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January 6, 2022 / barton smock

films, said, 2021, and not enough said of course


Robert Machoian's The Killing of Two Lovers captures the vastness of being lived in and knows to leave unnamed that thing that crawls toward the skin with its history of being chosen last and sent first. Clayne Crawford is upfront about his character's distance, and has something so informed physically coursing through his and another's person that even pain would need a moment to look away. Sepideh Moafi and Chris Coy, with Crawford, also bring their bodies into moments that need possessed, and make an already alien gut check of a film into something distilled and movingly abducted.


Danny Madden’s Beast Beast is a film of spaces both dedicated and random, and of a time not sure if it’s escaping or being told to leave. Its DIY beginnings resist plot but then succumb, and if its more local parts seem an ill fit for the smallness of its universal body, it does well in the wounds of opera as it interrogates exhibition with display and asks performance whether the lines have been said wrong or were they just given to the wrong person. While Will Madden gives his character just enough nothing to own, Shirley Chen and Jose Angeles come separately from another movie that becomes this movie and they take root in that brief claim.  


Psychologically patient, Kourosh Ahari’s The Night is a knockout of a horror film that follows a couple and their child long enough that something behind us begins to live with the guilt of being temporary. With the dual portals of imagery and language, the performances by Shahab Hosseini and Niousha Jafarian go from ghost to ghost, barrier to obstacle, knowing that a shallow grave is deeper than a jump scare and that one eye is never surprised there’s a second. 


Come True as directed by Anthony Scott Burns is a film of impulsive longevity that crops trauma and isolation with the yield of sleep. I’m not sure how many left fields one can come out of, but was glad for how Julia Sarah Stone centered her performance and guided her character as touch to the overly handled. If you need to leave something behind, I’d suggest watching this film once today and then once tomorrow if you can get there.


Though Rose Plays Julie is a film glowing with suddenness, it is lit by the slowness of a vengeance that does not allow the mirror to mistake itself for a puzzle. Ann Skelly scarily pieces apart her role while Orla Brady renames togetherness for the bitten tongue. As the film reveals itself as a vessel for how we’re carried, writers/directors Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor leave saving for the rescued and instead uncover how much more there is to the lighthouse than its empty ship.


No matter how in-your-face hurt can be, intimacy doesn’t always get its close-up, and it’s in this unmothered proximity that David Gutnik’s Materna finds the distance to operate. Whether it’s the muscle amnesia of Kate Lyn Sheil’s performace, the gutted mimicry of Jade Eshete’s, the clocked-out but fleshed-in nowness of Lindsay Burdge’s, or the recreated absence that Assol Abdullina motions to from afar, all make of pain a figure fussing over a puzzle abandoned by image.   


Not so much fragmented as multiplied, Grear Patterson's film Giants Being Lonely is an anti-dream of an answer to the delicate interrogations that plague youth with finality. If you touch a baseball, you share a hand. If you speak, it's to more visibly miss being yelled at. The two central performances by Ben Irving and Jack Irving are softly anxious and run into each other tenderly enough that their injuries trade places without, or perhaps before, being hurt. There are no hard tells here. Dinner scenes are an empty win, a baseball field is an orphanage of light, and first dates are halved by the same appetite. While there is something magically small about its final shot, this film isn't really about sticking the landing, but about taking root.  


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