Boundaries is a dramedy about single mother Laura (Vera Farmiga) taking her estranged father Jack (Christopher Plummer) and socially awkward son Henry (Lewis Macdougall) on an involuntary road trip. Jack is crotchety and wasn’t emotionally present for Laura’s childhood, Henry draws people naked (which everyone reacts to as if he is a budding serial killer) and gets expelled from school, and Laura hoards animals and doesn’t believe in herself.
As dysfunctional family comedies go, Boundaries presents nothing new in the trope, which would be fine if only it weren’t working so hard to tug at the heartstrings. With the exception of Plummer, a delightful appearance by Christopher Lloyd, and another by Kristen Schaal as Laura’s sister JoJo, there really aren’t enough likable characters to draw in the viewer. Laura is at times shrill and self-centered when she is supposed to be sympathetic, Henry is sullen, and Jack is emotionally distant, offering arch commentary on Laura’s mistakes even as he strongarms his grandson into helping him sell weed. Yes, there is a weed angle.
You can probably guess how the film ends, but spoilers will still appear below the cut, as always.
After all the buzz surrounding it and a few recommendations from friends, I decided to see A Quiet Place in theaters. Being a horror fan, how could I not?
What A Quiet Place does well, it does very well. Tension draws out and there are genuine emotional scenes with real payoff, such as those moments when a character is finally, finally able to scream or even speak. However, I admit to being underwhelmed.
I am not saying this film was bad; far from it. I would rank it as above average for a mainstream Hollywood horror movie, which any horror fan will recognize as damning praise. From a technical filmmaking perspective, it was beautiful: John Krasinski, who stars and also directs, knows how to frame beautiful compositions, how to work with ambient lighting, how to film action so it’s exciting and tension so it’s heart-pumping, and how to draw evocative performances from his actors. The creatures look cool and their CGI is great.
As mentioned, the actors’ performances are strong, and there are several character moments that really resonate. Krasinski is great as a patient paternal figure, Emily Blunt is his tired, blonde, and eventually pregnant wife, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe as the children work well together and the whole ensemble effectively portrays a nuclear family.
Most filmgoers and horror fans will enjoy the jump scares and leave the movie rattled, but I found myself frustrated by the end. There were a number of weaknesses that leapt out and jarred me right out of the narrative, and created what ultimately felt like a missed opportunity.
A more detailed unpacking appears below the cut. As always, there will be spoilers.
This review comes courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics, from whom I received a screener. I was not paid or compensated for this review in any way.
By looking at the poster for Foxtrot, you might draw a few conclusions on the subject, such as life in the midst of war. You would be correct in doing so, but of course the film is much, much more complex than that and honestly I would be at a loss how best to suggest the film’s complexity be expressed in its press material.
In the simplest terms, the movie is an Israeli war drama about the effects of a young soldier’s death on his family. That alone would have held my interest, as war and its cost, when deftly handled, is fascinating enough. However, Foxtrot was not content to showcase such a straightforward premise and instead dives deep into family dynamics and personal demons.
It was warmly received at Venice and the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won awards, but for some reason did not receive an Oscar nomination. Politics may come into play, as it depicts the Israeli Defense Force committing a problematic crime against Arabic people, and so the film was denounced by Israel’s Minister of Culture. There are much, much smarter people out there who can speak to the complexities of this subject, and I will willingly admit to ignorance on many of these issues.
Foxtrot, named for both the dance and the Nato phonetic alphabet, is not a light movie but it was a brilliant depiction of loss and raw emotions.