Talking Movies: Motherless Brooklyn, Time and The Witch

Spling reviews Motherless Brooklyn, Time and The Witch as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a detective crime drama, a documentary and a period horror.

Starting off with a film now on Showmax…


In 1950s New York, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend.

Writer-Director: Edward Norton

Stars: Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alec Baldwin

– Norton is probably best known for Fight Club, yet has built a career on defying expectations.
– The dark horse actor has now added screenwriting and directing to his repertoire with film adaptation, Motherless Brooklyn.
– Playing an unlikely hero, struggling with Tourette’s yet blessed with verbatim memory, the character could have warranted a TV series in the vein of Monk.
– Instead, this artful crime drama has more in common with Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, immersing a small-time gumshoe in a far-reaching mystery.
– While Norton anchors us in the period through fine production values, it has a modern edge when it comes to pacing and entertainment value.
– There’s rarely a dull moment, led by a captivating performance from Norton and supported by a stellar ensemble, which includes the likes of Bruce Willis and Willem Dafoe.
– The jazzy soundtrack spices things up, adding to the neo-noir atmosphere and moodiness of the saga.
– Baldwin has played Trump before, fulfilling a smart casting decision that connects the dots with some of the crime drama’s reflective social issues.
– It’s great to see Norton completely invested, taking his underdog status to the next level with a star-studded and handsomely mounted film.
– While it starts strong, grips you right from the get-go and balances the old with the new, the sharp storytelling does tend towards soft focus.
– Still, the performances, production values, sleek cinematography, good pacing and echoes of grandeur from Chinatown resonate.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a documentary on Amazon Prime…


Fox Rich fights for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence in prison.

Director: Garrett Bradley

Features: Rob Rich II, Fox Rich and Freedom Rich

– Filmed over the course of 20 years, this slice-of-life documentary is reminiscent of Boyhood.
– Growing with the characters, seeing the effects of ageing and life’s ever-evolving circumstances, it has a haunting quality.
– Choosing to convert home video or shoot in black-and-white gives the documentary a more artistic, political and timeless edge.
– The filmmakers have condensed many hours of video footage into the space of 80 minutes, offering a glimpse into the lives of the Rich family.
– After serving her time for being the getaway driver, the charismatic Fox Rich told her story and courageous fight to reduce her husband’s sentence.
– This documentary is more about the emotional, psychological and political journey of a woman than unpacking the crime itself.
– The focus is on Fox, a single parent who coached her kids to success and built her career from the ground up while remaining faithful in her love for her incarcerated husband.
– Fox is a captivating character, who spurs on this documentary with her sheer willpower and tenacity.
– Capturing some beautiful life moments along the way, while offering a unique perspective on a much broader social issue, Time is a small documentary with a big heart.
– While the emotional undercurrent only catches up with you late into the documentary, it remains an inspiring, honest and important film.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a film on Netflix…


A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft.

Writer-Director: Robert Eggers

Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie

– While Eggers is the filmmaker behind the moody horror, The Lighthouse with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, his breakthrough was undoubtedly The Witch.
– A period piece horror drama, it’s essentially a blend between The Crucible and Red Riding Hood, echoing The Hunt and The Blair Witch Project.
– Taking place on the outskirts of a dark forest, dire circumstances and the art of survival are further thwarted by the threat of witchcraft.
– The Witch was also a breakthrough film for Anya Taylor-Joy who went on to star in Split, Thoroughbreds and eventually The Queen’s Gambit.
– Smart casting gives this striking horror an eerie dimension, allowing Ineson’s voice to permeate as a woodcutter and Dickie’s pained expression to linger.
– Along with Ari Aster, the future of horror is ironically bright thanks to Eggers who brings his theatrical background into play through tense drama, lively character and beautiful production design.
– While modest, The Witch outperforms itself thanks to its resourcefulness, elegant touches and insistence on blending literature, fairy tales and dialogue from the time.
– Rooting us in another time and place, unsettling horror elements are brought together to create a dizzyingly beautiful yet dark and haunting gem.
– It’s rare for almost every element of a film to work harmoniously but Eggers finds a way to deftly orchestrate every detail.
– If you’ve enjoyed the horror of Aster or Eggers, who were inspired by masters of the genre, it’s a must-see.
– While the patchwork tapestry has some familiarity, it’s stitched with such care and so dexterously you hardly notice.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN… Norton’s sleek crime drama features a stellar cast, elegant film-making, a sassy jazz soundtrack and echoes of Chinatown… A solid 7!

TIME… this artful black-and-white documentary character portrait is honest, inspiring and tenacious… A solid 7!

THE WITCH… a beautifully composed, deftly directed and brooding period horror drama with sharp performances and an eerie atmosphere… An excellent 8!

For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!