Family ties: Mare of Easttown (2021)

Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the show’s pedigree, I might not have given Mare of Easttown much of a chance. It just looked like any number of other series: a grim, drab crime story about one young woman who’s been gone for a year, another who’s found dead, and the grizzled investigator working the case. At least that investigator isn’t male for once, but then it’s not like we haven’t had a fair number of female investigators investigating the murder of other women by now. What’s to elevate Mare of Easttown over so many other grim, drab stories of violence against women?

Well, other than it being an HBO series? And the title role is played by Kate Winslet? Oh, and there’s also Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart and Guy Pearce?

Okay, okay, streaming service: you’ve convinced me. I’ll give this a chance. Just know that it isn’t quite as easy as that to convince me. I might still watch the series and be frustrated by how much it wastes a great cast on a story that we’ve seen several dozen times already, right? Right?

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Gambling away your credit

Villains are interesting because we cannot believe what they are prepared to do and then get away with their crimes while we keeping looking on, appalled, but also slightly amazed. With unsympathetic characters, it’s slightly different. My guess is that we are caught in the dilemma of not condoning their actions or beliefs, but somehow understanding them. We wouldn’t act their way because we are not them, but if we were, maybe we would make the same choices. The main character in Pablo LarraĆ­n’s Ema (2019) makes no effort to win our sympathies, but we get why she does what she does. To a lesser extent, we might also understand Francis’ decisions in Burhan Qurbani’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (2020), but chances are that we will never have to risk our lives crossing the Mediterranean, or deal with the violent antics of an adopted child.

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At War, at Play

The first half hour of Alejandro Landes’ debut feature Monos contains some of the most beautiful images of any movie released this year. We are somewhere in Latin or South America, so high up that the clouds seem lower than the silhouettes of the child soldiers. There are red-burning clouds trying to scale the jungle-green mountaintops; there are lush meadows and old abandoned fortifications. There is a war, but we know less about it than even the eight teenagers in their rag-tag, mismatched dirty uniforms. Continue reading