Juno Temple.

Devilish fun that comes with a welcome side-order of B-movie ridiculousness.

★★★★★ Hilary A White

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Cert 12A; Now showing

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John Boyega in Pacific Rim
 

Guillermo del Toro made the first Pacific Rim film in 2013 and it was fun and well received. This new film with a new team, director and studio won't be.

Jake (John Boyega), son of the first film's hero becomes the second film's reluctant hero along with old comrade Nate (Scott Eastwood) and a young maverick Amara (Cailee Spaeny). The dreaded Kaiju monsters are back, and someone needs to climb into the remaining Jaegers (virtual reality bodysuits) to kick Kaiju ass.

This film merrily tramples over the line between tongue-in-cheek use of genre trope and plain old cliche, but kids (and adults) who love robots, explosions and dodgy jokes will love it, there's lots of thumping but no gore and little swearing.

★★ Aine O'Connor

The Third Murder

Cert: 15A; Exclusively at IFI

Hirokazu Kore-eda's 2015 drama Our Little Sister was a soft-centred family saga that left a gooey feeling with viewers of all ages. This inspired legal drama could not be further from such saccharine environs - proof that Kore-eda is a major talent in cinema. 

We meet Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama), a defence lawyer charged with representing Misumi, a former factory worker who freely admits to murdering his former employer and is now beginning the journey towards the death penalty.

Something, however, doesn't sit right with Shigemori, and he follows this feeling in his gut into Misumi's backstory in the hope of unravelling the mystery. It's probably best not to say too much more at this stage.

Kore-eda has a solid handle on the police-procedural and courtroom nitty-gritty that all such tension-laced dramas must have as their bedrock.

It is the top notes that make The Third Murder a treat - intrigue-laden shots and cinematography, subtleties in the expressions of the starring cast, spots of dotty humour and an oddly ethereal atmosphere that is gripping.

★★★★ Hilary A White

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