A Sun

(Chinese): This film is about a family whose structure begins to disintegrate when their youngest child A-Ho, a troublemaker from his youngest days, ends up serving a 3-year prison sentence. There are two main parts to the film. The first part tells how A-Ho ended up in prison and uses flashbacks to better understand the dynamics of the family. For those who have seen Ordinary People, another remarkable film about a dysfunctional family, it is reminiscent of that film. The second part of the film takes a bit of a shift and becomes a crime drama. Part of the brilliance …

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Blue Jay

Having watched and really enjoyed Alexander Lehmann’s Paddleton, I decided to catch his earlier film, Blue Jay. The entire film consists of two characters (well, there is a very brief encounter with a third minor character). Jim (Mark Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson), old high school sweethearts, and who are now moving toward middle age, meet unexpectedly in a grocery store in a California mountain town. He is there to settle his mother’s estate and sell her house, and she is there for the upcoming birth of her sister’s baby. The film takes place over the course of one afternoon …

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Asperger’s Are Us

After seeing Paddleton, I was interested in other films by Alexandre Lehmann, and I found this film. This is a documentary about four young men – Noah, Ethan, New Michael, and Jack – who are all on the autism spectrum, had formed their own comedy troupe and were preparing to perform their last show. While I would have liked to have had more background on each of them in terms of their growing up years, I was inspired by these four men who set out to do what they loved doing – comedy. It was also great to hear these …

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(Pakistan): This film is about three siblings who return home to Kabul after their father suffers from congestive heart failure. The return home surfaces a number of interpersonal struggles and family secrets that risk fracturing the family. At first glance, it seems like a standard “dysfunctional family dynamics” film. However, the film is really well constructing. The ensemble acting is great. The screenplay is very well crafted, frequently very funny, and keeps coming up with more surprises; I didn’t find it at all predictable. I am impressed with the music; I don’t know anything about Pakistani pop music, but it …

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Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) are two best friends who live next to each other. Michael is diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, and he asks Andy to help him to end his life early before the worst of the illness sets in. The film follows their story after Michael’s decision. I really loved this film. It isn’t perfect – there is one part in particular that seemed not necessary to the overall story – but the film reminded me of Sean Baker films that focus more on character development than plot. Duplass and Romano are excellent and have …

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  • The Shape of Water

    Set in the early 1960’s during the height of the Cold War, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), who is mute, and her friend Eliza (Octavia Spencer) work for a high-security government laboratory as cleaners. Strickland (Michael Shannon, doing his characteristically fantastic job of playing a creepy guy) has recently arrived to safeguard a high security “asset,” an amphibious, human-like creature. Eliza, who is lonely and lives with her gay friend Giles (Richard Jenkins), finds ways to communicate and strike a friendship with the asset through music and sign language. This is visually beautiful and is a beautiful love story as well – …

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