Film Reviews by MW

Welcome to MW's film reviews page. MW has written 28 reviews and rated 28 films.

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Chernobyl

A Hard Rain

(Edit) 21/08/2019

This terrifying, gripping account of the nuclear disaster in Ukraine in 1986 is presented in astonishingly convincing detail. Jared Harris is the star. He gives a beautifully spoken, understated performance as the nuclear scientist who sees through the tangle of lies and bureaucratic incompetence surrounding the catastrophe and ultimately pays the highest price for his honesty. The human sacrifice - firefighters, miners, soldiers - conscripted to prevent a complete meltdown is jaw-dropping. This is easily the most extraordinary film of the year.

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When Father Was Away on Business

Tito's children

(Edit) 24/10/2016

A delightful, life-affirming portrait of a struggling family seen through a child's eyes and set against the backdrop of communist restraint in 1950s Serbia in which the stifling authority of Marshal Tito is ever present. The father, a libidinous rogue, is jailed not for political incorrectness but for an extramarital fling with the mistress of a member of the local party hierarchy. He returns from his period of absence "away on business" to preside over a hilarious alfresco wedding party which becomes increasingly chaotic as the drink flows. Like all Kusturica's subsequent films this early success displays his glorious mastery of gentle anarchy mixed with human affection and a strong sense of the absurd.

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Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy

Hair-raising Harold

(Edit) 24/09/2016

This film contains one of the best, funniest race sequences ever, with Lloyd switching from stolen cars to a commandeered tram and finally leaping on to a wagon and horses in a desperate attempt to get to the church on time before the girl he loves married another. And for sheer nail-biting anxiety his death-defying, agile display clawing his way up the outside of a skyscraper - during which he becomes terrifyingly entangled in a window awning and dangles from a rickety decorators' cradle - is astonishing, not least because he had no safety net apparently. A comic masterpiece.

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The Princess of Montpensier

Femme Fatale

(Edit) 07/09/2016

A beautiful, fair princess with a coquettish vulnerability causes knightly passions to boil over into jealous rivalry, rage and violence in this exquisitely made period drama. It's a visual feast - castles, costumes and landscape - and the dialogue is equally impressive. Melanie Thierry, as the full-lipped princess trapped in a gilded cage, is ravishing.

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Luchino Visconti's the Damned

A German Requiem

(Edit) 17/08/2016

Visconti's films are all about the ethical condition of man and The Damned is no exception. But it's a difficult, flawed movie. The relationship between the principal players is somewhat confusing. Like others by Visconti the film is a little ponderous and overlong and the acting mannered. Yet as a metaphor for all that was vile, corrupt and murderous in the Nazi regime this bleak and tragic story of the moral decline and fall of a wealthy industrialist family in 1930s Germany is brilliant in its way. Just be prepared for a picture of utter despair from this most intellectual of directors.

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Mustang

Girls just want to have fun

(Edit) 11/08/2016

Charming story of the travails of five fatherless teenage Turkish sisters whose youthful exuberance for life is suddenly curtailed when they are effectively locked up by their uncle after having been observed frolicking in the sea with local boys. Life is downhill from there on in this stifling patriarchal society with first one then another sister being married off reluctantly to dumb-faced, half-witted suitors chosen by their uncle. Eventually the tables are turned in a gloriously anarchic fightback led by the youngest sister. This is a little joy of a movie.

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Testimony: The Story of Shostakovich

Stuck in the middle with Stalin

(Edit) 11/08/2016

Black and white account of scenes from the turbulent life of the Russian composer beautifully made but far too long and, ironically, lacking in the forward momentum which distinguishes so much of Shostakovich's music. However, die-hard fans will undoubtedly find much to satisfy them in this chronicle focusing on the bleak relationship between the state-harassed composer and his oleaginous nemesis Stalin - admiring but deeply suspicious of his talent - played out against a landscape of music by turns melancholy, martial and magnificent.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Missing

Lost Illusions

(Edit) 19/07/2016

A nightmarish account of the helplessness of an American businessman in trying to trace his missing son, a political activist of sorts, who has been swallowed up by an unnamed South American country in the throes of a military coup. Jack Lemmon is brilliant as the deeply conventional and utterly bewildered father who by degrees, and with the help of his son's wife, the beautiful Sissy Spacek, realises that not only is the Latin American state corrupt but also the tight-lipped and duplicitous US embassy. His faith is shattered as the story builds to its grim climax which includes an unforgettable scene in a body-strewn morgue.

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Eat Drink Man Woman

Food Glorious Food

(Edit) 19/07/2016

A comic and subtle examination of life, love and food in a Chinese household with a fascinating emphasis on cooking huge meals and some brilliant camera work in a restaurant kitchen presided over by the family patriarch. This gentle and teasing film is pure delight and a gourmet's dream come true.

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Do You Remember Dolly Bell

Sarajevo Sunshine

(Edit) 05/07/2016

A delightful comedy in which the ever playful Serbian director Emir Kusturica boldly pokes fun at communism (the film was made nine years before the fall of the Berlin Wall) by reducing it to a symbolic, dysfunctional family. A drunken, whimsical father periodically summons his family to the kitchen table to try and improve their lot by aping meetings of the local party hierarchy. Absurd and inconclusive instructions are issued to the family while his younger son is hoiked out of bed to take the minutes. Determined attempts at hypnotism by an older, teenage son - the movie's central figure who falls for a beguiling local trollop - are set against his father's dogmatic ravings. It's a none too subtle observation of life under dictatorship beautifully told and gloriously chaotic.

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Gomorrah

Gun Law

(Edit) 04/07/2016

A terrifying and utterly realistic account of the lives of the desperate poor in Naples, sucked into the blood-sucking embrace of the Mafia whose murderous ruthlessness is jaw-dropping. This is not a film for the faint-hearted but as a portrayal of moral corruption and human degradation, misery and fear it is exemplary. A bleak but spellbinding movie.

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Brooklyn

A Country Girl's Dilemma

(Edit) 04/06/2016

A slight but engaging tale of a young woman's escape from a claustrophobic provincial existence in 1950s Ireland to the exciting possibilities of big-city life in New York. Saoirse Ronan is the beautiful, fresh-faced ingénue torn between lovers poor and rich, as well as loyalty to her past, whose mind is finally made up by the stifling bigotry and wagging tongues of Irish country life. It's a story full of charm.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Girlhood

Girls from the Ghetto

(Edit) 04/06/2016

A well observed and sensitive glimpse of what it's like to be a black teenage girl in the soulless concrete jungle of the Paris banlieue where hopes are dashed by a suffocating environment of bullying, misogyny and poor prospects. However, it's not all grim. Marieme is a shy beauty who finds camaraderie and an unexpected bravado when she joins a girl gang. Their youthful exuberance and devil-may-care attitude is delightful and joyous. But ultimately we are left with a sense that there's no way out from the grind of boredom, intimidation and petty crime for this ghettoised minority. The film is a celebration of life overlaid with a degree of sadness.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Respiro

Breath of life

(Edit) 27/05/2016

This is an exquisite gem: a delightful, vivid, true-to-life account of the trials, tribulations and small joys of a poor fishing community in Sicily. At its heart is Grazia, a mentally unstable mother of two boisterous boys who get into various scrapes and a nubile daughter who falls for a guileless rookie policeman. Grazia's long-suffering, rugged fisherman husband is the soul of patience and love. When Grazia goes missing the villagers unite in searching for her and the story's end, in the sea, though inconclusive, is quite magical. This is a beautiful, uplifting film made with a sensitive director's eye and ear. All in all, a joy.

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The Miracle Worker

A Terrible Isolation

(Edit) 05/05/2016

Patty Duke gives an extraordinary performance as the feral blind and deaf Helen Keller crashing around the house and garden with arms outstretched desperate to communicate with the outside world. Anne Bancroft is equally brilliant as her inspired and devoted tutor who endures countless violent tantrums in her dogged determination to connect with her isolated and frustrated pupil. It's a life-affirming story which largely eschews sentimentality.

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