Spling reviews Pou, Freedom and Those Who Wish Me Dead 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 gothic horror drama, a crime drama and a crime drama thriller.
Starting off with a film now on Prime Video…
A woman banished from a puritanical organisation is forced to care for one of its founding members.
Director: Jaco Minnaar
Stars: Tarryn Wyngaard, Johan Botha and Alida Theron
– Pou or Peacock is what one would describe as elevated horror, influenced by the work of David Lynch, Ari Aster and Robert Eggers.
– The eerie, unsettling and stylish film takes place on an isolated farm where an ailing and disturbed Apartheid-era theologian resides.
– Wyngaard stars opposite Botha, both delivering iconic performances that underscore and compel this gothic horror drama as the old and new collide.
– Wyngaard’s enigmatic character is enhanced by her enchanting beauty in a bold and transformative performance.
– A stark contrast in almost all respects, Botha’s performance is just as brave and haunting, inhabiting every nook of his afflicted relic of a character.
– While the story’s brushstrokes are broad and themes are lofty, the elegant cinematography and edit keep pace with the dark gothic tone of this visually-striking horror drama.
– Pivoting off its farmhouse location, it creates a nightmarish vision and atmosphere, hinting at its many horror influences without caving into them.
– Pou leverages Wyngaard’s steady screen presence, delves into the dark recesses of the Afrikaner psyche and explores the evolution of moral codes against the trappings of conservatism.
– While ambitious, it rarely oversteps the mark to serve as one of the best and most elegant horrors to come out of South Africa.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film on Showmax…
A university student’s life spirals out of control after a run-in with a loan shark.
Director: Ralph Ziman, Jafta Mamabolo
Stars: Jafta Mamabolo, Nicole Mathope and Jeffrey Sekele
– Freedom is loosely based on Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, set against the backdrop of the #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa.
– Centred on a student of philosophy named Freedom, the young man’s intellect and sense of superiority is compromised when he commits a crime.
– Trying to rescue a girl who’s become caught up in prostitution, her drunken father who’s lost his way and prevent a hypocrite from marrying into the family, he struggles to come to terms with his unwieldy predicament, moral quagmire and ill-gotten gains.
– Mamabolo is co-director and the SAFTA-winning writer turned leading actor behind Freedom, whose conviction and turmoil is its life blood.
– Jeffrey Sekele’s stern performance is noteworthy with Nicole Mathope, Kenneth Nkosi and the late Mary Twala rounding off a stellar local cast.
– While modest, this production has finesse – reconfiguring ‘Crime and Punishment’ and leaning on social realism to mold to the South African landscape.
– Touching on a number of timely issues, Freedom has a good balance when it comes to dialogue and pacing – taking its time to craft relatable characters and draw them together in a crime-riddled Hillbrow community.
– Sharp performances and thought-provoking drama offer a window into a student’s world and his ever-tightening moral outlook.
– While there are some storytelling interchanges that could’ve used more spit ‘n polish and the film is constrained by budget, there’s a slow-burning confidence and intensity to this taut crime drama.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
And finally a movie on Showmax…
THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD
A teenage murder witness and survivalist are pursued by twin assassins in the wilderness as a forest fire threatens to consume them all.
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult and Finn Little
– Sheridan’s writing credits include: Hell or High Water, Sicario and Wind River making him a Hollywood screenwriter with serious clout.
– While Wind River gave us an inside look at how he translated his own script as a director, Those Who Wish Me Dead is a messier affair.
– On the plus side, it sees the return of Angelina Jolie who could have just as easily directed this neo-western, headlining a sharp cast.
– She enjoys excellent chemistry with newcomer Finn Little whose rugged charm and innocence sees him stealing a few scenes.
– The story has intrigue, plummeting a ruthless manhunt into the full throes of a natural disaster as the stakes escalate.
– Flashbacks haunt as the offer of redemption presents itself in a do-or-die mission to get a child out of harm’s way.
– As the title and Sheridan’s previous works would suggest, this is a violent and relentless crime drama thriller.
– While it has great promise on paper, the outworking isn’t quite as impressive… from patchy plotting and rather arbitrary foreshadowing to a simple lack of forethought.
– Those Who Wish Me Dead has its moments, hinting at deeper themes, but boils down to a relatively simple and entertaining missed opportunity, mostly redeemed by its surprising intensity, game cast and good chemistry.
– It did just enough to land…
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
POU… this edgy, elegant and intriguing horror drama tips the hat and wields iconic performances and powerful, timely themes… A solid 7!
FREEDOM… sharp performances, thoughtful dialogue, timely themes and a dose of social realism underpin this modest crime drama… A satisfactory 6!
THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD… a solid cast and good co-lead chemistry drive this tense, messy, unwieldy and violent crime drama thriller… A satisfactory 6!
For more movie reviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!