Saturday
Jun302018

HELLO BROTHER, HELLO BROTHER // A FILM REVIEW OF "THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS"

BY MATEO MORENO

If you were old enough in the early 80's to remember the story of the triplets who found each other after being separated by birth, this story may seem familiar to you. Perhaps you even remember their cameo as, well, three identical twins checking out Madonna on the street in Desperately Seeking Susan." But even if you remember all of that, you probably don't remember what happened next, or how bizarre and twisted the happy go lucky reunion of the three twins went. Director Tim Wardle presents all of the compelling and surreal details in his new documentary THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS.

In the beginning of the tale we meet Robert Shafran. He's a 19 year old college freshman arriving at school, Sullivan County Community College. As he enters, suddenly people are hugging him, high fiving him, even embracing him and kissing him. All of them are telling him it's "great to see him again," though he's never stepped foot at this school. He's perplexed and confused and when he arrives at his dorm room and even more thrown when his new roommate Michael Domnitz runs and says, "When were you born?" His roommate has figured it out. The entire school thought that Robert was a man named Eddy Galland, someone Robert looks exactly like. And for good reason. Eddy is the twin Robert never knew he had. So they take off in the middle of the night and it's like seeing double. The twins have found each other. But it doesn't end there.

Soon, after the media picks up on their story, a third twin named David Kellman is discovered, and now these boys each have two brothers they never knew he had. Not only are they identical, but they have the same smile, the same mannerisms, seem to like the same things. And oddly enough, each one of them come from a family where they have one adopted sister. They were also all placed in their respective homes by the same agency, Louise Wise Services. The media eats it up and they appear everywhere, talk show after talk show, magazine covers, you name it. But this seemingly "Happily Ever After" tale is about to grown much stranger, and sadly, much darker.

Director Wardle frames the film with both documentary footage and short snippets of recreations. And even as you start to realize something odd is afoot, you won't guess what it is until it happens and the fallout is fascinating, and incredibly frustrating. The boys speak to the camera in modern day, retelling the most exciting moment of their young lives and take us through what became the most turbulent years. It's a startling, twisting, and fascinating documentary. One that you have to see to believe. And once it's over, if you're like me, you'll be so frustrated that you'll start googling information that you've just found out from watching the film, hoping to find some evidence that a story like this will never happen again. But it just might because after all, we don't live in fairy tales with a guaranteed happy ending, do we?

 

MATEO'S GRADE: B+

DIRECTED BY Tim Wardle STARRING David Kellman, Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland. Now playing in select cinemas.
Sunday
Apr292018

"MARY SHELLEY" // TRIBECA 2018 REVIEW

Elle Fanning stars as the title character in MARY SHELLY, the new film that explores the real creator of Frankenstein. No, we're not talking about Dr. Frankenstein here, we're speaking of Mary Shelley, who started this future masterpiece when she was only 18. She's a teenager who was fond of spooky stories and helps out at her family's bookstore. Her mother has died at birth and her father, William Godwin (Stephen Dilane), sends her away to Scotland where she meets her first love, poet Percey Shelley (Douglas Booth). He's older and married, so a traditional romance is out of the question. But a romance begins none the less. She ends up, with her stepsister Claire (Bel Powley) by her side, running away from him and finding out that a fairy tale ending is far from the projected path of her story.

 

The film is shot beautifully but fails to really latch onto who Mary was, or what drove her and inspired her spark of genius. The juiciest parts of the film sadly lay in the male cast (particularly Douglas Booth and a terrific Tom Sturridge as Lord Byron). Being that the writer and director are both females and the film tells of one of the great female trailblazing writers, this seems like a big misstep. Elle Fanning is good, but dull, and I'm not so sure that's her fault, as she's a magnetic actress elsewhere. Here, the film mismanages her talents and keeps us, and the audience, at an arm’s length away from both Fanning and Shelley. There's a very conventional tale being told in this film (just listen to the oddly placed soundtrack), but her life was anything but.

VERDICT: SKIP IT

WRITTEN BY Emma Jensen DIRECTED BY Haifaa al-Mansour STARRING Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Joanne Froggatt, Tom Sturridge, Maisie Williams. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. 

https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/mary-shelley-2018

Saturday
Apr282018

"LITTLE WOODS" // TRIBECA 2018 REVIEW

Nia DaCosta’s LITTLE WOODS is a bleak, powerful drama that gives a stellar role to Tessa Thompson. She plays a woman named Ollie, living in a fracking boomtown in North Dakota. Life has dealt her a pretty shitty set of cards and she has been forced into crime (smuggling and selling) to make money for her family and to save her home. Ollie has been working hard to get through her probation, which she received for dealing drugs and running medicine over the Canadian border to people who needed it and couldn’t afford the insured kind. But even as close as she is, the old way of life is tempting her to stray before she’s free and clear. Her broken down sister Deb (Lily James) is dead broke and pregnant, her Mother has just passed away and she’s going to lose her house. Unless she makes one last run across the border and can fix it all.

 

Thompson gives a searing and understated performance here, playing out every bit of drama like a high stakes’ thriller. And a thriller it is, because the consequences of every single action in this film are sky high. This is life and death stakes, but on a lower, broken class scale. The sound design and cinematography really capture the dreariness of the steps around her, making you feel adrift as you watch her float in and out of some particularly bad decisions. The only person she trusts is her probation officer (Lance Reddick) and although she trusts him, he shouldn’t return the favor because she definitely is lying to him. But he does trust her, or at least wants to, and wants to see her rise up. But with a sharp eye on the small-town drug trade, LITTLE WOODS really does ask, “Is change possible, or is the end just inevitable?” Under the smart direction of DaCosta, you’re unsure of any answer.

VERDICT: MUST SEE
 

 

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Nia Dacosta STARRING Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale, Lance Reddick. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/little-woods-2018