With strong performances, a compelling story, and a satisfying blend of romance and mystery, all “32 Weeks” needs is a better ending.
Sometimes, writers get a tad bit lazy with their narratives and throw in a character with amnesia as a cheap and easy way to wiggle themselves out of plot holes and avoid the extra work of coming up with a clever twist for their story. Because this predictable soap-opera-style technique is so familiar, it can be easy to dismiss and overlook stories that center around memory loss. However, when used with caution and careful thought, amnesia as a plot device can actually make for compelling storytelling, as is the case with 32 Weeks. This romance/ mystery from writer/director Brian Cavallaro works so well because the protagonist’s memory-loss-inducing-incident occurs right at the start of the story. When Cole (Nicole Souza) wakes up in the hospital after a car accident with no memory of the past 32 weeks of her life, the audience is in pretty much the same boat as Cole with no knowledge of what happened to her during that time. This setup creates a thrilling closed mystery with tons of possibilities that keep us engaged and guessing until the end. However, things begin to fall apart for 32 Weeks when the mystery is revealed with the final “twist,” a somewhat sloppy ending that doesn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the film. Still, the story leading up to that final let-down is a charming journey with some fantastic performances.
After the accident, Cole can remember a lot of things. She remembers her personal information, her apartment, and how to play the violin. She also remembers her best friend and former roommate, Hannah (Nicole Rainteau). What she doesn’t remember, however, is her six-week relationship with the charming, outgoing Simon (Scott Bender). Cheeky but caring, Simon does everything he can to help Cole recover her memories, even though she has absolutely no recollection of him. While Simon knows just about everything about Cole, Cole must essentially start the relationship over from scratch and can only rely on Hannah’s word and her old text messages to be sure that she was even dating Simon before the accident. As flashes from the past begin to come back to Cole like dreams, she gets the thrilling opportunity to get to know the man she had fallen in love with all over again. In soft, romantic sequences with a tinted grainy filter and twinkling music, 32 Weeks takes us back into Cole’s pleasant memories as they all come rolling back to her. However, not all the memories that come back are good ones. As Cole continues to look back through her messages and texts, she realizes that Simon isn’t the only person from her recent past that she has forgotten, and her friends are reluctant to help her fill in the gaps of the more painful memories. Cole is forced to try and put the pieces together herself until the final memory clicks into place.
Highly anticipated queer romance “Ammonite” doesn’t quite live up to expectations, despite its technical mastery
With its poster of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan looking wistfully out onto the sea, Francis Lee’s Ammonite, a period romance inspired by the life of English Paleontologist Mary Anning, has certainly set high audience expectations for itself. Although Lee constructs a fictional romance between Anning and her fellow geology enthusiast, Charlotte Murchison, for his film, Ammonite is less about speculating the actual details of Mary’s personal life and more about humanizing this often overlooked pioneer for women in science in a context of connection and intimacy. Although Ammonite more than hits the target with technical mastery and beauty, creating a fictionalized version of Anning whose weathered soul and loneliness bites through the screen, the romance itself lacks the chemistry and nuance that would have taken it to the next level.
Dazzling fantasy “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” brings a thrilling journey of self-acceptance to life
When it comes to fantasy, I’ve always been most drawn to stories that emphasize the element of escape; stories in which the setting is not just a magical world, but a world that is within reach of our own reality. There’s something almost seductive about stories like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Peter Pan, or A Wrinkle in Time in which the characters just happen to stumble upon a wondrous world that’s only a flight away or behind the thin wooden back of a wardrobe. The idea that Narnia and Neverland could exist alongside reality endows my own world with a rich and thrilling potential energy. This is the sort of thrill I experienced while watching Martin Krejcí’s feature directorial debut, The True Adventures of Wolfboy, a delightful coming-of-age drama that combines the fantastical visual style of Tim Burton’s Big Fish (2003) with the adventurousness of timeless teen classics like Stand by Me (1986). Although the hero of the story, Paul, (Jaeden Martell) never actually crosses over into another world, and all of his adventures could, in theory, take place in our present reality, his journey exudes such heroic grandeur and wide-eyed fantastical wonder that it captures the thrill of a fantasyland just waiting to be discovered behind a door or down a rabbit hole.
Multi-talented writer and director Mathias Malzieu, who is known for his success as a novelist and musician as well as filmmaker, returns to this year’s virtual Fantasia Film Festival with a delightful grown-up fairytale. Malzieu’s previous animated film, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, which he co-directed with Stéphane Berla, was featured at the festival in 2014. This year, his live action A Mermaid in Paris captures the charm and adventurousness of an animated feature and recalls the hopeful optimism of childhood with a romantic fantasy story. The film’s plot is unashamedly straightforward and simple, borrowing from familiar mermaid mythology and popular romance movie formulas, but it places this tale on a fantastical and colorful backdrop that makes the predictable story seem fresh and heartfelt.
AI flick “Archive” creates a nostalgic scrapbook of classic sci-fi, but lacks unique elements of its own
The dreams of easing our loneliness with humanoid robot companions and the realities of AI technology development have raised intriguing questions about ethics and the limits of technology, questions that have made way for fantastical cinematic plots and memorable robot protagonists. Would advanced robots turn on their creators, leading to war and mayhem? Would they seek out close relationships with humans, only to leave us when our brains proved too slow for their computerized minds? Could computers and AI technology somehow preserve our loved ones after death? Writer/director Gavin Rothery explores these questions and more in Archive, a futuristic sci-fi drama that pays homage to classic robot flicks of the past.
From Rebel Without a Cause (1955) to The Breakfast Club (1985) to Lady Bird (2017), each generation has its special coming-of-age films that it can claim as its own. These are the movies grounded in a cultural milieu that take us back to a certain time and place with a nostalgic soundtrack, dated fashion trends, and short-lived catchphrases. As new generations emerge with their own lingo, music, technology, and psychological baggage, filmmakers always seem to find fresh new soil for exploring timeless themes about growing up. Writer and director Emily Cohn has certainly created an exciting new take on those themes with her feature debut, CRSHD, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. In CRSHD, Cohn dives headfirst into the world of social media to reexamine the troubles and triumphs of the young adult years.
“Clementine” has all the makings of a juicy coming-of-age story, but struggles to pull it all together
From writer/director Lara Jean Gallagher, Clementine is a psychological drama and emotional think-piece that deals with the consequences of a breakup and the rocky, unstable journey from one stage of life to the next. Aspiring artist Karen (Otmara Marrero) is depressed and disillusioned after an intense breakup. In search of both closure and revenge, she drives to her ex’s picturesque lake house in Oregon, breaks in, and makes herself at home. She soon meets teenage Lana (Sydney Sweeney), who lives across the lake and starts wandering around the property one evening in search of her runaway dog. Flighty and carefree, Lana captivates Karen with her innocent spirit. As Karen teaches Lana about things like record players and abstract art, attraction and desire begin to bubble beneath the surface of their relationship. However, Karen isn’t finished getting over her ex, and Lana has troubles and secrets of her own.
Swedish writer and director Jimmy Olsson, who is known for short films like Repressed (2011) and 2nd Class (2018), examines some difficult subjects in his latest short, Alive. Running at just twenty-three minutes, Alive deals with ableism and relational boundaries in its story of two women, Viktoria (Eva Johansson), who has a neuromuscular disorder, and her caretaker Ida (Madeleine Martin). The short is a feel-good tearjerker with a heartwarming lesson, but it also covers new territory in its take on disability and opens the door to some very important and necessary discussions.
Originally Published on Elements of Madness
If you’re still looking for romance the week after Valentine’s Day, or perhaps if you’re desperate for something warm and colorful to beat the winter blahs, Masaaki Yuasa’s new anime feature, Ride Your Wave, might be just the pick-me-up you need. Yuasa has directed a number of anime works, most notably The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (2017); Lu Over the Wall (2017); and Devilman: Crybaby (2018). He has also worked in the animation and writing departments for numerous other feature films and TV shows. His resume reveals the wide range of styles, moods, and genres that anime can encompass. Yuasa’s latest feature, Ride Your Wave, is a teen romance that delves into the supernatural while maintaining the carefree flair of a lighthearted summer beach flick.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."