Quick takes on Monsoon and other films

Hearts and Bones is a subtly great film, meaning it isn’t going to beat you over the head, but it did leave me thinking at the end. There are two main characters. Dan (Hugo Weaving) is a celebrated photojournalist known for his wartime photography. He is getting ready for a big showing of his work at the local gallery when he is approached by Sebastian (Andrew Luri), a Sudanese immigrant. Sebastian begs Dan to not display some of his most famous work, photos that were taken during a massacre in a Sudan village 15 years prior. Dan assumes Sebastian knew people that were killed and doesn’t want those memories resurfaced, but there is more going on here. Also in the background, Dan is suffering from severe PTSD from a career of life harrowing events, as well as fear (explained later) over his partner’s pregnancy. As Dan and Sebastian become friends, more of their stories come out. It is a complex film about life, compassion, and moving on from traumatic events. I don’t think it is everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed the emotional rollercoaster. And who doesn’t love Hugo Weaving? ★★★½

Let Him Go has another aging legendary actor, this time Kevin Costner, and teamed up with a great leading lady in Diane Lane. They play retired lawman George and his wife Margaret, living in the remote, quiet Montana countryside. The films gets started quick: in the opening minutes, we see their adult son die from a fall off a horse, his surviving spouse (their daughter-in-law) Lorna remarry a man named Donny, and then run off to North Dakota with him and her son (their grandson), Jimmy. The problem is, right before they left without a word, Margaret saw Donny hit Jimmy and Lorna in the parking lot in town. Fearing that he will do worse with no one around to keep him in check, George and Margaret pile in the car and take the road trip to track them down. They get more than they expected, when they find that Donny comes from a family of ne’er-do-wells who aren’t going to let Lorna and Jimmy leave them. In a heated confrontation, they chop off George’s fingers with a hatchet. If they think that will stop this former lawman, they have another thing coming. This is a solid drama/thriller. The constant sinister feelings from all of Donny’s family is a bit over the top, and Costner lays on the stoic lawman a little too thick, but for the most part, I was entertained. Nothing too unexpected, things go about the way you’d think, and there is quite a bit of filler in here to get to its 2 hour runtime, but it is solid. ★★½

Monsoon is about a man, Kit, who returns to the country of his birth, Vietnam, after the death of his mother. He’s there to find a suitable place to scatter her ashes, and his brother will be arriving in a few days with the ashes of their father as well, who had previously passed away some time prior. Kit knows nothing about Vietnam; his parents fled with him following the war, when he was only 6, and he was then raised in England. He doesn’t even speak the language, and has just fleeting memories from his early childhood. He meets up with a family who was close friends with his parents (including his old childhood friend, who he barely remembers), and also begins a sexual relationship with a black man who’s father fought for the Americans in the war. Much less a physical journey to find a resting place for his parents, the film is more a spiritual journey of Kit reconnecting with his roots in a country, and with a people, he only remembers in his soul. It’s a lovely film, light on plot but heavy on emotion. To say it progresses slowly is an understatement, as the movie is leisurely in all aspects from dialogue to movement to even the camerawork, which is in juxtaposition to the frenetic pace of the traffic on the Vietnam streets. Kit is played by Henry Golding, of Crazy Rich Asians fame, in an underrated role where all he needs to do is look forlorn and uncomfortable, and he does it well. The movie is directed by Hong Khaou, a name I did not recognize, but when I looked him up, it made sense. His only other film, Lilting, has a much similar feel, and I loved it as well. This movie’s not for everyone and its pace will turn many off, but it is rewarding for those that enjoy this type of film. ★★★★

I seem to be alternating between quiet, contemplative films and actions flicks, so let’s keep that trend alive, and since Let Him Go wasn’t a true action movie, I’m going to balance the scales with a good old disaster movie. Greenland is about a big comet hurtling towards Earth on a collision course. It stars Gerard Butler as John and Morena Baccarin as his wife Allison. They are in a bump in their relationship, but all that is forgotten when the comet comes into play. In the beginning, the news is reporting that it is just small pieces which will break up in our atmosphere, and then later, larger pieces which will strike the ocean harmlessly. When John gets a presidential alert on his phone that his family has been selected for emergency sheltering, he knows something else is going on though. They race from their suburban neighborhood with their kid just as a large chunk hits and levels Tampa, FL, and they feel the shockwave hundreds of miles away. When they finally get to the military base, they are turned away at the last minute when the military discovers that their child has diabetes, and they are not allowing anyone on the transports who is sick or who has a preexisting condition. This leads to a new round of outlandish adventures for our family, as they are separated and then try to find each, and ultimately a safe place. Like all disaster films, all credibility goes out the window as the movie goes along (and not only because of the impending extinction of the human race). The first half of the film was a lot of fun, but as the outlandish events kept piling up, I started to get bored. Never a good thing during an action film. ★★

Ammonite is a fictionalized telling of a part of Mary Anning’s life. Mary was a paleontologist who unearthed marine fossils along the coast of England in the early to mid 19th century. Portrayed by Kate Winslet, she is shown as a lonely and bitter woman, angry at society for having her work go unnoticed or, worse, stolen by men because of her sex. She is known of course in circles in her field, but she doesn’t get the recognition or money that a man would. One day, she meets an admirer of her work named Roderick, who spends the day with her and introduces his wife, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), to Mary. Charolette is depressed, or as they called it back then, “ill,” and Roderick offers to pay Mary to watch over her for a month or so while he travels. Mary needs the money, and so agrees, though she really doesn’t want anyone intruding on her solitude. Very quickly though, Mary begins to have feelings for Charlotte, who reciprocates. The unavoidable comparison is, of course, the recent breakout hit Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but unfortunately there’s no fire in this film. The romance comes too fast and is gone just as quickly, and while Winslet and Ronan are undoubtedly heralded leading ladies, they can’t save the dull, run-of-the-mill plot. ★½

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