Tuesday, March 27, 2018

BFI Flare: Odd Couples

Festival time! I got off to a bit of a slow start as I needed to sort out my festival viewing experience. But I have managed to view 2.5 dramas so far.

My Days of Mercy
The BFI Flare opener, My Days of Mercy, stars Ellen Page and Kate Mara as two women on opposite sides of the death penalty forming a romance. While the two leads are eminently watchable and the film offers some suitably grave moments of inmates' last meals, at some point one does think, "Is this romance in utterly bad taste?" And yet, it's well acted and has a jaunty script. I do fear that Ellen Page is destined to spend her career playing emotionally stunted heroines. But she is on good form as the anti-death penalty protester saddlled with a family haunted by a brutal murder. Can she find happiness with a straight woman who lives several states away, has a boyfriend and is a staunch proponent of capital punishment? This is cinema.

 While My Days of Mercy follows a rather predictable path, the German drama Luft is cut from very different cloth. I found the first ten minutes gripping, as taciturn Manja is bowled over by a balaclava-clad Louk, fleeing some hunters she has sabotaged. Manja lives in an apartment block in an unnamed city with distinctive pale blue tower blocks that jut up like shoeboxes, in contrast to the mysterious forest where Manja retreats at every opportunity, urged on by her grandmother who tells her the forest is home to all her ancestors. Luft creates a quasi-magical atmosphere as if Manja is gripped by something beyond her every time she encounters the seemingly confident Louk, who cannot resist a dare, no matter how foolhardy. But she too copes with an emptiness, as her mother has not been in her life since the age of 10. The two schoolgirls embark on a journey to find the mother, and become intimate along the way,but while the film builds up brilliant tension and atmosphere, the ending completely punctures that and I found it quite frustrating.

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