Spling reviews After Love, Charlatan and Umakoti Wethu 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 mystery drama, a period drama and a romance drama.
Starting off with an upcoming film at the European Film Festival…
A widow discovers her husband led a secret life just across the English Channel.
Writer-Director: Aleem Khan
Stars: Joanna Scanlan, Nathalie Richard and Talid Ariss
– After Love is an intimate mystery drama that unfolds as a woman’s suspicions lead her to believe her husband has been living a double life, based in Dover with another family across the Channel in Calais.
– Starting with some longer shots, it becomes clear that this artful drama has an uncommon elegance and finesse.
– While culture and religion serve as a backdrop to this film, this human drama is ultimately about the raw emotional terrain around betrayal, grief and forgiveness.
– While Khan swathes us in an ever-deepening situational drama, complemented by strong composition and vivid cinematography, this is a character-driven drama.
– Centred on three primary performances, Scanlan drives the emotional core with a thoughtful, vulnerable and deeply human turn.
– After Love is sparsely scripted, managing to unearth some profound cinematic moments without having to immerse the story in reams of dialogue.
– While relatively straightforward, this pensive drama gently picks away at the seams as the intended mystery and conflict resolution are deferred.
– Harnessing suspense through its intensifying drama, this film could have easily leveraged this aspect to create more nerve-wracking tension.
– Yet, Khan is more concerned with human fragility, teasing out infidelity from both sides with the deceased as a latent fulcrum.
– It’s an intriguing, moving and powerful drama, compelled by sensitive direction, masterful storytelling and impassioned performances.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
Moving on to another film screening at the European Film Festival…
The breathtaking story of a man gifted with exceptional abilities set against the background of the events of the totalitarian fifties.
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Stars: Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan and Juraj Loj
– This Czechoslovakian biographical and historical drama is mesmerising and sweeping, transporting you to the life and times of a dedicated herbalist who survived several regimes.
– Treating hundreds of patients a day, who would queue with their urine samples in clear bottles for analysis, Jan Mikolášek made a name for himself as an unconventional healer.
– Loosely based on several chapters of his life, in which he was subjected to scrutiny over his methodology, spirituality and sexuality, Charlatan comes to rest on a critical court case as the gifted man stands trial.
– Holland paints us into Jan’s world, from the ornate detail of his private practice to his psychological need and compulsion to heal people.
– Portraying his unconventional treatment plans, his fixation with work and a tempestuous relationship with his assistant, we get a broad overview of the man’s extraordinary life.
– While somewhat distant, this drama is brought to life with such precision that you rarely question what you’re seeing.
– Strong performances anchor the leads in Trojan and Loj, yet there isn’t a weak link even among the smaller supporting roles.
– Jumping back-and-forth in time, the story weaves its way between three distinct chapters allowing for Jan’s age to distinguish them.
– However, it’s so breathtakingly beautiful, ornate in production design, transportative and seemingly effortless that it largely makes up for this lack of emotional connection.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
And finally a movie now on Showmax…
A woman finds herself in crisis when her husband’s new job ignites old flames.
Director: Nozipho Nkelemba
Stars: Fulu Mugovhani, Melusi Mbele and Kwanele Mthethwa
– Umakoti Wethu is a South African romance drama that cleverly sets the scene for an unconventional love triangle.
– Taken from the perspective of a woman who is struggling to fall pregnant, her seemingly perfect life begins to crumble when her husband insists on moving away from the city to his hometown.
– Dealing with culture and tradition, this romance drama creates a prickly dramatic portrait of a marriage affected by unmet expectations, outside influences and the promise of new love.
– Serving as a commentary on customs, gender politics, patriarchy and love in the modern age, the film wrestles with contentious issues through a subversive scenario with wry comedic undertones.
– Giving voice to individuals who are not often heard within their culture, it makes some powerful statements by way of family matters drama.
– Through wholehearted performances, these characters slowly reveal their true colours as a traditionalist husband and his overbearing mother force a devoted wife to buck the system and take back her independence.
– The ever-present soundtrack does become a bit monotonous, making you wish silences had been used to better effect, but the romance drama still has bite.
– While constrained by its modest budget and flirting with soap opera tendencies, Umakoti Wethu remains compelling, entertaining, thoughtful and timely.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
AFTER LOVE… a strong lead performance, sensitive direction, artful photography and thought-provoking emotion power this mystery drama… An excellent 8!
CHARLATAN… astounding cinematography, immersive mis-en-scene, solid performances and an extraordinary true story compel this cold yet fine production… An excellent 8!
UMAKOTI WETHU… this family matters drama overcomes its soap opera feel through emphatic performances, timely themes and rich storytelling… 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!