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Sundance: The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future

Nature sings in Francisca Alegría’s magical realism film The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future. Magdalena (Mia Maestro) has emerged from the waters where she committed suicide many years ago. She visits the members of her family who all have different reactions to seeing her. Magdalena doesn’t speak but brings an energy with her that sparks electricity and makes the cows, the bees, the fish and other elements of nature sing beautiful music. While herr family is confused by her presence, Magdalena offers no closure; just reconnection.

This hauntingly beautiful Chilean fable reminds us that we are one with nature and we must protect it. It’s not a film to make sense of. Rather one to simply experience.

The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future premiered at the 2022 Sundance FIlm Festival.

The Worst Person in the World

“I’ve never seen anything through. I go from one thing to another.”

Have you ever felt like a complete failure? Like you’re the worst person in the world? These feelings plague Julie (Renate Reinsve), a 20-something college student who isn’t sure what path she wants to take in life. Every new career move leads her to a new guy but she just can’t quite stay put. That is until she meets comic book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie). He’s older, a bit wiser and absolutely smitten with her. As Julie turns 30 and they move in together, she finds herself at a crossroads. That restlessness seeps back in. She then meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) at a party and the two can’t help but be drawn to each other. With both Julie and Eivind in separate committed relationships, the world seems to stop just for them. But then reality hits Julie hard as she must reckon with her relationships and her path moving forward.

“Nothing’s ever good enough. The only thing worse than all the idiots is yourself.”

Directed by Joachim Trier, The Worst Person in the World is a richly layered portrait of a young woman in flux. I’m not usually drawn to stories like this but I couldn’t help but be captivated by this one. It’s structured much like a novel and features an introduction, twelve chapters and an epilogue. Oslo, Norway serves as the setting and a gorgeous backdrop for the story. Julie’s decisions in life seem to be solely influenced by the men in her life, whether it’s Aksel, Eivind, another boyfriend or her emotionally distant father. It’s takes a major life event for her to rely on just herself. The film does suffer a bit from a strong male gaze and male perspective especially considering the focus is on the female protagonist. However, Renate Reinsve does at complexity to her character which makes Julie a character you can both sympathize and be frustrated with.

The Worst Person in the World is distributed by Neon and will release in theaters February 4th.

The Feast

Directed by Lee Haven Jones, The Feast is a Welsh horror film that pits the characters’ own greed and selfishness against themselves. Glenda (Nia Roberts) and Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) are hosting a dinner party at their home to convince their neighbor Mair (Lisa Palfrey) to take a business proposition from Euros (Rhodri Meilir). Gwyn is a politician who’s made money hand over fist with shady business deals especially when it comes to crude oil. Their sons Gweirydd (Sion Alun Davies) and Guto (Steffan Cennydd) are outliers at the party, bitter against their parents and both engage in their own forms of self-punishment. The force of chaos comes in the form of Cadi (Annes Elwy) a young woman Glenda has hired to help with the dinner. Cadi is mysterious, quiet and about to give the dinner guests a taste of their own medicine.

The Feast is a visually captivating but ultimately shallow revenge horror film. The conceit is neither explained nor is it able to be pieced together with clues from different scenes. The mystery lacks resolution and will ultimately leave the viewer unsatisfied. 

The Feast is distributed by IFC Films and available to rent on demand.

AFI Fest: Love, Dad/Milý Tati

Any woman who has grown up in a culture that prizes male heirs over female children know all too well the pain of being a father’s disappointment. Diana had a great relationship with her Vietnamese father during her childhood in the Czech Republic. However, when, after three miscarriages, her mother finally got pregnant again, their relationship came to an abrupt end. Diana’s father left the family, looking to start again in hopes of continuing the bloodline with his name. 

Love, Dad/Milý Tati is a heart-wrenching short film about a young girl who remembers her dad and the bond they had before it was cruelly taken away. It’s beautiful, poetic and deeply melancholic. Directed by Diana Cam Van Nguyen, it tells the story through letters, memories and gorgeous cut paper art.

I was quite moved by this 13 minute film. I’m the third of a string of daughters born to a man who desperately wanted a son. I was lucky that my father never expressed any form of disappointment in only having daughters but I did feel the pang of guilt when the family name died with him. 

Love, Dad/Milý Tati premiered at the 2021 AFI Fest as part of their Shorts Competition.

TIFF: Titane

Something always been a little off about Alexia (Agathe Rousselle). As a child, she did not get along with her emotionally distant father. Their involvement in a terrible car accident sends Alexia to the hospital where doctors treat her skull fracture by adding a titanium plate. Fast forward to more than a decade later and Alexia has developed a lust for metal. She gyrates on top of cars for a living. She’s also the mysterious serial killer who the police are desperate to identify. When one of her victims escapes, Alexia transforms to Adrien, pretending to be firefighter Vincent Legrand’s (Vincent Lindon) long lost son. What Alexia doesn’t realize is that she’s met her match with Vincent. And what Vincent doesn’t realize is that “Adrien” is hiding some terrible secrets.

Directed by Julia Ducournau, Titane is a wild ride. It’s relentlessly brutal, completely bonkers and yet it somehow makes sense even when it doesn’t. Rousselle and Lindon have a raw intensity that is perfect for their messed-up characters. Ducournau explores the father-daughter dynamic in a way I’ve never seen before. There are a few plot holes but you get so sucked into the craziness of the story that they really don’t matter. Titane is not for the faint of heart but if you’re into body horror, this film is for you.

Update: Titane is distributed by Neon and is available to rent on demand.

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