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August 8, 2022 / barton smock

( on films, recent

Creatively and gloriously unreliable, Vincent Grashaw's difficult and restoring What Josiah Saw chooses how it begs and gets two-headed performances from all involved. Nick Stahl gives his ghost a ghost, Scott Haze retraces steps that didn't touch the earth, Robert Patrick closes every space in which he appears, and Jake Weber gets the story wrong with a menace that kills the right. But, damn, this is really Kelli Garner's movie. From the moment Garner's Mary puts the path in her path with the body language of anti-destination, the movie makes a scenic witness of its periphery and goes about vicariously burning itself beside the salvage of Garner's nervously resigned vision.

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Talking itself into and out of the unanswered blue, All My Puny Sorrows guts both the nearby and the distant using the same hunger for recovery as bellied by any lost sister of loss. Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon glow wounded in performances that separately heal, and Mare Winningham keeps detail as something some god has locally misplaced. I was glad for all of its conversations and for its half open way of unburning books, for how Pill baptized the submerged, for how Gadon let others believe they’d invented the headlight, and also for how director Michael McGowan left often the camera alone to become its own silent letter.

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We’re All Going To The World’s Fair has to it an unworried precision that had me thinking I might have forgotten to shut down, in another life, an electric toothbrush. If any pulse is taken, it’s the pulse of separation and director Jane Schoenbrun is songbook tender and secretly protective enough to hum the art of this film into the disconnected wrists of those whose online has no off. Schoenbrun and lead Anna Cobb make of knowing a current terror and no sky here falls that hasn’t been dropped. Cobb, with deadpan abstraction, gives a performance worth of sleep’s eternal jump-scare and works with the film outside of the film to put an end to vice-versa that we might more blankly keep those who are constantly notified away from those who appear by looking at the vanished.   

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