Capsule Reviews: Week 37 / 2020

beach rats

Beach Rats

Eliza Hittman

2017 | USA | 98m

A young man (apparently a teenager), Frankie, meets older men online for sex, keeping up a charade as a straight guy as he gets high with his friends at the beach and starts a relationship with a new girlfriend. This is largely plotless and doesn’t have much in the way of character development, but is a decent slice of life laid-back film that weaves in and out of events in Frankie’s life over a short time. There are some interesting ideas of homosexuality, normalised heterosexuality and just sexuality in general but ultimately these explorations feel shallow and inauthentic. This also stems from an awkward and stilted script where every scene conveniently reveals something really important and deep that it begins to feel like a series of lessons. Though I’m not a gay man, it was also quite clear that the director/writer wasn’t either. Harris Dickinson does ok with what he has at portraying Frankie’s identity crisis, and Madeline Weinstein is convincingly ‘pretty, but empty’, but the other actors make the budget obvious. None of the characters feel real or complex, and this makes its themes of identity fall flat. The film is enjoyable and has a nice mood to it, but it’s very problematic.
invisible man

The Invisible Man

Leigh Whannell

2020 | USA | 124m
Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

I feel like this didn’t really need to present itself as some kind of remake of The Invisible Man, because it was really its own film and it just kind of felt cheap to use the name. It had a lot of interesting ideas about domestic abuse and trauma and these are some of my favourite themes to explore in horror films and it treated them with care. There are some moments of genuine dread and tension, and there are some really cool scenes (eg, the knife scene), and the first half of the film is pretty good. Once everything starts getting revealed, it feels much more cliche and generic. Even the first half isn’t perfect: it is super melodramatic a lot of the time and could’ve had some subtlety and better dialogue. Elisabeth Moss is absolutely awful at being vulnerable and sympathetic in every film/show she’s in and was just the worst possible casting choice for this film and it was never going to be a great film with her leading: she isn’t terrible all the time in this film, but she doesn’t have enough range or charisma to pull off this character.


Shôjirô Nishimi

2017 | France | 94m
Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Thriller

This has a cool dystopian vision and some great world-building, loved all the ghetto run-down stuff and it really captures that grimy urban setting well. The soundtrack was very fitting and gave the film a lot of energy, which helped pump up the tension in the action scenes. The story was fairly simple/generic, but all these elements along with some nice animation and a sense of humour made it work fairly well. I wasn’t really sure what the story was with the weird looking main characters, though. They are kind of unique but could’ve had a little more depth to them instead of just seeming random and quirky for the sake of it.
martin eden

Martin Eden

Pietro Marcello

2019 | Italy | 129m
Drama, Romance

I loved the grainy look, and the first hour exploring Martin’s ‘growth’ as a poor, uneducated man putting in so much effort to become something more than that–was done so well. I thought the first love interest and love story was quite good and I was invested, but she could’ve been a little more complex, and the rest of the ‘love’ stuff didn’t work at all. But as soon as it started getting all political, I started dozing off and didn’t care much. The lead actor was good, very convincing in his transformation and showing the different sides of Martin, particularly his frustration and anger. I didn’t get what the point of the silent reels were, they didn’t make any sense or add anything to me. Overall I did like this, but if I could cut about 30 minutes of political rants it may have been much better.


Naomi Kawase

2017 | Japan | 101m
Drama, Romance

The plot sounded very interesting, but it turns out the film is just overly sentimental rubbish. The scenes discussing her narration of the films, and the way images are interpreted were the only enjoyable parts. I also somewhat liked seeing Nakamori’s descent into blindness and how he slowly has to accept it. But the main character was incredibly bland, and the connection between the two was not at all convincing. Their romance felt creepy, if anything. The music was also terrible and made it all the more sappy, sugary and gross than it already was. I expected more exploration of the way she sees the world and he was slowly not seeing the world, but there wasn’t much of that.
octo teacher

My Octopus Teacher

Pippa Ehrlich & James Reed

2020 | South Africa | 85m

Following an individual animal and getting to see its personality and its journey through life, its ups and downs and the way it learns and develops all of its little animal skills, is always interesting. But the guy was just in it way too much. There were so many shots of him just staring wistfully into the distance and talking into camera, tearing up, and talking about his son and I was like dude I just want the octopus. It was nice to hear about how the octopus ‘taught’ him and how he learnt about the layout of the forest and the holes in the shells and stuff, but the melodramatic nonsense I did not need. I was also hoping for a little more octopus insight, but it was still nice to watch and the underwater shots are really beautiful and the octopus is cute.

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