The Miracle Club
Acting veteran Maggie Smith has developed a solid reputation when it comes to her film choices. So much so that you can almost be certain that you’ll enjoy the characters and story on offer. Thankfully, this is the case with The Miracle Club, a coming-of-age drama that journeys with women of several generations who embark on a pilgrimage of healing to Lourdes in France. Each struggling with their health, winning a trip to bathe in the icy cold waters of Lourdes becomes so much more than just wishful thinking as their faith, hope, love and compassion is put to the test.
The Miracle Club is an entertaining and stirring jaunt, featuring a strong cast in Laura Linney, Kathy Bates and Maggie Smith, as well as immersive production design and armchair travel appeal from Ireland to France and back. Primarily a drama centred on the shakeup following the return of an “outcast”, this touching movie intersperses levity to counterbalance the weight of its deeper themes. From a taste of freedom from domestic strife, to battling groupthink and overcoming prejudice, this is a layered film with a lightness of touch. The comedy is subtle to the point of misrepresentation, making this coming-of-age drama gently amusing rather than hilarious.
Better known for drama, director Thaddeus O’Sullivan mines the script for complex emotion and relational politics even if you don’t rally behind any one of the characters. Speaking to the power of reconciliation and gratitude, its quiet optimism is refreshing, even if its vanilla ambition doesn’t strike the right balance between comedy and pathos.
The Eight Mountains
The Eight Mountains, directed by Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch, is a visually stunning and thought-provoking drama starring Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi. Set against the majestic backdrop of the Italian Alps, the film chronicles the enduring friendship between Pietro and Bruno, two men whose lives intertwine and diverge over the years.
From their childhood summer adventures to their efforts to rebuild a mountainside cabin, Pietro and Bruno’s bond is tested by time, distance and life’s challenges. The film delves into the complexities of their relationship, exploring the intimacy and resilience of true friendship. The Eight Mountains is a timely exploration of connection in an era of increasing isolation and disconnection from nature.
While the film excels in its visual beauty and insightful exploration of friendship, it falls short in maintaining a consistent narrative focus and emotional weight. The story occasionally meanders, and the characters’ emotional journeys lack the depth and resonance that could have elevated the film to the level of other classic adventure dramas. Despite these shortcomings, The Eight Mountains remains rewarding thanks to its many strengths, including its stunning cinematography, nuanced performances, and exploration of a rare and enduring friendship.
Killers of the Flower Moon
After The Irishman, which could have served as a mini-series, it seems Martin Scorsese is fighting the onslaught of rollercoaster blockbusters by going in the complete opposite direction. Giving him free rein seems to have its benefits if you consider the slew of nominations The Irishman received. Re-teaming with Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio for Killers of the Flower Moon, this artful crime epic leans heavily in the direction of awards season.
While the film’s noble efforts to address atrocities against a disenfranchised minority have been questioned, the criticism is mostly geared around the film’s perspective, favouring its heavy-hitters in DiCaprio and De Niro over Gladstone. Delivering a graceful, integral and steady performance comparable with the great Meryl Streep, Lily Gladstone’s still overshadowed when it comes to story focus.
As cinematic and important as it is at over 3 hours, Killers of the Flower Moon is a monumental crime epic that would have been better served in parts. The cinematography swathes you in its beauty whilst giving platform to its actors, the pacing has enough variation to keep things from stagnating, the historical context is eye-opening, the production values are pristine and the expansive cast is refreshing. However, as captivating as the performances and visuals are, it tends towards self-indulgence and is overwhelmingly long.
The delicate romance drama Past Lives delves into the intricate concept of In-Yun, a Korean belief in a karmic connection between two souls, exploring the profound influence of destiny and fate on human relationships. Writer-director Celine Song masterfully weaves this concept into a captivating narrative, extending its influence beyond romantic connections to encompass platonic and familial bonds.
Song’s directorial debut unfolds with a patient and thoughtful approach, allowing the story of Na Young and Hae Sung to blossom organically. Their deep connection as childhood friends is abruptly severed when Na’s family emigrates from South Korea to Canada. Despite the years and geographical distance that separate them, Nora and Hae Sung’s paths continue to intertwine, their connection seemingly guided by an unseen force. Song’s modern romance drama exudes a timeless quality, its exploration of a friendship clouded by love and circumstance resonating deeply through strong performances from Greta Lee and Teo Yoo.
With a sophisticated and nuanced approach, Song captures the complexities of their multifaceted romance, delving into unresolved emotions and the eternal conflict between heart and mind. Past Lives refreshingly deviates from conventional romantic tropes, instead immersing viewers in the poignant reality of missed connections.