7:00 PM, 9th September, 2017
Mike Mills’s breakout feature, 2010’s acclaimed Beginners told the semi-autobiographical story of his father. Now, with 20th Century Women, he takes on his mother’s story but instead of exploring the relationship between an adult son and his ageing father as he did in Beginners, this film is inspired by his childhood.
Annette Bening plays Dorothea Fields, a single mother raising her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) in Santa Barbara, California in 1979. Apart from the delightful character that is his mother, Jamie’s adolescence is defined by two equally colourful women: Abbie (Gerwig) and Julie (Fanning), who Dorothea asks to help navigate Jamie through puberty. The film tracks Jamie’s coming-of-age story surrounded by these 20th century women. And like the best coming-of-age stories, the plot of the film just revolves around the interactions of these characters, from the hilarious to the sad, and silly to heartfelt.
The Oscar-nominated writing hits every spot that it aims for in the best of ways, with an abundance of late ’70s life and liveliness to it. But the real winner of the film is the reliably brilliant Bening, who takes the all-too-rare opportunity of a good female lead role at the age of 58, and revels in it. It is her best performance since The Kids are Alright. Gerwig, Fanning and Zumann follow her lead in highly, if not equally, impressive turns in delivering a story inspired by real people that unfolds like something out of a storybook.
9:08 PM, 9th September, 2017
Clare (Palmer) is an Aussie photojournalist on a holiday in Berlin. There, she meets with Andi (Riemelt), a charismatic local who acts as a guide and takes her to many quiet, abandoned, but beautiful sites around the city. There is an instant attraction between them, and sexual tension soon gives way to passion – and then something unexpected when the romance takes a sinister turn. Clare wakes the following morning to discover Andi has left for work and locked her in his apartment, and it wasn’t accidental.
This psychological thriller is a Australian-German co-production with considerable Aussie contribution: interiors were shot in Melbourne; it’s based on Aussie author Melanie Joosten’s novel; and local Canberra girl Cate Shortland (Somersault) directs. But our best contribution is Teresa Palmer in the lead role. As an actress her work (Hacksaw Ridge, Wish You Were Here, Warm Bodies) is always dependable, and nowhere near as recognised as it should be. In this film she showcases her outstanding talent as much in her ability to convey her complex emotions, as in the tension she builds for us. In the latter, she is aided by Bryony Mark’s score, both combining to create the nerve-shredding tension required in a film such as this.
Berlin Syndrome is a must-see for thriller lovers.