Herwin Novianto presents a slice-of-life family drama revolving around the life of a dysfunctional family and their struggle in Yang Tak Tergantikan (trans. the irreplaceable one). Occupying the center stage of the narrative is Lulu Tobing in another subtle performance portraying a divorcee living independently with her three young-adult children. She's the beating heart of the story, co-written Gunawan Raharja (Aisyah: Biarkan Kami Bersaudara), that feels grounded and intimate without having to dip into sheer complications.
On the night of 25 February 1964, the greatest boxer ever walked the earth, Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, Race) won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. In the aftermath of his career-turning moment, Clay celebrates the victory with three friends—all are prominent Black figures in the 1960s, musician Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton), NFL star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton), and the controversial Black activist as well as Clay's mentor, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, High Fidelity series). Four legends in One Night in Miami marks the directorial debut of Regina King, adapting a stage-play by Kemp Powers (Pixar's Soul) who also writes the screenplay. The celebration isn't merely a celebratory party or anything resembles it; instead, the four legends emba...
Heartbreak is arguably the second most universal thing after love. To say that everyone who knows how to love knows how broken heart feels like might be an innocent understatement; but, after all, it's universally a feeling that people try to avoid. For the late Didi Kempot (1966 - 2020), however, heartbreak is a source of inspiration in writing his folk songs. Dubbed as 'The Godfather of Broken Heart', the Indonesian singer had written hundreds of sentimental songs to ironically dance to. The singer was a folk sensation back in the 90s who found the career resurged in the recent years. Sobat Ambyar (a.k.a. The Heartbreak Club), directed by Charles Gozali (Finding Srimulat) and Bagus Bramanti (writer of sleeper-hit, Yowis Ben), is a light rom-com inspired by the finest and the bluest ...
There's something unusual in Shannon Murphy's directorial debut, Babyteeth, even when its premise about a terminally ill teenager finds a new breath in love is overly familiar, if not overused. The film, which went on winning 9 awards in Australian Academy Awards (AACTA) including Best Picture, exudes sentimentality in delivering the narrative, but never succumbs into the maudlin side-effects of it. There's little to none overindulging sappy moment even when death always lurks closely behind the protagonist's back. The story, written by Rita Kalnejais adapting her own stageplay, doesn't quite believe in seizing the day before the moment's gone forever, but it rather exuberantly celebrates what makes life worth living.
Back to New York of the 1960s era full of groove and the jazzy feelings exuding in the air, Sylvie's Love recreates the bygone era with precision—not only in look, but also in style. Presented like a Technicolor version of a black-and-white Hollywood melodrama with all the flairs and zeitgeist, this romance however takes a completely different route. It's vibrant for a reason: to defy the common portrayal of the era's main theme—a whitewashed pursuit of dream and love—with a story about Black lovers looking out for their own dream and love in a world that hasn't always been simple for them.
Director of Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady, Phyllida Lloyd, returns with a more modest, unpretentious drama about resilience and empowerment titled Herself. Unlike his previous films, nothing is particularly spectacular about the plot or the background of the protagonist, Sandra (portrayed magnificently by Clare Dunne, who also co-write the story with Malcolm Campbell), except for her struggle and determination. The protagonist's self-emancipation is the center-piece and it's the driving force that gives herself a purpose: to provide a house for her children by herself.
Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman begins with a sense of urgency, a hasty afternoon full of mixed feelings between excitement and fear. Sean (Shia LaBeouf), an engineer, hastily leaves the bridge construction he's been eagerly working on and rushes home. Martha (Vanessa Kirby) can barely hide her emotions as she leaves her office's baby shower celebration. She's pregnant with a girl and she's due on that fateful evening. The smell of unease exudes in the air and, even, last-minute tension arises and cools down almost rapidly as the labor's arriving. Nobody has been prepped for whatever comes after and, apparently, nobody saw that coming even when it arrives with excruciating details.
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The story, muddled with emotional tug of war, is...
Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a tough watch—not because of distressed theme or challenging nature, but because of the familiarity of its theme and how close it is to the ground. The title refers to options usually employed in Likert-scale questionnaires to measure attitude with nuance. In this case, those word collections refer to the questionnaire asked in a crisis pregnancy clinic sympathetically unraveling the protagonist's sexual activities preceding the story's bleak topic: unwanted teenage pregnancy.
Hope takes root. That's how Lee Isaac Chung's Minari roots all the stories of struggling Korean-American family in the early 1980s trying to settle in and chase the American Dream. Chung transports his childhood memories of moving to Arkansas into a semi-biographical drama that exudes grace, innocence, and enough authenticity in delivering a sentimental yet beautiful story of hope. It warmly sparks spell-binding moments from the beginning until the end, but always focus on where the roots are.
John Magaro stars in First Cow (2020).
In the present day, Alia Shawkat walks her dog along the woods when she discovers remnants from the past that will transport the story back in the era of Oregon Country, an era of fur-trade competition between American and British companies. It's a harsh period; settlements were scarce and the pristine environment could be deadly to those unaware of the danger. Director Kelly Reichardt (Night Moves) and her collaborator, Jonathan Raymond, present a story about the age of opportunity—where friendship and early form of American Dreams take shape—in First Cow. There's a real cow with real milk; there are wildlife hunters; there's an aspiring cook and an immigrant with eye for business making a couple of unlikely BFFs taking the center stage.
Carey Mulligan stars in Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman (2020)
From the showrunner of Killing Eve, Emerald Fennell, here comes a rape-revenge thriller that feels familiar in bits, but unlike other films with similar theme, it operates on a completely different modus operandi. Aimed for precision in the narrative, direction, and lead performance, Promising Young Woman is a thriller that stings hard and never let go. At its center, there's Carey Mulligan who singlehandedly carries the mission—taking vigilante mantle and serving revenge the way it should be served: cold. She dives head first to the full-raged war against everyone who has wronged her; but, more to it, she plans to take the war more structurally and mercilessly.
Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis star as a couple in Clea DuVall's Happiest Season.
Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) are planning to visit Harper's parent for Christmas, where the former secretly plans to propose the latter on the special day. "I'm good with parents," Abby confidently soars when Harper invites her over; unbeknownst to her, Harper never comes out to her parents about her sexuality, let alone her serious relationship with Abby. On the way to the parents' house, Harper finally gets the guts to confess to her lover and asks her to play along as someone she's not—an orphaned roommate who has nowhere to go during the holiday season.
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Happiest Season embraces the notion that there's nothing more compelli...
Super child heroes are the epicenter of We Can Be Heroes (2020)
In an interview with NPR back in 2003, writer/director/editor/anything-he-can-do-he-will-do filmmaker Robert Rodriguez mentioned that he prefers working at nights and spends day-time hours with his kids (mostly named after cool things he would have in his movies). No wonder that every once in a while, amidst his grindhouse-inspired and comic book style filmography, he will create some family-friendly kid movies that bring along his trademark elements—comic book style heroes, cutting-edge gadgets, Latin relatives, and quirky plots most importantly. On the Christmas Day, the director revisits his 2005 creation, The Adventure of Sharkboy and Lava Girl, and expands it into a more wholesome, lite superhero action, We Can Be Her...
Viola Davis leads the band as Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020).
It's one of the most dogged days in Chicago, 1927. The trailblazing Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey (portrayed brilliantly and almost menacingly by Viola Davis), is scheduled for an afternoon recording session of her ultimate hit, "Black Bottom." It's sizzling outside, but the heat on the street is nothing compared to the heat that is promised to be inside the studio. Ma is unsurprisingly and understandably too hot to handle even by his long-time white manager and producer; and, that's a recipe for a heated trouble. To add to the recipe, there's the hot-headed Levee Green (Chadwick Boseman in a posthumous excellence) staging a breakthrough coup d'état to boost up his own musical career. Based on August Wilson's ...
Jamie Foxx behind Joe Gardner in Pixar's Soul (2020)
With Soul—released straight to Disney Plus on Christmas Day, Pixar grows more mature and sophisticated, but never loses the heart. Co-directed by Pete Docter (Inside Out) and playwright Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), this jazzy soul-seeking odyssey between New York and the hypothetical astral field is like an adult-oriented drama version of Docter's 2015 work. That being said, kid-friendly feature works on surface level; but, underneath, there's a more philosophical and subliminal layers that only appeal for adult viewers grasping the meaning between life, death, and ideas beyond those distinctions.