Movies: At Eternity’s Gate, The Shoplifters, Roma

At Eternity’s Gate

Here is a film that attempts to explain the thinking of Vincent Van Gogh in his tormented years near the end of his life.  It is mostly set in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France where Van Gogh painted 75 paintings in his last 80 days of life.  Many are regarded as some of the his best work.

The cast is splendid.  In addition to Willem Dafoe (who was just nominated for Best Actor by the Golden Globes) as Vincent van Gogh, Rupert Friend plays his brother Theo.  Oscar Isaac plays Paul Gauguin, Mads Mikkelsen plays the priest, and Mathieu Amalric plays the doctor.  More than two dozen cast members fill in the various characters.

Critics and audiences liked this production.  From our perspective, it is an interesting look at a mad genius painter at his most creative, the inner forces that tormented him and a peek at a place in time we rarely see in today’s cinema.  The cinematography is stunning.

It is rated R for some thematic content.  It’s listed as a Drama with a run time of 111 minutes.  We do not feel it is suitable for children.  It is Directed by Academy Award nominee Julien Schnabel.  English and French with English subtitles.

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The Shoplifters

This is a unique film directed by Hirokazu Koreeda about a Japanese family that…well isn’t, at least biologically.  Add to the mix they steal just about anything they need; food, household goods, personal hygiene products or whatever else they need to live like normal people.

It’s unnerving at first, it feels wrong.  It is wrong.  Collectively the ‘family’ goes about its daily business as though this is the norm for all of society.

The all Japanese cast fit well together.  Each actor is comfortable in their character’s skin.  The performances of the children was exceptional.  It’s a bit odd because the concept is so not Japanese, yet it works as a whole.

It’s surprisingly rated R for some sexual content and nudity.  It is probably okay for mature children although it may require some conversation.  It is listed as  Art House & International, Drama with a run time of two hours, one minute.  Japanese with English subtitles.

It was just nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Film category.

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Roma

This is an extraordinary film about a year in the life of a middle class family in Mexico City set in the 1970’s.  The husband is a physician whose work requires extended time away from the family.  The wife is a biochemist working full time.  They have four children in grammar school and two young housekeepers to help keep the household running.

It is a semi-autobiographical story about the childhood of Director Alfonso Cuaron.  The story drifts from character to character, their challenges and failures.

The core cast is perfect.  Yalitza Aparicio plays Cleo, the main housekeeper.  Marina de Tavira plays the mom.  Nancy Garcia Garcia plays Adela, another housekeeper.  Veronica Garcia plays the grandmother.  Jorge Antonio Guerrero plays the boyfriend/father.  Another 21 characters fill in the rest of the cast.

This film is rated R for graphic nudity, some disturbing images and language.  We do not recommend this film for children.  It is listed as a Drama with a run time of 135 minutes.  It is filmed entirely in black and white and in Spanish with English subtitles.  It is surely destined for a prolific awards season, including its recent Golden Globe nominations for Best Foreign Film, Director and Screenplay.

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