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Cinema Film round-up: November 12, 2021

Maria Duarte and Van Connor review Becoming Cousteau, Cry Macho, You Will Die at Twenty, Natural Light and Shepherd

Becoming Cousteau (12A)
Directed by Liz Garbus
★★★★

THE intrepid life, work and legacy of inventor, explorer, environmentalist and film-maker extraordinaire Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau is celebrated and examined in this riveting new documentary.

Co-produced by two of his children and featuring a wealth of never-before-seen archive footage, Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus delivers an engrossing and fresh portrait of this extraordinary man who among other things invented the Aqualung, discovered the oil reserves that made Abu Dhabi wealthy and won an Oscar and the Palme d’Or for his 1956 classic, The Silent World.

However the film isn’t uncritical of Cousteau the father and husband — exploring the price he paid for pursuing his underwater passion.

What emerges is a timely reminder of his unrelenting and inspiring work (from the ’70s until his death) to save the oceans and the planet from its looming destruction.

With Cop26 ending, never before has one man’s life’s work resonated more.

Maria Duarte

In cinemas November 12

 

Cry Macho (12)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
★★★

LAST intended for screens a decade ago as an aborted Schwarzenegger drama, N Richard Nash’s novel Cry Macho is finally here, fronted by none other than the man who turned it down more than 30 years ago, the legendary Clint Eastwood.

That it has ultimately swung back to Eastwood makes the world of sense, the mythic-level Hollywood star a broken rancher who finds an unlikely bond in the estranged Mexican son of a fellow horseman on their journey back to the border.

Performatively — even directorially — it’s a textbook Eastwood vehicle. But why then, does it feel so pedestrian?

Nobody verbalises paving gravel quite like our star here, though — while it’ll never be less than a thrill to see the nonagenarian thesp take to horseback and effortlessly flex that he’s still got it — Cry Macho is too rustic and dated in its storytelling methodology to play to all but Eastwood’s more ardent fans.

Its issues lay entirely on the page — a lack of development suggesting a script hungover from that Arnie iteration — denying audiences the depth or feeling to warrant any possible crying, though at least delivering on the machismo.

Van Connor

In cinemas November 12

 

You Will Die at Twenty (12A)
Directed by Amjad Abu Alala
★★★★

THE first Sudanese film ever to be submitted for an Oscar, Dubai-based film-maker Amjad Abu Alala makes his feature debut with a rousing look at the shackles of foundational religion and the obstacles they present for personal growth with the compelling You Will Die at Twenty.

Having spent his life living under the sword of a childhood prophecy that his life will end after two decades, villager Muzamil sees a welcoming light come into his world with the return of the long-absent Suleiman and his introducing the condemned youth to the magic of cinema — a combination which opens his eyes to something previously inconceivable: possibility.

Alala’s work walks a fine tightrope between that wonder and the grandeur of more traditionally awards-friendly fare, the result in step with something like a contemporary world-cinema fable and aided by intriguing chemistry between Mustafa Shehata and Mahmoud Alsarraj. Powerful.

Van Connor

In cinemas November 12

 

Natural Light (15)
Directed by Denes Nagy
★★★★

HUNGARIAN director Denes Nagy is the first-timer behind this gripping but cold portrayal of life behind the tree line for his countrymen in occupied Soviet territory during the second world war.

An adaptation of Pal Zavada’s novel Termeszetes feny; the title Natural Light suggests something warm and revitalising, the film itself however delivers anything but.

The story follows one of thousands of Hungarian soldiers (then aligned with the Axis powers) tasked with patrolling occupied Soviet territory and keeping an eye on potential insurgents.

Grim, drowned in grey and brown hues, and sporting so many chilled breathy echoes that cinematographer Tamas Dobos must have had his work cut out, Natural Light is a drama that eschews character and humanity but thrives in their absence.

It’s a masterful work that in less capable hands would feel lacklustre rather than intentionally deficit. A war tale not to be missed.

Van Connor

In cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema November 12

 

Shepherd (15)
Directed by Russell Owen
★★★

A WIDOWER running from grief is forced to confront his demons by malevolent forces in this deliciously eerie and spine-chilling gothic debut by writer-director Russell Owen.

The film follows Erick Black (a phenomenal Tom Hughes) who, haunted by the mysterious death of his wife, takes a job as a shepherd on a stark, weather-beaten island with an isolated lighthouse.

With only his dog for company he soon finds himself spiralling into madness, unable to determine what is real or not as he is pursued by an unknown entity.

Loosely inspired by the Smalls Lighthouse tragedy in Wales, upon which Robert Eggers’s The Lighthouse (avoid at all costs) was also based, this is a much more creepy, visually arresting and satisfying ghost story which keeps you off-kilter and guessing throughout.

Maria Duarte

In cinemas November 12

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