film reviews: JDIFF 2014 – Day Two

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film reviews: JDIFF 2014 – Day Two

As you may or may not know, for the last three years I have served a member of the Dublin Film Critics Circle awards jury for the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Which means that every February I watch a hell of a lot of movies.

I see so many movies during the festival that I don’t usually get a chance to review them, but this year I thought I might take a stab at at least doing a mini review of the ones I got to see each day.

On the first official day of the festival there was only one movie and I didn’t see it… so that’s why you won’t see an article about Day One… but without further ado, here are my thoughts on what I saw of Day Two…

Mother of George, JDIFF 2014

Mother of George

Director: Andrew Dosunmu
Cast: Danai Gurira, Isaach De Bankolé, Yaya Alafia
Country of Origin: US
Duration: 106 minutes
Year: 2013

We meet Nigerian-American couple Adenike and Ayodele on their wedding day in a feast of colours, music, food and love. Despite living in Brooklyn, their Yoruba culture is is obviously hugely important to them… and culture dictates that their union soon be fruitful. But as the years go by and no baby comes, Adenike feels the pressure of tradition bearing down on her and she has to make the choice that may lead her to lose the husband she adores.

Review: It’s a competent piece of work with strong performances for the leads and major supporting characters but it’s heavily let down by overbearing cinematography. Director Andrew Dosunmu is a highly accomplished fashion photographer and while this shows in his excellent acknowledgment of colour and contrast, the careful framing and shallow depth of field which produces beautiful stills quickly becomes distracting to the story. This visual style also hides the fact that, while well performed, there is little depth to many of the characters.

Score: 5/10

The Militant, Uruguay, JDIFF 2014

The Militant

Director: Manolo Nieto
Cast: Felipe Dieste, Rossana Cabrera, Leonor Courtoisie
Country of Origin: Uruguay
Duration: 121 minutes
Year: 2013

When his father suddenly passes away, student activist Ariel Cruz leaves his university blockade and comes back to his hometown to settle up his father’s estate. 2002 is a year of turmoil for Uruguay and Ariel find himself wandering between protests to estate meetings, trying to find a way to connect with everyday life.

Review: Ariel’s struggle is presented in such a way that you are open to draw your own conclusions however the ambling nature of the narrative and long running time mean that it’s far from compelling viewing.

Score: 5/10


The Book Thief

Director: Brian Percival
Cast: Sophie NĂ©lisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Country of Origin: US
Duration: 125 minutes
Year: 2013

The Second World War, as seen through the eyes of a child. Liesel’s mother, fearing capture, sends her daughter away to live with Rosa and Hans Hubermann, a sympathetic German couple. Liesel arrives suddenly and being illiterate has trouble fitting in with the rest of the school children. This struggle to integrate leads her to seek out the written word and builds a bond between her and her foster father Hans.

Review: A warm and charming tale, if terribly safe in terms of dealing with the horrors of the Nazi regime. It’s probably a bit longer than it needs to be and the opening and then infrequent narration by Death is curious and distracting. It’s a relatively pleasant watch, but I’m not sure that’s what you look for out of a World War II film.

Score: 6/10

The Major, Yuri Bykov, JDIFF 2014

The Major

Director: Yuri Bykov
Cast: Yuri Bykov, Denis Shvedov, Irina Nizina
Country of Origin: Russia
Duration: 99 minutes
Year: 2013

Yuri Bykov writes, directs and stars in this tense police thriller. Police Major Sergey Sobolev is rushing to see his wife in the middle of a difficult birth when tragedy strikes. He calls on his station mates to help him in this time of need but before he can take it back, his life becomes permeated with the miasma of greed and corruption.

Review: A strong start means that you’ll find yourself pulled into Sergey’s plight early on however as the stakes are raised the situations become more unlikely and the tension dissipates. Still, it’s an interesting watch but far from a classic.

Score: 7/10


Mystery Road

Director: Ivan Sen
Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten
Country of Origin: Australia
Duration: 121 minutes
Year: 2013

A young Aboriginal girl turns up dead at the side of a road in a known area of prostitution. The police chief is tempted to let the case slide but Jay Swan, an Aboriginal police detective in an all white station, sees something bigger there where no other detective are interested in looking.

Review: Solid police procedural, Aaron Pedersen is excellent as the archetypal trouble hero, recalling the classic Westerns of decades previous. Unfortunately though, as strong as the film is, it’s becoming a tired genre, particularly with the strength of some TV offerings and Mystery Road doesn’t have enough to offer to prove itself as a film with longevity.

Score: 7.5/10

Also screening on Day Two were Messiah, Frost/Nixon and Big Sur. But I didn’t see them.

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