Anaita Wali Zada, a first-time actor who fled Afghanistan in 2021 with her sister after working for several years as a TV presenter and journalist, is often the lone subject of these images. Her composed, stoic face entrances just as it conceals a dull ache for something Donya struggles to name.
The films of Ira Sachs have balanced their slender narratives with richly resided-in evocations of people and milieus, surveying the uneasy and often breakable bonds between lovers, companions, and kin. But Passages is the first of his dramas whose leanness feels effectively and exhilaratingly taut.
The raw material of the film is the daily, soul-sucking minutiae that comes with choosing and devoting oneself to the artist life in a country that cannot nor will not sustain such endeavors, rendering them ever more impractical without competitive grants, family money, or other such safety nets.
Their rage at the divisions and injustices of the world has only been amplified, but they have faltered at dramatizing how such divisions and injustices might color the more mundane, less sensational circumstances of those experiencing these crises first-hand.
It retains the impassioned clarity of her style while enlisting its primary subject as its co-author. Nan Goldin provides illuminating, clarifying, and always candid commentary on the many chapters of her life in one-on-one interviews with Poitras, conducted on weekends during COVID.
For me, there is one goal as an actor: truth. What is the truth in a situation? Because you are a reference to people. People are spending time to watch you, so you become their reference of a situation... if the audience is spending time watching you, there is a responsibility.
So much of the screenplay is concerned with the flashy presence of big, topical themes like Trauma, Abuse, and Toxic Masculinity. Garland is intrigued by these themes as talking points, but he is incapable of incorporating them into the lived realities of his characters in ways that feel organically rooted in real-world concerns.
Bemoaning or simply acknowledging the metastasis of the “Sundance film” has an obvious tendency of obscuring the nonfiction and non-English narrative entries that premiere at the festival and aren’t likely to be sought out by viewers, especially virtual ones.
Red Rocket offers not a treatise against toxic masculinity, but an embodiment of it, eschewing grand statements that point back to its own topical import in favor of studying a singular character who boasts all of its worst traits with a shameless, belief-beggaring entitlement.
The overlapping bonds that come into focus in The Humans are defined as much by gentle, deep-seated affection as by private griefs, infuriating fallibilities, and past brushes with the void around whose edge so many of us, save for the most privileged, are perpetually circling.
Despite Mills’s best efforts, his fussed-over films can teeter into preciousness, especially in the concluding reunions and resolutions that cohere a little too neatly. Patness isn’t exactly the problem in C’mon C’mon—its ending is actually one of the more open-ended in Mills’s filmography—as much as its dubious blending of fact and fiction.
Hamaguchi leaves room for a viewer to meet his characters in media res during situations augmented by his keen eye for detail, his unidealized world-building, and his understanding that even the most ordinary life is a vessel of passion and pain worthy of cinematic treatment.