The Shape of Water

Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro's latest offering the The Shape of Water is a much lighter, more positive film than what we are used to by him. The dark and austere qualities are not completely absent; but there is an unusually upbeat, pleasant undercurrent proposed by the presence of a likeable, endearing lead Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins), clichéd yet welcomed humour and the overall pleasant neo-gothic 50s fairy-tale like aesthetics. The story is centred around the charming and sweet mute Eliza, who seems to be living in some musical, as her routine is detailed in a rhythmically choreographed fashion; from waking up, to boiling eggs for breakfast, her daily masturbating on the bath, feeding her gay neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), her bus route to work, working nights as a cleaner in government research facility along with her yappy colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer). It's not until an evil FBI agent Stickland (Michael Shannon) appears one day bringing with him a captive life-sized lizard-looking mermaid, who may actually be an Amazonian god. What follows is Eliza developing a relationship with the creature and wanting to set him free, before he is butchered at the hands of scientists. Sally Hawkins gives Eliza a likeable and mischievous quality, as well as a vulnerability which harbours a steely determination beneath it.  Del Toro gives an old Hollywood glamour with the depiction of the 50s, Cadillacs and dinners, with noir movies, are constantly blaring out of some TV. A beautiful dreamy film where you can easily escape and be carried away.

The Lovers

An enjoyable family drama, showcasing the complexities of a certain long-term marital relation and their corresponding extra-marital affairs. Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracey Letts) married in name only, are carrying out extramarital affairs with Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Lucy (Melora Walters) respectively. As their respective partners start piling on the pressure to abandon their loveless marriage, Mary and Michael instead, by some twist of fate, start to re-engage in sexual activity which rekindles a long-lost buried deep down flame. It's a sweet and intimate movie that reminds of those 80s dramedies which usually featured Winger in her hay-day or one Meryl Streep. Perhaps it lacks an edge of an indie, but it's still very good and frequently humorous with expectedly top-level acting; raising poignant questions about the validity of long-term monogamy, as well as the prospect of opening things up as a way to salvage a marriage.

Reinventing Marvin

A film by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel, The Innocents) Reinventing Marvin tells the story of young French boy, Marvin Bijou (Finnegan Oldfield) not living up to the ‘manly’ stereotype and the respective intense, brutal bullying that goes with it, at school and at home. As Marvin grows up he flees to Paris in a desperate attempt to reinvent himself, by becoming a writer and performer and infiltrating elite Parisian circles. Based partly on a true story, the film details very familiar ground of being ostracized for being different, the need to reinvent oneself to dissociate from a painful past. The film treads on clichéd territory deceptively presented in this cool nonchalant French style. Nonetheless, its a fine-looking film, with the added bonus of a long cameo by Isabelle Hupert playing herself.

Thelma

This Danish noir is littered with so many reference from Hitchcock to De Palma to Shyamalan; but manages to retain its uniqueness with dashes of Nordic minimalism. Thelma (Eili Harboe) is an 18 year old attending university, fleeing the nest from her over-protective parents for the first time. Things don’t go according to plan when she soon realizes that she has special abilities, which are initially masked as psychopathologies. As she meets friends at university and slowly forms an intimate and sexual relationship with Anya (Kaya Wilkins), the pathologies start to intensify and take over: she starts to recognize her supernatural powers and that her parents have been trying to suppress them all along. Harboe is an impressive lead with her natural approach to the world, she gives the role a certain sadness and vulnerability, and her reserved demeanour hints at a complex inner world. Thelma is a stunning, Nordic, understated sci-fi thriller that deserves great recognition.

Downsizing

“Downsizing” is the concept of minimizing humans to miniature size and by doing so, eradicating the world problems of overpopulation and the catastrophic effects this has on the environment through over-consumption and waste. As Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey Safranek (Krisitin Wiig) finally agree to downsize to reduce their financial troubles; only for Audrey to chicken out and for Damon be left all small and on his own to build his life again in a new downsized world. Taking on such a concept for a film would have its predicted flaws and plot pot-holes. There something quite 80s-90s block-buster about it, especially as the pace seems to slow down mid-film. It's an overall easy to watch film, with an intriguing enough concept; but at points I found it to be overbearingly cutesy.

You Were Never Really Here

This is a rather dark film, where Joaquin Phoenix once again shines, with another intense and troubled role, which we have become accustomed to with him. You Were Never Really Here deals with the sinister subject matter of paedophilia; Phoenix plays Joe, a hit-man hired to free Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov) from a pedophile ring. Joe's preferred use of a killing-tool is a hammer, so what follows is a series of brutal killings, along with unexplained painful flashbacks. It's a very gloomy and shocking film which often borders on the disturbing, however within this context there is great visual poetry. Phoenix carries the film effortlessly, his manly facial features just fill up the screen, his physical acting make the character truly three-dimensional. The film isn't for the faint-hearted and it does deal with unsettling subject matter, but director Lynne Ramsey has created something of dream-like ethereal beauty.