Once every 6 months the Pathé cinema chain here in The Netherlands organizes a one-day film festival where 5 new movies are shown back to back, simultaneously in several cinemas throughout the country. It’s always on a Sunday, starting at 10.30 am and ending around 11 pm. I’ve written about previous PAC festivals here and here and have also been to one or two more before I started blogging. I can safely say that the one I went to yesterday was the most depressing of all! My friend and I had gotten tickets before we knew the complete line-up and yeah, we may not do that ever again. Next time, we wait for the line-up first. The line-up this time was this:
I ended up going to this thing alone without my friend as she called the night before to tell me she was really sick (a suspected kidney infection) and really couldn’t go. She urged me to go on my own, as the tickets were already paid for, and after a little hesitation I did.
The morning started at 10.30 am with a Russian movie called Loveless. In hindsight, I found this to be the best movie of the day. It’s about a married couple (actors Maryana Spivak and Alexei Rozin) who are about to divorce. They are so caught up in their own lives (with new lovers each) and hating each other, they ignore their 12-year-old son (Matvey Novikov). The effect that this planned divorce has on him is heartbreaking to see and is so well acted by the young boy! Then one day the boy is gone and the couple must team up to search for him…
This movie is bleak! And Loveless is a very fitting title. There is no love lost between the divorcing couple, no love for their son, a loveless relationship is hinted at between the mother and her mother and also briefly shown. Basically the main players are incapable of love and the little boy is the victim in all of this. The movie has a matter-of-fact calmness to it, with some very nice cinematography and very good acting by all, but so bleak and cold, it left me depressed at the end. Even so, it was a good movie! I read that it’s being submitted to the Oscars as a Best Foreign Language film, and rightly so, I believe.
If I had hoped for something a little lighter for the second movie, which was shown after lunch, then those hopes were quickly dashed by You Never Really Were Here with Joaquin Phoenix. It’s about a man named Joe who used to be in the army but is now a tormented and brutal enforcer and lives a lonely life. He goes on a mission to rescue a missing young teenage girl, leaving a lot of bodies in his wake. The rescue mission then takes an unexpected turn…
I read that in Cannes the movie got a 7 minute standing ovation, it’s also getting very good reviews. While I thought the movie was quite good, I wouldn’t go so far as giving it a standing ovation (not even for one minute). Maybe it was just too dark and violent for me, I don’t know. What I can say, however, is that Joaquin Phoenix really is very good as Joe. He won the Best Actor Award at Cannes for this and I can see why. He is a very good portrayer of a tormented soul. And I guess, you could see this movie as a continuation of the loveless theme of the first movie – Joe does live with his old mother and there is some love there, but his life is mostly loveless and lonely. I could sort of deal with the bleakness, the violence less so.
After these two movies I was more depressed than ever. Then came a 15 minute break after which the movie The Glass Castle was shown, with Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts. The Glass Castle is based on a true story, to quote from IMDB: “A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who’s an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children’s imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty.”
It’s a childhood spent running away from debts, living in utter poverty and squatting in homes. While there is a lot of love there, it also shows that only love really isn’t enough. Jeannette, the second daughter, after many disappointments, decides to get away and make a better life for herself. Again, I liked the movie alright but couldn’t love it. It was really mostly a portrait of a daughter and her father. I could relate to that and because of that, at the end I did wipe away a tear, but I was left with mixed feelings. In the end, it felt like that which wasn’t right was brushed under the carpet. We see the parents neglecting the kids, almost starving them at times, they gave them no ounce of security, they for a long time refused to send them to school ‘because real life is the real school’, they once left them with an abusive grandmother for a week and the kids literally had to escape to get away and make their own way in the world. But hey, the parents really loved them, so in the end it was no big deal and all OK, right? Nah, that really didn’t do it for me! It was a typical American feel-good ending and glossing over all that had gone before. Again, the acting was very good but the movie itself was not so great.
While I was a little less depressed after this movie, I was left with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. Luckily it was time for dinner. There was 90 minutes for that, so I took a walk to clear my head before I got myself a quick bite to eat. The cinema is right near a river and it felt good to be in the air and moving around a bit. The boat in the picture on the right is called ‘Grace Kelly’, by the way. Very fitting name to come across on a one-day film festival.
The first evening film was Stronger with Jake Gyllenhall about the aftermath of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing. It’s a true story about Jeff Bauman who loses both his legs (below the knee) in the blast and has to deal with building a new life with his disability amidst all the media attention that comes with role of survivor and ‘hero’.
Again, great acting by Gyllenhall, Tatiana Maslany as his girlfriend Erin who forces him to grow up and Miranda Richardson as his mother. I liked the way it was filmed, it had a real look and feel and it was different from other ‘inspirational’ true stories. Jeff’s struggles looked real and especially the scene where his bandages come off really stuck with me in its no-fuss portrayal. The thing I didn’t that much like was the end when he basically succumbed to American heroism after finally finding peace in his situation. There is a bit of an American patriotic streak in all of this (as in very many movies coming from the US) and I have always had iffy feelings about that. Because of that, I think this movie may be more powerful for US audiences than it is for European ones.
After another 15 minute break, the final film was Good Time with Robert Pattinson. It’s a heist movie about two brothers. They rob a bank, which goes awry and the mentally challenged brother, Nick (Ben Safdie), gets arrested. Connie (Pattinson) in the night that follows tries everything he can to free his brother
While Pattinson really was excellent, this movie did absolutely nothing for me! The gritty feel was alright, what I really didn’t like was the close up, jerky filming style. It was so tiring to look at that I found myself closing my eyes occasionally. I didn’t quite nod off to sleep but I could have. While commendable that Connie tries everything for his brother, he just sinks deeper and deeper into shit. How these brothers came onto this track is never explained, why Connie thinks therapy is bad for Nick, I don’t know. I really did not like this movie and almost regretted having stayed for it. I had stayed for Pattinson, I generally find him to be quite a good actor and he really was good here, but he couldn’t save the movie for me. That whole world was just too gritty and ugly and, except for the brothers caring for each other, it felt very loveless and grim as well. Why it’s called Good Time is a little beyond me, Pointless might have been a better name. Maybe I would have liked it more if it hadn’t been the last in a line of loveless and depressing movies…
My ranking for the movies I saw at the 17th PAC Festival would be:
- You Never Really Were Here
- The Glass Castle
- Good Time
I had to take public transport (tram and train) followed by a 10 minute bike ride home and as it was night, there was less public transport available. What normally would have taken a maximum of an hour, took me an hour and a half. It meant I had time to catch up on news on my phone, with the whole #TakeTheKnee Trump versus NFL confrontation in the US (seriously, how can this man STILL be president??) and the devastating news that Nazis have made it into German parliament for the first time since WWII. I do realize 87% did not vote for them, but still they got enough votes to get into parliament! Seriously, after those 5 movies and the news, I felt like the world was coming to an end… When I finally fell into bed at 12.45 am my brain was so fried, I thankfully quickly fell into a deep sleep.
This sickly feeling, though a little lighter now than last night, has prevailed throughout the day today and I hope that writing all this up helps lighten the load. And a word of the wise: don’t ever watch all these films in one day!