Spling reviews Our Father, The Courier and Emma 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 true crime documentary, an espionage drama and a period romance comedy drama.
Starting off with a documentary now on Netflix…
A woman discovers a shocking scheme that all points to one man after her DNA test home kit reveals she has multiple half-siblings.
Director: Lucie Jourdan
Features: Donald Cline, Jacoba Ballard and Debbie Pierce
– This unusual medical crime documentary makes a shocking revelation, taking dramatic license to enhance the underlying horror.
– Blumhouse is best known for their horror films but reaches into documentary to coax an eeriness that pervades this astounding small-town medical mystery that just seems to grow sporadically.
– Interviewing colleagues, staff, patients and their children, Our Father paints a sprawling picture of psychological disturbance as more and more people realise their lives have been a lie.
– Our Father offers a compelling and relentless expose of one doctor’s deceptive and unconscionable actions as parents wrestle with the love they have for their children, the children struggle with self-love as impostors and both try to comprehend the extent of a crime not yet fully recognised by law.
– An otherwise affable stalwart of the community, the film has parallels with the devastating truth at the heart of the US gymnastics team scandal.
– Using actors and victims, Our Father does have a slightly disorientating feeling as things escalate and the line between reality and documentary begin to blur.
– Having used his samples “sparingly” over a 35-year career, Dr Cline never anticipated widespread commercial DNA home testing would eventually catch up with him.
– Contrasting the doctor’s religious convictions with his actions, the documentary leans towards theories involving cult movements and a tragic incident from his past in an attempt to understand his motivations.
– Spearheaded by one of his offspring, there’s a righteous fury beneath her attempts to seek justice.
– Adding creepy horror elements and reframing the story for dramatic effect, this is a disturbing and fascinating documentary for our times.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film now on Showmax…
Businessman Greville Wynne is asked by a Russian source to try to help put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Director: Dominic Cooke
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze and Rachel Brosnahan
– The Power of the Dog and Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch is a fine and versatile actor, who continues to push the limits as he seamlessly morphs from one character to the next.
– Set during the Cold War, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, this old-fashioned spy drama thriller is based on actual events and centres on an unlikely friendship between a British salesman turned spy and his inside man, a high-ranking Russian official.
– The Courier is a slow-burning, handsome and carefully controlled film, comparable with Bridges of Spies, that starts off slowly and gradually develops into much darker territory.
– The golden thread is Cumberbatch, who finds an equal opposite in his wingman Merab Ninidze with fine supporting performances from Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan.
– From stuffy gentlemen’s clubs to Russian ballets, The Courier moves with great restraint, slowly unfurling with wit and grace until you realise you’re hooked.
– Cumberbatch sinks into his character in an admirable performance of two halves, going to great lengths to embody every aspect of his unexpected journey.
– At its emotional core, The Courier is about two men who risked everything to help stave off the Cuban missile crisis through personal sacrifice, as well as a deep respect and honour for one another’s integrity.
– While intellectual, the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy dynamic is stylish but finds a strong balance between John Le Carre style espionage and accessible entertainment.
– You will already know the outcome for the world, but the fate of the few in this insider story reverberates through time with a powerful message about staying true.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
And finally a film now on Netflix…
In 1800s England, a well-meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn and Mia Goth
– Emma is a colourful period piece romance drama satire based on Jane Austen’s beloved novel about a matchmaker whose meddling catches up with her.
– Ornate and sumptuous, the pageantry and design offer period detail and authenticity while the warmer colours add a dash of modernity.
– While this biscuit tin romance starts off quite slowly, it develops steadily once all of the players are introduced to offer a breezy romantic comedy about missed signals and misunderstandings.
– Taylor-Joy’s porcelain visage makes her at home but she’s colder than Gwyneth Paltrow, supported by a lionhearted Johnny Flynn and the likes of Bill Nighy as Mr Woodhouse and Miranda Hart as Miss Bates.
– Emma could have been more emotionally connective and funnier, but its fine performances keep it rooted in its Marie Antoinette style take on Jane Austen and its lavish production values make it an eyeful.
– Emma is ultimately a frothy period film that leans into satire without over-balancing.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
OUR FATHER… a compelling, eerie, eye-opening, impassioned and timely true crime documentary with a few twists… A solid 7!
THE COURIER… Cumberbatch and Ninidze deliver stirring performances in this captivating and smart old-fashioned spy drama… An excellent 8!
EMMA… a delightful, colourful and frothy Jane Austen romance comedy drama with a stellar cast… A satisfactory 6!
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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!