Arrival: A Delicately Told Story

Arrival’s blurb says this film is about “A linguist (Amy Adams) who is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications”. Okay, so just another take on aliens invading Earth, right? Wrong. Man’s interaction with the aliens is simply the vehicle to a much deeper story in this film. It’s a story about human love and suffering and knowing the future. Would we still choose a future we knew contained both love and suffering, is the question this beautiful, multi-layered movie poses.


Amy Adams in Arrival. Picture supplied by Ster Kinekor.

Amy Adams plays Dr Louise Banks who is hastily picked up by helicopter from outside her home and taken to the site of an alien arrival. On the way she meets the rest of the team. Among them is scientist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who brings his mathematical skills to the project. Banks is deployed as a linguist and together the pair meets face to face with the aliens. Named heptapods (they look like giant ten-legged spiders) by the specialists, the aliens communicate by squirting ink into strange patterns. Banks and Donnelly slowly begin to work out the aliens’ language and, in a race against other nations who are only too keen to obliterate the invaders, they eventually uncover the aliens’ reasons for coming to Earth.

As Banks participates in the work she has regular “visions” which tell us, the viewers, about her personal life. She lives alone and has endured the unimaginable suffering of losing a child. Somehow the visions and the alien interaction begin to merge revealing issues that relate to time travel and even quantum physics.

Arrival is a film with depth and it tells its story with delicacy and a melodic beauty. I highly recommend it.

Arrival opens at Ster Kinekor theatres in South Africa on 11 November 2016.


Hairstyles show deeper meaning in American Hustle

A review by Brenda Daniels

American Hustle has been nominated for Best Picture and various other awards for the upcoming Oscar ceremony on 3 March, so I went along to the South African preview to see what all the fuss was about.

The film, set in New Jersey in the 1970s, tells the story of con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), and his partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). The two meet and become lovers and then, posing as a Briton with “banking connections”, Sydney helps Irving take his underhand dealings to a new level. Caught out by FBI agent, Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they are lured into an even bigger world of crime in an effort to catch dirty politicians and the mafia red-handed.

Cooper brought a certain manic amusement to his role as an agent determined to make it big and I enjoyed this. The hoodwinked politician, Mayor Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner, had a certain endearing vulnerability to him, and Irving, convincingly played by Bale, had a soft side to him, exhibiting patience with his dumb wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and affection for his young son.

The film opens with Irving working on an elaborate “comb-over” hairdo, and most of the characters sported hairstyles that required some work. This aspect seemed to mirror the characters’ fake lifestyles, and highlighted their weak efforts at, now and then, wanting to “be real” with each other.

Apart from these mildly redeeming qualities the characters and action in American Hustle are relentlessly seedy.

It was hard, and in fact quite boring, to enjoy a two-hour film that gave no interesting message, showed no characters I could identify with enough to care about, and provided no relief from the dirt. Whilst I don’t like the 70s era with its iconic clothing, music, coiffeurs and American mobsters, there are viewers who do. They’ll get plenty in this film.

American Hustle opens at Ster Kinekor in South Africa on 28 February. It carries an age restriction of 16LS.

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)

HER – will not appeal to everyone

A review by Brenda Daniels

Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johanson, is a Cinema Nouveau film which opens on Valentine’s Day. Billed as a romance, Her is the story of how writer, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), recovers from the loss of a previous relationship by meeting someone else. The someone else turns out to be Samantha (Johanson), a, wait for it, OS (computer operating system).

Theodore’s OS is an intelligent programme that learns as she goes along and forms a close relationship with Theodore, talking to him through an earpiece, initiating calls and even performing some heavy breathing during intimate moments.

Theodore’s few friends don’t find it strange that he’s dating an OS – partly because many of them are too. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, people are seen walking the streets and corridors with microphones in their ears talking animatedly with disembodied “people”, not unlike they do today. And this is where I think director, Spike Jonze, means us to see the absurdity of their (and our) disconnected lives. Lives in which we seem to bond more over devices than we do face to face. Lives in which a computer, not a person, is able to meet our need for friendship and worth and help us in turn to negotiate the world.

Although Her’s premise is an interesting one, the action drags. I found the characters’ constant self-absorption and the lack of humour in this two-hour movie tiresome after a while. An interesting idea, but boring in parts, Her will not appeal to everyone.

Her releases at Cinema Nouveau Theatres on 14 February.

Scarlett Johansson, a digital painting by Marco nl

Scarlett Johansson, a digital painting by Marco nl (source: Creative Commons)