Search Film Reviews

Monday, March 28, 2016

THE FITS: New Directors/New Films Review

Royalty Hightower in The Fits
Courtesy of Oscilloscope
2016, 72 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

The Fits releases theatrically on June 3 and recently screened at New Directors/New Films.

Anna Rose Holmer’s directorial debut, The Fits, shows great promise for both its director and young cast. The film follows a tomboy, Toni (Royalty Hightower), who joins her small town’s dance troupe. One by one, though, the girls in the troupe begin to be affected by The Fits, which causes them to lost control of their bodies for a short period of time.

Holmer has a unique vision for her film and has complete control over it. With director of photography Paul Yee’s steady hand and crisp shot composition, Holmer creates a film that’s both smooth and calm, yet troubling. The dance sequences pop off of the screen, so does the film’s climax, which is exhilarating. Holmer guides her actors very well and in turn gets a strong lead performance from Royalty Hightower.

Danny Bensi and Saunder Juriaans’ (The Gift, Enemy, Martha Marcy May Marlene) typically eerie score adds texture to the subtly uncomfortable tone of the film, and Saela Davis’ editing keeps the film moving at a controlled pace.

The Fits from greatness, though, due to its ambiguity. It’s never explained why The Fits happen and there isn’t a lot to grasp onto narratively in the film. The Fits is so intriguing but it sets up more than it pays off, which makes it ultimately unsatisfying.

Overall, The Fits is a good film and an exciting calling card from a director who has the potential to go on to have a nice career. Holmer’s voice is unique enough to make me want to see more from her, but I hope that she relies more heavily on concrete story next time. The Fits is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who like their films a bit more experimental in nature, this is going to be well-worth the time.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Our Little Sister: Film Comment Selects Review

Left to right: Haruka Ayase as Sachi Koda, Suzu Hirose as Suzu Asano, Kaho as Chika Koda and Masami Nagasawa as Yoshino Koda
Photo by Mikiya Takimoto, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Film Comment Selects 2016
2016, 128 minutes
Rated PG for thematic elements and brief language

Review by Joshua Handler

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest, Our Little Sister, is a rich film full of life, love, and care. One of my very favorite films that I saw at last year’s TIFF, Our Little Sister is a humanist masterwork from a filmmaker who brings a unique sense of goodness to his films. Our Little Sister tells the story of three sisters who find out that their recently deceased estranged father left behind a teen daughter from his second marriage. They connect with this daughter and invite her to live with them. In the process, the older sisters give this young girl the childhood that she never had and allow her to blossom.

Our Little Sister distinguishes itself from many other films because it has a distinct lack of conflict. Where this would come as a fatal flaw in any other film, Kore-eda makes it one of his greatest strengths, as it allows him to show his four lead women grow together and strengthen each other’s lives. Kore-eda allows each character to develop, and as we watch them, we fall farther and farther in love with them. As a director, Kore-eda is gentle and patient, allowing scenes to play out in full without cutting them short. While Our Little Sister’s pace is careful, it is never in doubt whether Kore-eda is in command of his material. Every moment is crafted with thought and acted to perfection.

Kore-eda sees the good in his characters and has immense empathy for their situations. In Our Little Sister, there isn’t a single unlikable character. When I saw Our Little Sister for the first time at TIFF, I immediately fell in love with it because of how simple and realistic it is. I fell in love with not only the filmmaking but also the performances, which are of the highest caliber. Each one, particularly of the lead four, is so realistic, so moving that it’s hard not to care.

With a film this simple and with this little conflict, it takes an incredible amount of control on the part of Kore-eda to keep it from becoming something completely inconsequential. But, by focusing on the smallest of details, Kore-eda has created something special that's completely compelling. It’s rare to find a film as genuinely touching as Our Little Sister, which is why it’s a gift that it exists. Please see this one when Sony Pictures Classics releases it later this year.