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CINEMA Film round-up

Reviews of Some Kind of Heaven, Those Who Wish Me Dead, Undergods and Servants

Some Kind of Heaven
Directed by Lance Oppenheim
★★★★

HAILED as the “Disneyland for retirees,” this fascinating documentary explores life inside the largest retirement community in the US, in Florida of course, but from the point of view of those residents that didn’t fit into the fantasy.

Lance Oppenheim’s compelling and surreal debut feature follows four people who moved to The Villages to live the American Dream and find happiness, but who, living on its margins, find that their fantasy has turned into a nightmare.

Married couple of 47 years Anne and Reggie struggle with Reggie losing grip on reality; Barbara, a widow, embarks on finding love again while 82-year-old bachelor Dennis, who is secretly living in his van in the gated community, is determined to marry a wealthy and good-looking woman to set him up for life.

Rather than an examination of the conservative politics and lack of inclusivity to be found in The Villages, and the reasons why Donald Trump was compelled to hold rallies there, the film analyses this utopian version of retirement life for sale, along with its fictional history, through the biographies of its residents.

But it also challenges society’s stereotypes around ageing and that, just because you are old, it doesn’t mean you are past it and or have lost your sense of fun or adventure. As residents in The Villages show, they are determined to live their lives to the max until the bitter end.

It is a sweet, tender yet totally bizarre documentary which makes for gripping viewing.

MD

Available on demand May 14

Those Who Wish Me Dead (15)
Directed by Taylor Sheridan
★★★

A TROUBLED “smokejumper” — a parachuting firefighter — is compelled to protect a traumatised young boy from two relentless assassins as she battles a raging fire in the Montana wilderness in this tense and suspense-filled thriller starring Angelina Jolie.

The film, which was shot in New Mexico pre-Covid, is based on the novel by Michael Koryta, who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Leavitt and director Taylor Sheridan.

Jolie, resembling an older, more battered and weary Lara Croft at times, gives the film gravitas while Finn Little provides its heart in his phenomenal rendition of Connor, the teen who has witnessed a murder and is running for his life.

Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen, though chilling, are somewhat wasted as the killers trying to stop Connor spilling the beans on their powerful political bosses. A line which isn’t explored at all in this cat-and-mouse chase.

The sweeping vistas and the aerial shots of the raging fire look stunning in this predictable but solid thriller, which is best enjoyed on the big screen.

MD

In cinemas May 17

Undergods (15)
Directed by Chino Moya
★★

THE beneficiary of (presumably unintentional) timing given world events, first-time Spanish director Chino Moya takes on the increasing notion of capitalism rotting the species with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in the dystopian ensemble tale Undergods.

Presented as series of disconnected stories within a dystopian Europe, the film’s narrative incoherence proves an almost immediate barrier, while solitary scenes with would-be narrators and in-universe scavengers Johann Myers and Geza Roehrig are arguably the film’s high watermark.

Moya, it seems, has quite the keen eye for literal world-building and finds tight cohesion in his collaboration with cinematographer David Raedeker and composer Wojciech Golczewski. But there’s something lacking in his efforts otherwise.

Likely to be a cult fave among university-age activists, Undergods serves best as a demonstrative reel of undeniably promising film-making talent.

Ask it to be anything else, however, and the response would likely be lost amid the deafening chorus of the Internationale.

VAN CONNOR

In cinemas May 17

Servants
Directed by Ivan Ostrochovsky
★★★

CZECH director Ivan Ostrochovsky’s second narrative effort — following the compelling boxing drama Koza — tackles the age-old dilemma of loyalty vs duty, with the novel tale of a pair of seminary inductees torn between the church and the state police.

A visually arresting black-and-white delight, Servants could perhaps be compared to Pawel Pawlikowski’s recent efforts, though it lacks anywhere near the beating heart and verve to live up to such a comparison.

Its core performances by Samuel Skyva and Samuel Polakovic are unflinching — they’re subtle, precise, and very clearly the result of tight direction by a film-maker whose singular vision of the story is carefully adhered to.

The laborious pacing and muted candour of Servants is far from likely to prove crowd-pleasing yet a solid sense of atmosphere, dread and strong craftsmanship do it a tremendous service.

VC

Available on demand.

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