Monthly Archives: November 2011

Review: The Way

the way movie posterThere’s no more essential story than that of the Hero’s Journey, and when you combine that with a tale of redemption and spiritual awakening, you should have all the ingredients necessary for a moving, powerful film. That was what Emilio Estevez undoubtedly had in mind when he adapted, directed and gave himself a key role in the film The Way.

The titular Way refers to El Camino de Santiago, an ancient 800km pilgrimage from France to Spain, and the reluctant pilgrim is Tom (Martin Sheen, father of Emilio Estevez), who has flown to France from his comfortable suburban life to claim the body of his 40-something son Daniel (Estevez), who has died unexpectedly on the first day of his own journey towards Santiago de Compostela.
As with many men of his generation, Tom has poured all his wishes and dreams into his only child, Daniel, and the few scenes where we see them converse are hard to watch as each hovers in his own corner, afraid of really seeing the other for whom they truly are and acknowledging that love isn’t about approval and expectations, but something a lot deeper.
Unfortunately, the parallels of real life paternity only work for so long and within ten minutes of The Way, it’s painfully obvious that Martin Sheen is terribly miscast in the role of the confused, withdrawn, grieving father. He just doesn’t have the acting range to convince us that he is a man deeply grieving the loss of his only child, something that no parent should ever have to experience and that should create a profound, breathtaking sadness. Sheen’s a one-note actor and while being “distant” or “disconnected from his feelings” could work for the first part of his ultimately inexplicable journey along the entire 800km Camino de Santiago, by the end of the film it’s embarrassing to watch him react to the overt religious overtones of his pilgrimage with no more emotion than he’d have ordering a cappuccino at his favorite Starbucks.
There’s a warm, thoughtful and moving film waiting to be made from the Jack Hitt book, but Estevez didn’t capture it with his banal script and Sheen was just, well, awful. Skip this one, even if your “enlightened” friends tell you how deep and profound it was…

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Review: Hugo

hugo one sheetOnce in a while, a film comes along that defies simple explanation. The story proves complex, the characters unexpectedly nuanced, and the entire narrative experience is beyond anything you expect. Hugo is just such a movie, a story that succeeds as a children’s fable in the spirit of childhood fantasies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and City of Ember, and simultaneously offers a surprisingly deep and profound exploration of love, family and what it means to be human.

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a scruffy orphan who lives in forgotten spaces hidden in the walls of Gare Montparnasse, a bustling train station located in the center of Paris. It’s 1931 and memories of The Great War are fresh, even as everyone tries to resume their normal lives. 
How Hugo became an orphan is a major story element and at one point we meet Hugo’s father (Jude Law), a watchmaker and tinkerer. His mother has long since vanished, and Hugo clearly adores his happy, upbeat father. They tinker with an automaton that they’ve salvaged from a museum until his father dies in a mysterious fire. Hugo is then adopted by his alcoholic Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) and moves to the station. His job: keep the station clocks working.
Hugo is caught attempting to steal a small clockwork mouse by the gruff, unhappy Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who takes Hugo’s notebook, insisting that the young urchin work for Méliès to recompense him for the goods previously stolen. Méliès? Yes, that Méliès, one of the pioneers of cinema and most famously the director of the ground-breaking 1902 silent film Le voyage dans la lune. 

The intertwining stories of Hugo’s experience at Gare Montparnasse getting by on his own wits while outwitting the comical and tragic Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), his budding romance with delightfully perky Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) and his earnest passion for repairing the automaton in the hopes it hides a secret message from his father all combine to create an extraordinary — if occasionally long-winded — fantasy world and heart-warming film. Highly recommended.

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