Passengers 2016

Directed by Morten Tyldum.

I missed this when it was first released in Australia in 2017, but Netflix has come to the rescue again. At face value, the premise is quite interesting, though nothing new – a man wakes unexpectedly from stasis, stranded on a spaceship with only an android barman (the always wonderful Michael Sheen) for company. In his all-consuming loneliness, he starts to look over files of a female passenger who’s taken his fancy. When he decides to wake her from stasis, shenanigans ensue and – narratively as well as ethically – the movie lost me. I simply couldn’t get past his decision. I really expected better from writer Jon Spaihts, whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Stylistically, this film is an utter delight – hats off to Guy Hendrix Dyas for superlative production design and Gene Serdena for the set decoration. The CG is definitely on point and the music by Thomas Newman is unobtrusive (until the end credits song, which seemed jarringly out of place).

In some ways, I also think this film suffers from having Jennifer Lawrence and especially Chris Pratt as the leads, Aurora Lane and Jim Preston because they’re just too likeable, wholesome and (for want of a better word) nice. Pratt in particular, I found difficult to reconcile as the borderline suicidal Jim.

Above all, in this day and age, I really want better scripts than this.

Beautiful to look at but pretty on the nose narratively.

mother! – Day 2 NaBloPoMo 2017

mother! (2017). Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

I have been a fan of Aronofsky’s films since his low-budget first feature Pi (1998) and I’m one of the few people I know who actually liked Noah (2014), despite Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone’s macho posturing. (The key with Noah in my opinion, is to look at it as a reimagining of a mythological text, rather than a straight retelling of the biblical story).

It should come as no surprise then that I really enjoyed mother! though it took me quite a while to process it. I saw this at my local, the State Cinema in North Hobart about a month ago and I think it must be the most divisive film of 2017.

This is an intense experience despite the very simple set up. It becomes a fast-paced drama very quickly and I found it hard at times to keep up, which I suspect is Aronofsky’s aim. Right from the outset, I felt a sense of claustrophobia, exacerbated by the camera which sits on or very close to Jennifer Lawrence for the entire film. Lawrence is sensational by the way, and Javier Bardem as her writer husband matches her. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are wonderful and the brief scene with real-life brothers, Brian and Domhnall Gleeson as their sons, is explosive and excellent.

Without spoiling the film, to me this is a psychological drama and a magical realism allegory. There is little here that is straightforward or easy watching, it isn’t a film where I could leave my brain at the door and just sit back and be entertained, something I love to do sometimes too. Of course, there are multiple ways to read a film, and I’m very keen to see this again when it comes out on DVD.

It’s no surprise to me that many people really disliked mother! Brave, innovative storytelling in cinema isn’t safe – it takes risks. And while this film doesn’t work all of the time in ways I enjoyed, I love it for having that bravery to take chances.

I found mother! triggered some things in me that required careful processing. Though it was uncomfortable, I feel ultimately a little wiser about my own foibles, a little richer for the experience. And ultimately, the film has stayed with me in a very enjoyable way. In my opinion, these are some of the many things art is supposed to do.