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CINEMA Film round-up: July 23, 2020

Reviews of Saint Frances, Stage Mother, The Traitor, American Fighter and CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans

Saint Frances (15)
Directed by Alex Thompson
★★★★★

SAINT FRANCES is one of those rare gems which deals with subjects, taboo for some, such as periods, abortion and post-natal depression in a frank and honest way.

Infused with a great deal of humour and empathy, it makes you question why in this day and age we are still reluctant to talk about such things.

Unusually, this coming-of-age story is about 34-year-old Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) who, after getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy, lands the job of nanny to the whip-smart but obstinate  six-year-old girl Frances (phenomenal newcomer Ramona Edith-Williams) who lives in an affluent suburb of Chicago.

Over the course of the summer, Bridget  develops an unlikely friendship with the youngster and her two mothers (Charin Alvarez and Lily Mojekwu).

With an insightful and captivating screenplay by O’Sullivan, Alex Thompson’s debut feature provides a fresh and thought-provoking look at terminations, feminism, racism, homophobia and the class divide from a woman’s standpoint.

Bridget feels no guilt about the abortion but does harbour feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, while the crippling effect of post-natal depression is tearing Frances’s mums apart.

The film is powered home by class performances from the whole cast but in particular from the  superlative O’Sullivan and the scene-stealing tour de force Edith-Williams. Their scene in a Catholic confessional box is divine and priceless.

Painfully funny and moving, this is a drama which smashes a lot of taboos and hopefully it will spark a much-needed debate.

In cinemas July 24.

Stage Mother (15)
Directed by Thom Fitzgerald
★★★★

A CONSERVATIVE Texan church choir director is forced to confront her estranged son’s former life and partner when she inherits his failing drag club in this bitter-sweet comedy drama about loss and regret.

Against her closed-minded husband’s wishes, Maybelline (Jacki Weaver) travels to San Francisco to attend her son Ricky’s funeral and decides to stay on to see if she can save his club from bankruptcy, to the horror of Ricky’s soulmate and business partner Nathan (Adrian Grenier).

Weaver delivers a powerful yet understated performance as a mother grieving for her son’s death and the years she has lost, having turned her back on him.

But she also rediscovers herself and her own needs on this difficult journey as she is befriended by single mum Sienna (Lucy Liu on caustic form) and no-nonsense drag-queen Joan (a stunning Allister MacDonald).

Maybelline’s fish-out-of-water moments as she tries to whip the club’s drag stars into singing sensations are some of the most fun and colourful highlights in a film which is a surprisingly moving and uplifting tale, punctuated by some memorable musical numbers.

In cinemas July 24.

The Traitor (15)
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
★★★

THIS gripping and illuminating crime drama is based on the real-life story of one of the first members of the Sicilian mafia to turn informant.

Ranging from the 1980s to the year 2000, it explores the inner workings of the organisation and chronicles in minute detail the life of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrances co Favino), the so-called “boss of the two worlds.”

He was caught by the authorities in Brazil where he was hiding out with his third wife and children and was extradited to Italy where he was persuaded to turn evidence against his former mafia friends and colleagues.

Co-writer and director Marco Bellocchio’s epic drama is a gruelling portrayal of ruthlessness, betrayal and cold-blooded executions, intertwined with fascinating courtroom antics in the endless trials of the key players who were brought to justice on Buscetta’s testimony.

The latter led to the arrest of 366 members of Cosa Nostra in Italy, while Buscetta and his family spent the rest of their lives under witness protection. It is a film that gives you just a taste of what it must be like have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life.

In cinemas or available to watch via Modern Films, modernfilms.com

Open 24 Hours (18)
Directed by Padraig Reynolds
★★★★

AFTER escaping her serial-killer boyfriend — having set him alight — the paranoid and delusional Mary (Vanessa Grasse) gets a job at an all-night petrol station.

But she is still being haunted by him in this brutal horror film which stand outs because of its simple but ingenious premise that, like its protagonist, you cannot tell what is real and what isn’t.

Writer-director Padraig Reynolds plays on that throughout and ratchets up the tension as you follow Mary on her first night on the job, where she keeps seeing her ex pop up in different places. Is he real, or just another of her hallucinations?

Wonderfully chilling.

Available on Digital HD.

American Fighter (15)
Directed by Shaun Paul Piccinino
★★★

BASED on a true story about illegal wrestling in 1980s California, American Fighter follows a teenager who, having escaped Iran after the hostage crisis, is forced to turn to underground fighting to earn enough money to rescue his ill mother.

Predictably heart-wrenching, it's filled with beautifully choreographed fight scenes. It's the  charismatic and heartfelt performances from George Kosturos as the desperate Ali Jahani and Bryan Craig as Ryan Caulder his best friend and room-mate that catch the eye.

While you know where the drama is heading, you still can’t help rooting for Ali who just wants to get his cancer-stricken mum to the US.

Available on video on demand.

CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans
Directed by Bruno Dumont
★★

THIS latest from writer-director Bruno Dumont, part of a series, follows the continuing exploits of P’tit Quinquin, now grown-up and calling himself CoinCoin.

CoinCoin (Alane Delhaye) and his friends find that local residents start acting strangely after magma — which look like a cross between a large cow pat and an oil slick — start appearing outside town and keep unexpectedly falling from the sky on to people’s heads.

Bumbling cops Captain Van der Weyden (Bernard Pruvost) and his sidekick Carpentier (Philippe Jore), who loves doing wheelies with their police car, are on the case declaring them to be extra-terrestrials and the plot thickens when the inhabitants' doppelgangers begin to turn up.

CoinCoin’s latest adventure is very reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dead Ringers but played for laughs. Very much an acquired taste.

Available on video on demand from July 24.

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