Talking Movies: The Artist’s Wife, John and the Hole and Navalny

Spling reviews The Artist’s Wife, John and the Hole and Navalny 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 coming-of-age drama, a psychological drama thriller and a political thriller documentary.

Starting off with a film now on DStv Box Office…


An abstract artist’s wife undergoes a late-life crisis when her husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Director: Tom Dolby

Stars: Lena Olin, Bruce Dern and Stefanie Powers

– Much like The Wife, The Artist’s Wife centres on a woman who has laid down her own creative ambitions in favour of supporting her husband’s prized career and endeavours.
– Instead of Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, this film is entrusted to Lena Olin and Bruce Dern whose stalwart performances are the main reason to see this coming-of-age drama.
– A portrait of a dysfunctional marriage, the drama explores their fractious relationship as moments show the artist’s steady deterioration.
– Playing a devoted yet overshadowed wife, Olin is completely invested, counterbalancing Dern’s cantankerous attitude with a diplomatic mission.
– Trying to re-establish ties with his estranged daughter, the drama deals with attempts to mend bridges, protect the artist’s legacy and rekindle romance.
– The Artist’s Wife covers some fascinating dramatic territory in exploring a rift and personal renaissance, however it lacks the necessary depth and focus to remain compelling.
– Operating at an arm’s length, the filmmakers struggle to deepen our interest in the characters, their plight or inner worlds – making for an intriguing yet rather vapid experience.
– There’s enough structure, finesse and performance to entertain in spite of lightweight handling and some distance.
– The Artist’s Wife is a good showcase for its co-leads but pales in comparison with The Wife when it comes to thematic gravity and emotional investment.

A flat 5 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a film now on Showmax…


A kid holds his family captive in a hole in the ground.

Director: Pascual Sisto

Stars: Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle

– John and the Hole is a strange and unsettling psychological thriller and family portrait penned by Birdman screenwriter Nicolás Giacobone.
– The drama thriller comes across like an artful blend of Don’t Tell a Soul, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Home Alone as a calculated and creepy son plays warden whilst enjoying parental privileges.
– Shotwell delivers a naturalistic and subdued performance, taking on the responsibility of a titular character and tonal mascot who rarely misses a frame.
– The sharp casting extends to Michael C. Hall better known to the world as Dexter, offering some insight into the film’s empathetic perspective.
– Flowing with many extended and elegant shots, the slow-burning thriller keeps dialogue sparse, using words sparingly to enhance atmosphere and tone and doing most of its storytelling through pristine visuals.
– Experiencing the same alienating setbacks of modern adult life, this drama offers a perspective on over-medicated America with a strange numbness that begins to make the hole more metaphorical.
– While atmospheric, promising and beautifully presented, John and the Hole may be too subtle for its own good with a haunting resolution that falls short of its true potential.
– There’s almost a disappointment in John not following through in some of his sinister objectives like his tennis coach would have him do 300 times.
– John and the Hole may get more in-depth analysis and credit depending on where Sisto’s career takes him but right now the feeling is that it underserves its story.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally a documentary screening at this year’s Encounters Film Festival…


Opposition leader, lawyer and anti-corruption activist, Alexei Navalny, plots his return to Russia after surviving an assassination attempt.

Director: Daniel Roher

– Alexei Navalny is regarded as one of Vladimir Putin’s main political critics, a seemingly fearless man with a rapidly growing support base who is doing everything in his power to see a shift in the country’s political narrative.
– Openly critical and leading mass protests, it’s no wonder he became the target of yet another incident involving poisoning by nerve agent, which he narrowly survived in August 2020.
– Leaving Russia to take the necessary time to make a full recovery, the political icon decides to investigate this attempted assassination in the buildup to his much anticipated return.
– A nameless foe to Putin, who didn’t want to give the politician more power than he had to, it’s clear that his threat reached a turning point with the state doing everything in their power to douse his influence without turning him into a martyr.
– An affable man of the people, Roher doesn’t give Navalny a free pass, interrogating his political affiliations and his future prospects as a possible next president of Russia.
– Interviewing his family and wife Yulia, we get a picture of a family man whose infectious spirit, appetite for freedom and dedication to love represents a new hope for the superpower.
– Navalny plays like a thriller as the investigation and spy craft make some shocking revelations with the help of Bellingcat.
– This is an exciting and thoughtful documentary, which was initially planned to release upon Navalny’s death but has now been released in the wake of detainment and reports of a transfer to a maximum security prison.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

THE ARTIST’S WIFE… determined co-lead performances drive this intriguing yet familiar and lightweight dysfunctional coming-of-age marriage portrait drama… A flat 5!

JOHN AND THE HOLE… while artful, eerie and thought-provoking, this slow-burning psychological drama thriller is too subtle for its own good… A satisfactory 6!

NAVALNY… a political thriller, this modern documentary about a martyr-in-the-making is bold, entertaining, powerful and thoughtful… An excellent 8!

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