Category Archives: 58th Chicago International Film Festival

Aftersun Review

Aftersun is a film in which people look at their lives both past and present. Aftersun is filled with melancholy moments, but they display endearment. This may not be a feel-good movie. However, it is breathtaking in terms of its narrative.  Aftersun’s positive light is the struggle which involves mixed feelings between a father and a daughter.

The film focuses on a father, Calum, and his daughter Sophie. Calum is played by Paul Mescal and Sophie is played by Frankie Corio. They are on a vacation together and experience frustrations with each other and with themselves. They have their good days, but also bad days when their fun plans fall apart. Aftersun is about the struggle of accepting the hard life that Calum and Sophie lead. Calum has a rough past, and so does Sophie. Her father does the best he can to be a good father, although it is hard for Sophie to see that in him. It is also difficult for her to accept that he oversees her.

Aftersun is a film that feels experimental because it closely follows the dynamics of Calum and Sophie’s relationship. Their vacation is filled with tension and the intriguing narrative connects effectively with the film’s cinematography. Aftersun portrays true feelings of disconnect in a surreal tone of dramatic filmmaking. The conflicted relationship between Calum and Sophie is unique. It shows that they have hatred, but deeply want to feel connected with each other. In Mescal’s role as Calum, he displays a generous amount of love as a father. In Corio’s role as Sophie, she displays belligerent behavior as a daughter. Aftersun’s story of attempted reconciliation is deep with irreparable consequences.  The emotions between Calum and Sophie are purely sad, but purely engrossing.

With the complicated frustrations and tension between Calum and Sophie, Aftersun flows like a depressing story. However, it is about Calum and Sophie figuring out how to get on the same page to maintain their relationship. The story is about how they come to terms of acceptance, despite their dark past. Calum’s challenging childhood drags her into his suffering. Aftersun is ultimately about forgiveness and second chances despite the struggles between them.

Aftersun is hard to feel positive about. I did appreciate the movie for its realist portrayal of a difficult subject. I found reflecting upon how relationships tend to hurt so much with the ones we love most. The film’s direction and style of filmmaking is faithful to life and society. Three stars for Aftersun.

Nanny Review

Nanny is a film that weaves emotions of the past, present, and future. It displays a juxtaposition of what is right and wrong when dealing with tough situations. Nanny is filled with positive vibes in its opening. Just moments after that though, it begins to heighten with disagreements. The anxiety of the characters in Nanny become strong and harrowing mental terror is visually portrayed. Nanny soars with tension in various moments. The film, however, is not great because its continuity is miscalculated.

Nanny’s plot is played out in New York City. The film introduces us to Aisha, played by Anna Diop. Aisha is an immigrant who is hired to be a nanny by Amy, played by Michelle Monaghan, and Adam, played by Morgan Spector. They put her in charge of watching their daughter Rose, played by Rose Decker. Aisha loves her job taking care of Rose. It distracts her from the many troubles of her own past. The mood for Aisha starts to shift when Amy begins to fall behind on paying her. Aisha finds herself having to talk to Adam behind Amy’s back. As the miscommunication starts getting out of hand, Aisha’s own reality begins to tarnish. Her tensions remind her of the past, and she finds herself mentally losing control. As disagreements begin to intensify with all the parties involved, the more the terror evolves.

Aisha’s frustrations with Amy and Adam are what causes her anxiety to spin out-of-control. It is the same way for Amy. As Amy keeps putting off the payments for Aisha, Nanny gets more vivid with strange illusions. The scary imagery of Aisha’s past keeps haunting her, and it begins to impact her job performance with Rose. The outcomes Aisha’s behavior become irreparable and surreal. Nanny proves its point of consequence by creatively showing what is in Aisha’s mind. The trail of Aisha’s past is not forgotten, so Rose may be in danger under Aisha’s care. Nanny lures its viewers by utilizing tracks of strange imagery tied to Aisha’s emotions. I found this utterly gnarly.

Nanny is an invigorating film with a captivating plot. I found it lacking because of how over-done Aisha’s mental images are. For example, there is a moment where she envisions something horrific in a swimming pool. Was this supposed to be an evil mermaid-type of omen? Isthis a psychological movie trying to be a version of The Shape of Water (2017)? If so, its fantasy moments like this were unappealing to me.  The execution was mediocre and not of importance to Nanny’s central problem.

Despite the strange mermaid moment, Nanny makes sense thanks to its underlying tensions. It is the mental horrors where the film crosses the line. Perhaps the goal was to make the audience feel like it is a fantasy.  Unfortunately, it is not one. Instead, it is a film about a lady trying to make an income, while also trying to get her life together after a harsh past. Sadly, the creative process causes this film to go way overboard.

My explanation to help put this film into context is that Nanny falls under the genres of horror and thriller. It is more psychological terror mixed with exaggerated emotions. The film does not know when to stop adding more elements. The over-exaggerations are what causes Nanny to be just mediocre and make the movie not make sense in certain moments. Two and a half stars for Nanny.

58th Chicago International Film Festival: Raymond and Ray Review

Films that gear on siblings and struggles appeal to me deeply. They typically involve elements that are either harsh or easy to dismiss. Raymond and Ray are focused on brotherhood. It is a touching and inviting comedy which does not shine a light too brightly on its dark subject matter. I found it to be a compassionate film about two brothers reconnecting.

Director Rodrigo Garcia knows how to challenge culture and family dynamics in Raymond and Ray. His authenticity in directing correlates with his HBO series In Treatment (2008-2021). Garcia directed many of the episodes of In Treatment back when Gabriel Byrne was the main psychologist. Garcia always knew how to capture what hurts people. The concept of challenging truths of family and their underlying issues is where Garcia pinpoints the central struggles with Raymond and Ray.

In the film, Ethan Hawke is Ray and Ewan McGregor is Raymond, and their father has died. The main characters are half-brothers. They come together to get the funeral for their father set-up. The funeral must be carried out according to their father’s wishes. With the difficult task of having to dig their father’s grave, the brothers find themselves struggling with frustration and hatred towards their father.

The performances of Hawke and McGregor are surreal and touching. Hawke’s character is about having his cultured musical side, but sadly he could not hold down a job. McGregor’s character is an individual with a DUI record and issues with his wife and kids although those issues do not enter the film very much. The film focuses primarily on the brothers and how they deal with the funeral. The way the movie portrays them coming together to deal with an issue that is sad, stressful, and emotional makes Raymond and Ray especially powerful. The fact that life is not fair is a fact that both brothers grapple with.

Raymond and Ray will make viewers laugh and cry. While there is some resolution in the film, the major flaws of both brothers are a difficult subject matter. The film is dramatic throughout and despite its sadness, it has meaning. Three and a half stars.