Tag: 2018

Image courtesy of BBC One.

(NOTE: A version of this article was published here.)

** (out of 4)

In recent years, many of the works of English director Stephen Frears have suffered from two major flaws. First, in films like Philomena, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Victoria & Abdul, the most important moments in the narrative were often characterized by heavy-handed messaging. And second, in films like Philomena and Victoria & Abdul, Frears disregarded or downplayed facts that would have complicated his view of history.

Given the rave reviews that it received, you’d think that A Very English Scandal, a miniseries that Frears directed in 2018, broke this unfortunate streak in his recent career. For those who haven’t seen it, the miniseries depicts the relationship between Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), a popular British politician during the ’60s and ’70s, and Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw), an aggrieved former lover of Thorpe’s. After Thorpe tries but fails to have Scott killed, Scott denounces Thorpe to the police, resulting in a highly publicized trial that precipitates the end of Thorpe’s political career.

In many respects, A Very English Scandal definitely deserved the praise that critics showered upon it. Yet despite its merits, it, too, ultimately falls victim to forms of the two aforementioned problems. To be more precise, several scenes in the show prove needlessly didactic. And the miniseries also offers an incomplete depiction of what it was like to be gay in 20th-century England.

Reviews - DVD/Streaming

Image courtesy of Kino Lorber.

**** (out of 4)

According to its IMDb plot summary, Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (henceforth LDJIN) is a quest movie that’s set in present-day China. The protagonist, a middle-aged man named Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue), finds himself returning to the southern city of Kaili after receiving word of his father’s passing. While there, moreover, he tries to track down a former lover (Tang Wei) and learn more about an old friend (Lee Hong-chi) who’s now dead.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals

Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

(NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared here.)

*** ½ (out of 4)

Matteo Garrone’s Dogman tells the story of Marcello (Marcello Fonte), an Italian dog groomer, and his decidedly unbalanced relationship with an abusive thug and druggy named Simone (Edoardo Pesce). To summarize what happens plot-wise: for most of the film, Marcello obsequiously looks out for Simone, to the point that he voluntarily elects to go to prison rather than rat on Simone. In return, however, Simone bullies Marcello, repeatedly beats him, and coerces him into facilitating a break-in. By the end of the film, Marcello has had it with his “friend”: after tricking Simone into locking himself inside a dog cage, he ends up killing Simone outright.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals