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Love triumphs in Cinderella, stagnates in GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

And four new documentaries demonstrate strong, courageous journalism

There is much to write about, starting with the big film this week, Cinderella, then two battlefields and four important documentaries.  

Here’s the list:

Cinderella: 4 stars

 GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem: 4 ½

’71: 4

The 50-Year Argument:  3 ½

The Hunting Ground: 3 ½

The Price We Pay: 4 ½

Merchants of Doubt:  4

Miss Julie:  --

Run All Night:  --


CINDERELLA: Every little girl will want to see this gorgeous live-action version of the old fairy tale. Quite a few older ones too.  They’ll swoon as she drifts down the stairs in that light blue dress and again when she dances with the prince.  And maybe even weep a bit when the glass slipper fits. This retelling works because Kenneth Branagh as director hasn’t tampered with it too much. There are only unobtrusive details to modernize it. Cinderella is seen reading a book. She develops a bit of an assertive side and takes a spirited ride on a horse. She meets and is charmed by the prince before she even knows who he is.


The rest of the story is intact. Cinderella triumphs because she’s true to the aphorism “Have courage and be kind”.  Lily James, of Downton Abbey, and Richard Madden, the former Robb Stark of Game of Thrones, make a sweet couple.

Cate Blanchett is properly snooty as the stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother also narrates, which adds a feel of classic storytelling to the film. Visually it’s a standout with lush art direction, sets and costumes and seamless effects work to turn mice, lizards and the pumpkin into the carriage and later dismantle it again. A very entertaining film.

One caution: it starts with Ella’s childhood and the loss of her mother and includes the report later on of her father’s death. There’s a bonus, though. It’s preceded by FROZEN FEVER, a short follow up to the mammoth animated hit Frozen. The sisters are back, celebrating a birthday although Elsa’s sneezing brought on by a cold causes some comic commotion.  (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5

GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM: Courtroom dramas are rarely as riveting as this one from Israel. The title itself implies the issue that makes it so. Viviane is on trial, although all she wants is a divorce. She claims incompatibility as the reason, or in a burst of frustration far along in the proceedings: “I have been kept like a dog in a yard.” Getting out is nearly impossible though under Israel’s laws. The husband has to consent. A trio of rabbis have to judge whether a divorce decree, called a GETT, is warranted and in their view keeping a family together is a prime duty.


So Viviane, played with dignity and fuming reserve by Ronit Elkabetz (who also wrote and directed along with her brother Shlomi), has to come back to court repeatedly over a five-year period, often because her husband is a no-show, sometimes to be lectured on the role of a dutiful wife, sometimes to hear witnesses describe her husband as “a perfect man.”

There are more details than we usually get in films like this about why the marriage has broken down. Chief among them: she’s “a secular woman” and he demands that she run “a Kosher home by Jewish law.” No wonder the rabbis put her character on trial. Two previous films about the same couple brought the story this far. I haven’t seen them but could instantly connect with this chapter. It’s supremely well-acted, funny at times and driven by a rage to reform. (VanCity Theatre) 4 ½ out of 5 

’71: I’ve seen a lot of films over years about the “troubles” in Northern Ireland. This one of the very best. It doesn’t take sides but puts you right into the midst of it as it was back in 1971. It’s sometimes hard to tell who is on what side, who is working both sides and who is a spy. A young British soldier, played by Jack O'Connell, has to make sense of it on his first tour of duty there. “You’re not leaving this country” he’s reassured but it soon looks like he has. A routine patrol along the Falls Road, the dividing line between Catholic and Protestant areas, turns into a mob scene with children throwing stones, people swearing and yelling, guys kicking a fallen soldier and garbage can lids slapping a deafening soundtrack.


McConnell’s soldier sees a boy run off with a gun and chases him through back streets and alleys and becomes prey himself for roaming groups and thugs. Yann Demange, the director, keeps the excitement building and swoops us along in the chase and into an extremely tense search through a housing project. We’re told early on that alliances have been shifting and even the IRA had split into two groups: the traditional and the younger streetfighter types. We meet both, plus undercover agents, Protestant para-militaries and other with unspecified affiliations in this very well-made thriller.  4 out of 5  


This week brings us four excellent documentaries. 

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Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
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