In Review: Shoplifters

Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to the family drama in his Palme D’or-winning Shoplifters, crafting a graceful melodrama about the human contradictions of survival in indifferent societies. Once again the modern master looks at a family dynamic, and one that strays a outside of both the nuclear unit and socioeconomic demands of traditional society. Living in a tucked away shack in Tokyo, the Shibata family’s volatile existence is challenged further when they take in an abused toddler locked out of her home in the cold. Though they originally intend to host the young Yuri for only an evening, they decide to keep her when overhearing the full extent of her parents’ disregard.

What follows is a series of expertly structured and unexpected emotional landmines that keep its questioning of social ethics planted in their inherent humanity. That Kore-eda can do this so gently is part of what makes Shoplifters a masterpiece, what makes it sink into your heart with unassuming ease. Where his contemporaries want punishment and moroseness, he reaches for us to leave the theatre a little more thoughtful about the world around us.

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In Review: Boy Erased

Adapted from Gerrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased paints a picture of repressed queer white middle America, in all of the religious familial practice and assumption of normalcy to go with the setting. Lucas Hedges plays the author (here named Jared Eamons) as he is sent to a gay conversion center called Love In Action by his parents, played by Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. In the hands of sophomore director Joel Edgerton (himself playing Love in Action’s mouthpiece and leader Victor Sykes) however, this search for healing is detrimentally willing to sacrifice what’s real.

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In Review: The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince suffers the familiar strains of the modern biopic, charting the humiliating downfall of Oscar Wilde with structurally scattered and emotionally limited effect. Obviously a project of great importance to Rupert Everett, as the actor wrote and directed the film in addition to starring as the notorious writer, the film is still notably passionate despite its haphazard expediency. What we ultimately get is affectionate portraiture shoved into a soggy package that often mistakes its ping ponging construction for insightful texture.

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In Review: Burning

Cannes sensation Burning opens with a chance encounter between two former schoolmates, establishing director Lee Chang-dong’s masterful equal stronghold of the casual and the consequential before we can even realize it. What Lee patiently, poetically unfolds before us is a potent study of toxic masculinity and economic inequality in the modern era. From a short story called “Barn Burning” by Haruki Murakami, Burning chases the ghosts of brighter futures forever out of reach and a past remembered with darker undertones than we noticed in the moment. It’s haunting stuff, as fascinating as it is difficult to shake.

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In Review: The Oath

When dissension needs to be heard, is it still better to speak with nothing to say than to not speak at all? As Ike Barinholtz’s directorial debut The Oath shows, it may be better leaving the outcry to voices that can convince rather than be simply loud. The film feels spiritually adjacent to the quasi-science fiction of The Purge franchise, portraying a future where the American government institutes a signed oath to the administration, enforced by both shadowy agencies and the social demands of those around us. The potential consequences of opposition are as scary as the futility of dealing with the devoted. But Barinholtz can’t move deeper than the lowest common denominator of his themes.

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