Pororoca / Marrowbone / Mother! – Movie Review [Zinemaldia 2017]

Here’s the third collection of reviews from the Zinemaldia! This is a series of shorter reviews that I’m writing as soon as I get to watch the movies that will conclude with the next entry. So stay tuned for that!

Pororoca_Fotopel--cula_15207

Pororoca

I didn’t know what this film is about, who the director is, or absolutely anything in advance. I did know the title is indeed quite weird, and that it is a Romanian production, the first I’ve ever watched.

A marriage lives happily with their two kids until their daughter goes missing while playing in the park. What may seem to be a mystery film or a thriller, turns out to be a dramatic vision of human decadency, as the child’s father enters a path of self destruction that will change him forever.

Let’s tackle the main problem of the film first: its runtime. At two and a half hours, Pororoca is a very long movie. In addition, the story is told using an extremely slow pace, which definitely serves a purpose (we’ll talk about that later), but results in a way too long experience. It gets boring at times, and I’d say a whole hour could be taken out from the movie to achieve a more compelling narrative. As the ending approaches, the tone of the movie changes dramatically, with a greatly rewarding scene of madness and desperation.

During that long runtime, however, a great attention to detail is displayed. Direction is crisp and compelling, with a remarkable use of long shots that truly serve a narrative purpose. Cinematography is stunning too, which turns city landscapes into beautifully shot sceneries.

Acting is pretty good too, with an astonishing performance from Bogdan Dumitrache, who plays the main role. His portrayal gets darker and darker every minute, and therefore, the evolution of the character is a joy to watch.

All in all, Pororoca is a nice idea, a sharp script, a beautiful looking feature, a properly acted film… but a way too long experience that detracts from the final result, unfortunately. 7/10

EL SECRETO DE MARROWBONE-pelicula-terror

Marrowbone

Let’s start with a fun little story. I don’t like horror movie overall. I suffer with every scary moment, and don’t enjoy the experience at all most of the times. Upon getting my seat in the theatre, I expected a drama. In fact, during the first few minutes of Marrowbone, it seems to be a drama. Imagine how much I suffered when the jump-scares, killers and ghost stories began to flood the screen. My body wasn’t ready.

Phew.

Marrowbone tells the story of a mother and her four children, who in order to escale a dramatic family situation moves to an old house… that appears to have scary entities living inside.

It must be said that for a first time director, the end result Sergio G. Sánchez achieves is highly positive. I wish it was more creative, but does work as a functional horror flick in terms of direction. Cinematography-wise, the imagery displayed looks brilliant, with breathtaking landscapes that adds to an immersive experience.

The biggest highlight could be the acting, as nearly every character gives an appropriate performance. Anya Taylor Joy, who was mentioned in my Split review, was my favorite of them all, as she was one of the few that achieved to deliver both a tense as well as an emotional performance. (Fun fact, it seems not wearing a bra is a requisite for all the characters she plays…). George MacKay plays the most prominent role, and his performance was very rich, too. Finally, I’d like to highlight how good Matthew Stagg’s acting was, especially when considering his extremely young age.

The film has a few twists and turns that are highly compelling until you realize how much the script cheats in order to catch you off-guard. I won’t get into details in order to avoid spoilers, but I got quite up-set. The fear is achieved just by using jump-scares, and that over reliance gets really tiresome soon. The excessive amount of clichés also plays against the overall experience, which is quite a shame taking into account how compelling the main storyline is. 6/10

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mother!

I love Aronofsky. Black Swan is incredible, and Requiem for a Dream changed the way I look at that kind of cinema forever. He is a beast at creating visually intense and meaningful movies, with a great use of metaphors and non-explicit meanings. I was really hyped for Mother!, even if I’m not really keen on Jennifer Lawrence as an actress.

And it was the single best experience of the festival. It was the best experience of the last few years.

A couple has moved to a house in the mountains, hoping the husband will find inspiration to finally write poetry again. While he struggles to do so, the wife spends her time decorating the big house, trying to turn it into a home. They are living a tranquil life until… Unexpected visitors appear and everything gets out of control.

This is a very special film, as usual with its director, Darren Aronofsky. It doesn’t have a clear message, although there are themes that will be found by most audiences in a similar way thanks to many metaphors and allegories. Others seem to be differ from viewer to viewer, as what I thought was about social media, lack of personal privacy and influencers, could also be interpreted as a criticism towards religion. That’s what I love most about this film, it stays with you long after the credits end. I’ve been constantly thinking about it, and I’m eager to watch it again.

Direction is extraordinary, with a fantastic use of subjective camera angles that puts you in the skin of Jennifer Lawrence’s character (yes, characters don’t have names in the film). The only drawback is that at times, it gets a bit too repetitive, as close-ups of her face and hair flood the picture. I didn’t find it annoying, but it can definitely up-set some.

Speaking of Lawrence, what a performance she gives! This is, by far, the greatest work she’s made in her career, one with an extreme intensity that will make you empathise with her character immediately. Bardem does a great job too, being sweet at times and terrifying at others, changing from one to the other in a blink.

Let me tell you another story from the festival. This film was part of the “Pearls” section, a selection of films in which the best of them is chosen by the audience. They gave us a little cardboard piece for us to give it an out-of-ten score, which we had to place in urns when getting out of the screening. We stopped there, observing what people were voting. We saw a lot of ones and twos. Some eights and nines too. What we did not indeed see were more neutral scores. Mother! sure is dividing audiences.

This is a revolutionary picture. Maybe it won’t be loved by many right now, but people will talk about it for years, I’m sure. It’s a captivating movie, dark, gritty, cynical, and, more importantly, unsettling. A wonderfully terrifying experience unlike any other. Wondering what score I gave it in that small piece of cardboard? 10/10

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