Spling reviews Oxygen, Blithe Spirit and After the Wedding 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 psychological survivalist thriller, a period comedy fantasy and a mystery drama.
Starting off with a film now on Netflix…
A woman tries to escape a cryogenic chamber with no recollection of how she got there.
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Mélanie Laurent and Mathieu Amalric
– There have been a number of claustrophobic single location films such as Buried, Brake and Locke.
– Requiring clever editing, versatile cinematography and a screenplay that could work as a radio play, these modest productions often prove to be surprisingly good.
– Oxygen is probably the most ambitious one to date, taking place almost entirely in a computerised cryogenic chamber.
– Using displays, an operating system voice, phone conversations and flashbacks, the filmmaker creates a focused story with far-reaching implications.
– It’s a real showcase for actors, who are forced to drive the drama almost single-handedly, their faces occupying 90% of the frames.
– While Laurent delivers a fine performance, capturing the panic, desperation and venturing into more coolheaded terrain, her elusive character’s always out-of-reach.
– Struggling to create enough contact points to forge an emotional connection, in spite of the amnesiac plot, it remains a fish tank drama.
– As a sci-fi mystery, it remains intriguing as the detective story evolves, snowballing from the confines of a bioform capsule to something with much greater possibilities.
– Oxygen remains captivating and quite literally breathtaking as each new layer of information changes the rules.
– While beautifully realised, thought-provoking and a good example of this kind of storytelling format, there’s a reason most hover around the 90 minute mark.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film on Labia Home Screen…
A spiritualist medium summons a writer’s first wife from the grave.
Director: Edward Hall
Stars: Dan Stevens, Leslie Mann and Dame Judi Dench
– Noel Coward’s screwball comedy puts a clever spin on the idea of a ghostwriter, creating an outlandish comedy fantasy love triangle scenario.
– The first thing you’ll notice about this adaptation is its stellar cast, assembling some recognisable and talented name actors.
– Dench has plenty of experience when it comes to timing and witty comedy, allowing her star quality to infuse with this comical take on a spiritualist medium.
– Stevens brings his Downton Abbey credibility while Mann and Fisher bridge the transatlantic divide with some good energy.
– A promising comedy concept, Blithe Spirit is augmented by solid production design, wardrobe and mis-en-scene.
– While the ensemble are game, the film is ironically stunted by its own carefree execution.
– Not having enough faith in the source material, approaching the screwball comedy in the right manner nor connecting the witty repartee and campy fun, it falls rather flat.
– A lightweight adaptation of Coward’s play, it’s not offensively bad and makes a harmless distraction, but is underwhelming when you consider the talent involved.
– Struggling to win us over, dependable actors wrestle with charmless characters in an attempt to enjoy themselves, a delight not often afforded to audiences.
– While it needed a cast in the vein of A Fish Called Wanda, it serves up a watchable, good-looking yet rather slapdash affair.
A flat 5 on the splingometer!
And finally a film on Showmax…
AFTER THE WEDDING
A manager of a Kolkata orphanage returns home to uncover a life-altering family secret.
Director: Bart Freundlich
Stars: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams and Billy Crudup
– This intriguing mystery drama is a remake of Susanne Bier’s 2006 drama of the same name.
– Elevated by its strong ensemble and solid performances, After the Wedding trades it’s allure for a far-fetched drama about unexpected reunions.
– Often playing like a TV drama, the film is somewhat redeemed by its artful touch and swirling family dynamic.
– Cultivating some great tension in the first act as the story finds its stride, it’s strangely disappointing for the suspense to dissipate.
– The Kolkata bookends offer a global and soul-searching perspective in stark contrast with the colder, busier feel of New York.
– Competently filmed, well-acted and intriguing, it’s a slow-boiling and equally slow-moving film that relies on its performances to anchor the drama.
– Unfortunately, After the Wedding is unable to recapture the same tension once its grand secret is revealed in the early stages.
– While curious and resulting in some good dramatic moments, the story and characters do seem a bit far removed.
– It’s elegant and has enough finesse to keep you entertained, yet the broad brush strokes sometimes feel too loose.
– A greater see-sawing focus on one of the relationships and power dynamics would have ratcheted up the stakes to make it more compelling.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
OXYGEN… a sharp concept, strong performance and creative visuals compel this somewhat detached and overlong psychological thriller… A satisfactory 6!
BLITHE SPIRIT… a stellar cast energise this mildly amusing, lightweight and lacklustre Noel Coward adaptation… A flat 5!
AFTER THE WEDDING… solid performances and film finesse stabilise this slow-moving and far-fetched mystery drama… A satisfactory 6!
For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!