Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review - Bombay Beach

There is no place quite like the Salton Sea and it's easy to see why director Alma Har'el was attracted to it for her debut feature Bombay Beach. Once a vibrant tourist destination – sold as "Palm Springs-by-the-Sea" – its lustre faded as the holidaymakers who flocked there in the 1950's began to go elsewhere, and now it just sits there, forgotten and isolated. The crumbling, rusting architecture and desolate vistas recall post-apocalyptic cinema and suggest a place that has been cut off and left behind by an America that has moved on without it. Who could live in such a place? Well, around 300 people do call Bombay Beach home, and Har'el dips into the lives of three particular inhabitants with remarkable imagination and intimacy. This is one of the most extraordinary documentaries I've seen in recent years.

Actually, perhaps documentary isn't the right word; it's far too prosaic a term to accurately describe what Bombay Beach is. On one level, the film does just what you'd expect it to do – it documents the lives of its subjects in a fly-on-the-wall fashion – and Har'el proves herself to be a gifted documentarian in the way she captures people in their unguarded, open moments, but she also utilises her music video background in an ingenious manner to explore their inner lives. Suddenly, the realist style of the film dissolves and the subjects begin to dance in choreographed fantasy sequences that express something of their dreams, thoughts or emotions. A black teenager and his white girlfriend slow-dance behind masks; a child dons a moustache and fireman uniform before playfully clambering onto a fire engine and extinguishing a tiny blaze; an old gentleman, who looks like he may have stepped out of a Western, simply sits down and creates a dance with his cigarettes.

That old man is "Red," one of the three central figures whom Har'el builds Bombay Beach around, and the director must have thanked her lucky stars when she stumbled across him. This octogenarian's no-nonsense manner and homespun wisdom, which he has gleaned over decades of hard living, is put to good use by Har'el who recognises his hardship (he makes a living buying cigarettes on the border and selling them for a quarter each) but also highlights his humour and compassion. The community in Bombay Beach may be small but it is a community, and we see Red at his best when interacting with other residents, who are quick to rally round when the old man is felled by a stroke later in the movie. Even after this setback, Red remains philosophical and resilient; as he puts it, life is "just a habit" and he'll keep on going until his time is up.

Bombay Beach's other two characters still have their whole lives ahead of them. Benny Parrish is a hyperactive child from a troubled family whose behavioural issues are dealt with by an unsettling amount of prescribed medication. The drugs frequently leave this energetic 10 year-old spaced-out and drooling, but his family adhere to the instructions provided by their doctors, hoping that they're doing what's best for their son. We wonder what effect all of this is having on the boy's mentality and self-esteem; he asks his mother if he has to take pills because he's "crazy" and Har'el dramatises his painful exclusion from a group of schoolchildren. What the future holds for Benny is anyone's guess, but Har'el always encourages us to be optimistic, and her third central character, Ceejay Thompson, shows us how a place like Bombay Beach can have a positive transformative effect on a person's life.

We look at Bombay Beach as a desolate wasteland, but for Ceejay it was his salvation. He moved here after seeing his cousin die in a gang war in LA, and in this quiet town he can focus on his schoolwork, his football game and his future. Ceejay's story reminds us that we must all find our own path in life and Har'el takes that same philosophy with Bombay Beach – these are not regular movie characters and this is not a regular location, so she has created a most irregular movie for them. Bombay Beach looks like nothing else (the captivating cinematography yields achingly gorgeous moments) and sounds like nothing else (thanks to music from Beirut and Bob Dylan), and for 80 minutes – if only it were longer! – the film transfixes us with its boldly unconventional style, using artifice and performance to illuminate truth. Bombay Beach may be labelled as a documentary, but it feels more like a shimmering, surreal dream.

Bombay Beach opens at the ICA in London on February 3rd. A full list of screenings can be found here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DVD Review - Go to Blazes

The Film

Ah, the 1960's; it was a more innocent time. It was a time when crafty cockney criminals wore bowler hats and jokingly traded quips with the bobbies arresting them – or at least, it was in the universe that Go to Blazes exists in. This relentlessly jaunty caper sets out to recapture the tone of the Ealing comedies director Michael Truman learned his trade on as an editor, such as It Always Rains on Sunday and Passport to Pimlico, or 1951's The Lavender Hill Mob, which Truman produced. Go to Blazes is a very slight affair, however, and one can easily see why it has slipped from the nation's memory while the films it tries to emulate remain so widely beloved.

One of the prime strengths of the film lies in the rapport between the three central characters, Alfie (Norman Rossington), Bernard (Dave King) and Harry (Daniel Massey), whose crimes have landed them in jail so often they're on first-name terms with the guards and can recite the judge's rulings word-for-word. Their latest arrest came after their escape stalled in a traffic jam, but when Alfie hears sirens blaring and notes that, "everything stops for a fire engine," and idea quickly forms. The gang decide that their next getaway car will be a fire engine – they just need to procure the vehicle itself as well as some uniforms – but their best-laid plans are rather hampered by the fact that people expect firemen to occasionally put out fires.

Go to Blazes is a slight affair and little effort has been expended on building the script into anything more than it needs to be. Proceedings are enlivened somewhat by an appearance from Maggie Smith, as a shop assistant with a wobbly French accent with whom Harry strikes up a relationship. The fashion house she works in, by the way, is conveniently located directly next to the bank the crooks have their eye on, which indicates the level of plotting we're working with here. The other actor who really brings makes the most of his small role is Robert Morley, as the criminal mastermind the gang turn to as they prepare their big heist. He is at the centre of the funniest scene in the film, when he visits the shop Smith works in and attempts to start a fire with one of the many cigarettes he's carrying; attempts that are consistently thwarted by the unwitting shop assistants.

This scene possesses a sense of invention and a comic sharpness that is sadly absent in much of Go to Blazes. As a director, Truman is competent but no more than that, and while the cinematography is generally handsome throughout, his compositions show little flair. Perhaps in an effort to keep the viewers' attentions fully engaged, the picture is full of comic cameos – Dennis Price, John Le Mesurier, Derek Nimmo, Arthur Lowe – but these only distract from the underpowered plot, which barely has enough about it to sustain the film's 80 minutes, and although the film has its charms, it's ultimately something of a damp squib.

The Extras

There are none.

Go to Blazes will be released on DVD on January 30th

Buy Go To Blazes here

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review - House of Tolerance (L'Apollonide: Souvenirs de la maison close)

House of Tolerance has been released in some countries as House of Pleasures, but in its native France it goes by the title L'Apollonide. That is the name of the Parisian fin-de-siècle brothel that director Bertrand Bonello invites us to spend two hours inside, with all but two brief scenes taking place within the building's luxuriously decorated walls. By spending so much time in this one location the film induces a sense of claustrophobia, of being trapped, of time standing still, and in that way it allows us to share the feelings of the woman who earn a living there. They are all trapped inside L'Apollonide, paying off the debts that bound them to the brothel's owner (Noémie Lvovsky), while clinging on to the hope that one of their wealthy clients will eventually propose and spirit them away from this place to start a new life. For most of them, this dream is a futile one.

Life at L'Apollonide is a strange mixture of decadent fantasy and mundane reality, and Bonello enjoys exploring both aspects of his girls' day-to-day life with the same curious eye. By day, the girls sleep, wash, submit to uncomfortable STD examinations and long periods of boredom, all of which is depicted in a straightforward manner that has an air of well-researched realism about it. When a 16 year-old Pauline (Iliana Zabeth) joins the workforce, we are taken on a tour behind the scenes of the house, as she learns the correct method of preparation and presentation that each prostitute must master before facing their customers. Women hang around in the background of shots, nude or near-nude, and we soon become comfortable in this company, enjoying the sense of camaraderie that exists between them. The characterisations are thin, but a few individuals stand out: Céline Sallette as an ageing prostitute whose options are growing increasingly thin, Hafsia Herzi as an Algerian fetishised for her ethnicity, and Alice Barnole as a woman brutally attacked at the start of the film. Her mouth is slit in a manner that recalls Heath Ledger's Joker or the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs, but towards the end of the film even this disfigurement is a selling point, as men become intrigued by the girl hiding her mutilated features behind a mask.

Surprisingly for a film directed by Bertrand Bonello and set in a brothel, there is very little actual sex in House of Tolerance. The director is far more concerned with the business of sex and the games that people play than he is with the act itself. One client asks his chosen girl to perform for him as a life-size doll, another shares a gilded bath filled with 24 bottles of champagne, and one of the workers has to dress as a geisha and speak to her man in Japanese (gobbledegook she concocts on the spot). Bonello indulges these fantasy interludes, sometimes surveying the action in multiple rooms through a split-screen effect, but they are contrasted with the darker consequences of these women's chosen profession. We see a prostitute slip into opium addiction as she tries to escape her bleak future while another succumbs to syphilis, and of course there's the horrendous face-slashing that opens the film, even if Bonello dilutes the impact of this attack by returning to it repeatedly throughout the picture.

It's an intoxicating film – so much so that it's over before you begin to question what exactly Bonello is trying to say with it. As the boundaries between fantasy and reality shift in the film's climactic stages, House of Tolerance appears to be a lament for the passing of an era, with the brothel – crippled by debt – about to close its doors for the last time. Is Bonello painting a nostalgic, romantic portrait of what the sex industry used to be? That certainly appears to be the case with the epilogue, which suddenly and jarringly lands us in a contemporary milieu, a move that I think is a mistake on the filmmaker's part.

The only other scene that takes place outside the brothel's walls occurs when the girls are allowed to have a day off by their madam, to swim in the lake and enjoy the fresh summer air. It could be argued that this reprieve from the stifling atmosphere of L'Apollonide only makes their prison-like surroundings even more imposing when they return to work, but I felt that allowing us to see the world outside the brothel somehow broke the spell that Bonello had so skilfully cast in the opening hour. One character describes the odour of the brothel as "the smell of sperm and champagne," and Bonello's evocation of this atmosphere is so rich and vivid, we can almost smell it for ourselves. House of Tolerance is overlong and a little vague about its purpose, but it has a powerfully transfixing effect, and its finale leaves your head swirling with remarkable images: a slow dance to Nights in White Satin, a panther skulking around behind the furniture, a woman weeping in a way we've never seen before.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review - Haywire

If Steven Soderbergh follows through on his oft-repeated promise to retire from filmmaking in the next couple of years, we'll be losing one of the most prolific and inventive directors in American cinema, but on the evidence of his last two films, perhaps the guy needs a break. Haywire follows hot on the heels of last year's Contagion, and both pictures feel like the work of a man who is only as engaged with his subject as he needs to be. In both cases, it feels like Soderbergh is experimenting, setting himself little challenges to overcome, but while there may be a sense of satisfaction in this approach for him, the audience can often sense when a filmmaker's heart isn't really in it.

The frustrating thing about this is that Soderbergh is a director who really knows how to put a movie together. When he's firing on all cylinders, his films have a distinct energy and rhythm, but at other times his pictures can feel curiously cold and detached. The chief pleasure offered by Haywire is a chance to see this brilliant craftsman assembling action sequences, but that's really all his film does have to offer and I'm not sure if it's quite enough. Between these episodes, Haywire has a curious dead quality; it's almost as if the actors have stumbled onto the set, picked up the script and read their lines for the first time on camera. Haywire has a terrific cast, but none of them seem to be bringing everything they've got to the party.

In fact, a couple of the professionals are outclassed by the amateur in their midst. The central character in Haywire is Mallory Kane, an ultra-professional contract killer, and she's played by Gina Carano, better known as a mixed martial arts fighter rather than an actor. It's not the first time Soderbergh has thrown a non-actor into the mix, but at least he knows how to do it without leaving them out of their depth. His tactic here is similar to the one he took with Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience – he picks someone with a natural presence and charisma, he gives them a role that doesn't rely on dialogue, and he plays to their strengths. Carano's strength, of course, is most evident when she lets her fists do the talking, and Haywire comes to life when Soderbergh allows her remarkable physicality take centre stage. As we might expect, the fight scenes are shot and edited with a slickness, clarity and lightness of touch that heightens our appreciation of the actors' efforts. When the fists start to fly, Soderbergh mutes the jazzy score that accompanies almost every other sequence in the picture so we can only hear the sound of impact, or the participants' laboured breathing. There's no sense of the characters holding back in these encounters – it really looks like it hurts when punches are thrown and bodies crash into furniture – and Carano fully convinces as a woman who can hold her own in a male world.

Plenty to admire, then, but what the film really lacks is any sense that it is ever likely to live up to its title – even at its most action-packed, there's a cool reserve about Soderbergh's direction that prevents Haywire from reaching fever pitch. The other thing that's noticeable by its absence here is a story. Lem Dobbs' screenplay is a fairly half-hearted rehash of The Limey's narrative – there's even a climactic ankle twist and confrontation on a beach – but without the time-shifts and memory games that Soderbergh utilised so vividly in that picture. The plot is explained iN a couple of scenes towards the end of the film, but by then it doesn't really seem to matter as the story is essentially a flimsy skeleton that exists so Soderbergh can hang a few cool scenes onto it.

The frustrating thing about this is that it wouldn't have taken all that much to turn Haywire into something more than that. A rewrite, some restructuring and a little more care taken with the performances might have given us a picture that has a sense of weight or purpose, but Soderbergh seems happy with what he has, and that's a little disappointing. Haywire is the kind of movie this director could make in his sleep
regrettably, as you watch it, you might suspect that he has.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Review - War Horse

War Horse probably won't be for everyone and you can approximately gauge your reaction to the film as a whole by the way you feel about a scene that takes place early in the picture. Cornish teenager Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) is attempting to plough the family's field with Joey, a horse patently unsuited to farming life that Albert's father (Peter Mullan) foolishly purchased at an auction. The Narracotts' future could depend on their ability to grow crops here and an expectant crowd – including their sneering landlord (David Thewlis) – has gathered to watch his futile efforts. Initially, the boy and horse get nowhere, despite their admirable grit and determination, but as the rain begins to fall and the ground softens, Albert gains a second wind. Suddenly, the indomitable pair are churning up the soil, and when a boulder blocks their path they simply drive on, with the plough cleaving the stone in two.

If you roll your eyes and scoff at the sight of horse beating rock, then War Horse is not the movie for you. Steven Spielberg's screen version of Michael Morpurgo's novel – and the hugely successful stage play it spawned – is an entirely earnest piece of work, and that in itself makes it something of an anomaly in today's cinematic landscape. The central character of the film is not a human capable of cynicism, but a horse and therefore a true innocent, so Spielberg has made a film reflecting that. We experience the First World War through Joey as he is first bought by Captain Jim Nichols (Tom Hiddleston – is any contemporary actor better suited to wartime roles?) and subsequently changes hands in war-torn France, experiencing both the kindness and cruelty that mankind is capable of. Joey becomes a metaphor for humanity in the same way that Bresson's donkey did in Au hasard Balthazar, reflecting the best and worst of us.

War Horse also represents the best and worst of Spielberg, but I think the director's virtues shine through with this material more than his flaws tend to hobble it. After making a number of acclaimed films and television series on the subject of World War II, this is Spielberg's first foray into the Great War of 1914-1918, a conflict still largely underrepresented on screen, but there's no place for the blood-spattered verisimilitude of Saving Private Ryan here. War Horse is a family drama that requires a more restrained approach, and Spielberg is at his very best when he strikes a delicate balance between showing us just enough violence – or simply showing us the threat of violence – and letting the audience imagine the rest for themselves. He stages a dazzling sequence in which the British cavalry – with Capt. Nichols atop Joey – charge a seemingly unarmed German battalion, before Spielberg's camera glides ahead to reveal the hidden danger they are riding into. Later, an execution is partially hidden by a rotating windmill, but is no less chilling for it, and a gas attack is portrayed in all its panic-inducing immediacy, while the vivid depiction of No Man's Land, with its damp, rat-infested trenches and bodies strewn across the black mud, leaves us in no doubt about the hellish conditions these soldiers fought under.

The problem with Spielberg – particularly latter-day Spielberg – is that he often doesn't know when to quit, and War Horse occasionally risks undermining its own emotional power by straining too hard for effect, with John Williams' ubiquitous but forgettable score being an overbearing presence. The other issue the film has is perhaps one it has inherited from the source material, with War Horse feeling episodic in its construction, as Joey moves from one encounter to the next in a series of chapters that occasionally feel disjointed as a whole. The best of these are wonderful, though, and they mark the few occasions that the human actors step out from Joey's shadow to make an impact on the picture. Niels Arestrup brings a gravitas to the film as a farmer whose granddaughter (excellent debutant Celine Buckens) forms a bond with Joey, and the talented British actor Toby Kebbell gets a welcome opportunity to shine on the big stage in my favourite scene in the film. He plays a soldier who finds the horse in No Man's Land, entangled in barbed wire, and with the help of a German soldier (Hinnerk Schönemann) he works to free the animal. In this witty, touching encounter, the two men briefly bond over the wounded animal, before they head back to their trenches and prepare to possibly kill each other the next day.

What War Horse reinforces above all else is that Steven Spielberg is a master at this kind of grand, sincere, old-fashioned filmmaking. I can't think of many directors who could be better suited to this story, and while some will resist the overt sentimentality on display in the film, many will surely be moved by the film's indefatigable optimism against the backdrop of such death and devastation, and the film may be a particular treat for children. When I watched War Horse the audience contained a large number of younger viewers who remained utterly rapt throughout, and it made me wonder how many filmmakers could make a 2½-hour film about the First World War that is capable of transfixing audiences of all ages in this way. Steven Spielberg has always possessed that invaluable ability to imbue his stories with emotions that have a universal resonance, and in years to come we may well look back on War Horse as yet another family classic from this great director.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Review - Shame

Shame is a film with plenty of sex but not much eroticism. As we watch Brandon (Michael Fassbender) engage in a series of carnal encounters during the course of Steve McQueen's film we discern no sense of joy or satisfaction on his part; the desperate look on his face simply suggests an insatiable need that cannot be satiated. Brandon is a sex addict, and like all addicts his thoughts rarely stray from the source of his next fix. He downloads porn at work and sneaks off to the office toilets to masturbate. In the evenings he might pick up a one-night stand or hire a prostitute, or he might just stay at home with his laptop and the girls of the internet for company. He lives from orgasm to orgasm, but it's a lifestyle that precludes any kind of real emotional bond with another human being, a state that McQueen and co-screenwriter Abi Morgan set out to challenge.

There's a certain vagueness to McQueen and Morgan's vision of their protagonist that is perhaps (being generous) intended to set him up as a kind of everyman; a blank canvas for the audience to project their own desires and insecurities onto. We never learn what exactly Brandon does for a living, although he's evidently good at it and it makes him a lot of money; we don't know how long he has been dealing with this sexual compulsion, although VHS tapes can be glimpsed in his porn stash; and we don't know what kind of relationship he has with his sister, although the film drops enough hints for us to surmise that they're no ordinary siblings. The needy, unpredictable Sissy (Carey Mulligan) arrives unexpectedly to disrupt Brandon's isolated lifestyle, and the film suggests either a background of abuse ("We're not bad people, Brandon, we just come from a bad place.") or incest, through Sissy's habit of being so often naked or near-naked in front of her brother.

Suggestion is as far as the film wants to go, however, and whatever depth or impact Shame possesses tends to come from Fassbender's commanding performance. McQueen relies heavily on the lead actor who also excelled in his directorial debut Hunger, and Fassbender again gives a forceful but understated portrayal, allowing the camera to linger on his face and pick up on his smallest gestures. This is most evident in the excellent early scene of flirtation on a subway train, when Brandon catches the eye of a female passenger and their clandestine glances threaten to lead to more until she suddenly remembers the ring on her finger and hurriedly escapes into the night. Fassbender holds the picture steady with his magnetic stillness, and actors like Mulligan can't help coming off as rather shrill in comparison. In fact, I'd have appreciated more time with Nicole Beharie, as a character who Brandon decides to treat as a romantic partner rather than another conquest. The two actors complement each other beautifully on their date, which McQueen allows to play out in long takes, but the connection Brandon makes with Marianne has its downside – when he does take her to bed, he can't get it up.

Shame is an odd title for this movie because it doesn't seem to be primarily about Brandon's sense of self-disgust or remorse at all. Instead, it's a film about his inability to form a lasting connection with another person and his crippling reliance on the drug that – at least temporarily – fills the void in his life. Shame is good at capturing the repetitive and self-destructive nature of addiction, but films about addicts so often have to ensure their protagonists hit rock bottom, and this is where McQueen starts to lose his grip on his picture. Brandon's downward slide ends with a long dark night of the soul in which he fingers the wrong girl and then ends up in what appears to be the New York branch of Le Rectum, the gay club that first appeared in Gaspar Noé's Irreversible. This dark passage culminates with a lurch into tragedy that feels schematic, and the operatic tone of the whole third act doesn't carry the same power as the quieter moments of Shame, the ones that really get under your skin.

McQueen is a man in complete command of the visual aesthetic of his films and he serves up numerous striking images here. From the crumpled sheets that bear the evidence of Brandon's antics the night before, to the stunning tracking shot that follows his late-night run, or the climactic threesome, in which the bodies of the participants are so gorgeously shot and lit. Shame may be a slightly uneven film but is the work of a talented filmmaker who is developing a distinctive style and a reputation for tackling challenging material, and Fassbender is clearly an actor with whom he has found a natural synergy. I wish they hadn't resorted to a shot of Brandon weeping and falling to his knees in the rain – I think they're better than such clichés – but even if it missteps occasionally, Shame remains an engrossing, impressive film, and there is an undeniable thrill in seeing a rare high-profile picture that's willing to deal with sex in a frank and serious manner.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Review - Tuesday, After Christmas (Marti, dupa craciun)

The recent renaissance in Romanian cinema has been built upon the ability to find extraordinary drama in the everyday lives of ordinary people, and Radu Muntean's Tuesday, After Christmas is yet another remarkable offering from this country's new wave. What makes this film one of the most notable achievements in recent Romanian cinema is that it is less preoccupied with the lingering effects of the Ceauşescu regime and instead more interested in telling a story about people who could live in any western country. The film opens with a shot of a naked couple in bed. Paul (Mimi Branescu) is a middle-aged, greying man; Raluca (Maria Popistasu) is blonde, pretty and quite a few years younger than her partner. As we watch them in their post-coital happiness, we are instantly struck by the easy, playful intimacy that exists in their relationship.

They are not a couple, however. Paul is in fact married to Adriana (Mirela Oprisor), with whom he has an eight year-old daughter, and as soon as we discover this fact we are simply waiting for Paul's infidelity to be revealed. That sense of anticipation is where the film's dramatic tension is drawn from, but the engrossing effect of Tuesday, After Christmas is unusual because very little happens in the film that could be described as typically dramatic. After that opening sequence, in which Paul and Raluca kiss, joke around and talk about their forthcoming plans, the next scene shows us Paul and his wife in the midst of Christmas shopping. They try to pick out a snowboard for their daughter (who is currently going through a "pink phase"), they try on boots and a jumper, and they generally act the way married couples do. The dialogue is naturalistic and revolves around mundane things, while the performers have the rare, precious ability to act as if nobody at all is watching.

This is the great strength of Tuesday, After Christmas. It creates a sense of life so commonplace and familiar we feel as if we have intruded into the world these characters inhabit. Muntean lets the film unfold in unhurried single takes, his camera maintaining a fixed distance and allowing the characters to wander around the frame, and through observing them in their day-to-day activities we come to know them as complex, real individuals. Muntean doesn't adopt a stance in his depiction of this love triangle, he doesn't paint Paul as a cad for his behaviour or Raluca as a homewrecker, they are simply people who have found themselves in a difficult, emotionally charged situation. There is still love between Paul and Adriana – we see it in the way he rubs her feet after a long day, or when she cuts his hair – but perhaps what he feels for Raluca is real love as well? Branescu is astonishing as a man trying to process these conflicting feelings and consumed by a deep sense of shame for the manner in which he has hoodwinked his wife for so many months.

Muntean takes his time to drop the revelatory dramatic bombs we expect, confident in the strength of his writing and the ability of his actors to hold our attention through seemingly inconsequential encounters. There is a simmering threat of an eruption in some scenes, particularly when Raluca and Adriana finally meet, with Adriana seeing this young woman as their daughter's dentist and nothing more while Paul awkwardly stands in the background, suppressing his gnawing guilt. That sense of guilt finally leads to him confessing to his wife, and the scene that follows – an unbroken take of more than ten minutes – is a masterclass in acting, with Oprisor providing a devastating portrayal of a woman watching her marriage of ten years crumble around her. She attacks Paul with a righteous fury and attempts to hold back her confused tears, but above all she feels let down by her man, and Opriso's delivery of the line "you are my biggest disappointment ever" is a killer blow.

Tuesday, After Christmas is a sad film but it's also an invigorating one, having been made with such intelligence and insight, and feeling so richly authentic. So many films dealing with the breakup of a marriage or the revelation of infidelity feel the need for hysteria and melodrama, but Tuesday, After Christmas just gives us a painful portrait of people dealing with real circumstances as best they can. We don't know what the future will hold for Paul and Raluca, for Adriana, and for their daughter Mara, but the strain shows as we leave them playing happy families for one last Christmas.