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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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In a Better World

Chris Campbell

In a Better World


In Susanne Bier's film In a Better World she examines male responsibility through the interlocking stories of two disrupted families and two young boys who become friends. With multiple stories and parallels between what is happening in a refugee camp in Africa and a small Danish town, it's a complex and moving story that never takes the easy way out. It's rare to see a film about interesting characters and moral choices that is told in a naturalistic way with an intimate style of shooting.


Bier excels with slightly unusual personal melodramas with her previous films Brothers (remade in an American version), and After the Wedding (one of my favourite films of 2006) she told complex stories about interesting characters in different parts of the world. She made an impressive leap to Hollywood with the underrated and beautiful Things We Lost in the Fire (featuring Halle Barry and Benicio del Toro). After seeing her previous films I was keen to see her latest effort.


With In a Better World, there is no easy way out as all of the characters try to figure out the right thing to do in the face of violence and bullying. The consequences of actions are followed and we see that things aren't as simple as they are presented in films. While the film has a deliberate pace, it builds as the events escalate and the stakes become higher and higher. It's a compelling drama with great performances and it will hopefully receive a wider release.

Never Let Me Go

Chris Campbell

Never Let Me Go


While I haven't read the novel, the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go by Mark Romanek is a melancholy and beautiful science fiction film that doesn't focus on the technology, but the people.


Set in an alternate history world with an unpleasant secret, it follows three people as they grow up in that world and learn about who they really are. The casting is perfect with younger actors recognizable as the people they will grow into and the standout performances of the three leads, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightly make it a haunting film that has stayed with me. At the core of the film is a naivety as the children are raised in a sheltered and controlled environment that they do not question. They want to know who they are and we are given the same information that they are, so when the revelations come, they were powerful and surprising for me as well. Wrapped up with this is a love triangle that cleverly informs the other parts of the film. It's gorgeously shot and the film seemed to move by quite quickly but lingered well after the credits rolled.

Mother

Chris Campbell

MotherOne of the most interesting and surprising films that I saw in the past year was Bong Joon-ho's Mother, which is a unique thriller that constantly confounds expectations. Just like his previous film, The Host, it works within a genre and subverts it by moving outside of the parameters of it. The twists and turns of the film are delightful and it becomes an emotional roller coaster that turns us around so many times that I was surprised how my feelings about the characters changed. But the characters are at the centre of the film and Kim Hye-ja gives a nuanced performance as a mother who will do anything to protect her son and find out the truth.


The basic premise of the film is that a mentally-challenged young man is charged with murdering a young woman by incompetent police who want to quickly close the case. His mother wants to solve the mystery and starts to investigate. Several times I started to settle down for a solid thriller, but the film would shift tones and deliver a critical piece of information that would make you rethink everything you've seen before. The film had me from the first sequence which features Kim Hye-ja walking across a field towards the camera and dancing.

The American

Chris Campbell


The AmericanIf Albert Camus was a film director then perhaps The American is a film that he would have made. In Anton Corbijn's second feature he creates an inaction film which is about waiting and watching and being patient. George Clooney is very quiet in the film and at the beginning there is so much silence that you may think that something has gone wrong with the soundtrack, but it's all part of the plan which is to create a world where you look and listen for the smallest detail. When Clooney first speaks it is surprising as I realized that he'd been silent for a long time.


The American focusses on the times between the action as Clooney waits and prepares for a job that he wants to be his last. He interacts with people in the small Italian village where he is in seclusion and we watch as he gets closer to those in the village without revealing much about himself always aware that people are looking for him. With large, open frames and precisely-composed shots it's lovely to look at and with a few action sequences thrown in for seasoning it's a different sort of film that reworks the action film as an visually poetic existential drama.

I Am Love

Chris Campbell

I Am LoveTilda Swinton is stunningly beautiful and utterly captivating in the deliciously melodramatic I Am Love. In Luca Guadagnino's film she is the fire that burns at the heart of it. Playing a Russian emigre who has married in to a wealthy Italian family, she speaks Italian with a Russian accent as she begins to question her life and happiness and finds herself.


Sensuously shot with music that is over the top and operatic, the film slowly exposes the small dissatisfactions and secrets within the family that grow as she becomes increasingly in touch with her own feelings. The complex family drama is integrated in to her story as the parallels and contrasts grow throughout the episodic story. Everything in the film is meticulous and beautiful from the shots to the locations to the clothing to the food. It's a tragic treat to watch and savour.