Film Review of Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin

A rare and uncomfortable film (based on a novel), We Need To Talk About Kevin addresses many psychological tiffs. Besides the more conspicuous ‘nature versus nurture’ debate. The film takes you down a different kind of rabbit hole, quite bizarre, gritty, and disturbing. And that’s the Oedipus Complex. The mother-son bond that depravedly relates to incest or “Oedipal love.” But in this film, that love, affection, maybe even lust reverts to hate, hostility, and provocation.

You see the self-assertive and withdrawn mother, Eva, navigate a difficult and acutely-visceral son, Kevin. The story is binary, constantly perplexed and overwhelmed by the mother’s and son’s lives. Around them, the husband, Franklin, and their second daughter, Celia, exist as shadows… perhaps of their psyche. It’s because of films like these that I don’t read about a film, the plot, reviews, etc. before watching it. The suspense and anticipation of every next second, the acting, dialogue, character development, setting, and highlights feel authentic and unavoidable as in real life.

The film goes to extremes and can be too much to take in. Period. It faces something much more sincere than motherhood and parenting. A human is fragile and unconscious, especially during childhood, and exempt but privy to such acute mental and psychophysical conditioning. It’s insane how knowing and perceiving are two exclusive faculties. The film highlights this while exemplifying antisocial behavior as confused – in the clutch of subjective and objective realities.

The tomatoes, the color red, the desensitizing glares, the hollow shelves and furniture, the toilet training, diapers, the hair. We Need To Talk About Kevin refers to a conversation that comprises of such visual details. Exhibiting a distressing, remissive, and damnable state of mind. The kind that most people don’t think about or even imagine but it’s there as if hereditary.

Film Review of Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Celine Sciamma gathers all of life’s longing and affection, those you have felt and have had to let go of and those that are yet to come, into an embracive and enigmatic film. The Portrait of a Lady on Fire bridges the ephemeral with the everlasting. It’s a reflection of sentimental love, blotched in the very absence that it contains and soon this very absence deepens and vibrates the void too malignant and brusque to contain it.

Compare it to Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color, this film’s softer, more isolated, more real. The love affair is arousing and tender and startling not because it’s “forbidden.” But because it blends the artistic with the emotional… the naked, rawness of romance that makes the film distinctly spiritual and emotional.

Female desire – as wavering and intense to be captured on screen– is spirit rather than substance which, in ordinary life, is where the storm is felt the most. And films like Portrait of a Lady on Fire explore and ignite such an invisible force of nature. It’s essential cinema in that it’s indispensable. If the synthesis of a self is what is rather than what can be – then the past, present, and future spent in such deep affection is not time-bound. It’s the sum of all the experiences, emotions, and frustrations that that love arouses in us. It allows us to internalize it, embrace it, give it meaning, and for most of us, watch it recede as the sun sets on our desperation to love, our destructibility. And our wanting to never miss out on what could happen though it never once did.

Film Review of Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies

What is life, in contrast to never having one, when the living of it, in all its time-bound realms, is excused as fate? The word ‘generation’ marks a period in which a whole life is contained. A life’s share of the universe, catastrophes, upheavals, and profound sensibilities. But is a generation enough to epitomize a political and religious revolution? This film explores the depths of fulfilling such a prophecy.

Incendies builds an emotional, visceral, and cerebral world. The film manifests what I’d like to think of as the psychosis of a vision and the justification of freedom. The constant stirring of time in a pot uninhibited by its fantasies. As a result, you see the life of Nawal through the lens of her children’s incomplete memories of their mother.

The story is gripping and embracive. The film feels like a time machine taking you back and forth – stopping time, quickening it, reversing it – only to fit the cryptic capacity of Denis Villeneuve’s magnetic story. The choice of background score is profound and deeply disturbing. Nothing that feels out of place in a setting as intense and restless.

Some stories are narrated beyond words. But they can be heard as intimately as the pounding of one’s own heart. And the memories of Nawal, the life of her children, and the crux of this film are parts of them. They grab you by the throat and never let go.

Film Review of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite

I felt no hesitation when I booked my tickets for this film; my first foreign film on the big screen. Be that as it may, this, in fact, was my third time watching Parasite.

The film follows a chain of command. It’s an immediate setting, a disparaging, a binding atmosphere shrouded in eccentric and gasping possessions. And then some. Bong has thoughtfully crafted his characters, their dialogue, and the spaces that contain them. The term ‘parasite’ for a film this tragic yet amusing is cryptic. It permeates the plot and one’s comprehension of it.

Bong’s other film Snowpiercer, created a horizontal pecking order. A spectacular schism of sight, sound, and sensation. In Parasite, the vertical – high to low dimensions – create a strange, icky, and tentacled feeling. No matter how grotesque and unrelenting this may be to see, it’s a source. A source that contains and feeds everything else. As precious and indispensable as a seed is to the plant and a brush to the painting.

Conveying the differences in lifestyle, conduct, perhaps even morality, through Parasite’s stunning architectural lens, Parasite is unconventional. It’s done in unconventional strokes but the picture is quite ordinary and relatable. You have an objective perspective dividing the rich from the poor and the in-betweeners. And to make this possible, Parasite’s symmetry is built from the ground up. It’s artistic, intimate, and infiltrating.

The rich house – with its floors, glass walls, perfectly-sculpted furniture, and a geometric emphasis on space is the perfect dissection of a condescendingly cadenced life. The poor house – with its half-basement blends into its own stationery construct. It’s soft, disheveled, and raw. And there’s always the camera taking you back and forth these two lives. The swift, eye-beholding radiance of it all, the naivety, foolishness, the unmistakable captivity. It’s all ensconced in this “metaphorical” and provoking film.

Euphoria (2019) – Sam Levinson

First off, to describe the core of this TV series as plainly as a “group of high school students who grapple with issues of drugs, sex, and violence” is not even cutting it. It definitely deserves a better introduction on all streaming sites and IMDB.

From start to finish, every second, every transition, is heavy with unimaginable confrontations. And of all kinds including mental, emotional, visceral, and carnal. This show incarnates the essence of conscience as it is best defined by the turmoil it causes in one’s psyche. Euphoria is gratifying, disturbing, and intrepid in its making.

The characters – Rue, Jules, Fezco, and Cassie being some of my favorites, build a sense of acute awareness for the world they’re living in. They’re in it, there’s no escape, and no reason why one should escape.

The show is salvaged by its brutal renderings in a way that feels as if you’re the one experiencing it. The gripping cinematography and the courageous soundtrack respond more to the inner voices of the characters. It’s the version of a story society wants you to pretend to forget. The addiction, the betrayal, the bullying, the body-shaming, the insecurities, and concocted sexuality.

It’s a fable of truths – a string of hard truths – plucked out one by one from a system too cruel, selfish, and monumental to bring to a screeching halt. The aftermath is a twisted show that defines the undefinable with its trembling honesty.

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) – Alain Resnais

A mysterious film that redefines the intimacies of visual storytelling. Hiroshima Mon Amour is the first time a film has had a deep melancholic impact on my understanding of time. The film blends into its dire past, ill-fated present, and uncertain future. It instills in the viewer indescribable spontaneity to experience the unstudied moments of life.

The kind of curiosity that hesitates to step out of its shadow and play with the light. You can feel this game of shadow and light as you watch the film. Its poetic capacity lies in its execution. But its soul is in the way the director, Alain Resnais, has realized the scope of the story, its characters, and its philosophy.

Hiroshima Mon Amour remains, to this day, a reminder of the scarred footprints of time abandoned after the winds of war have passed. The cinematography is rememberable. Some scenes in the film, subtle and visceral, reveal the vulnerability of a historic phenomenon. While the others are charged with intellectual and temperamental vigor.

It’s a film that yearns, remembers, and celebrates its singularity. It stops the flow of time. Sharpens your presence through the lives of its characters. And allows its viewers complete scrutiny and soul-searching as instances of death, survival, and memorabilia are meditated upon.

Roma (2018) – Alfonso Cuaron

It’s fracturable enough to feel emotions. The tide of which unravels slowly until a deep sense of grief envelops us. Now imagine what it would be like to exteriorize that withdrawal from reality. What manifests is a colorful and enigmatic film about all forms of rejection in society and inconsolable bearings.

Roma is about women with a touch of soul-crushing humane contradictions. The kind that questions motherhood as much as it does upbringing. Lives that shoulder the weight of an uncertain and restless history wrapped in nuances that are difficult to go on with. But life goes on.

The film is deeply imaginative and characteristic. Shot in black-and-white, Alfonso Cuaron, being the film’s director, writer, cinematographer, and editor, has understood the fragility of the setting against the ruggedness of its characters.

The true mark of filmmaking is when you can glimpse and meditate on one’s depth through the most ordinary acts of the story. Like scrubbing the floor, standing under the shower, kissing a loved one goodnight, or even looking for someone in a crowd. Every filmmaker knows this but only a few are able to employ it and make it unnoticeably real. Films like Roma, Capernaum, The Lunchbox, Wong Kar-Wai’s films are some of them.

The Hateful Eight (2015) – Quentin Tarantino

A bold and cruel movie, The Hateful Eight comes off as unhinged and even provocative. Quentin makes a conscious effort to show it just as it’s named: hateful. Though the violence and graphic display of blood and brains seemed a little over-the-top, the movie does comprise of a few noteworthy scenes.

It’s slow-paced, at first, and sort of ambiguous in its expression. But it does quicken once you get to know the characters and their temperament. It’s the kind of film that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. Not because of Tarantino as a filmmaker, but the characters themselves compel you to anticipate a disastrous and defining ending.

The dialogue and the screen time that each character shares. The way the camera captures every facial twitch just in time to build suspense. All your anticipations about the film evaporate through nasty provocations and oftentimes unpleasant slurs. You know it’s about to come to an end but you’ve got to know how.

The cinematography, though confined to a cramped cabin, is stimulating. The film reads like a book with talks about the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s letter, and Maj. Marquis Warren’s savageness. Tarantino leaves nothing to guesswork. It’s a story about how a group of men use words under the same light as artillery, in order to kill and be killed.

Irreversible (2003) – Gaspar Noe

By refusing to follow through in a chronological format, Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible deflects one’s perspective on violence, sex, and crime in films. The film is frank, explicit, and ironically, reversible in every sense. It has structure, definition, and motive in both ways. Though watching it irreversibly, or as it is, is undoubtedly more cerebral.

The film places plenty of emphasis on expression. Expression by sound, light, and the spaces in between. It’s fast-paced, all-pervading, and unwatchable. Never have I seen such a repulsive film with such strong a message; that violence, when seen through the lens of revenge, is ugly and non-censored.

And the crime, which is one of the most disturbing scenes of the film, manifests as physical pain, unflinchingly felt, through spasms and bouts of shock, disgust, and anger. You’re cornered to a point of no return where what is at stake is how much you can endure and if you do watch every second of the film, there’s no way to recover from what you’ve just seen.

Irreversible recoils in time. It possesses extremity in sight, sound, and rhythm. It lacks the blurriness that we’re generally conditioned to in films and so the cinematography really puts one in an uncomfortable spot. It argues what reality can be when denied of its televised and printed privilege. That one can’t exploit crime when it’s right in front of you. So what if a film makes it moral – without allowing you to shut your eyes.

Spirited Away (2002) – Hayao Miyazaki

Spirited Away is considered as Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus. It strips quintessential animated films of its emphatically exaggerated genre. While Miyazaki brings this film a little more down to earth; embracing a mystical and profound manner. The film draws its essence from its monumental conception. The stringing together of microscopic elements; a brilliant stroke of genius in imagination and creativity.

Spirited Away considers the universe as it is. And that is in its infinitesimal and varied format. It’s a film about sensibility, empathy, and philanthropy. A reverie which reflects the generous aspects of human nature up against the most repulsive. Untranslated feelings, a dictionary of characters, and lyrical affectations later, this film holds its lighthearted tone from beginning to end.

If you allow it, this film can fill you up with a sense of whimsy and wonder. Sometimes explicitly, sometimes in whisperings, and sometimes in anguish. Spirited Away has a way with both its characters and words. It’s like paying attention to the night sky spotted with stars; each star demands attention so you can never forget their luminous glow even if it’s not a part of this world… or yours.