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Posts from the ‘Well, I’m certainly not going through life with one hand tied behind my back. — James Dean’ Category

28
Jun

John Wick: Chapter 2


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Notice how nearly every action sequence is shot as if it were a dance. During hand-to-hand combat, limbs move with urgency, purpose, precision; torsos accumulate tension and respond to every action and reaction; appropriate facial expressions accompany each damaging blow to the body, whether it be a punch, a bullet, a serrated blade. Meanwhile, the camera sashays around the violent seizure, at times paired with an energetic soundtrack while other times daring to be silent. We are forced to listen, wide-eyed, full of nervous energy and anticipation to every blow, desperate shuffling, and the inevitable wince of pain.

“John Wick: Chapter 2,” directed by Chad Stahelski, shares a similarity with Gareth Evans’ “The Raid 2: Berandal” in that it is superior to its predecessor in just about every way. While the picture is still about a former assassin (Keanu Reeves) once again thrown into the world he wishes to retire from permanently, the story finds new ways to maintain our attention not simply in terms of highly volatile action sequences but also in learning more about the rules the assassins choose to follow in order to have the privilege of accessing certain resources so that they may survive and thrive within their universe. In a way, we learn about a community and their culture.

There are a few interesting choices that others might consider to be flaws. Not in my eyes. For instance, during numerous shootouts, knife fights, or simply two people pummeling each other to the ground, the onlookers usually do not respond in an expected way. While we are able to hear screams of terror and see people running away in the background, notice how the extras on the foreground tend to stay where they are. They look so casual, expressionless, as if these sort of fights were something they saw every day. I was amused that at times the violence on screen looks either like a “Street Fighter” game or a third-person shooter game. More impressive is that somehow it works as a surreal mixture of both.

The decision to minimize chaos leads to a cleaner look and so we can easily focus on those we should be paying attention to. Wide shots work just as well as tighter shots. The tension escalates as the camera keeps still. We count the number of beats until the moment the fighters finally make physical contact. And when they do, the battle is usually well-choreographed, the timing defined and exacting. We believe that John Wick is truly capable of killing a hundred men even though he is far from invincible.

“John Wick” offers joyous and superfluous entertainment. While an argument can be made that it is less realistic than the picture that preceded it, an equally compelling argument can be constructed that this film is a natural extension by taking realism and pushing it toward an extreme that we may even laugh at it at times. It is meant to be over-the-top so no one can say that this is simply a rehash, a mere cash grab.

26
Jun

Trash Fire


Trash Fire (2016)
★★★ / ★★★★

“Trash Fire,” written and directed by Richard Bates Jr., is missing a third act but—to my most welcome surprise—it is appropriate considering the material’s seeming effortless ability to shock the viewers with its incredibly pointed dialogue and sudden left turns. It could have been just another uninspired movie where a couple from the city visits family members in the country and bad things start to happen inevitably. Instead, the film takes on a savage and quite misanthropic approach to its characters. Do we actually want these people to return to their miserable lives after the visit?

The first act is a compelling look at a relationship taking its last gasps of air. Although a dark comedy, I found more realism here than I do with standard romantic comedies where couples find themselves all right again after a banal, syrupy apology. Not here. The film is willing to show that sometimes one feels almost forced to forgive in order sustain what one has with another person. We feel a character’s fear of having to move on without the other and how that fear is mistaken for love. It’s sick, twisted, and I relished every second of Isabel (Angela Trimbur) and Owen’s (Adrian Grenier) increasingly rotting corpse of a relationship.

Grenier and Trimbur sell the dialogue as if they were in a drama, not a dark-comedy horror picture. They make a smart choice. In a movie like this where not much action happens, it is not enough to merely say the impressive lines. The key is found in the in-between, the emotions expressed sandwiched between the throwing of verbal daggers and looks of disdain. I found it interesting that it is easy to side with either Owen or Isabel and yet we still recognize not only the flaws of their actions (or inactions) but also the flaws of who they are. We find ourselves relating to them because deep down we feel they still wish to make a nearly impossible partnership work.

But the ace in the deck is Fionnula Flanagan who plays Violet, Owen’s deeply religious grandmother and caretaker of Pearl (AnnaLynne McCord), Owen’s sister whose body is 80% covered in burns. Flanagan communicates hatred toward her grandson and the woman he brought home—whom she considers to be a whore—by employing her entire being. Take note of the most intense scenes which take place at the dinner table where every word and tone must be chosen carefully. Violet offers a tricky minefield of insinuations when she isn’t being cruel to someone’s face. She is a villain to be remembered.

This gem of a film is for viewers who take pleasure in watching terrible people—not solely because the characters are terrible but also because there is a curiosity to want to understand why they are the way they are. Credit must be given to the writer-director for making an uncompromising picture, one that respects its audience’s intelligence and ability to relate to others—even if these “others” are intolerable when apart and toxic when together.

25
Jun

James White


James White (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

Written and directed by Josh Mond, “James White” is like reading the diary of a person struggling with overwhelming forces of life and the owner consistently proves to be ill-equipped to handle the unceasingly increasing weights coming from all directions. Clearly, this work is not meant to be entertaining or life-affirming, but it is nonetheless illuminating. It captures a son’s unconditional love for his ailing mother even when he himself, because of his own personal demons, is in no state to care for another human being.

The title character is played by Christopher Abbott and the camera follows him like a vulture stalking a dying animal. Most impressive about the performance is Abbott’s ability to channel different forms of emotional and psychological suffocation. A breakdown in a hotel room with his best friend (Scott Mescudi) and girlfriend (Makenzie Leigh) is heartbreaking, frightening, and maddening. And yet despite such conflicting emotions, we empathize with him first and foremost. One can make the case that he is a product of his environment.

The screenplay provides no deep or detailed concept of his life. And so we surmise. We observe where his mother (Cynthia Nixon) lives and the sorts of items inside the home. She lives quite comfortably and there is a brief exchange about how she is able to support James for four years (he argues that it has been only two years) despite the fact that he does not have a job or a place of his own. We get the impression that he probably has had it easy since childhood through his teenage years and early twenties. Now that he is closer to his thirties, easy does not cut it in the real world where one is faced with illness and mortality.

But the movie does not judge its character. After all, does a vulture judge its prey for having fatal wounds? Instead, it watches unblinkingly. It is patient. It captures every telling moment. That is what makes the film a challenge to watch; it is not afraid to show the subjects being pushed to their limits. It shows the kind of difficult images one might encounter in real life, even in our own families where someone’s health is in steady decline. I appreciated the film’s unwavering honesty.

“James White” has great ability to surprise us especially since we are forced to make convenient assumptions about the protagonist. His go-to when things get difficult is hard drugs, alcohol, and dance clubs. But in this story, there is no rehabilitation or easy plot twists that suddenly make everything all right. Instead, there are a few glimmers of true humanity that emanate from our stereotype or categorization of the man. We root for James to get his act together, even though at times he comes across like he’s not even trying, because we recognize that his flaws are our own, too: We all, at some point, have taken or continue to take our parents for granted.

23
Jun

Harbinger Down


Harbinger Down (2015)
★ / ★★★★

“Harbinger Down,” written and directed by Alec Gillis, comes across as a lame and cheap imitation of its inspiration, John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror classic “The Thing.” An argument can be made that just about every element that could have gone wrong with Carpenter’s picture are shown here. To begin with, it lacks an identity of its own. Just about every major turn of event begs to be compared to its superior template.

For a story that unfolds aboard a fishing trawler, it never establishes a convincing sense of place. It is astounding because the ship is not that big and yet we do not get a complete mental map of the place. And so when characters attempt to escape from the extraterrestrial they released from frozen sea ice, the situation is most unconvincing; it gives the impression the characters are merely in a cramped, unclean apartment. If the filmmakers really did understand what made “The Thing” such a horrifyingly great experience, they would have put it in more effort into making the setting as plausible as possible.

The lead character named Sadie (Camille Balsamo) is a boring protagonist and therefore an unworthy final girl. Although Balsamo is not a performer with the greatest range, the script is at fault for the most part. Sadie’s backstory is forced, her exchanges with other characters—especially with her grandfather (Lance Henriksen), the captain of the the boat—do not sound natural, and we never get a chance to measure or sense her level of intelligence, especially since she is supposed to be a graduate student studying effects of global warming on whales. Her characterization relies solely on egregious dialogue. I suppose we should be thankful we were spared from flashbacks.

The monster’s appearance is uninspiring for the most part. Although I admired the decision to use CGI only sparingly, the special and visual effects fail to create a terrifying creature, one that deserves to be remembered. Filmmakers should note that tentacles on their own are not scary. You can have a hundred of them wriggling at once, coming out of an orifice, but they are still not scary. They may look gross or disgusting, especially with the aid of slurping sound effects, but they do not elicit horror without us eventually receiving a clear, well-lit, and compelling picture of its entire form. The idea that since the creature has the ability to alter its genetic makeup and so there is no point in showing its whole figure up close is absolutely not an excuse.

It fails to capture a sense of isolation and an increasing sense of hopelessness. So, when the final scenes come around and we expect the picture to end soon, we feel a sense of relief—even excitement—that the torment of sub-mediocrity is almost over. Watching sci-fi horror should never feel this way. The greats of the genre may make us feel anxious, disgusted, and downright horrified—but we want to keep watching and we wish for it to keep going nonetheless even though the story is complete, most characters are dead, and the final irony has been delivered.

21
Jun

L’inconnu du lac


Inconnu du lac, L’ (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

“Stranger by the Lake,” written and directed by Alain Giraudie, is beautiful-looking mystery thriller involving a murder in a lake that just so happens to be a gay cruising spot, but the screenplay is not deep enough to warrant a thorough psychological examination of its characters. As a result, one gets the impression that having unsimulated sex scenes is a mere gimmick, designed simply to capture the interest of its intended audience. Telling a compelling story is left by the wayside.

The picture is not without a sense of humor. For example, as a man walks toward the lakeside, the editing makes it appear as though the men already there are like a pack of wolves, constantly on the lookout for potential meat to go after. It works as a commentary about the gay community and objectification, especially toward younger men. The material might have benefited overall if it had more amusing and intelligent moments like this. Instead, we get numerous shots of naked men sunbathing.

The person who witnesses the murder is named Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps). Perhaps the only interesting element about him is the fact that he refuses to report what he had seen. The reason is because he has fallen in love with the murderer, Michel (Christophe Paou), prior to the decisive moment. By turning a blind eye, it is natural that we grow increasingly curious about Franck’s motivations. However, the way the character is written is quite bland and he is not given many interesting things to do or say. Halfway through, he turns into a bore.

Over time, I began to wonder about the writer-director’s own motivations. I questioned if he really wanted to tell a story first and then attach sex scenes around it, or the other way around. While I welcome nudity and sex in the movies, especially when the subject matter demands them, I found the usage here to be gratuitous and distracting. The final product might have been a potent thriller if more time and effort had been given to develop the characters fully, construct well-executed chases, get us to feel morally guilty for following a protagonist who fails to do the right thing time and again.

“L’inconnu du lac” is just another sexually explicit but inconsequential LGBTQ-themed picture even though it may not seem like it at first glance. Look closely. Although it does take some risks, like daring to have an unconventional ending, such bold decisions do not make up for a lack of suspense, banal dialogue, and characters we do not feel we understand inside and out.

20
Jun

The Wolfpack


Wolfpack, The (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

“The Wolfpack” is a documentary that belongs under the category of too strange to be believed. The film offers a fascinating look into the Angulo family where the seven brothers, ranging from eleven to eighteen years of age, have been confined in their homes for almost a decade and a half. At one point, when asked how often they are allowed to step outside their apartment in Lower East Side, New York, one of the boys claims that he can remember going outside up to nine times a year, sometimes once a year—and during other years, they stay indoors at all times.

One wonders what is really going on in their home. I was especially sensitive to signs of abuse. There is a lot of deeply-rooted anger coming from the boys, especially the elder ones. This is why Mukunda’s story of sneaking outside wearing a Michael Myers mask while his father buys groceries stands out. There is no reenactment: just his words, expressions, and those eyes. Because his words and emotions are so vivid, we get sucked into his memory. It makes sense that he wishes to be a storyteller through film. Watch him closely as he recollects both a freeing and painful memory—reliving it all over again, the joys and wounds still fresh.

One gets the impression that these sheltered subjects are actually fun to be around—not just some weirdos with no social skills. Although, admittedly, three or four of them look incredibly alike (each of them sporting waist-long hair doesn’t help), each of them has a personality. Ironically, these distinct personalities truly come alive when they perform scenes from their favorite movies—props and all—right down to the precise dialogue. Quentin Tarantino, whose scripts tend to have a specific rhythm and attitude, would be impressed. I was amused and impressed by the boys’ creativity, enthusiasm, and love for film.

The picture is also about the mother. Particularly memorable is when she admits to camera that her children essentially living in a prison is not the living situation she had envisioned when she decided to marry her husband. She wanted her children to be free, to frolic and play in the green fields, to be one with nature. This was important to her because she was born and raised in the Midwest and she felt that they, too, should have that wonderful childhood. Contrast her hopes and dreams to where they are living, I felt for her. When I looked at her face, I felt moved. Like her children, she, too, is angry. But, for the sake of her children, she tries not to show it. I admired her strength.

What the picture lacks is a father’s perspective that is clearly defined. Although Crystal Moselle, the director, tries to get Oscar’s point of view and why he felt the need to raise his children in such an environment, a lot of it does not quite register. One reason is that he is a drunk. It is probably wiser to not trust his words completely. And because interviews with him are so uncommon, it is all the more difficult to dissect and separate the truths from the half-truths.

“The Wolfpack” engages the viewer because it is increasingly apparent that we are dropping in on a family that needs a lot of healing. One of the memorable images involves the siblings giving their mother a hug before leaving their apartment to go see a movie in a theater for the very first time… while their father stands right next to her, the boys completely ignoring him as if he weren’t even there.

17
Jun

La tortue rouge


Tortue rouge, La (2016)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Perhaps the most beautiful element of “The Red Turtle,” directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit, is its lack of dialogue. Because there are no words, we rely on the images to formulate an interpretation and build upon it. Combined with our own cultural backgrounds and unique life experiences, I would interpret this film differently than, say, a person next to me, or someone else who lives on another continent. And yet the picture, miraculously, is universal because it tells the story of life itself. Sure, the premise involves a man who finds himself stuck on an island, but it proves to be so much more than a familiar template. This is a picture that will stand the test of time.

The opening minutes is a gargantuan curiosity. We wonder about the identity of the nameless man—from his age, where he’s from, to the circumstances surrounding how he ended up on the island. Why is it that each time he builds a raft and attempts to sail it across the ocean, the giant red turtle smashes it to smithereens? Why doesn’t his strategy change after facing one failure after another? It is always the same raft, made of the same materials, using the same path to the water. Why does that particular path matter so much despite the fact that all around the island there is only endless water? What are the writers, Michaël Dudok de Wit and Pascale Ferran, telling us about our protagonist? The material does not hold our hands.

Some are likely to dismiss the animation. It doesn’t look particularly realistic, heightened, or computerized in any way. The style of animation is unlike what animated movies offer these days. But that is exactly what I loved about it; the style, instead, matches the type of story being told, the mood, the energy, the feelings it invokes. It is like looking at a painting that just so happens to move. When you look at a painting—really look at a painting—it makes you feel or think about beyond what’s on the artwork. The animation here captures that idea perfectly.

While watching the film, I was caught off-guard in that I began to think about my parents. Specifically, the sacrifices they’ve made for me so that I could be where I am today. Through the nameless character, I wondered about my mother and father’s goals—as a couple and as individuals—and how they’ve decided, both wittingly and unwittingly, to set aside such goals to make room for someone else in their life as a unit. The picture offers such beautiful statements about how life just is. The messages are there should one is willing to take the time to feel and think about it. It is most appropriate that the material employs a deliberately unhurried pacing, to make room for daydream.

“La tortue rouge” embraces silence and meditation. Instead of words, we hear the sound of the waves, the cawing of the birds, the dancing of the trees. It made me want to go outside to touch plants, pick up rocks and discover what’s underneath them, breathe the air deeply, appreciate what’s around me. I wish more movies were like this.

15
Jun

Rings


Rings (2017)
★ / ★★★★

For a movie written by three people, “Rings” is staggeringly idiotic. It seems as if David Loucka, Jacob Aaron Estes, and Akiva Goldsman did not have any original idea lodged in their brains somewhere and so they settled with providing the viewers one cliché after another, hoping that the years between this and the last “Ring” picture were enough to forgive or overlook such bottom-of-the-barrel dross. We deserve better than this. I urge everybody to stay far away from this picture because it is bad on the level of brain cell extermination.

The first act exhibits a glimmer of promise because it signals the plot taking place, for the most part, in a college setting in modern times. If the writers had an iota of inspiration, they would have focused on how young adults consume media nowadays and how easy it is to fall into accidentally seeing an image or video that we otherwise wouldn’t dare to view on purpose. This would have been an interesting next step for the franchise, about a videotape that goes around where, if seen, the viewer receives a phone call and is informed by a supernatural whisper on the other line that he or she has only seven days to live.

The lead protagonists (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Alex Roe) are deadly dull. They have nothing interesting to say or do and so I found myself wishing the ghostly Samara would finally get them—perhaps then the plot would focus on other characters instead. I imagined Lutz and Roe were only in it for the money because even they seemed bored with what they had to work with. For instance, in a would-be revelatory sequence that takes place underneath a church, Lutz’ facial expression remains the same between shrieks and gasps. How far have we come from the 2002 American version where Naomi Watts, who convincing plays an increasingly desperate mother, visits a creepy, foggy island to investigate Samara’s origins.

No effort is made to elevate the atmosphere, a sense of dread, or, at the very least, tension. Observe the first scene that unfolds on a plane. Notice how the dialogue does not bother with carefully constructed pauses, how the camera is afraid to utilize tight and extended closeups, and how loud it becomes so quickly, special and visual effects immediately at the forefront without any sort of timing and escalation. Standout horror pictures are helmed by filmmakers who understand the critical nature of timing. Director F. Javier Gutiérrez shows no understanding of it. It appears that his idea of horror is merely showing creepy insects, hallucinations, sudden booming of the score.

To say that “Rings” is a misfire is to be too kind. I believe that the filmmakers didn’t even have a target, no bar actually set for themselves to meet or overcome. I believe that the picture is made simply to make money, to steal from fans of the series through nostalgia. I’m disgusted by movies like this and I wish that those involved would take the time to dig deep and reevaluate their careers so that they wouldn’t waste any of more their time—and ours.

13
Jun

Jagged Edge


Jagged Edge (1985)
★★★ / ★★★★

Though it has been four years since Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) walked away from practicing law, a case involving the murders of a woman named Page Forrester (Maria Mayenzet) and the household help puts her right back into the courtroom. The main suspect is Page’s husband, Jack (Jeff Bridges), the editor of The San Francisco Times, because he is the sole beneficiary to all of her multi-million dollar assets. Mr. Forrester’s case does not look good because a janitor claims to have seen the murder weapon, a serrated hunting knife, in Jack’s country club locker. Despite this, Teddy believes he is innocent.

“Jagged Edge,” written by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Richard Marquand, is a courtroom thriller that is very much like soup. It is made up of many ingredients, from Teddy wrestling with her guilt of having sent an innocent man to prison, colorful people answering questions under oath, to a prosecutor with one thing to hide but a lot to lose. Though the basic structure is familiar, it is executed with so much energy that is quite easy to buy into the story and try to figure out the killer’s identity. I did not guess correctly.

Close does a wonderful job playing a strong defense attorney, a gentle mother of two children, and a woman slowly falling for her client. In each respective scene, she is very good, but when two or three spheres touch each other, she excels. Close has a knack toward wearing a lot of subtle emotions on her face especially when she sits still. I could not help but wonder what sorts of questions her character thinks about when she stumbles over her expectations being derailed just a few degrees.

I looked forward to Teddy’s interactions with the District Attorney Thomas Krasney (Peter Coyote). Although details of their former partnership are largely absent, the sheer power of the two of them being within five feet of one another is uncomfortable. They want to win the case because they think they are fighting for what is right. And yet they also want to win because it means the other is the loser. The competition between the two is enjoyable.

What does not work is the first and last ten minutes. There is a level of exaggeration in showing a masked intruder breaking into a house that it feels sort of like a bad reenactment of a crime. Accompanied by a score that is meant to be suspenseful but is actually cheap, I thought about really trashy horror-thrillers where the sole point is to show women getting sliced up. I would have preferred for the crime to have been painted in our heads solely through the dialogue and images presented in the courtroom.

The romance between Teddy and Jack has some sweetness which is nicely balanced with the way Teddy interacts with her two children. (She is divorced.) There is only one scene when the two worlds collide but I admired that the moment is treated with honesty even though it is what we come to expect. The screenplay and direction pay close attention to potentially throwaway but personal moments and so there is something at stake when the camera is in the courtroom.

11
Jun

The Mummy


Mummy, The (2017)
★ / ★★★★

In an attempt to establish roots of a potential franchise, those in charge of “The Mummy,” directed by Alex Kurtzman, neglected to create a picture that stands strong on its own first and foremost. What results, for the most part, is an underwritten near-disaster, devoid of entertainment value beyond marginally impressive special and visual effects. Mere CGI should not satiate anybody. Take a look at Stephen Sommers’ 1999 interpretation of “The Mummy.” At the time, it boasts striking use of computer graphic imagery but at the same time effort is put into its characters and storytelling. Sommers’ picture is entertaining in all ways that Kurtzman’s film is not.

I would even go as far as to say that the leads are miscast entirely. Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis play a former military officer turned treasure hunter who sells stolen artifacts on the Black Market and an archeologist working for a man named Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), respectively. While Cruise excels, as expected, during the more kinetic action pieces, notice a significant lack of magnetism and effusive energy when his character, Nick Morton, is required to make a romantic connection with his co-star. Wallis, on the other hand, might as well have been played by a plank with one facial expression drawn on it because she is deathly one-note. Whether it be discovering the find of the century or running away from ghouls, Wallis fails to emote as a regular person would in such situations. We fail to identify with these characters.

The attempts at humor are misguided and misplaced. Perhaps this is due to the the lack of ability to balance conflicting tones. Instead, it relies on a person yelling constantly during action sequences (I found Jake Johnson as the motormouth sidekick to be especially annoying) and employing awkward pauses after punchlines are supposedly delivered. But in order for something to be even mildly amusing, there must be convincing energy behind its efforts. Here, it comes across as though the would-be comical situations and so-called jokes have been plastered on as opposed to something that might occur naturally in this universe.

While the picture has an eye for how an action scene should unfold, dialogues that come before and after are mind-numbingly dull, one-dimensional, almost soporific. We are supposed to be watching characters who have travelled all over the world, who are educated, who have met all sorts of people, experienced or at least have been exposed to different lifestyles. And yet notice how they speak, exchange, and challenge ideas. It were as if they’ve never left the vanilla town they were born and raised in.

Perhaps the most important crime this “Mummy” commits is not showcasing exotic locales. Because Sommers’ films “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” are retroactively beloved, especially the former, people are likely to come in to this picture expecting to see deserts, camels, pyramids, outdoor markets, people from faraway lands, cultures entirely different compared to their own. Instead, the majority of the film takes place either at night, indoors, or underground. It has this dark studio look about it—as if it’s something to boast about. There is really little to no fun to be had here. Notice how I didn’t even provide a synopsis of the plot because it’s entirely trivial.

10
Jun

Here


Here (2011)
★ / ★★★★

Will (Ben Foster) works as cartographer in Armenia and there he meets Gadarine (Lubna Azabal) when she kindly helps him order an omelette. Her plan is to stay in her brother’s apartment but there is tension between them because she’s been away for so long. It is hinted that she is not the best in maintaining contact. So, she decides to come along with Will as he surveys the country. It is a mutualistic relationship: he gives her a free ride and she translates for him. Soon, they acknowledge their feelings for one another.

“Here,” written by Braden King and Dani Valent, suffers from elementary filmmaking. In its attempt to come across deep and contemplative, it is generous in utilizing seemingly interminable tracking shots of grass, trees, and mountains. But these images do not generate insight or thought. Instead, they come across static and desperate to impress. However, when it does focus on the story of the man and woman who happen to cross paths in their journey, it is romantic at times without sentimentality.

There is a lack of flow between scenes especially during the first and last fifteen minutes. As sort of mini-intermissions, we are hammered over the head with old film footages of the land and buildings. Sometimes there is a solemn narration (voiced by Peter Coyote) which leaves a poetic dirge in our taste buds. These tools do not fit the picture. They could have been taken out completely and it would have improved the material.

It does not spend enough time with Garadine’s parents (Yuri Kostanyan, Sophik Sarkisyan). One of Garadine’s traits is leaving without saying goodbye, being away for extended periods of time and, according to what is implied, not being very good at keeping in touch. There is a scene that takes place in the parents’ home that gives us a taste of the sadness and frustration of the family, emotions that are too often swept under the rug.

The father thinks that her daughter can be so much more than a photographer. He thinks taking pictures is not really an honorable job, not one that can make a difference in Armenia, not like her brother, Krikor (Narek Nersisyan), the solider. On the other hand, the mother misses Garadine so much that when her daughter comes for a quick visit, she cherishes their time and considers it to be a dream. I wanted to know more about her family. We could have known more about Garadine through them.

Foster and Nazarian’s chemistry is understated and enjoyable. They have a way of not saying much with their mouths but saying a lot with their eyes. And so when the film arrives to scenes involving seduction, what their characters share is believable. What we have here is a mature look at two people slowly feeling each other emotionally and physically. It understands the difference between sensuality and sexuality.

Although “Here,” Directed by Braden King, is not egregious, there is not enough great material to warrant a recommendation. It moves very slowly, which will challenge anyone’s patience, it uses art-house insularity to appear more clever than it is, which I found to be laughable and pretentious, and there is a deadness in a few scenes shared between the leads due to the writing. There is a difference among comfortable silence, awkward silence, and pointless silence. Comfortable is liberating, awkward can be amusing, and pointlessness wastes valuable time.