I watched two films over the past month that I felt were some serious contenders for the next edition of Schneider’s book. Even if they aren’t included, I thought they were worth giving a little recognition for their stellar quality and storytelling.
Captain Fantastic is an independent film written and directed by Matt Ross and stars Virgo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, and Steve Zahn in a story about a large, extreme left-wing family living off the land in the middle of the woods. Ben’s (Mortensen’s) wife Leslie, often hospitalized for bipolar disorder and impulsive behavior, has been living away from the family in normal society. A series of unfortunate circumstances surrounding her illness forces the family to follow, and learn the many ways in which their choices have adversely affected their family’s ability to function in the real world regardless of the fact that the children have significantly more knowledge and insight than their normal American peers. They have to face some tough realities about their future if they intend to survive.
This film actually came as a recommendation. After attending an amazing lecture by Noam Chomsky, one of my colleagues suggested I watch it for a great gag about the prolific intellectual. What I ended up getting was a film that was as entertaining as it was touching. It covers a wide swath of themes that highlight how complicated modern life is when trying to do the most good for the world and our children. Modern living with any kind of independent philosophy and intellect is difficult, especially when our desires and interests for our children and the world clash with a society largely content with loafing. Still, compromises must be made to do the most good and be a part of a family. This film features some great writing and excellent performances, most notably Viggo Mortensen’s Oscar-nominated performance as a father who must make some major sacrifices in order to bring closure and progress to his family.
Definitely worth seeing, if only to make sure you remember to mark December 7th on the calendar every year so you don’t forget to decorate the yurt.
The Lobster is one of those amazing international collaboration films where some brilliant minds come together and make a piece unlike any other. Premiering at Cannes in 2015 (winning the Jury Prize), this black comedy by Efthimis Filippou and Yorgos Lathimos stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Winshaw, and John C. Reilly in a film about modern relationships. Farrell enters a world where people must go to a special hotel if they’re single. He has forty-five days to find a partner. If he doesn’t, he will be transformed into an animal of his choosing (a lobster) where he’s free to find a lobster mate. The clock is set in the opening minutes, and the ensuing violence and turbulent relationships carry Farrell into a world of apprehension, emotional turmoil, existential confusion, and social intrigue.
In many ways, this film is unclassifiable. It’s hilarious, it’s terrifying, it’s sad, it’s exciting, and it is sincerely something that I’m always thirsty for in a cinematic experience. This film says so very much about our modern lives and asks a lot of deeply troubling questions. Who do we spend our time with? Why does our society dictate that our lives need to be completely fulfilled by one other human being? Why must the rest of the world be shut out? Why is this the apex? We found ourselves thinking about the implications of the story long after watching it. Something completely necessary in a film like this (is it a science fiction? Horror?) with rules of its own little universe, is that it requires a rock solid script and perfect execution of performance and writing for the audience to believe it. The lobster’s stellar writing and excellent ensemble cast have it, and it was an incredible experience. It is certainly a horror film, but instead of the bloody variety, it turns the mirror on us and lampoons modern love, the promises never delivered, the boredom, and the terrifying knowledge that perhaps the only option besides being a crustacean at the bottom of the cold sea is the ‘red intercourse.’ I’ll let you figure out what that means when you watch it.
An excellent, excellent film.