REVIEW: Disobedience (2018)

Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola

Written by Ryan Morris

There’s a coldness to the core of Disobedience, Sebastián Lelio’s new romantic drama film,  released months ago across the pond but has only just begun screening in a small number of UK cinemas this week. Its colour palette defined by greys and a general muteness, its characters bundled in coats and walking through clouded cities. Lelio seems to want us to fight to reach the heart of his film – a heart that is unquestionably there, just not always in reach. It makes for gripping, ultimately highly satisfying viewing, even if this battle to embrace the film’s emotional side threatens to hold you at a distance until you can break through the surface and revel in the surplus of complex feeling that awaits you underneath.

Rachel Weisz is Ronit Krushka, a New York City photographer called back to London when her father, a Jewish teacher, dies suddenly. Her return to her roots isn’t quite a happy reunion though, as we slowly come to learn than Ronit was shunned from the community for reasons not yet clear. As she reunites with former friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and his wife Esti (Rachel McAdams), we begin to piece together the full story – Ronit and Esti once shared an attraction, a spark the community long thought in the past but very much one that threatens to reignite with their re-immersion into each other’s lives.

Lelio’s script, co-written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and adapted from Naomi Alderman’s source novel, walks the fine line between preachy and powerful. Disobedience is tackling some weighty subject matter here, concerning itself with themes of religion, sexuality and identity, but the film never makes the mistake of landing as judgemental. It would be easy for Lelio to point the finger at the Jewish community at the core of the film, but he wisely sidesteps the wide-reaching blame in favour of his own characters, resulting in a piece more impassioned than it is accusatory. Ronit and Esti are instantly compelling people, and watching their connection grow from former flames catching eyes in a crowded room to a night of uninterrupted, unmistakeable passion as if the world is theirs and no-one else’s, is both engaging and moving. By avoiding an overwhelming sense of anger or judgment, Lelio finds something notably more personal and microscopic. It’s a relationship that feels lived in, one we desperately want to succeed, even if we know it probably isn’t possible.

This very much comes down to two main factors: the way the film shifts its thematic core as it progresses, and the lead performances from Weisz and McAdams. We’ll start with the former. Disobedience begins on reliable footing, as it pokes into the kind of themes already mentioned here. It quietly establishes the differences in sexuality between Ronit and Esti, exploring them as people within their attraction to each other. It spends time looking at Ronit’s rebuttal of religion, her adamant refusal to conform to what the Jewish community expects of her. It uses these two elements to mark her character, but allows her to be defined by more than that – her determination and her respect for those she cares for are the aspects to her character remember more clearly.

As the film pushes forward, though, Lelio starts to dive deeper into Esti’s marriage with Dovid, finding there a powerful, surprising contemplation on free will and the battle between the lives we ought to lead and the ones we want to. The film tackles such topics in thoughtful ways, dedicating ample time to Esti’s uncertainty rather than posing a simple question and having her confidently resolve it. Sometimes our choices are difficult and sometimes we don’t have all the answers, Disobedience understands this and embraces it. Watching Esti’s struggle here isn’t always easy viewing, especially coupled with a reveal that drops at the end of the second act and threatens to derail both relationships in her life, but it’s persistently riveting in how it portrays her journey. What begins on solid, if familiar, ground has unfolded into something more thematically complex and daring than we perhaps anticipated, and the film is all the richer for it.

Carrying the weight of such dense material are Rachels Weisz and McAdams, both of whom give stunning, deeply felt performances. McAdams is given the quieter role of the two, but she twists this calmness into something bigger than her own character. There’s a history to Esti that McAdams makes us feel, transforming her from victim to empowerment. Weisz has the showier material of the two, mostly due to Ronit’s fiery personality and the circumstances she finds herself in here, but she nonetheless demonstrates control and command. By turns dormant and explosive, Weisz leads from the front and finds a compelling protagonist in Ronit. Both women very clearly feel the burdens of their characters, and both use this to give performances that rank with the best of the year.

That Disobedience succeeds in finding an ending that both refuses to take the easy options and feels entirely satisfying is merely a bonus on top of what is an already rich, complex study of character. It’s perhaps easy to argue that the film lacks the confidence early on that it wears on its sleeve by the end, but this growth can be seen as fundamental to the narrative pathway Disobedience has chosen to charter – it binds itself to its characters and allows itself to reflect what they exude. This is an intelligent romantic drama, with more on its mind than simple “will they / won’t they” dynamics. It’s a story worth telling, told well. You can’t really ask for much more than that.

 

RYAN’S VERDICT:

4

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LFF 2018: The Favourite

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Emma Delves

UK Release Date: January 1st, 2019

Written by Sarah Buddery

It takes a special kind of director to have already forged such a unique visual style and creative method of storytelling, with relatively few major features under his belt. But Yorgos Lanthimos is one such director and one who has undeniably earned that often used mantle of “visionary” director.

Seconds into a Lanthimos film, you know who the director is, and you also know you’re in for a wild time. His films tend to divide opinion, but it is fair to say that The Favourite is his most accessible film to date. Hopefully, this then opens up the doors into the rest of his filmography and new people can discover the diversity in his films that lies behind it!

The Favourite focuses on three female characters; the petulant Queen Anne (Colman), her devoted friend Lady Sarah (Weisz), and the new servant Abigail (Stone). What follows is a riotous period romp as Lady Sarah and Abigail fight for the Queen’s attention. The Favourite is a film that veers wildly between the grotesque and the sublime, and Lanthimos’ trademark offbeat and jet-black comedy runs right through it.

Lanthimos’ equally unique visual stamp is all over this movie. There are moments of precise Kubrickian symmetry in some of the tracking shots, and it’s full of weird angles, whip-pans and fisheye lenses. The Favourite is a decadent and sumptuous feast for the eyes. This is a playful film, one that toys with you, and also one that feels indulgent, whimsical, and wild. Fans of this director will know what to expect, and The Favourite absolutely does not disappoint in this sense.

It’s possibly the highest possible compliment you could pay, given her career so far, but this is possibly the best performance of Olivia Colman’s career. She is clearly having tremendous fun with the role, but she has a remarkable knack for making the Queen consistently likeable, even in the most outrageous moments. It’s a committed and tremendously physical role for her as well, and she absolutely astounds. Equally, Weisz and Stone give terrific performances and the three of them together have a chemistry that simply lights up the screen.

Where previously his film’s have proved divisive, The Favourite may just be the film that changes people’s minds on Yorgos Lanthimos. Its exceptional A-List cast might be the major draw for some people, but The Favourite has so much more to offer beyond that. Wickedly funny and delectably dark, this is Lanthimos’ strongest film of his career, and one of the best films of the year. Go on, indulge yourselves!

Sarah’s Verdict:

5

New Trailer For Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘The Favourite’ Sees Rachel Weisz And Emma Stone Become Rivals

“Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfil her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.”

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, Mark Gatiss

Release Date: January 1st, 2019

The Headliners & Hidden Gems At The 62nd BFI London Film Festival

Yesterday saw the announcement of the full line-up of films for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival (LFF), and boy is there a ton to get your teeth stuck into! But this year we have even more reason to be excited as JUMPCUT will attending and covering the festival for the first time ever!

We’ll be covering a whole range of films screening at the festival, including some of the headliners and hidden gems! JUMPCUT’s LFF Queen Sarah has kindly picked out just some of the films she thinks you are going to want to keep your eye on!

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The Headliners

Widows
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya

Why it is worth a watch: I mean that cast list alone is worth the admission price, but this female-fronted action thriller is also helmed by the man who brought us 12 Years a Slave, a film which previously enjoyed awards success. But the talent doesn’t end there, Widows is penned by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and Hans Zimmer provides the score. This is an action movie of the highest calibre and one that will be well worth your time and money.

Screening at LFF: 10th, 11th, 12th October
UK Wider Release Date: 6th November 2018

Stan & Ollie
Directed by: Jon S Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C Reilly, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston

Why it is worth a watch: An ode to cinema, entertainment, and with two leading actors known for their brilliance as physical comedians, Stan & Ollie seems like the perfect film to close out London Film Festival. Coogan and Reilly bring beloved comedians Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy to life on the big screen, focusing on the twilight years of their career. This is set to be a real crowd-pleaser and the most fitting curtain call for the festival.

Screening at LFF: 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 11th January 2019

The Favourite
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz

Why it is worth a watch: A divisive filmmaker, but certainly one that gets people talking, Yorgos Lanthimos brings his third English-language film in four years to the London Film Festival. With stand-out performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, The Favourite promises to be bizarre, bonkers, and brilliant!

Screening at LFF: 18th, 19th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st January 2019

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck

Why it is worth a watch: It’s the Coen Brothers! In all seriousness, the latest from the incomparable Coens promises to be wild (west) entertainment, hilarious, offbeat, and surprisingly melancholic. Dark humour and the trademark Coen brothers flair will be here in abundance

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Screening at LFF: 12th, 13th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Beautiful Boy
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan

Why it is worth a watch: Just try and get through the trailer to this one without crying. Sometimes you just need to let it all out, and this will be the film that gets audiences at LFF reaching for the tissues. Starring man-of-the-moment Timothee Chalamet, hot off the heels of last year’s Call Me By Your Name, and Steve Carell in what is set to be another great dramatic role for him, Beautiful Boy will be the one to watch for those early Best Actor hints…

Screening at LFF: 13th, 14th, 16th October
UK Wider Release Date: 18th January 2019

Suspiria
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Chloe Grace Moretz

Why it is worth a watch: Full disclaimer, I am a massive horror wuss and will therefore not be seeing this on the big screen, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention it here. There is no denying the trailer is stunning, and the hype levels amongst the JumpCut team have reached fever-pitch for this one. It won’t be for everyone but it’ll certainly be a talking point. And also it has Tilda Swinton in it; you can’t go wrong!

Screening at LFF: 16th, 17th, 19th October
UK Wider Release Date: 16th November 2019

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The Hidden Gems

Wild Rose
Directed by: Tom Harper
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters

Why it is worth a watch: After impressing in Beast, Jessie Buckley stars in what is set to another impressive film. A Glaswegian single mum dreams of being a country singer, how hard could it be?! This is the sort of film that will make your heart soar, and with Julie Walters also appearing, it is hard not to draw comparisons with the underdog story of Billy Elliot. This film is already set to be one of the truly underrated gems of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 15th, 16th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 8th February 2019

The Hate U Give
Directed by: George Tillman Jr
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Common

Why it is worth a watch: Adapted from Angie Thomas’ ‘Black Lives Matter’-inspired Young Adult novel, this film certainly feels like an important one, and one which is sadly still so relevant. Focusing on the young lives affected by the tragic shootings of their peers, the BFI are also offering £5 tickets to see this one for 16 to 25 year olds. Even outside of this age range, this film has a lot to offer, promising to be a powerful and timely watch.

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 26th October 2018

Assassination Nation
Directed by: Sam Levinson
Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Bella Thorne

Why it is worth a watch: Don’t let the early trigger warnings put you off, this is a film that bears everything upfront and then unleashes all hell. Assassination Nation is the Salem witch trials meets the digital generation in this thoroughly modern cautionary tale, and one which is poised to join other teen cult classics such as Heathers and Spring Breakers. Subversive and utterly unique, this could be one of the surprise hits of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 23rd November 2018

Burning
Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo, Steven Yeun

Why it is worth a watch: This film wowed audiences at Cannes, which is often the mark of a successful festival film! This lean slow-burning thriller promises to have you gripped right from the start, as well as exploring complex themes such as obsession, class-conflict and suppressed male rage. It will be unlikely to have a wide cinema release, so catch this one at the festival whilst you can!

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st February 2019

Mandy
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache

Why it is worth a watch: Yes, Nicolas Cage. Stop reading now! Just kidding, this synopsis alone is enough to make you want to see it so we’re not even going to add to it: “In a mountain-cabin idyll, lumberjack Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) lives in perfect harmony with his great love Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). But the couple’s blissful utopia is cruelly shattered when a ragtag band of Satanic cultists invade their humble abode and claim Mandy for their own. Traumatised and distraught, Red is left with no option but to exact a bloody revenge.” (Michael Blyth, BFI)

Screening at LFF: 11, 12, 17th
UK Wider Release Date: 12th October 2018

Blaze
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell

Why it is worth a watch: Ethan Hawke is having quite the year, and fresh from his acclaimed performance in First Reformed, his latest directorial offering his heading to LFF. This biopic about a little known musician is shot with affection and true passion that is hard to replicate, and quite frankly anything Ethan Hawke is passionate about, we love already!

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Bow Before Olivia Colman In The First Teaser Trailer For Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘The Favourite’

Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfil her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, Mark Gatiss

Release Date: January 1st, 2019

My Cousin Rachel

Year: 2017
Director: Roger Michell
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glenn, Holliday Grainger

Written by Abbie Eales

Roger Michell, probably best known as the director of Notting Hill, brings us this fresh take on Daphne Du Maurier’s dark thriller, ‘My Cousin Rachel’. A wealthy young man, Philip (Claflin) plots revenge against his mysterious cousin Rachel (Weisz), believing her to have murdered his guardian Ambrose, following their seemingly hasty marriage in Italy in an attempt to gain his fortune. The story itself is not so much of a whodunnit, but rather a ‘did she do it?’ as we take Philip’s perspective in attempting to unravel the true story of his guardian’s death.

The book had previously been brought to life in 1952, just a year after the publication of the source novel, in a lavish affair starring Richard Burton and Olivia De Havilland which, while not quite reaching the heights of fame of other Du Maurier adaptations ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’, was considered a cinematic success and was nominated for 4 academy awards. To attempt another adaptation could be seen as a bold move, but Michell and team do bring a breath of fresh air to the story.

During the early scenes of the film we only hear about the mysterious Rachel through letters and gossip, she comes into Philip’s life not with the bang and confrontation he had been expecting, but with an understated entrance that means our first view of her is silhouetted against the moon, her back to a window. Rather than the monster we are led to expect, Rachel is quiet, funny and warm, with the household’s army of dogs following her about loyally from the moment she arrives.

As Philip’s infatuation grows, Rachel remains a mystery. She seems genuine in her affections for her departed husband Ambrose (the ‘great family resemblance’ is achieved by Claflin playing both roles) but why does she keep plying Philip with that odd herbal tea…?

Weisz plays Rachel with great skill, with Michell seeming to lead our expectations one way as a single glance leads us another. Rachel seems decidedly modern and at odds with the stifling societal expectations exhibited by all those around her. Indeed the fact that she is a woman ‘of appetites’ is whispered knowingly by several of the supporting cast. However Weisz ensures Rachel flits between being charming and likeable then cold and standoffish, just enough to keep us asking ourselves if she could really be capable of murder.

Claflin plays Philip every inch as the ‘wet-nosed- puppy’ Rachel describes him, which does become grating at times. Seeing the world through Philip’s eyes is a somewhat disarming and claustrophobic experience, with the view sometimes becoming as blank and shallow as he seems.

Philip’s lack of experience with women is referenced several times, and indeed the view of Rachel we are given is one buried beneath his own misunderstanding and confusion, alongside a burning attraction and fascination. The whole film could be seen as a giant metaphor for modern cinema, as we struggle along with an old-fashioned male gaze trying to depict highly complex modern womanhood.

While the longing glances and candlelit encounters increase, the orchestral score swells, keeping true to the genre. Other melodramatic tropes abound, from the waves crashing on the shore to the string of pearls breaking and scattering down the stairs.

The film may seem a little slow for some tastes, but the many threads of the story are drawn together in a deft web for the final act. Audiences have been discussing their view of Rachel for over 50 years, and this won’t change that, but ultimately My Cousin Rachel is a well-made period melodrama with an interesting modern twist.

Abbies verdict: 7.3 out of 10

Oscars 2016: Best Picture Predictions

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

The approach of the winter months doesn’t just mean it’s time to go shopping for a new coat, because with the cold weather and shorter days comes a growing desire for people to discuss The Oscars. It may be more than four months until the 88th Academy Awards, but that doesn’t stop anyone speculating as to who the winners and losers will be on the big night. To be honest, I’ve been guessing since this year’s ceremony ended, and whilst guesses are all we have for now, The Academy certainly have a distinct pattern to their choices, hence the term “Oscar bait”. Here are the films that are likely to make the cut and be nominated in the Best Picture category.

And the nominees are…

Sicario
Arguably, this intense thriller from Denis Villeneuve (who directed the fantastic Prisoners) is the film which started the ball rolling with all this Oscars buzz. As one of the few films in this list that has actually been released in cinemas, I can offer my personal opinion of ‘Sicario’, and if it was up to me, this would be the winner. Whilst myself, and many others, love this gritty crime flick though, it’s unlikely that ‘Sicario’ will go further than a nomination.

Steve Jobs
Nothing gets The Academy’s attention like a biopic, and with the late founder of Apple taking centre stage in this Danny Boyle production, ‘Steve Jobs’ is about as relevant as they come. A fantastic cast, led by the very talented Michael Fassbender, and Academy favourite Kate Winslet in support, ‘Steve Jobs’ has been garnering praise from early viewings and could be the frontrunner for the Best Picture award.

Suffragette
If there’s anything The Academy loves more than a biopic, it’s controversy. A cast boasting some of the best actresses around – including Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter – should boost ‘Suffragette’ and allow the feminist movement to be represented next February. It also helps that various stars, including Meryl Streep herself, voiced their concerns over the lack of opportunities and equality for women at this year’s ceremony.

Bridge Of Spies
The man responsible for classics such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Steven Spielberg, is back, and has teamed up with legendary actor, Tom Hanks, for this cold war drama. Both of these men are probably sick of the sight of these trophies, but it is very likely that this winning recipe will earn them a few more nominations to add to their resumé.

The Revenant
One man who certainly wouldn’t mind getting hold of a golden statuette is Leonardo DiCaprio, and whilst we’re sure Tom Hanks could just lend him one for the weekend, we don’t think that would quite be the same. By hooking up with Tom Hardy, and last year’s big winner Alejandro González Iñárritu (director of Birdman), Leo may well have given  himself his best chance yet at grabbing a personal award and leading his film to glory. Could Iñárritu win back-to-back Best Picture awards?

Joy
Another winning team come together once again, to bring us ‘Joy’ this Christmas. Director David O Russell, who has received nominations for his last three films (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), joins forces with Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, and familiar faces Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, in what could be a perfectly crafted, Oscar-bait picture. Whilst unlikely to win the top gong, it would be a surprise to see this one snubbed.

The Lobster
The film festival circuit isn’t just a fun way to spend your summer, it’s actually a breeding ground for hot productions hoping to catch the eye of The Academy. Pretty much every year there will be one or two films that thrive in the quirky world of film festivals and make it to the big stage for The Oscars. With an interesting plot, big name stars in Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell, and plenty of hype from critics, ‘The Lobster’ could well crawl its way into the Best Picture category.

Carol
The big success story from the film festival circuit however, is undoubtedly ‘Carol’. This film, which sees Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara embark on a complicated lesbian relationship, has been lauded by critics all summer and will continue to be praised all the way through winter as it arrives in mainstream cinema theatres. It’s an outside shot, but this low-key, artistic offering could well beat the big names and steal the top prize next February.

So, with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ unlikely to get the nod from The Academy, in favour of something more stylistically brilliant (they don’t know what they’re missing), my money is on ‘Carol’ and ‘Steve Jobs’ to fight this one out.