This is a triple header movie review post, hold on tight. No overt spoilers, but if you like going into movies without any preconceived notions, I hope you'll stop now and come back later when you've seen them for yourself.
The Reader is one of those films that haunts my thoughts and dreams for some time after I've seen it - in part because of the subject matter, and in part because of how beautifully and authentically it was rendered. Director Stephen Daldry rightly relied heavily on the amazing ability of his cast to communicate so much through the slightest changes in expression or well-timed pauses, and the cinematography only complemented this by just getting out of their way.
The weight of the story revolves around a very specific plot twist that ripples out into the parts of the movie you've already seen and every scene after, but the emotional components of the movie as a whole span no less than every challenge a human being and its culture might face in a lifetime: love, war, genocide, justice, family, aging, integrity, honest, class, fear and more. The film also reminds present day viewers that the Holocaust is not just a part of history - the things that happened then are very much still playing out today in ways someone of my generation can probably not imagine. There are no sweeping conclusions or black and white moments of morality here - it very much shows the complexity of being human, and that we are all under construction until the very end.
If you appreciate gray areas in what it means to be human, you will probably also enjoy Then She Found Me, which Helen Hunt directs and stars in. Despite the other big name cast members - Colin Firth, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick - this is no nicely wrapped romantic comedy. It cuts to the bone of what it means to be in love, in partnership, in a family and shows no mercy in trying to genuinely portray the gut-wrenching ups and downs that comes with it. It's not all painful and there are moments of joy, hilarity and redemption that are only possible when a filmmaker helps you fall in love with the characters at some level, but this is not brain candy by any stretch.
A favorite exchange in the movie's recurring theme of what it means to love, and then hurt the ones we love:
I know what I did to you. To you in particular.
Like a worst nightmare kind of thing, right?
I knew that.
Even at the time, I knew that.
- What else? - I'll do it again.
I will. I'll hurt you again and again.
Not like that.
You'd have to leave me if I hurt you like that.
If we were together, you'd leave me if I hurt you like that again, wouldn't you?
Yes. Yes, I would.
But I'll hurt you in other ways. Little ways. I won't mean to, but I will.
And sometimes, I will mean to.
This is quite an offer you've worked up.
You'll hurt me, too, you know? You'll hurt me and change on me.
You might leave me after you promise you won't. How about that?
- I wouldn't. - You might.
- But I wouldn't! - But...
Yeah, I guess I might.
And lastly, you know what the exact opposite of well done is? Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End, that's what. Hopefully most people know by now that seeing a "3" of any film franchise is a big risk to start with, but for some reason we tried it out, and we quit halfway through (which, for a 3 hour movie, was still quite a bit of time wasted). I'm here to warn you off of this movie, so I won't offer any analysis other than to say that it's clear the script for this movie was essentially vomited out of of someone's brain while they were under the influence of some sort of illegal narcotic, and then hurriedly made into a film before anyone could say out loud what they must have all been thinking: "we are doing this to make enough money on opening weekend to cover our costs and a little more, and we don't care if it makes absolutely no sense at all and totally wastes the talent of our cast." Mission accomplished.
Seen any good films lately?