Some of 2017’s best movies are on their way to your arthouse screens this christmas.
Call Me By Your Name
In the course of the six week time span of Luca Guadagnino’s (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) ravishingly beautiful love story set in the gloriously sensuous Northern Italian countryside, 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) falls head over heels for the older and impossibly handsome Oliver (Armie Hammer). He also has sex with a girl his own age, a man, and a peach. So ok, we now need to add another letter that already impossible LGBTIQ acronym to cover stone fruit? That’s a brief but revelatory scene, a cheeky pointer to the passion, pain and bittersweet confusion of young love (and a reminder that its a sticky business). The early scenes are all atmosphere and build-up as Elio and Oliver warily circle, in fact for a good two-thirds of the movie I was wondering what all the 5-star fuss was about (has any reviewer given it less?). Lovely to look at, sure, I was about to book a holiday in Lombardia, but also wondering why so little seemed to be at stake for any of the characters. Then it all clicks in the last act – first the fireworks, then the explosion – love in all its splendid, bewildering but gorgeous agony. And Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) gets a monologue that is so wise, compassionate and knowing that it could only have been written by someone with almost 90 years of experience in matters of the heart. (James Ivory is 89). Of course there will be tears in the end. There always is, but its just another sublime moment in a near perfect film. M from Dec 26. ★★★★★
As Andrew Garfield proved in Hacksaw Ridge, he can do “stoic and stubbornly heroic” pretty damn well, so perhaps he was the obvious choice for Andy Serkis’ biopic of the real-life polio victim and inventor, Robin Cavendish. Mind you, being totally paralysed from the neck down, he’s only got his eyes and mouth to convey all that plucky spirit – something he does quite magnificently. Initially he’s a likeable chap with puppy-dog charm, a sports car and an equally charmed life, but then he’s struck down while working in Africa while only in his mid 20s. After sinking into misery and wishing those euthanasia laws would hurry up and get passed (for about two frames), he gets a stern talking to from his pretty wife (Claire Foy, better known as Her Royal Majesty in The Crown). And soon enough that cheeky grin is back. Determined not to be bed-ridden and institutionalised, he throws all his inventive energy into making life worth living again, both for himself and all other paralysis victims. His first motorized wheelchair looked pretty silly, and its failings make for some broadly comic (and equally silly but enjoyable) scenes. Only at the end does the emotional register darken, but that tricky terrain is treated with honesty and tact. While not exactly a five-hankie weepie, you’ll have to have a pretty hard, shrivelled-up heart not to be won over by the spirit of the man. And this “absolute corker” of a movie. M from Dec 26. ★★★★
Just To Be Sure
The French may be refreshingly candid about sex, but when dealing with the consequences of it, apparently they’re just as tongue-tied as those uptight Brits. Writer/director Carine Tardieu’s comedy/drama throws us two interlinked curveballs about parentage and possible incest, in both cases easily sorted if only those involved could talk to each other honestly and openly. But since a lot of the charm and humour of this breakout Cannes hit comes from misunderstandings and unlikely coincidence, of course no one does. In the main story, widower Erwan (The Belier Family’s François Damiens) finds out his biological father is not the man who raised him, at the same time falling in love with the daughter (Cécile de France, tough and magnificent) of his apparent real dad (Andre Wilms). Meanwhile his own heavily pregnant daughter is refusing to tell anyone who knocked her up, mysteriously insisting she’ll raise the child without a dad. Of course in these light-hearted French dramadies, a faithful staple of our local art-house cinemas, you know everything will be resolved when the baby (unexpectedly) comes. It is too, but not before some charming surprises. One thing is for sure, Just To Be Sure is sure to be a summer hit for Palace over the holiday season. M from Dec 26. ★★★★
Reviews – Russell Edwards