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1917: a must-see, Just Mercy, a should-see, and Underwater, a don’t-bother

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THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURÍDICE GUSMÃO: Be prepared for one of the most wrenching emotional endings you’ll ever see in a movie. It’s a melodrama but a high-toned one with an immensely moving story and real observations about the status of women. Observations, not lectures or preaching. You pick up what you want as you watch this story about two sisters in Brazil. They’re very close, but different in nature. Guida, the free spirit, has hot sex with a sailor she meets in a club and runs away with him to Greece. When she realizes he’s “a scumbag” and comes home pregnant, her father disowns her and won’t tell her sister about her return. Or pass along her letters.


Eurídice meanwhile dreams of going to Europe to study piano but gets married instead. A wedding night sex scene feels anything but consensual. The two sisters’ lives are clearly delineated and shown with a feminist slant that includes the restraints they live with, like decorum, tradition, patriarchy and even laws of real estate ownership. (Interesting that a man, Karim Aïnouz, directed the film.) Surprisingly they don’t run into each other, although they almost do in one scene. Instead we get a twist and a years-later climactic scene you might need a hanky to help you with. Carol Duarte and Julia Stockler are wonderful playing the sisters. The film was lauded for innovation with the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes this year. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5 

THE WHALE AND THE RAVEN: Here’s one to keep in mind as you read about pipeline protests and tanker traffic. They’re looming out of sight as we watch our beautiful British Columbia coast up there on the big screen, so majestic, inspiring and threatened. On the hydrophone we hear the sound of whales communicating (and individually identifiable) and then hear the sound of a tanker ship still far away but already a nuisance. Researcher Herman Meuter, who came here from Germany in 1992, says he can hear them from around the corner: a small indication of the danger they pose to whales.


“I could wrap my life around whales,” he adds.  Occasionally they surface and “blow” just out there in the bay which another researcher, Janie Wray, describes as “one big bowl of whale food”. At the nearby Gitga’at First Nation we hear stories about them (and the other clan, the ravens) that have been told forever. One is illustrated with animation. These days the stories are about stopping energy projects that bring more tanker traffic. The Enbridge Pipeline was successfully fought off but LNG, “the largest private investment in Canadian history” is coming. I like this characterization heard in the film: “People with no connection to the land making decisions about land that doesn’t belong to them”. This lovely film, by Mirjam Leuze, a cultural anthropologist from Germany, promotes a deep respect instead. (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½ out of 5

AND THE BIRDS RAINED DOWN: Five years after her fine film Gabrielle, Quebec director Louise Archambault brings another crowd-pleaser about love at the edges. This time it’s right off the grid and late in life. Three old men live like hermits in a forest; one dies and the others are visited by outsiders. There’s an old woman with touches of dementia and a craving for “the countryside” and a young one looking for a man who survived a forest fire years before. She wants to get his story for a research project for a museum. Part of the film is a quest to find these people who don’t want to be found.


The rest is about getting along with them. One, a former tavern entertainer (Rémy Girard) resents intruders and sings Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits songs. A second (Gilbert Sicotte) is gruff but a bit more welcoming. He warms up to 76-year old Gertrude, played by Andrée Lachapelle,finds she’s a soul mate and a grateful sex-partner. It’s never too late, is a major theme of this film. It’s also an answer to the bigger question: how can you live without interaction with other people? Not well and not for long, it seems. It’s a novel way to ponder those things but it works, even though the script strains at times to set it up. Gertrude’s nephew brings the two women to the woodsy camp which he supplies with groceries in trade for marijuana the men grow when they’re not skinny dipping ijn the lake. Some other plot lines are left too skimpy and a forest fire said to be coming near is hardly felt at all. What does work though is more than engaging. (VanCity) 3 ½ out of 5         

Also now playing ...

LIKE A BOSS: Best friends run a business together but can they stay friends? That’s the theme of this comedy starring Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish. One is practical; the other likes their cosmetics company for the money it brings her. They’re in debt though and when Salma Hayek’s viperish businesswoman offers to buy them out, disagreement surfaces, and with Salma’s help, blooms into a big battle. Has potential. I haven’t seen it but an acquaintance who has calls it “bland” while many reviews say it starts strong and long before the end runs out of steam.   

And coming ...

WEATHERING WITH YOU: A new work of Japanese animation by Makoto Shinkai will be in some area theatres this coming Wed and Thurs as part of the Cineplex Events Anime series. Shinkai's last film Your Name was a huge hit and consequently some of these upcoming shows are already sold out. Young love is the central theme and climate change is involved, although there are hints it may include some denial. Wed's shows are subtitled; Thursday's are dubbed into English. You'll have to do some research to find out what's available by going to the websites (with "showtimes") of the following theatres: Park & Tilford, Riverport, Langley, Coquitlam and Park Royal.  


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