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CINEMA Film round-up

Reviews of Fatima, The Filmmaker’s House, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, F9: The Fast Saga and Sweat

Fatima (12)
Directed by Marco Pontecorvo
★★★

INSPIRED by real events surrounding the supposed appearance of the Virgin Mary to three young shepherds and the miracles she thereafter performed in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, this is a fascinating tale of the power of faith, fear and persecution.

The film opens with a religious scholar and sceptic (Harvey Keitel) interviewing 80-year-old Carmelite nun Sister Lucia (Sonia Braga) about witnessing, at the age of 10 along with her two cousins Francisco (Jorge Lamelas) and Jacinta (Alejandra Howard), the appearance of Our Lady (Joana Ribeiro).

The story is then told in flashback: the youngsters were visited by the Virgin over six months, during which she told them three prophecies.

As their tale spread it attracted ever larger crowds of pilgrims yearning for peace — as World War I raged on — and angered church officials and the town’s progressive mayor (Goran Visnjic), who didn’t believe the children and felt that they were dangerous: locking them up and threatening them to recant their testimony.

Even Lucia’s (Stephanie Gil) devoutly religious mother (Lucia Moniz) is convinced that her daughter is making it up and gives her hell. As faith-based films go, co-writer-director Marco Pontecorvo (whose father was the great Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo) delivers a solid drama, driven by captivating performances from this very young cast, especially Gil.

But it is a tale that will mainly appeal and speak to the converted. 

Maria Duarte
In cinemas

 

The Filmmaker’s House (PG) 
Directed by Marc Isaacs 
★★

A HOMELESS Slovakian man, a Pakistani neighbour, a Colombian cleaner and two English fence-installers are the focus of film-maker Marc Isaacs’s new bizarre mockumentary.

No, it isn’t the beginning of a bad joke or punchline, but an attempt to make a stand at being able to create edgy and quirky documentaries rather than those dictated by the industry and its bean counters. 

Shot entirely in Isaacs’s house and featuring people he knew, the film also explores multicultural post-Brexit Britain. The problem is that, though full of intent and big ideas, they don’t all deliver or make sense — the end result is a surreal, head-scratching film. 

Maria Duarte

In cinemas, virtual cinemas and on demand

 

Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds (U)
Directed byToni Garcia

LEGENDARY Spanish animation label BRB make their first foray onto the big screen with the disappointingly inert feature reboot of Dogtanian and The Three Muskehounds.

A point-for-point retread of the beloved ’80s series, Alexandre Dumas’s timeless tale is reworked with anthropomorphised canine characters a second time, albeit with the glorious rough-and-ready hand-drawn animation of days gone by substituted for janky computer-animated creations of about the level you’ll be accustomed to if you regularly watch CBeebies.

Its story is dumbed down to around the same degree — animation veteran Doug Langdale’s retelling of Dogtanian’s quest to clear his family name and save 17th-century France from the villainous Cardinal Richelieu is a bit sloppy and dull.

Worse, despite being written to the standard of pantomime exposition, it’s too uninteresting for its presumably-intended pre-school audience; too patronising for their parents; and certainly too horrifying a knock-down for old-school fans.

Van Connor
In cinemas

 

F9: The Fast Saga (12A)
Directed by Justin Lin
★★★

THEY’VE taken on drones, submarines, tanks, planes, and even Covid-induced release delays, but it’s time to face the real challenge as Vin Diesel’s Dominic Torretto, franchise First Lady Michelle Rodriguez and the rest of “the fambly” attempt to explain away the appearance of a long lost brother — unmentioned in two decades and nine previous Fast & Furious movies — in F9: The Fast Saga.

Yes, Dom has a brother. Played by the wrestling world’s literal crossover successor to Dwayne Johnson, John Cena. Cena plays Dom’s also lethal but not as smart younger brother — a subtle arc around which to structure this race between siblings to retrieve the latest world-ending MacGuffin.

After more than a year on the shelf, F9 arrives having to contend with not only the Cena-sized elephant in the room, but the narratively problematic return of Sung Kang’s previously deceased supporting character, Han.

The latter makes about as much sense as the return of Rodriguez’s similarly fridged Letty in 2013’s Furious 6 — the former at least contributing the first race sequence of the franchise to feature bonafide emotional resonance.

Fans will lap it up, but, as always, the application of thought to the viewing experience is strongly discouraged.

Van Connor
In cinemas

 

Sweat (15)
Directed by Magnus von Horn
★★★★

MAGNUS von Horn’s Sweat is an arresting delve into the life of a social media influencer, treating its subject matter in the same stark yet quietly probing manner as Sasha Grey’s sex worker in The Girlfriend Experience.

Ostensibly positioning influencers as the contemporary equivalent of faith healers, Sweat sees fitness Insta-icon Sylwia’s world unravel in the wake of a revealing online confession and the discovery of a stalker. 

It’s fuelled as much by von Horn’s sterling direction as its story, but both are dwarfed effortlessly by a powerful performance from Magdalena Kolesnik.

Equal parts Tally Rye and Nomi Malone, a deft balance is struck by Kolesnik that so wonderfully captures the strength and opposing terror so intrinsically tied to mental health for so many.

Sterling stuff, let down by von Horn’s unfocused and periodically wandering script, but worth clicking “Like” for.

Van Connor
In cinemas

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