Rocky Mountain Movies & Denver Movie Review
FOR MOVIE LOVERS WHO AREN'T EASILY SWEPT AWAY
FOR MOVIE LOVERS WHO AREN'T EASILY SWEPT AWAY
Thursday, August 29, 2019
A look at the life of Anton Yelchin
Even if you're not a fan of the late Anton Yelchin, who died in 2016, you may find something of interest in Love, Antosha, a documentary about the young actor's too-brief life. Yelchin was 27 when his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down his driveway, a freak occurrence that resulted in his suffocation when his car trapped him against a fence. Despite his youth, Yelchin boasted a heavy resume; he’d been acting since he was a kid — with relatively few breaks. He appeared in a staggering 69 films. Director Garret Price's documentary paints a portrait of a young man of varied interests and with acting chops that seemed universally admired by those who worked with him. There are no nay-sayers in Price’s look at Yelchin which includes interviews with his parents, with friends, and with fellow actors: Chris Pine, Kristen Stewart, and Zachary Quinto among them. Although he suffered from cystic fibrosis, Yelchin didn’t allow the illness to slow his roll. When he wasn’t acting, Yelchin thought about directing, took photos of Los Angeles’ seamier side, wrote, and worked as a musician. Some of Yelchin’s writings are read by Nicolas Cage. In sum, Love, Antosha explores the life of a serious young actor who may not have lived long, but who left colleagues and friends with indelible memories. He also left little doubt that any moment of his short life remained unlived.
Thursday, August 22, 2019
'Angel Has Fallen' so far, it touches bottom
As his job description makes clear, Banning must protect the president of the United States, played initially by Aaron Eckhart and in this latest edition by Morgan Freeman, whose job descriptions have grown more exalted as the series progressed. Freeman began as speaker of the house, graduated to vice president, and this time emerges in the nation's top job.
Hold the congratulations. For Freeman's Allan Trumbull, the steady rise to power has not been entirely beneficial. In Angel Has Fallen, the president spends much of the movie in a comatose state after being severely wounded in a wild assassination attempt that takes place during a fishing trip.
Perhaps to freshen the proceedings, Butler's Banning has begun to suffer a crisis of confidence. He experiences the lingering effects of concussions and wonders whether it might not be time to abandon his action-packed life. I'd just have soon followed Banning's retirement than the ridiculous journey on which Angel Has Fallen takes him.
Blamed for the assassination attempt, Banning becomes a hunted man with an FBI agent (Jada Pinkett Smith) trying to bring him to justice. As a fugitive, Banning seeks refuge with the father (Nick Nolte) from whom he's long been estranged. Nolte arrives in the movie as a growling recluse who acts as if he's been politicized by survivalists: His character natters on about the way governments get their hooks into people and won't let go. His foul temperament evidently resulted from his service in Vietnam, where he also learned a lot about planting mines and blowing things up.
Freeman and Nolte are both wonderful actors and it pains me to watch them ply their skills in a meat-grinder affair with an idiotic plot in which the villains are easily spotted.
The rest of the cast doesn't add a lot. Danny Huston joins the proceedings as one of Banning's former military pals; Tim Blake Nelson appears as the nation's vice president, the man who must take over while an unconscious Trumball teeters on death's doorstep. Piper Perabo plays Butler's loyal wife; she sticks by him even when he falls under suspicion.
Director Ric Roman Waugh earns his action bones with a massive drone attack that occurs early in the movie, a kind of prologue to the more mundane grunts and groans of subsequent fights. A late-picture battle in Washington, D.C. makes you wonder how it escapes the prying eye of local TV stations.
No point belaboring this one; Angel Has Fallen is a bit of late-summer B-movie junk; i.e., a movie of low-level smarts and high body counts. You won't need a high-level security clearance to figure this one out long before it crosses the finish line.
Bob's Cinema Diary: 8/25/19 -- Jay Myself and After the Wedding
After the Wedding
A policy that wrought hardship
Heavily propagandized and enforced at local levels, the one-child policy produced situations in which individual desires were trumped by the purported needs of China's vast collective. The policy was further skewed by a male-dominated culture in which boys were more highly regarded than girls. As a result, many baby girls were abandoned or sold to traffickers who, in turn, delivered them to orphanages where they became part of a profitable international adoption network.
Directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, the documentary One Child Nation outlines the policy in broad strokes and then bores down to show its impact on women, on families and on those who served as enforcers.
Wang's own family was impacted. As a rural woman, Wang's mother was allowed to give birth to a second child five years after the first. As a result, Wang has a brother. Now grown, Wang's brother acknowledges that had he been born a girl, he'd have been abandoned. The Wangs -- like many rural Chinese families -- put a premium on boys who could carry on the family name.
Wang, who now resides in the U.S., returns to China with her own son to interview a variety of people impacted by a policy with a widely acknowledged cruelty factor. Still, some defend the policy as having been necessary for the survival of the nation. The policy since has been revised and is now a two-child policy.
Narrated by Wang, One Child Nation tells a powerful story about a policy that reached into the U.S. as Americans adopted Chinese babies. As this part of the story unfolds, Wang introduces us to a Utah couple who created a database that can be used to help Chinese families connect with U.S.-based adoptees. Not all the U.S. adoptees are interested.
Be forewarned: Wang doesn't skimp on the horrific details of what the policy sometimes wrought: midwives performed enforced sterilizations and abortions were given to women who didn't want them. Many still suffer the emotional trauma of having abandoned infants.
Those who've studied other historical outrages will note a marked similarity in the rationales of those who executed the policy. All say they had no choice. The policy was made at high levels. They just carried it out. One midwife, says that as an act of repentance, she now devotes her life to helping infertile couples.
The filmmakers cover their bases lest the film be mistaken for a pro-life diatribe. Says Wang: the issue in China -- as in the U.S. -- boils down one of women controlling their bodies and making decisions for themselves.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
A family you might not want to join?
Is it an assault on the selfish preoccupations of the obscenely rich? Is it a horror movie bathed in the requisite amount of blood-soaked revulsion? Is it an ironic commentary on an already overloaded genre?
Ready or Not qualifies as all of those things. A broad agenda works to the movie’s advantage -- at least until the moments it doesn’t. And for all its ambitions, Ready or Not is held together and elevated by something far less hip and much more traditional than genre play, the aggressive physicality and amusing reactions of lead actress Samara Weaving.
Weaving plays Grace, a young bride who’s marrying into the wealthy Le Domas family. But there's a condition and it’s not a prenup. Grace must play a game that will begin at the stroke of midnight after her wedding. Although Grace doesn't know it, the object of the game is her death. The Le Domas family believes that if the game isn't played to its lethal conclusion, they will die. Their belief has something to do with a curse handed down by the man who helped the family build its vast fortune -- or something like that.
Grace's husband knows that the game looms and he tries to help his new wife survive. Some of the family members, notably brother Daniel (Adam Brody), experience pangs of conscience about the family’s willingness to slaughter innocents to preserve its status and wealth.
As social satire, the movie hardly qualifies as original or deep, but the directors play many of the scenes for comic effect. Taste prevails in such matters. For me, the humor seemed hit-and-miss, although it's difficult not to be amused by what turns out to be history's worst honeymoon.
Ready or Not includes a cast of serviceable characters. Dad (Henry Czerny) is an autocratic tyrant and not much more. A frighteningly determined Mom (Andie MacDowell) puts family values — in this case, loyalty — above everything else. A man who married into the family (Kristian Bruun) is a bit of a dolt. A sister (Melanie Scrofano) proves incompetent. She's prone to shooting people by accident.
Aunt Helene (Nicky Gaudagni) sports a severe blonde haircut that makes her look like a mortician who specializes in burying punk rock musicians who over-dosed. She's so instantly creepy that you wonder why Grace doesn’t bolt at the sight of her, thereby avoiding the rest of the movie.
All of this proceeds in peppy fashion as directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett create a mood that's as wacky as it is frightening. The movie's wince-inducing moments have less to do with suspense or fear than with the physical beating that Grace takes and with the graphic displays of blood that this game of hide-and-seek produces.
Ready or Not certainly isn't for all tastes. But the movie scores enough to provide a fair measure of bloody fun with Weaver giving it plenty of drive.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
'Bernadette': flat where it should be sharp
Of course, she’s miserable.
Such is the life of Bernadette (Cate Blanchett), the title character of Where’d You Go Bernadette, director Richard Linklater’s adaptation of a well-received 2012 novel by Maria Semple.
Smart, judgmental and misanthropic, Bernadette can be a pain in the butt, and her contempt for what she calls “life’s banalities” doesn't seem to have led her toward anything resembling a cultural high ground. After years of ignoring her strange behavior, Bernadette's husband (Billy Crudup) has decided his wife needs help.
I can’t say I believed any of this because Linklater's movie can’t find a way successfully to blend satiric observation and character study while also giving his movie a bit emotional heft. As social satire, the movie takes hit-and-miss swipes at middle-class parents, over-achieving kids, annoyingly progressive schools and Seattle's tech-crazed world.
Even Kristen Wiig, as a neighbor and nemesis of Bernadette, isn't able to break through; she's playing a character who's so steeped in her "liberal" values that she's turned her life into a form of parody.
Bernadette's daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) narrates a story that gradually lets us know why Bernadette has lost her grip. She was once a star architect who won a MacArthur Grant for her genius. She designed houses that others envied, but after one of her vaunted projects met a tragic end, she vanished from the Los Angeles scene. She and her husband moved to Seattle, a city she says she hates.
Bee announces that she wants her parents to take her to Antarctica as a reward for something or other. Bernadette reluctantly agrees, even though the trip means she won't be able to avoid the horror of mingling with other passengers on a cruise ship.
Linklater's best movies are conversational gems that catch moods and moments, movies such as Slacker, Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise. He's also made observant comedies, as those of us who enjoyed Bernie and School of Rock can attest. Boyhood may have been Linklater's best and most deeply felt movie.
Here, Linklater's working in a commercial vein while trying to retain the sharp idiosyncrasies of Semple's novel. The movie's most outrageous moment arrives in the form of a mudslide that disrupts a fund-raising party at the home of Wiig's character. It lands with a thud.
There's one very nice scene in which Bernadette encounters a former colleague (Laurence Fishburne) from Los Angeles. She regales him with a dizzying monologue about what she's been doing for the last 20 years. It's one of the few times Blanchett's amped-up theatricality proves revealing.
By the end, Bernadette starts delivering on-the-nose dialogue, offering its message in a form that comes close to bromide. Someone as creative as Bernadette must create or she'll go nuts. She'll become a menace to others. She's not cut out for ordinary suburban life.
Well, I thought, who really is? And, as I said, I didn't feel as if Linklater made me believe in Bernadette or her vast array of problems.
Bob's Cinema Diary: 8/15/19 Two documentaries, one a masterpiece
Cold Case Hammarskjold
A love of Springsteen changes his life
At its best, Blinded by the Light is the exuberant movie that Yesterday should have been. In director Gurinder Chadha's lively look at the influence of popular music on an impressionable young man, a Pakistani student (Viveik Kalra) finds his life transformed when he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen. Timid and dutiful, Kalra's Javed opens the door to what he regards as a richer life and begins to live in what you might call "The World According to Bruce."
Springsteen's music does what only music can do: It awakens Javed's dormant sensibilities and tells him that the world contains much more than he knew or imagined. He's not just listening; he's experiencing a revelation.
Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) brings a light touch to the movie's developments as she sketches in Javed's romance with a young woman (Nell Williams) he meets at school and his friendship with the young man (Aaron Phagura) who turned him onto Bruce in the first place.
Based on a memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor, Blinded by the Light uses Springsteen's music to help Javid fully understand the limitations of life in the bland town of Luton where he's sometimes bullied by neighborhood toughs and where his stern father (Kulvinder Ghir) has difficulty finding his footing after being laid off from the GM plant where he toiled for 16 years.
Ghir's Malik has no use for the poetry that Javed begins to write. He wants his son to arm himself against deeply ingrained British prejudices that he believes must break Javed's heart. But one of Javed's teachers (Haley Atwell) encourages the young man to keep searching for his voice. The year: 1987.
Kalra holds the screen with Javed's new-found avidity and his unshakable faith in the vision that Springsteen's music -- liberally used throughout -- opens for him. It's refreshing that Javid doesn't aspire to be a musician. He doesn't want to be Bruce; he wants to see like Bruce. He aspires to reach the level of feeling that he hears in songs such as Born to Run. Music empowers him, almost as if he's riding a wave created by Springsteen's liberating energies.
It's all very naive, of course, but this kind of naivete is precisely what the movie's remembering and, ultimately, celebrating.
Before Blinded by the Light ends, Chadha kneels too deeply at the altar of sentiment and she sometimes indulges a level of corniness the material doesn't require but Blinded by the Light survives those impulses and asks us to share its appreciation for Springsteen's music and, by inference, the magic music can work in the hearts of the young.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
This 'Nightingale' sings a brutal song
Every moment of brutality in The Nightingale, a follow-up feature from Babadook director Jennifer Kent, lands a hard blow. Set in 19th century Tasmania, Kent's story proves gripping from its horrific beginning to its violent end.
Kent visits a time when Tasmania served as a dumping ground for convicts from England and Ireland. The British soldiers who policed Tasmania viewed these convicts as subhumans who could be used, exploited and abused.
The story centers on Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a former Irish convict with a beautiful singing voice and a job at a small tavern.
Clare lives with her husband Aidan (Michael Sheasby) and their new baby daughter in what should be the hopeful beginning of her post-prison life. But Clare isn't truly free. She's harassed by Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin), an officer who believes that Clare owes him any sexual favor he might demand. He's the one who got her out of jail. He regards her marriage as a joke. His entire personality reflects a sense of British privilege and colonial cruelty.
The vicious act that ignites the rest of the movie occurs when Hawkins rapes Clare. Difficult to believe, but things get worse from there. I won't say exactly how an already horrible situation further deteriorates but Kent presents each of the movie's brutal turns in high-impact scenes that may cause some to avert their eyes.
Kent shifts the story into revenge territory when Clare hires an Aboriginal guide (Baykali Ganambarr) to help her track down Hawkins and his crew. After wrecking Clare's life, Hawkins heads north to claim a promotion that the local captain has denied him because of behavior unbecoming of an officer. True to form, Hawkins will not be denied.
A revenge saga, yes, but one that's not engineered to dish out the kind of programmed satisfaction we've come to expect in male-dominated revenge sagas. The violence in Kent's movie isn't intended to elicit cheers; it's appalling.
Racial dynamics also emerge. Clare initially lords it over Ganambarr's Billy. She calls him "boy," disrespects him and tries to bully him into submission. But she also knows, she can't navigate her way through the outback without him.
For his part, Billy understands that the whites treat his fellow tribesman with astonishing cruelty and have no appreciation of Aboriginal culture. They've stolen his home. To Billy, the whites are uncivilized barbarians, and -- at least initially -- Clare is one of them.
It takes time for Billy and Clare to form a bond based on their common acknowledgment that Hawkins (an emblem of British colonial rule) poses a twisted threat to each of them.
Kent adds tough encounters that lead the way to the movie's conclusion, a bit too drawn out, but still powerful enough to leave you wrung out.
The Nightingale reflects Kent's view of the deep terror caused by colonial injustice. Not an easy subject and not an easy movie. The Nightingale can be agonizing to watch. It should be.
'Luce': a complicated look at hope and race
Thursday, August 8, 2019
This dog tells the story of 'his' humans
Based on a best-selling novel 2008 novel by Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain qualifies as one of those less-than-stellar big-screen entertainments that still has some appeal, mostly because so many of us are dog lovers. Now, I have to say that I've never imagined that if any of the dogs I've known could have talked, they'd have sounded like Kevin Costner. But that's what happens in The Art of Racing in the Rain. Race car driver Milo Ventimiglia acquires a golden retriever puppy and names the dog Enzo (voice by Costner). The twist here involves telling the story from Enzo's perspective as Ventimiglia's character tries to make it big in racing circles, finds a wife (Amanda Seyfried) and adds a daughter to his family. Enzo narrates all of this, sometimes with humor, sometimes with feelings of dejection. It takes Enzo time to adjust to new arrivals in "his'' family because he regards his relationship with Ventimiglia's Denny as special and exclusive. Directed by Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn and The Woman in Gold), Racing in the Rain eventually moves from cuteness to tears -- at least that seems to be the intent. Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan show up as Denny's in-laws, a couple with whom he eventually finds himself in conflict. I was a bit surprised to learn that Enzo -- after watching a documentary on television about Mongolia -- starts to give his thoughts a New Age twist. He believes that really good dogs will be reincarnated as people in their next lives. You might have some fun trying to figure out who your dog might return as should he or she reincarnate through another lifetime. Your speculations probably will say more about you than your beloved pet. There's not much else to offer about this family-oriented, lump-in-the-throat story, aside from saying that I haven't read the book and the movie didn't make me feel as if I should. The movie was enough.
Buddies on the road -- and on the water
The Peanut Butter Falcon arrives in theaters as a buddy movie -- but one with a difference. It teams Shia LaBeouf, as a red-neck renegade, with a young man with Down syndrome, played by Zack Gottsagen, an actor who really does have Down syndrome and for whom the movie was written.
LaBeouf's Tyler and Gottsagen's Zak make a typically unlikely duo. Tyler's on the run from a couple of guys (John Hawkes and Yelawolf) who want to kill him for messing up their crab-fishing business. He's also troubled by the death of his older brother (Jon Bernthal).
To hit the road, Zak must escape from the nursing home where he's being housed, no other placement being available. Zak's roommate (Bruce Dern) helps the young man engineer the breakout that leads to his hook-up with Tyler.
A nursing home volunteer (Dakota Johnson) follows. She's supposed to return Zak to the home. She also adds feminine energy to the generally masculine proceedings, which are heightened by Zak's burning ambition. He wants to be a professional wrestler and dreams of visiting a training school run by his idol, a wrestler who goes by the name of Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church).
Eventually, Johnson's Eleanor joins Tyler and Zak's brotherhood of two. Reluctantly, she agrees to help Zak pursue his dream.
Shot in the Florida Panhandle, the movie -- a passion project from first-time directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz -- relies heavily on the chemistry generated by a fully committed LaBeouf and by Gottsagen, a natural charmer with a robust sense of humor.
They're playing two characters who are thrown together for an adventure that includes a raft trip and an encounter with a backwoods preacher (Wayne DeHart) -- all spaced over sufficient time to allow LaBeouf and Gottsagen to develop a conspiratorial bond, two against the world.
Peanut Butter Falcon, which avoids gooey sentiment, takes its fanciful title from the name Zak chooses for his wrestling alter ego. The title proves suggestive; this is a movie that isn't afraid of its sometimes goofy appeal.
To fully enjoy Peanut Butter Falcon, it's probably best to set aside demands for total plausibility and accept the movie as a fairy tale about what it means to be young and feel free.
And -- at least to my knowledge -- The Peanut Butter Falcon is the only film in the long history of cinema that includes a scene in which the characters cook a fish, smear it with peanut butter and eat it. That moment, I should point out, marks the only time I felt sorry for anyone in the movie.
Bob' s Cinema Diary: 8/9/19 -- Luz and Piranhas
Snakes as a pathway to the divine
If you have an aversion to snakes, particularly poisonous snakes, you may not want to see Them That Follow, a backwoods drama about an isolated group of snake-handling Pentecostals. Directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage employ a powerhouse cast as they examine the terrible impact of those whose beliefs not only are literal -- but weirdly dangerous. Pastor Lemuel (Walton Goggins) uses rattlesnakes to purify sin: Handle a rattler without getting bitten and you're clean. If you get bitten ... well ... the devil hasn't been banished from your tarnished soul. The drama centers on Mara (Alice Englert), the pastor's daughter. Englert's Mara finds herself caught in a love triangle between the devoted Garrett (Lewis Pullman) and the non-believing Augie (Thomas Mann), a young man whose only desire is to escape this stifling community. Matters are further complicated because Mara has become pregnant after a brief but guilt-inducing fling with Augie. Olivia Colman -- fine as ever -- and Jim Gaffigan, equally good, portray Augie's believing parents. The directors fill the movie with Appalachian flavor as the story works its way toward a conclusion that may shake you, even if you see it coming. The mood is somber and the movie flirts with back-country cliches, inducing a degree of skepticism: Doesn’t anyone who might be called “normal” live in these woods? Kaitlyn Dever appears as Mara's best friend, a young woman who's understandably confused by the tension between religious dictate and human impulses. Nice work all around, with Goggins giving a stand-out performance as a pastor who can seem level-headed around the dinner table but who exerts sinister control over his followers. There's nothing particularly profound to be realized -- or at least nothing you don't' already know about the dangers of fanatical belief -- but Them That Follow catches you up with its mood and performances. And, yes, scenes involving the snakes will give you the shivers.
You'll remember his name -- and his stories
He built a career asking questions
Thursday, August 1, 2019
'Hobbs & Shaw': more preposterous action
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw attempts to expand the reach of an amped-up series that began in 2001 with a Rob Cohen-directed movie about street racing. The original movie, modest by current standards, marked a surprising entry into that summer's big-screen sweepstakes, a refreshing blend of speed and grit.
The series, which long ago made the leap into franchise territory, now has spawned a slightly demented offspring, one that’s far enough afield from its cinematic parents that it feels obliged to proclaim its lineage. I’m cynical enough to view Hobbs & Shaw as a superfluous mutation, an attempt to squeeze more mileage out of a series that never seems to run out of road.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw teams Dwayne Johnson's genially muscular Hobbs with Jason Statham's sneering Shaw. The two characters have history, which is another way of saying they don't get along. Both, of course, have cropped up in previous Fast & Furious movies. This time, they’re the main event.
A largely irrelevant plot brings these bickering battlers together for a job that Hobbs immodestly refers to as "saving the world." In this case, saving the world involves preventing the spread of a bio-engineered virus that could wipe out most of humanity. The virus hardly matters because even the characters don't seem to take the plot all that seriously.
Idris Elba signs on as the movie's bad guy, which is how his character introduces himself. "I'm the bad guy," he says, cueing a laugh line by signaling the movie's wish to play a genre-mocking game -- some of the time, if it not entirely.
On the less jokey side of the ledger: An evil corporation has weaponized Elba's character, turning him into a human with robotic capabilities that approach super-heroism. He supposedly represents a new rung on the evolutionary ladder.
As it turns out, Shaw's character has a sister (Vanessa Kirby) who's also trying to save humanity, an occupation that's always in large demand in summer movies. In the movie's early scenes, Kirby's Hattie steals the virus by embedding the capsule that contains it in her palm.
The Fast and Furious franchise always has made room for bold women. Kirby's Hattie carries on the tradition; she's a genuine butt-kicker who needs little assistance from the affable Hobbs or the dyspeptic Shaw.
Remember the virus? We're told, it eventually will go ... well ... viral. The clock ticks away.
Director David Leitch and his team don't pay much attention to this or any other clock, allowing the movie to unfold over a distended two hours and 15 minutes.
Hobbs & Shaw works its way toward a finale on Samoa without making it seem as if anything vital is at stake, aside from the filmmakers' ability to engineer ridiculous chase sequences and other impossible feats. The action is outlandish but not all of it is thrilling.
If you're of a mind, you may want to view the movie's Samoan finale as a statement -- albeit one that's delivered with as much ham-fisted panache as the barbs traded by Hobbs & Shaw. Hobbs reunites with his estranged brother (Cliff Curtis). They use Samoan weapons to ward off high-tech baddies. Can simple humanity triumph?
The movie includes an appearance by Helen Mirren, as Shaw's imprisoned mother, superfluous aside from suggesting participation in future movies. There also are a couple of cameos from actors I won’t name lest I spoil the surprise.
Look, I have no need to believe anything that happens in this kind of entertainment, but I'd like, at a minimum, to feel a sense of sustained involvement. That's not easy when a movie’s action, though abundant, isn't necessarily about creating excitement but about impressing us with the filmmakers' ingenuity. A little of this sort of thing goes a long way, and Hobbs & Shaw offers more than a little -- way too much, in fact.
Their affair crosses dangerous lines
Saleem and Sarah are having an affair. She owns a small cafe in Jerusalem. He delivers baked goods to the cafe. Both are married to other people and neither seems interested in abandoning his or her family. She’s the mother of a young daughter. He’s about to become a father.
So what’s this relationship about? Maybe nothing more than sex and novelty. Maybe Saleem and Sarah are turned on by risk. Palestinian director Muayad Alayna isn’t especially interested in what brought these two people together; rather, he dramatizes the dangers that arise when lines are crossed by people who live on opposite sides of an explosive cultural, religious and political divide.
Alayan bases the prosaically titled Reports on Sarah and Saleem on a real-life story that allows him to deal with the ramifications of an affair that exposes each of its participants to unexpected consequences.
Saleem (Adeeb Safadi) resides in East Jerusalem but also makes some deliveries in the West Bank for his brother-in-law (Mohammad Eid), a well-connected fellow who offers Saleem a chance to earn extra money. A trip to Bethlehem with Sarah (Sivane Kretchner) sparks a bar fight that produces a series of events that lead to the jealous Saleem's arrest by the Israelis.
Further complicating matters, Kretchner's Sarah is married to an Israeli colonel (Ishai Golan) who deals with security matters. What will happen if he learns that his wife has been sleeping with an Arab-Israeli who has fallen under suspicion of spying on the Israelis?
For her part, Saleem's pregnant wife (Maisa Abd Elhadi) must face difficult truths about her husband; her character grows in strength as the movie unfolds.
The movie's complications and coincidences sometimes feel far-fetched. But considering where Sarah and Saleem live, we're willing to go along with the story, and Alayan winds up with a movie that sometimes ties us and his characters in knots.