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Film round-up: February 20, 2020

The Star's critics review Little Joe, End of the Century, Call of the Wild, and Midnight Family

Little Joe (12A)
Directed by Jessica Hausner
★★

A senior plant breeder brings her latest creation, a mood-enhancing flower, home as a gift to her son Joe with surprising results in this rather creepy sci-fi thriller.

Co-written and directed by Jessica Hausner this slow-burning horror is as cold and sterile as the container eerie red plants single mother and workaholic Alice (Emily Beecham) has engineered are housed in.

It is very reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers but with a more modern twist.

Despite the fine performances by Beecham and her supporting cast, which includes Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox and Lindsay Duncan, you are kept at a detached distance.

It’s impossible to become emotionally attached to any of them so when the final twist is revealed you aren’t as shocked or as invested as you should be.

I can’t help feeling we could all do with a happiness-inducing plant right now.

Maria Duarte

End of The Century (18)
Directed by Lucio Castro
★★★

Two men have a one night stand in Barcelona only to realise they are not the strangers they thought they were in this complex drama about relationships and missed opportunities.

Menswear designer Lucio Castro’s debut feature is a beautifully crafted work which moves seamlessly from the present to the past as you slowly discover the connection between Argentine poet Ocho (Juan Barberini) and Javi (Ramon Pujol) a Spaniard who is in town over from Berlin.

The film opens with an intriguing twelve minute long montage in which the camera follows Ocho as he makes his way to his Airbnb; then the beach where he spots Javi and all without a word being uttered.

The non-linear timeline is a little confusing as the two men look exactly the same in the past and the present and the ending is up for conjecture as all the timelines meld together.

Driven by standout performances by Barberini and Pujol this is a gorgeous looking and captivating film.

MD

 

Call of the Wild (PG)
Directed by Chris Sanders
★★★★

Amiable domesticated Scotch Collie/St Bernard cross Buck is stolen from his home California, transported to the icy wilds of Yukon and sold as an abused sleigh dog during the 1890s Gold Rush.

Disney’s version of Jack London’s 1903 novel The Call of the Wild, (previously filmed some six times and also reworked as a TV series), delivers as heartwarming a story of canine-human friendship as you could hope for when, fleeing the misery of being a much-put-upon sleigh dog, Buck escapes and bonds with Harrison Ford’s grumpy but essentially good-hearted prospector Thornton.  

Together the unlikely duo venture North into icy Yukon – ”I search for a place to feel some peace,” explains Thornton – who still sticks with Buck, despite the hound disposing of his beloved booze.  And, happily (it’s a Disney movie after all) Ford finds a peaceful cabin to call his own while Buck finds romance with the bear of his dreams.

Buck comes across as genuinely credible canine hero whose vivid computer-generated performance more than holds its own against mere mortal co-stars.

Interestingly Ford – lurking behind a magnificent character-changing beard – is memorable too and deserves credit for holding his own against his splendid scene-stealing canine co-star.

Alan Frank

Midnight Family (15)
Directed by Luke Lorentzen
★★★★

Luke Lorentzen’s disturbing documentary charts the frequently mixed fortunes of the Ochoa family who operate a for-profit ambulance service in Mexico City, competing with other emergency services and official ambulances for patients needing urgent help.

Lorentzen spent three years and 85 nights inside a Mexico City ambulance collecting material for this one-of-a-kind picture, skilfully delivering an extraordinary portrait of a family who – while struggling to make a living in a cut-throat industry that becomes more difficult when, following a crackdown on corrupt police, try legitimising their business but are forced into questionable practices that tend to sour their essential services.

In a city with only 45 official ambulances for nine million people, Ochoa and other private ambulances are patently invaluable and – inevitably – often officially exploited.

AF

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