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CINEMA Film round-up: May 28, 2020

Maria Duarte reviews of Only the Animals, Mike Wallace Is Here, Screened Out, The High Note, The Last Full Measure and Around the World When You Were My Age

Only the Animals (15)
Directed by Dominik Moll
★★★★

HOW are five strangers linked to the disappearance of one woman in a remote French farming community? That’s the burning question at the heart of this scintillating Euro crime thriller based on Colin Niel's novel.

The answer is intricate and multilayered, connecting the actions of French farmers, African online scammers and lonely French wives in a beautifully crafted drama told from each character’s point of view.

They each provide a piece to the growing puzzle that revolves around love and money, with dark superstitious practices thrown in.

Writer-director Dominik Moll delivers a compelling thriller, set in two contrasting worlds: the bleak, isolated snow-filled French countryside and the colourful and noisy but poverty-stricken Ivory Coast.

The end result is a sophisticated and haunting mystery thriller.

Available on Curzon Home Cinema from May 29.

Mike Wallace Is Here (15)
Directed by Avi Belkin
★★★★

ACTOR-turned-journalist legend Mike Wallace may not be well-known in Britain, but in the US he was the most feared interviewer of his time, who revolutionised the face of  TV news.

The progenitor of hostile interviewing and combative questioning in the late 1950s, he put the fear of God into his would-be victims, paving the way for the likes of Jeremy Paxman and the recently transformed Piers Morgan, though Wallace did it with more cutting finesse.

Entirely through archive footage, director Avi Belkin charts the rise of this pioneering newsman and his journalistic legacy through his face-to-face interviews, mainly on 60 Minutes, with Salvador Dali, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, Anwar Sadat and the Ayatollah Khomeini.

It’s a fascinating portrait of the hard-nosed Wallace, and his interview with the non-orange-hued  Donald Trump is highly illuminating and one of the highlights.

Must-see viewing for budding journalists and anyone interested in news media.

Available on demand from May 29.

Screened Out (12)
Directed by Jon Hyatt
★★★★

PARENTS concerned about the amount of time children spend watching screens and on technology will have their worst fears confirmed by Screened Out.

According to director Jon Hyatt’s documentary, youngsters are becoming screen addicts, and it is changing their brains and the way they function.

Hyatt interviews a series of experts, psychologists and teen victims to uncover the true extent of the problem, exploring the issue through the prism of his own young family and their tech habits.

The film equates tech addiction to that of drugs and tobacco, showing how smartphones themselves aren’t the problem but the fact that apps are being made to be more addictive. We’re using them for longer in order to get a bigger dopamine hit. Their creators don’t allow their kids anywhere near them.

It’s a mindblowing documentary that is a must-see for parents — and it will have you abandoning social media before you can say “screened out.”

Available on demand from June 1.

The High Note (12)
Directed by Nisha Ganatra
★★★

AN AGEING music icon and her overworked personal assistant aspire to break glass ceilings in this touching romantic drama about the importance of powering through and following your dreams.

Singing diva Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) wants to remain relevant in an industry that sidelines female singers over 40, while her PA Maggie (Dakota Johnson), who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music, desperately yearns to be a music producer.

She pretends to be one when she discovers would-be singing talent David Cliff (Kelving Harrison Jr) but she’s soon put back in her place by Davis and her manager Jack (an on-point Ice Cube), who wants his client to play it safe by appearing in Las Vegas.

Although a predictable tale, what elevates the film is the charismatic and energy-fuelled dynamic between Johnson and Ross who, singing here for the first time on film, shows off remarkable vocal ability.

The romantic element seems to be shoe-horned in, but the characters’ passion for music and the process is infectious and the singing is divine.

A fun and uplifting ride.

The Last Full Measure (15)
Directed by Todd Robinson
★★★★

THIS film is inspired by the little-known true story of 21-year-old Vietnam-war combatant William Pitsenbarger, a US air force pararescueman who saved nearly 60 men in the 1966 battle of Xa Cam My.

It follows the 32-year-long struggle to get him the posthumous Congressional Medal of Honour, known as the Last Full Measure.

Though the names of the characters have been changed, some of the soldiers’ testimonies are taken almost word for word from the first interviews carried out by historian Parker Hayes, apparently instrumental in getting the Pentagon to review the Medal of Honour request.

Ambitious Pentagon aide Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan), an amalgam of a number of people who did the hard work to get the case before Congress, is ordered to investigate the request for the medal.

Reluctant at first, he slowly but surely becomes invested in obtaining justice for Pitsenbarger and his parents and en route he discovers a high-level conspiracy behind the denial for the posthumous award.

Pitsenbarger’s war story unfolds in bloody and brutal flashbacks to April 11 1966, when the 21-year-old rescues the men and then fights and dies alongside them.

As well as the cover-up and injustice, the film also explores PTSD, survivor guilt and the trauma these soldiers suffered without pulling punches, though it also, predictably, pushes all the emotional buttons.

Available on demand from June 1.

Around the World When You Were My Age
Directed by Aya Koretzky
★★★

THIS is a very personal portrait of a father, seen through the eyes of his daughter with the aid of his photo album.

Writer-director Aya Koretzky re-enacts her father’s 10-month trip around the world in 1970 by showing an artistic montage of his photographs in black and white and colour, brought to life with extracts from his diary that he kept at that time describing what he had been doing back then.

The photos are broken up with shots of her elderly father now talking about his life or gardening and painting in his luscious back garden in Portugal — an amazing feat, as he is almost blind in both eyes.

He was 30 when he left Japan for the first time ever to go backpacking through Europe, the north of Africa and the Near and Middle East, meeting colourful characters along the way.

The pictures provide a unique snapshot of a bygone youth and past, but they surely mean more to his daughter than anyone else — at almost two hours long, this trip down memory lane very quickly outstays its welcome.

Available on demand from May 28.

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