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Film Reviews Movie Reviews

Two-Film Review: I’m No Longer Here & Minari

Real American Stories

by A.R. Solar

Two new movies—one in Mexican vernacular Spanish and the other in Korean—use realism to depict the hearts and lives of the newest arrivals to the United States. Fernando Frías’ I’m No Longer Here and Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari are films that delve deeply into the lives of American immigrants—real people, not soundbites on the evening news.

Both artworks explore culture and family, how these people dance, how they talk, how they deal with conflict in their daily lives. The result is a feeling that you really know them, which serves viewers better than movies that rely on simplistic caricatures.

I’m No Longer Here is the story of a young man who finds himself in the crosshairs of an ambitious drug cartel in Monterrey, Mexico. He flees for the U.S., but becomes homesick for his own small-time gang and their adopted, music-rich lifestyle called kolombia. Gritty and handsomely photographed, the film satisfies on both intellectual and visceral levels.

Minari is a delicately observed and efficiently realized movie about a young family of four from Korea. They move to Arkansas determined to farm their way to financial independence. Mom and dad work at a chicken hatchery while dad slowly develops the crops. The conflicts and obstacles along the way help reveal the filmmakers’ philosophy on the true meanings of family and home. Fine performances, led by Steven Yeun as the father, combine with a smart script full of symbolism to form this picture of quiet power and unusual insight.

I’m No Longer Here and Minari are deservedly receiving nominations this awards season. They’d be worth seeking out if they were hard to find, which they aren’t. They’re streaming on Netflix and Prime Video respectively.

the international CRITIQUE ratings:

I’m No Longer Here

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Minari

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Film Reviews Movie Reviews

Film Review: Ammonite

by A.R. Solar

Writer-director Francis Lee (God’s Own Country [2017]) tells a story here loosely based on the celebrated early-19th-Century English paleontologist Mary Anning. 

The biodiversity of the English Channel coast over the millennia resulted in all manner of objects of geological and archeological interest, attracting the talented scientist Anning and, eventually, tourists. It’s a wholly believable and relatable tale: a human being living daily with the crunch of stones beneath her feet, and the abrasiveness of fossils at her hands, comes to crave the softness of another’s flesh.

Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones (God’s Own Country), and James McArdle (Mary Queen of Scots [2018]) highly satisfy in the striking degree to which they inhabit their roles. The director steers Ammonite away from all things ponderous, and the actors transmit the on-location fun to the audience.

I can’t think of a recent film in which sound design was so important to the themes, or one in which it was so successfully realized—the waves lapping at the shore, the clicks and rubbing together of wet pebbles. Perfect angles and lighting from cinematographer Stephane Fontaine also contribute to the sublime atmosphere. A parade of fantastic stovepipe hats leads the way in the creative, enjoyable costume design. The movie is rich with symbolism, which works for it and, to a lesser degree, against it.

In the end, Ammonite is a lusty steampunk study in contrast and texture. One that invites the viewer to scrape away their own fossilized layers and lay themselves bare, soft, and vulnerable to love.

the international CRITIQUE rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.