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Peri Baumeister, Carl Anton Koch

“BLOOD RED SKY” My rating: B (Netflix)

121 minutes | No MPAA rating

SPOILER ALERT!!! This film contains a forehead-slapping reveal about halfway through; unfortunately, it’s just about impossible to describe the plot without revealing the big news. So…if you want a pristine viewing experience, STOP READING RIGHT NOW!

For the rest of you, here goes:

“Blood Red Sky” is like “Die Hard” on a trans-oceanic airplane flight. With terrorists. And vampires.

It’s an utterly ridiculous idea performed with such unflinching gravitas that somehow the whole lurid mess works.

The film opens with a commercial airliner touching down at a remote military base in Scotland. There’s a terrorist situation on board. A lone passenger, a little boy, escapes from a cargo door; the authorities try to question him but the kid seems too traumatized to talk.

Flash back to a few hours earlier. Single mom Nadja (Peri Baumeister) and her 10-year-old son Elias (Carl Anton Koch) are boarding a night flight from Europe to the USA.

Nadja apparently is a cancer victim…she hides her bald head beneath a wig and has the gaunt features of someone who’s been through serious chemo. Think Noomi Rapace as a crack addict

Nadja has an appointment in NYC with a medical specialist who may have answers for her condition.

But wouldn’t you know it? There’s a bunch of international terrorists on board. Their motives are fuzzy — they are posing as Islamic extremists but that may be a cover for a more mercenary goal — and they’ve incorporated into their conspiracy a co-pilot and flight attendant.

One of them, a sadist known as Eightball (Alexander Scheer), is so perverse in his treatment of the terrified passengers that even his criminal cohorts are appalled.

The highjackers herd the passengers to the rear of the plane, separating Nadja from her emergency medical kit. We assume the injections she’s been taking have something to do with her cancer, but denied her medication she begins changing. Her eyes transform into those of a cat; her bones seem to have grown sharp beneath her features. Her teeth…well, they’re getting ugly.

Tha’s right, ladies and gents, Nadja is a vampire. Flashbacks reveal how she was bitten by one of those nasty bloodsuckers while on a family vacation (her husband didn’t make it); now she relies on injections to keep her human form. Without them she’s getting very, very hungry for blood.

You’d think a twist like that would be enough for director Peter Thorwarth and co-writers Stefan Holtz. But no. Before long the terrorists have deliberately exposed themselves to the vampire’s bite and are transforming into flesh-gnashing fiends.

So now you’ve got bad vampires (the terrorists) and a good vampire (Nadja) squaring off in an epic confrontation. The crawlspaces and cargo areas in the belly of the aircraft become a claustrophobic battleground. Elias, because he’s a tiny person, takes a key role in exploring the labyrinthian maze.

And to make things even more complicated, Nadja is fighting desperately to ignore the call of blood and retain her human consciousness. Will she be able to save little Elias before reverting 100 percent to vampirism? And what happens when the sun comes up?

The premise of “Blood Red Sky” is too ludicrous to countenance…and yet I found myself hugely entertained by the whole preposterous enterprise.

| Robert W. Butler

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Brooklynn Prince

“SETTLERS” My rating: B-

103 minutes | No MPAA rating

Mankind possesses the intelligence to travel to the stars. But we’ll never outrun the dark side of human nature.

That’s the unvarnished, uncomfortable message behind “Settlers,” the debut feature of writer/director Wyatt Rockefeller (and, yes, he’s a member of that Rockefeller clan).

With a title like this you expect a frontier drama with sodbusters, outlaws and a hostile environment. And in fact Rockefeller has given us what is essentially a Western,,,a Western set on Mars.

Nine-year-old Remmy (Brooklynn Prince, the knockout young star of “The Florida Project”) lives with her parents Reza (Johnny Lee Miller)and Ilsa (Sofia Boutella) on a Martian farmstead. It’s a hostile environment with limited resources (not even a breathable atmosphere…the secret behind their ability to survive will be revealed later); the family apparently raises just enough greenhouse veggies and food animals to stay alive.

No neighbors. No communication with the rest of the Mars, much less with faraway Earth.

Little Remmy is curious about her home planet, but Mom and Dad are parsimonious with details. She asks her father if he’s ever seen certain wild animals; he replies that he has not, and that before he left Earth about the only animals he saw were dogs.

Evidently humankind has so fouled up its birthplace that it is now all but uninhabitable. Moreover, Martian society — whatever it might once have been — has been reduced to outlawry and Darwinian self preservation.

So it’s a tough life for a curious little girl. Happily she discovers in a shed a boxy little robot she dubs Steve; Remmy trains him as if he were a pet.

Things get ugly when the three family members awaken one day to find that someone has scrawled “LEAVE” on their picture windows in what appears to be blood.

Ismael Cruz Cordova, Sofia Boutella

Enter Jerry (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who grew up on the farm and now wants to reclaim it after an absence of many years. Apparently Reza and Ilsa moved onto the property under somewhat less than legal circumstances.

Slow-bubbling sexual intimidation is a big part of “Settlers'” emotional palette. Despite an initial display of violence, Jerry seems a reasonably sane, even sympathetic sort. But as time passes primal urges do a number on him; initially they are directed at Ilsa and, after the passage of many years, at Remmy (played as a young adult by Nell Tiger Free).

“Settlers” feels less like a fully realized drama than as an outline for said drama. Rockefeller explains very little, leaving it up to the viewer to glean little nuggets of information with which to build a bigger picture of human life in the late 21st century.

Moreover he’s anti-melodramatic to a fault. No well-made tale here.

But when it comes to envisioning and creating a tangible world, “Setters” is terrifically seducive. Not a little of the film’s success lies with cinematographer Willie New and production designer Noam Piper, who create an utterly believable enclave of human effort in a hostile landscape (the production was shot mostly in a rocky desert area of South Africa).

| Robert W. Butler

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Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Whitehall

“JUNGLE CRUISE” My rating: C+

127 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Like the famed Disneyland ride that inspired it, “Jungle Cruise” is jammed with instantly forgettable silliness; moreover the whole thing is 100 percent synthetic.

Just like a theme park attraction, this sprawling effort from director Jaume Collet-Serra embraces a sort of movie-set phoniness, a phoniness that is only accentuated by a near-complete reliance on CG scenery and action. Is anything we see on screen real?

Happily the film has as its stars the imminently watchable Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson (with able assists from Paul Giamatti, Jack Whitehall and Jesse Plemons), so when your eyes start to glaze over from all the computer eye candy there are at least a couple of real human faces to focus on.

The screenplay (credited to Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, John Norville and Josh Goldstein) takes as its template — for good and bad — the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. But that’s just the start…some wiseass college film student will undoubtedly cough up a thesis picking out all the movie and pop cultural references sprinkled throughout.

There’s also a bit of meta at work here. In recent years the theme park Jungle Cruise has come under fire for its White Man’s Burden approach to the third world, and the movie slyly comments on all this.

When we first encounter Amazon riverboat captain Frank Wolff (Johnson) he’s leading gullible tourists (the setting is the early 20th century) on a cruise that features encounters with wild animals (actually Frank has trained them) and spear-waving cannibals (Frank’s scurrilous rivertown buddies in feathers and warpaint).

Frank is clearly based on Humphrey Bogart’s perf in “The African Queen” (check out the little cap) with a dash of Han Solo “me first-ism”…he’s a charming cad who loves a good pun and cheerfully insults his clientele. He’s also deep in arrears to local mogul Nilo (Paul Giamatti…think Jabba the Hutt).

Enter Lily Houghton (Blunt), a scientist who with her effete sibling MacGregor (Whitehall, looking very much like a fetal Brendan Fraser) has come to South America to find a legendary tree whose flowers possess miraculous healing powers. Lily is a sort of female Indiana Jones, dismissed by the larger scientific community because she is, well, a girl. She’s determined to prove herself.

Jesse Plemons

Also, she wears men’s trousers. Captain Frank decides to call her “Pants.”

Yes, there’s a lot of love/hate bickering reminiscent of the Bogie/Kate Hepburn relationship in “African Queen.” It’s never as clever as that earlier film, but at least it’s out there trying.

Things get complicated with the appearance of Prince Joachim (Plemons), a Prussian martinet who arrives on the scene in a U-Boat (that’s right…a submarine in the Amazon River) and proceeds to revive ghostly, decaying Spanish conquistadors who have been entombed for centuries by a native curse. Now they and their leader, Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez), are sent out to intercept Frank and Lily.

Supernatural shenanigans ensue.

There are also killer waterfalls, hostile natives living in treetop villages (just like Ewoks) and computer-generated wildlife (snakes, bugs, even a pet jaguar Frank keeps below deck).

Through it all Frank and Lily exchange insults; brother MacGregor freaks out over the lack of amenities and confesses that he’ll never marry (uh, yeah, we got that early on).

There’s about enough charm and usable plot here for a lighthearted 90-minute romp. Alas, “Jungle Cruise” clocks in at more than two hours, which means that for a good quarter of its running time viewers will be checking their watches.

| Robert W. Butler

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Mark Wahlberg

“JOE BELL” My rating: C+

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Joe Bell” is a classic example of “yes/but” filmmaking.

It’s been well acted and competently directed. Its subject matter is drawn from real life and is heavy on inspirational uplift.

At the same time, it’s never saccharine. At times it’s downright disturbing.

And yet there’s something phony about star Mark Wahlberg’s latest. As much as I wish I were enthusiastic about “Joe Bell,” I’m not.

When we first meet the titular character he’s crossing America on foot, pushing an aluminum handcart filled with his pedestrian necessities. Joe sleeps in a tent on the side of the road; every few nights he gets a cheap motel room so that he can recharge his electronics, shower and get a solid 8 hours in a real bed.

He often phones back home to Oregon to discuss his travels with his wife Lola (Connie Britton).

Early in Reinaldo Marcus Green’s film Joe walks into a nondescript Idaho burg and within hours is addressing an auditorium of high school students about the evils of bullying. Joe isn’t a natural speaker…he looks uneasy and his language is rudimentary. Some of the kids in the audience are clearly bored. But the fervor behind his message comes through loud and clear.

Joe is accompanied on this trek by his teenage son Jadin (Reid Miller), an almost-pretty young man who, having grown up gay in a small town Oregon, knows all about bullying, though he never joins his dad on the podium to share his own experiences.

As they make their slow way down the two-lanes father and son carry on a running conversation about Joe’s decision to walk across America and his motives for doing so. Jadin suggests it’s because Joe is trying to make up for being a less-than-supportive father. Indeed, Joe seems to be perpetually struggling not to fall back into the judgmental, blue-collar machismo of his youth. When he feels cornered he’s capable of first-class redneck assholism.

“Joe Bell” was scripted by “Brokeback Mountain” scribes Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (it was the last screenplay by McMurtry, the great Texas writer who died earlier this year). And the things about “Joe Bell” that don’t work (for me, anyway) are tied directly to their narrative choices.

Here’s the rub: One cannot talk about the gimmick at the heart of “Joe Bell” without lobbing a huge spoiler. So let’s just say that this tale of a father’s quest to redeem himself with his gay son employs narrative trickery that, upon the big reveal, left this viewer feeling disgruntled and a bit cheated.

Makes me wonder if McMurtry and Ossana sat through an M. Night Shyamalan marathon before putting pen to paper.

That said, Walhberg gives one of his most nuanced and cliche-free performances here, nicely nailing the conflicts inside a real-life protagonist struggling mightily to do the right thing after a lifetime of bullheaded behavior.

Young Miller is terrific as the somewhat enigmatic Jadin; flashbacks to his tormented adolescence are geniuinely upsetting.

Britton is her usual excellent self, and Gary Sinise has a touching if somewhat improbable last-reel appearance, exuding decency as a rural Colorado sheriff who befriends our hero.

Also you can’t argue with the film’s canny use of Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke.”

| Robert W. Butler

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German forester Peter Wohlleben

“THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES” My rating: B

101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

More New Age navel gazing than rigorous scientific exploration, “The Hidden Life of Trees” is an art film posing as a documentary.

It is based, of course, on German forester Peter Wohlleben’s runaway best seller about, well, the stuff trees are up to right under our noses.

Among other things Wohlleben asserts that trees will band together to “feed” the stumps of their fallen fellows, that our leafy buds can communicate with one another, and that the best forest management is basically to leave the trees alone to do their thing.

Wohlleben’s ecological theories have been embraced by laymen and ridiculed by forest professionals — which is not to say that they lack merit. The pros have been wrong before.

Perhaps in keeping with the woo-woo sensibilities of the source material, Jorg Adolph and Jan Haft’s film steers clear of the usual dry scientific pontificating.

Yeah, we see Wohlleben addressing audiences of eager ecologists and leading woodland tours. There’s footage of him getting down and dirty with plant life in European forests. We see timber being harvesting according to his tree-friendly methodology (for instance, no heavy machinery…massive horses are employed to haul away the logs).

But huge swaths of “The Hidden Life…” are taken up with Daniel Schonauer’s dreamlike nature cinematography, much of it employing slow motion to capture seedlings magically rising from the forest floor and stretching toward the sunlight.

“The Hidden Life…” then, is more noteworthy for its visual wonders and environmental impressionism than for making a measured scientific argument.

Nothing wrong with that…just know what you’ll be getting ahead of time.

| Robert W. Butler

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I CARRY YOU WITH ME” My rating: B+

Armando Espitia, Christian Vazquez

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

If Terrence Malick had made a gay-themed movie about the immigrant experience, it would be “I Carry You With Me.”

Like Malick’s “Tree of Life,” Heidi Ewing’s film is a dreamlike affair that shifts back and forth in time and relies on voiceover narration to reveal its lead character’s inner thoughts. It is unhurried and lyrical, but also trades heavily in social injustice issues.

And it’s pretty much all true. In this heady blend of gay love story and immigrant saga, documentary footage and fictional reenactments, the two main characters are not only based on two real individuals, but those two individuals play themselves in the movie’s last act.

Head spinning yet?

The picture begins with New York chef Ivan Garcia riding the NYC subway and reflecting, via narration, on the journey that brought him to a successful career while forcing him to leave behind his roots in Mexico. As we’ll learn, Ivan is an undocumented immigrant who, should he return home, would be prohibited from reentering the USA, leaving his two restaurants and 80 employees in the lurch.

The film then shifts back 30 years to Mexico where young Ivan (played as a 20-something by Armando Espitia), despite a culinary degree, can find work only as a restaurant busboy. When there’s an opening for a cook, the owner invariable gives the gig to one of his relations.

Ivan has a young son born out of wedlock; he adores the kid and walks a fine line in maintaining the peace with the boy’s mother, lest he lose visiting rights.

But Ivan has a secret. He is a closeted gay. Macho-centric Mexico makes life hard for homosexuals, and the situation is doubly complicated because should word of his sexual orientation reach the wrong ears, Ivan will never again see his boy.

One good thing: He meets the out Gerardo (Christian Vazquez), who introduces Ivan to the local (albeit underground) gay scene.

The screenplay by Alan Page and Ewing (this is her first fictional effort after a documentary career highlighted by the chilling “Jesus Camp”) depicts the young men’s deepening relationship against Ivan’s growing conviction that if he’s ever to realize his culinary dreams he’ll have to abandon Mexico and sneak into the U.S.

That means leaving behind Gerardo and his little boy.

On his coyote-led trip across the Rio Grande and through the Texas desert Ivan is accompanied by his childhood friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez), who very nearly succumbs to the journey’s many dangers.

Once in New York, Ivan works in a car wash and other menial gigs before finally working his way up the food industry ladder.

This immigrant tale is interrupted periodically with flashbacks to his and Gerardo’s childhoods (as boys they are portrayed by Yael Tadeo and Nery Arandondo, respectively). While Ivan was reared in a loving if financially strapped family, Gerardo was tormented by his father, a hairtrigger-tempered rancher carrying a full saddlebag of homophobia. This explains Gerardo’s estrangement from his clan, not to mention his determination to never hide his gayness come what may.

Eventually Gerardo joins Ivan in the US and they build a life and business together. As mature individuals they are portrayed by the real individuals — Ivan Garcia and Gerardo Zabaleta — who celebrate their success even as they mourn the loss of their Mexican identities.

In one heartbreaking scene Ivan shares a phone call with his now-grown son, whom he hasn’t seen for decades and whose attempts to visit his father in the U.S. have been stymied by government red tape.

“I Carry You With Me” began as a documentary, with Ewing filming her friends Ivan and Gerardo. But as she learned more about their epic yet intimate story, she decided to use actors to depict their earlier life in Mexico.

The resulting film is a genre-bending hybrid that nails both the triumph of these two enterprising individuals and the acute sense of loss they experience as men without a country.

“Haunting” isn’t too strong a word.

| Robert W. Butler

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Sylvester Stone

“SUMMER OF SOUL”  My rating: A- (Hulu)

117 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Even if it were merely a film record of the musical acts that appeared at 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival, “Summer of Soul” would be the most joyous two hours of the summer of 2021.

But first-time director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (yes, the drummer/leader of Jimmy Fallon’s house band The Roots) has taken that half-century-old, never-seen-before footage and fashioned it into a powerful, heart-rending and historically significant experience.  

This was more than a series of concerts in Mount Morris Park in Harlem (now it’s called Marcus Garvey Park)…it was a seminal moment in the development of modern black culture. And Questlove’s love-infused doc absolutely nails it.

The Harlem Cultural Fest was spread over several weekends, each with its own theme: jazz, soul, gospel, etc.  Nearly 50,000 persons attended each of these free concerts.  Many of the audience members who attended as kids now recall that up to that point they have never seen so many black people in one place. 

The music ranged from jazz man Max Roach to Stevie Wonder, the Edwin Hawkins Singers (“Oh Happy Day”) to B.B. King, Nina Simone to Gladys Knight and the Pips.

The whole thing was captured on film and audio tape with an eye to turning it immediately into a theatrical movie event…alas, the entertainment powers put all their money behind that summer’s Woodstock festival in upstate New York.  With no buyers the pristine, technically perfect Harlem footage and audio tapes sat on a shelf for 50 years.



Questlove’s handling of this vintage material is respectful, yes, but he uses it as just one element in a massive collage of African American experience.  He shows some of the performers (Gladys Knight, members of the Fifth Dimension) footage of their performances at the fest and captures the looks of overwhelming emotion that pass across their faces as they witness  their younger selves and relive what for many of them was a sublime personal experience.

Mavis Staples, Mahalia Jackson

He talks to men and women, now in their 60s and 70s, who attended as youngsters and share their impressions and memories.

And he and editor Joshua L. Pearson  masterfully interweave the performance footage with old newsreels, photos and other archival elements…basically they’re demonstrating how the music became the soundtrack to hundreds of thousands of black lives.

Picking favorite performances is a futile exercise — everybody seems to have been at the top of their games — but for sheer show-stopping giddiness you cannot beat Sly and the Family Stone blowing away the crowd with “Higher” and “Everyday People” (“different strokes for different folks”).

And if you’re not moved to tears by watching Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples share a mic on “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (the favorite hymn of Martin Luther King, who was assassinated a year earlier)…well, I can only conclude that you lack both a heart and ears. 

| Robert W. Butler

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“TRUMAN AND TENNESSEE: An Intimate Conversation” My rating: B (Now available through the Tivoli at the Nelson-Atkins)

86 minutes | No MPAA rating

“Truman and Tennessee” isn’t your standard-issue documentary biography.  Rather it’s a kind of verbal duel between two of the great literary figures of the late 20th century.

Novelist Truman Capote and playwright Tennessee Williams weren’t just major figures in mid-century American literature.  They were personal friends. Both shared a Southern heritage. Both were gay at a time when being openly gay was illegal. 

After brief biographical segments (my God, but young Truman Capote was cute), Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s film works through a series of topics, allowing her two subjects to comment on things like writing, fame, sex, their childhoods, phobias, relationships.

This is accomplished in a couple of ways.  First, we hear excerpts from the two author’s canons read by the unseen Jim Parsons (who nails Capote’s pitchy whine) and Zachary Quinto (as the voice of Williams).

Then there are various TV interviews the two did over the years…although never together.  In fact, there apparently is no footage here of both men in the same room.

But something weird and wonderful happens.  Turns out both men appeared on David Frost’s interview program within months of each other. They both sat on the same set (it has a very ‘60s pop art motif) and in both instances Frosts’s crew employed the same camera angles. Moreover,  Frost asked both men many of the same questions.

The result is an eerie joint commentary, with footage from various broadcasts woven together into a tapestry of friendship. The effect is that of Truman and Tennessee sitting side by side (even if they weren’t), lobbing ideas back and forth.

An unsung heroine here is film editor Bernadine Colish, who has done a terrific job of incorporating old photos, news footage, home movies and especially clips from film adaptations of the two men’s output (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Baby Doll,” “In Cold Blood” and many others).

The resulting film isn’t encyclopedic…rather it has a sort of impressionistic feel.  Yet because their own words have been so judiciously chosen by the filmmakers, we get terrific insights into Truman and Tennessee’s personalities.

Are there questions left unasked and unanswered?  Sure. But this doc isn’t about everything.  It’s about some things…some pretty wonderful things.

| Robert W. Butler

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Rita Moreno

“RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT”  My rating: B (In theaters)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

As she approaches her 90th year actress Rita Moreno can look back on a life packed with triumph (she’s an EGOT — the winner of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony), tragedy (a botched abortion, sexual assault) and a checkered career that has included both laughable ethnic stereotypes and her current status as a Latina icon.

The new doc “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” is a warts-and-all look at a woman who despite her advanced years exhibits more energy, exuberance and insight than someone half her age.  She’s a born raconteur…and, boy, does she have a story to tell.

Mariem Perez Riera’s film (Norman Lear and Lin-Manuel Miranda are among the producers) opens with Moreno bustling around her home, preparing for her birthday celebration.  Then it settles down to a conversation — punctuated with old photos and film clips —  of her life, career and loves.

She was born in Puerto Rico and as a child came to US with her mother (she never again saw her father or brother…a story that could use some explanation), became enamored of the movies at an early age, dropped out of school at 15  and when still a teen dressed up like Elizabeth Taylor for an appointment with Louie B. Mayer, walking away with a Hollywood contract.

For years she was plastered with “makeup the color of mud” to portray Native American princesses, Latina spitfires, island girls, even the slave/concubine Tuptim in “The King and I.”  Her roles, she says, were limited to “sex objects and arm candy.”  

But she lacked the clout to do anything but follow orders.  Moreover, Moreno says she grew up “feeling without value,” a psychological handicap that dogged her until well into her adult life.

She describes the hair-raising sexism she encountered in Hollywood, including being raped by her agent (she had such low self-esteem that she kept working with him even after the incident) and her intense years-long affair with a domineering and manipulative Marlon Brando, who forced her to get a back-ally abortion from which she nearly died. (Today Moreno remains a fierce advocate of female reproductive rights.)

She became so depressed by her relationship with Brando that she attempted suicide.

(There’s no mention here of her well-known affair with Elvis Presley…what’s up with that?)

(more…)

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“LES NOTRES” My rating: B- (June 16)

103 minutes | No MPAA rating

On numerous levels the French-Canadian “Les Notres” (“Our Own”) is a head scratcher.

It’s part problem picture/social drama, part personality study — without fully committing to either — and regularly thwarts its audience’s expectations. It aspires to depth and yet often is satisfied with melodrama.

But there is no denying that teen actress Emilie Bierre absolutely dominates the screen as a 13-year-old with a devastating secret. It’s a star-making turn; indeed, Bierre’s low-keyed performance and quiet charisma keep us watching, somehow filling the gaps in what otherwise might be a terminally fragmented tale.

Magalie (Bierre) lives with her widowed mother Isabelle (Marianne Farley) in a quaint Quebec town. She is an unremarkable girl, average in just about every respect but one.

She’s pregnant.

This revelation comes early in the screenplay by director Jeanne Leblanc and co-writer Judith Baribeau (who also takes on one of the major supporting roles). The main thrust of the tale is how young Magalie deals with her situation…or doesn’t.

Mag — who even in the best of circumstances nurses a case of teen stubbornness (losing her papa at a tender age has had a major impact on her personality) — refuses to identify the father. And she won’t even consider an abortion.

Word soon gets out of the girl’s tender condition. Her classmates call her a slut to her face. Her best friend Manu (Leon Diconca Pelletier) — an orphan living in a foster home across the street — is widely believed to be the father. The poor kid already has one strike against him for being Hispanic, and is resented for having deposed his fellow jocks as the school’s best soccer player.

(more…)

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