Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Reviews – Part 3 (August 10 – 13)
MIFF may now seem like a long time ago, but hey, I’m still writing mini-reviews for the films I saw at the festival!
Let’s talk about some more films I saw at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Starting with…
Financed in part by the MIFF Premiere Fund, this psychological thriller is the directorial debut from Miranda Nation. Nation is an alumnus of the MIFF Accelerator Lab, a program for emerging short filmmakers seeking a transition to making feature films.
Set in and shot on location in Nation’s hometown of Geelong, Undertow follows Claire (Laura Gordon), a photo-journalist struggling to cope with the pain of a miscarriage. In her grief, Claire begins to become obsessed with Angie (Olivia DeJonge), a pregnant young woman she suspects her footballer husband, Dan (Rob Collins) is having an affair with.
When I first heard about this film, I got very excited. It has a great premise, a solid cast and as a huge Geelong Cats fan, if I see the words ‘Geelong’ and ‘Football’ in your logline, you’ve got my ticket. Unfortunately, this film was a little disappointing.
The film is saved by its cast. Laura Gordon is by far and away the standout of this film. With a lesser actress, this role could have easily come across as very over the top, but Gordon gives an incredibly grounded, emotionally resonant and powerful performance. Olivia DeJonge is also very good. There is much more to her character than what appears on the surface and she does a great job. It was also nice to finally hear her Australian accent in a film, as opposed to her struggling with an American accent in films like The Visit and Better Watch Out.
However, I got the feeling that this film was a little confused on a thematic level and as to what the film was actually trying to say. There are a number of themes and ideas that are never fully realized. Is this film an exploration or celebration of the female experience? Is it a scathing commentary on the toxic, ultra-masculine, boys-club culture of local Aussie rules football teams? The film hints at these concepts, yet sadly didn’t really commit to either of them.
Unfortunately, this film also has some of the worst, most obvious, on-the-nose soundtrack choices I have heard in a film since Suicide Squad. I mean honestly, whose bright idea was it to put Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation in a goddamn sex scene? Seriously, come on.
Ultimately, Undertow is okay. The performances are good and the story is pretty engaging for the most part. It just felt a little unsure of itself of what it wanted to be and what it was trying to say.
Read Nick’s Full Review Here.
Normally if there is already a review on the site, I don’t really add much to what was already said. However, with this film, I have to because while Nick loved this film, I was really let down by it.
Controversial opinion, but I’m just going to come out and say it. The documentary/narrative hybrid structure of this film does not work. I applaud Bart Layton and co. for trying, but it really didn’t work for me. And here’s the reason why: The real life subjects in the documentary section of the film are WAY more interesting than their narrative characterizations.
That’s not to say the acting was bad. I love Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters and I both think that they are very good in this. It’s just that every time a documentary interview with the real guys would show up, I wanted to see more of them and was wishing that this was just a documentary. And the interviews are not even 20% of the film.
Admittedly, the narrative portion of the film has good parts to it and the heist sequences are pretty fun. But in the end, the narrative/documentary hybrid felt kind of pointless. This story would have made a great narrative heist film or a fascinating inept criminal documentary. But combining the two just makes things messy and inconsistent.
The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man
Bill Murray is a much-loved, but very allusive celebrity. You have probably heard all the stories of his spontaneous and bizarre appearances that have become urban legends. Documentarian Tommy Avallone, as if searching for Bigfoot, follows the trail of these crazy Bill Murray stories to try to understand what it is about this mythical man and why he does these random acts of joy and kindness.
This documentary is unfortunately a little weak in its presentation. The way the director inserted himself into the film and the meager 70-minute runtime made this feel more like a television or a Netflix special, rather than a cinematic documentary film.
Nitpicks aside, this documentary is just delightful.
Most of the fun of this film is just listening to these people share their strange encounters with Bill Murray. From reading poetry to workers on a construction site, photobombing a couple’s engagement pictures, serving ice-creams from an LA street stall to even washing dishes at the house party in Scotland, the unbelievable stories just keep coming.
A fun documentary with a very compelling subject that I guarantee will be on some kind of streaming service very soon. Required viewing for Bill Murray fans.
Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu’s second feature film has been getting a lot of attention on the festival circuit for its LGBT love story.
Adapted from Monica Arac de Nyeko’s short story ‘Jambala Tree’, Rafiki tells the story of two young Kenyan women, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva). Despite their fathers being opposing political candidates in the local election, Kena and Ziki begin to fall for each other within their extremely conservative community.
Rafiki has made waves on the festival circuit for two main reasons. The first is that it is the first ever Kenyan film to be selected in official competition at the Cannes Film Festival. However, the second reason isn’t as positive. Due to its alleged “clear intent to promote lesbianism”, Rafiki has been banned in its country of origin, Kenya.
It is infuriating that the audience that would benefit most from seeing this film aren’t allowed to see it. Not only are they missing out on an important and timely film, they are missing a damn good one too. Although some of the dialogue and acting in the first act was a little clunky, Rafiki is equal parts vibrant, charming, delightful, intimate and devastating .
A very touching love story that you should definitely check out if you get a chance.
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is one of the most important voices in world cinema, despite the fact he is banned from making films or leaving the country. But that doesn’t stop him. 3 Faces marks the 4th feature film Panahi has made since the Iranian Government banned him from making films for 20 years back in 2010.
The film stars Panahi and popular Iranian actress, Behnaz Jafari as fictional versions of themselves that receive a video message from a young girl in rural Northwest Iran who is suspected to have killed herself after her parents refused to let her study at the Tehran Drama Observatory. To see if the young girl is still alive, Panahi and Jafari go on a road trip to her village to find her, while meeting the local townsfolk along the way.
Panahi is a filmmaker that addresses very heavy themes and pressing social and political issues in his films (especially post-ban), but they are always surrounded by a very warm and lighthearted sentimentality. He does it again here with 3 Faces. The film addresses issues with gender inequality, suicide and domestic violence, yet the very sentimental tone of the film never diminishes or detracts from what the film is really about.
3 Faces has made me want to seek out the rest of Jafar Panahi’s filmography. A beautifully poignant and sweet film that was a deserving winner of the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes. Although, maybe the travel ban could be lifted so that Panahi doesn’t have to receive his awards at the Tehran airport .
Hearts Beat Loud
Read Nick’s Full Review Here.
Another film that Nick has a review for on the site, so I’ll be brief.
You’ve seen this film a million times before. This is as by-the-numbers, cliché and predictable as American independent cinema gets. This is the most Sundance official selection, American indie, hipster’s wet dream of a film that I have seen in quite sometime.
But, goddamnit. It does it so well and this film is just delightful.
Hearts Beat Loud is the definition of a feel-good film. The sense of pure joy I felt while watching this film elevates what could have been a soulless and empty story into an emotionally rich and joyful experience.
The music is great, the characters are interesting and the cast are all fantastic. After his roles in this film and Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, Nick Offerman is officially one of the coolest movie dads in cinema history.
Hearts Beat Loud is the Sing Street of 2018. An incredibly enjoyable and fun film with great music that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling. I cannot wait to watch this again.
Stay tuned for the 4th and final instalment of my 2018 MIFF wrap-up and keep an eye out for full reviews on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Cold War and 1% all coming soon.
In the meantime, Check out part 2 of my MIFF Wrap-Up on Another Bloody Movie Podcast where I talk in-depth about some of the films mentioned in this series of articles and my guest, Erik Tischer talks about his experience at The Cage-A-Thon, an overnight, 14 hour long Nicolas Cage movie marathon that screened as part of the festival.
Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on the 2018 Melbourne International Film Festival? Comment down below!
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