Category Archives: review-movie

Review: The Love Witch

Director(s)Anna Biller
Principal CastSamantha Robinson as Elaine Parks
Laura Waddell as Trish
Jared Sanford as Gahan
Gian Keys as Griff
Release Date 2016
Running Time120 minutes

In honor of Valentine’s day, I present my review of The Love Witch, a nuanced feminist story about love, gender, agency, desire, and their infinite intersections. The movie follows Elaine, a witch who moves to California in the hopes of finding someone to love. Once there, she uses magic and rituals to aid in her goal, but is met with comedic and tragic consequences.

I’m someone who loves feminism in media (when it’s done well) and Biller’s story masterfully navigates themes within the larger genre. At first it can feel like there are too many heavy-handed comments and not-so-subtle hints about what characters are thinking. However, by the end of the movie it’s obvious that a lot of what was said was done in an effort to control narrative sources of ambiguity and make discussion more interesting/accessible. If more people are on the same page about initial events and character motivations, then the subsequent discussion can go more in depth on the what actually matters- the themes.

The Love Witch analyzes the way desire and love are positioned by society and in relation to sex/gender. Elaine accepts her position as eye-candy and utilizes the adoration and affection she receives to try and find love, a reciprocal exchange in her mind. She gives men exactly what they think they want, in the hopes that it’ll get them to be what she needs them to, but is always met with some kind of issue. The men get too emotional and she can’t relate, or they’re touchy and she’s uncomfortable. Watching her navigate the matrix of power relations is interesting because of how she is forced to don her sexuality and make use of it simultaneously. She is shamed and praised and the movie presents her choice as a path, not the only option. The way she approaches love is juxtaposed with other views, culminating in a discussion that will leave you thinking about what love really is.

The movie never feels preachy because it excels in developing situations in multifaceted ways. There are women and men who do “good” and “bad” things. It’s all couched in your perspective of what proper behavior looks like. Thankfully, the movie does a good job in making you question those interpretations, and going through that journey ends up revealing a lot about your own biases. The real horror is discovering these aspects of ourselves/society and thinking about how deep they run in constructing the bounds of what is and isn’t permissible behavior.

I love how the movie integrates witches into the world, in an unique and wholly original package. Witchcraft exists as a kind of protected religion in this world. Witches go about everyday life wearing their witch garb, selling and buying witchcraft related products at stores, holding/attending witchcraft lessons/rituals, etc. It’s a realistic take that gives the movie its own personality while keeping the more supernatural elements grounded. The story’s take on magic,love magic in particular, allows for imaginative and hypnotic horror sequences and also serves to expand the layers of the themes. Costume and set design is pristine and ties everything together, radiating color and personality. Elaine’s house for example, is filled with beautiful art work and colors that leap out at you so there’s always something to look at when she’s working in there. This can be said for all the different environments the movie navigates, each bursting with personality and a bright eye-catching color palette. I found myself drawn into each scene, completely immersed by the beauty of what I was seeing.

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TLDRThe Love Witch is a deep dive into the way we approach love and the methods by which society and gender determine the same. Despite feeling a bit heavy-handed with its dialogue, the movie isn’t preachy and manages to be visually stunning and thematically poignant. The story of a love-struck witch, desperate for a Prince Charming, willing to make use of her sexuality and prowess with spells to charm men is funny, visually intoxicating, scary, and innovative in how it flips the traditional final girl horror cliche. Highly recommend to fans of feminist media or anyone who wants a horror movie about love.
Grade A+

Review: Mandy

Director(s)Panos Cosmatos
Principal CastNicholas Cage as Red
Andrea Riseborough as Mandy Bloom
Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand
Release Date 2018
Running Time121 minutes

This is a hard movie to review and not spoil because so much of the experience requires thorough explanation to properly make sense of the sheer scope of what’s being communicated. Mandy is almost best understood as two separate stories: one about a couple, Red and Mandy, and their tranquil domestic experience being ripped apart by a drugged out cult; second about Red’s revenge tour after the events of what happens. Both stories work to give each other weight and you come to appreciate how the movie is laid out after subsequent re-watches.

Cosmatos relishes in provoking the audience to think without ever preaching a lesson to them. There are strange, unexplainable images that’ll have you asking what everything really means. Certain shots bleed into other shots creating a surreal experience, as reality and fantasy switch without warning. In spite of this ambiguity, the movie never forgets to tell a compelling story, so the events that happen always make sense. The allegory/meaning never comes at the cost of the story, which gives the movie an edge over something like mother!, a movie I think tackles very similar subject matter. Yes, there’s a clear thriller revenge story, but underneath the surface Mandy is an exploration of humanity’s relation to transcendence (God) and Nature. Mandy, Red, and the leader of the cult, Jeremiah are all stand-ins for different explorations of these ideas and watching them clash and evolve seems to be a Cosmatos’s prophecy for our future. Saying any more would spoil the movie, but if you enjoy discussions of this sort or liked mother! ,this movie has a lot to offer.

The movie is a stunning audio-visual experience that’s dripping in personality. There are very distinct colors and hues that appear during key moments and the way those colors are tied and utilized in relation to each other lends itself to an poignant style that conveys a lot of meaning at the same time. During the third act, there are evocative animations that make use of the color scheme but also give the movie a distinct fairy tail feeling. There are fun over-the-top action scenes that make full use of the R Rating. Sound design is mesmerizing and the score always manages to lull you into the screen, no matter the circumstance.

Cosmatos is one of the few directors I’ve seen who seems to know how to channel Cage’s ferocity and absurd antics. He gives the actor the room to breathe and really take over the movie in the latter half of it. To Cage’s credit, he’s reserved, calm, and seems like he’s trying to recover from trauma in the first half of the movie, so his snap into his more familiar high energy acting patterns feels cathartic. Watching him absolutely lose it and throw all his energy into his revenge scheme is a hell of a lot of fun and is well worth the slower first half. Similarly, Riseborough gives off an life-affirming vibe from the moment she’s introduced and compliments Cage well. Their relationship is authentic and cute to watch develop, so later developments hit as hard as they need to.

My only issue with the movie is this one sub-plot that feels incredibly out of place. It’s the transition point between the two stories and ruins the immersive hypnotic feeling the movie had been building up till that point. It also dumps a lot of exposition which I thought was a bit too much information. It’s not all bad and has some funny moments, but I wish it didn’t happen so I could have just stayed in the zone from start to finish.

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TLDRMandy is a neon infused revenge thriller about a man on a quest for vengeance looking for members of the drugged out gang that intruded on his peaceful, loving relationship. It’s entertaining, stylish, and dripping with subtext about humanity’s relationship to religion and the environment.
Grade A+

I have a more in depth piece about this coming soon, so check back later for a spoiler discussion.

Review: The Untamed

Director(s)Amat Escalante
Principal CastRuth Ramos as Alejandra
Simone Bucio as Veronica
Jesus Meza as Angel
Eden Villavicencio as Fabian
Release Date2016
Running Time 100 minutes

The Untamed is a thought provoking story about the depths of sexuality and the way that humans have codified and defined themselves in relations to those articulations creating a disconnect between ourselves and our inner most desires. The story plays out like a well thought out Mexican drama featuring staples of the genre: secrets, the stratification of sexuality and gender, violence, inner turmoil; but adds in a extraterrestrial tentacle sex creature for good measure, giving the movie an element of visual horror and making the themes go to the next level. If you ever thought The Shape of Water needed to be creepier and more unnerving instead of romantic, this is the movie for you.

The first scene in the movie depicts Veronica, a young women, who’s in the middle of orgasming due to her alien counterpart. The creature ends up injuring her, and two elder individuals who own the farm where the creature crash landed, ask Veronica to cease relations with it . Suffering from a new wound, she finds herself at a hospital, being treated kindly by a nurse, who she slowly befriends. Meanwhile, in another part of the city Alejandra, the film’s protagonist, deals with her unhappy domestic life. Her husband, Angel (ironic I know) uses her for sexual gratification but is rarely there for her. As the two groups’ stories interconnect, what follows is a sexual journey that’s harrowing, impossible to look away from, and deeply unsettling.

The movie deals with our relations to sex and sexuality. Every character’s orientation and reasons for wanting sex are coded differently. Watching those interactions play out with the sex monster in the background creates an interesting discussion on the place of sexuality and the way it’s deployed and internalized by rational agents. There are constantly scenes that juxtapose humans with animals to highlight the differences in how each group approaches their more base desires. Add in the ideas and themes of a well-rounded drama on top of that, and suddenly you have a piece that’s teeming with nuanced discussions. This is one of the most thought provoking movies I’ve seen on sex and sexuality in a long time.

That being said, the movie never exploits it’s premise to create fantasy sex sequences for the audience. Escalante is focused on the element of sexuality, not the visual depiction and subsequently goes to great efforts to show only glimpses of the creature and sexual actions. The camera slowly moves throughout important scenes, without revealing the shocking event at play until the very end. This is visual storytelling done right. Scenes and the way they’re shot and edited lead you to certain conclusions which are subverted in a way to make you sympathize with the characters and make future decisions more shocking.

The creature is rarely ever shown, except in tidbits and pieces, so its eventual reveal is well earned and horrifying. This is a creature feature done right, and I genuinely couldn’t avert my gaze when it’s full visage came onto screen. This process of slow reveals, building tension, and letting it all explode in one final reveal feels like the process of foreplay and sexual gratification, so the entire experience feels sublime and thematically resonant.

My biggest issue with the movie is a sub-plot involving some less involved characters that never plays out as much as I wanted it too. I like how they’re incorporated thematically, but I wish they made more sense from a story perspective, because they’re the only real aspects of the movie (sans the sex alien) that aren’t grounded. There are also a few moments where characters talk a bit too much , making some of the underlying ideas a bit more heavy-handed. I love how subtle the storytelling is, so these moments bothered me more than they would most other people.

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TLDRThe Untamed combines a well-executed and thought out drama with a creature feature involving an sex alien with tentacles. It’s well paced, prefers to show rather than tell, and presents one of most interesting discourses on sex/sexuality that I’ve seen in recent years. The movie prioritizes atmosphere and mood over visceral images and jump scares, so if you like the latter you may find yourself bored by this.
Grade A

Review: The Witch

Director(s)Robert Eggers
Principal CastAnya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
Ralph Ineson as William
Kate Dickie as Katherine
Harvey Scrhimshaw as Caleb
Ellie Grainger as Mercy
Lucas Dawson as Jonas
Release Date2015
Running Time 93 minutes

After I had first seen The Witch, I was convinced the movie I saw and the general audience saw were completely different, because there’s absolutely no way someone could see this masterpiece and walk away thinking it’s only at 58% (as per Rotten Tomatoes audience score). Eggers’s period piece set in Puritanical times is a well-crafted, deeply layered story, that examines the deterioration of an incredibly religious family that finds themselves dealing with crises of faith and the very real threat of witches in the forest around them.

There’s no time wasted establishing the stakes and rules of the world the lead family finds themselves in. After William, the patriarch, refuses to bend to his community’s religious views, decrying them as sacrilege, his family finds themselves exiled, forced to find a new home in the wilderness. Soon after disaster strikes, the family finds themselves assaulted by the presence of supernatural happenings, a sense of constant disarray, maddening paranoia, and severe blows to their faith in the Almighty.

Eggers really nails the look and feel of the New England world we find ourselves within. The costumes all feel and look accurate and the subsequent way they get dirtied or marred with impure elements makes the movie feel gritty and rugged. Dialogue is on point and you can tell that there was a lot of effort put into keeping things honest and precise. I have found the experience to be better after watching the movie with subtitles, just so I could see all the dialogue, but after reading it I can confirm it really is as good as I thought it was. All this attention to detail ensures that are no distracting anachronisms that would otherwise distract us from the drama at play. I found myself completely immersed in the world around our lead family and as a result was completely engrossed in every little moment and action. I never felt the effects of the slower pacing, because I was lost in the experience of watching the family struggle against their obstacles.

Every character is fleshed out and feels like an integral part of the world. Anya Taylor-Joy absolutely kills it as Thomasin and sells the conflict integral to her character’s core. There are tons of close-up shots of her face, each demonstrating her reaction to the events around her. She manages to balance teen angst with religious turmoil culminating in a well-developed spiritual and emotional journey. The exploration of her characters growth as a guilty “sinner” combined with the period’s treatment of women lends itself to an interesting feminist journey that offers some nuanced thoughts about community, agency, and the relationship between women and children. Ineson’s portrayal of a religious man, too fueled by his ego to compromise on what counts as scripture, but so genuinely caring for his family that he sheds tears for their sake, strikes a strange blow at expectations. You’d think someone so hotheaded that they’d let their family get kicked out of a community would be prone to bursts of rage and insolence, but William comes off as a man just trying to do what he personally thinks is best for the family, even if he’s incapable of slowing down long enough to figure out what that is. Dicke is great as the mother, Katherine, and emotes her weariness and fatigue to great effect. Her latter interactions with Joy and Ineson are some of the most dramatic moments in the movie and add to the discourse on the place of women. Scrhimshaw is great as Caleb, the middle child of the family, and absolutely steals the show in latter portions of the movie, channeling some transcendental acting in a scene you won’t soon forget. Grainger and Dawson have fairly convincing child performances and kept their own in the serious setting.

Speaking of setting , did I mention that the movie looks and sounds amazing? Mark Korven’s score is absolutely ethereal and makes moments pop when it comes into play. It never tries to take a scene over. It only exists to accompany the eerie feeling and tense atmosphere. You really notice it because the movie is silent for the most part, choosing to focus on long shots that drive home the emotions underlying the scene. The movie employs a series of closeup shots, which give you great mental pictures of what’s running through the characters’ heads. You can gaze into their eyes, notice the way their face darts and moves, and see what’s happening underneath.

Finally, the movie is rich with themes but works as a surface-level story as well. The narrative is tight and filled with believable characterization. The presence of the supernatural is confirmed early on, because the focus of the horror is the unwinding family dynamic. Each character’s relation to their faith is altered/exacerbated because of the family’s expulsion from the colony, so the whole unit experiences a discordant crisis of faith. The events in the story would be horrifying if you were a devout Christian living back in those times and living through them would be a real hell. That gives the movie a layer of historical nuance that grounds its fears into the world the characters live in. The reason I can still remember the shocking moments from The Witch is because they happen sparingly, are never done for pure shock value,and add to the theme or previous character threads. There’s a purpose to each scare which gives the movie tons of re-watch value. It’s a movie you can watch to watch, or watch to analyze, and if you’re someone who enjoys slower paced movies, there’s a lot to get out of this.

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TLDRThe Witch is a masterful period horror that examines the disintegration of an exiled Puritan family forced to find a new life for themselves in the abandoned woods. Historically accurate dialogue, immaculate costume design, an ethereal and well-placed score, and gorgeous symmetrical close ups await those of you who can deal with a slower movie that relies on atmosphere instead of jump scares. The movies treatment of religion, ideology, and feminist thought are interesting and anyone interesting in watching those ideas intersect need to give this a try.
Grade A+

There’s no spoiler section- I’ll be posting a more full analysis at a later time.

Review: Stree

Director(s)Amar Kaushik
Principal CastShraddha Kapoor as the mysterious woman
Rajkummar Rao as Vicky
Aparshakti Kurana as Bittu
Abishek Banerjee as Jaana
Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra
Release Date 2018
Running Time128 minutes

This highly slept on horror comedy follows Vicky, a tailor with genius abilities who becomes smitten with an unknown woman who shows up during his town’s esoteric festival/ritual meant to ward off a man-snatching spirit aptly named Stree (which means woman in Hindi). As the supernatural situation gets more tense, suspicions run high, as everyone is desperate to find a way to stop the abductions. The movie expertly plays with audience expectations, subverting them in ways that are clever and well laid out by a directorial bread crumb trail. Watching the mystery unfold is a treat and the movie will keep you on edge up till the very end.

If you’re familiar with Indian politics,the country’s social setting, or grew up with family/close friends that filled your heads with stories about those things, the movie will stand out even more in how well it effectively utilizes both horror and comedy to critique gender roles, religious manipulation, and the discrepancy between the customs of different generations. By leading into these serious discussions with a comedic touch, the horrifying “lessons” ,so to say, both highlight the repercussions of actions that aren’t taken seriously today, while never coming off as too preachy. From urinating on the wall, to prostitution, to sex talks, the movie knows how to approach the broad variety of topics it wants to talk about with great care. Tonal balance is definitely here and the movie never loses focus on what it’s trying to do.

There’s more than one moment that reminded me of interactions I had in my youth, and I laughed at how genuine and real the dialogue sounded. This is obviously helped by the great performances from the leading cast members. Rao absolutely nails it as Vicky, a dopey, awkward, romantic with aspirations of moving out and ahead in life. He’s comical enough to laugh at, but not so comical to render the issues he goes through less serious. Kapoor captures the ambivalence of the mysterious woman to a T and constantly kept me guessing as to what really drove her. Every side character is interesting from Vicky’s father to the town’s resident bookkeeper. Even if you can’t keep track of all the names, they’re all written with a real humaneness so you care about them. I can still tell you exactly what each character was about, so that’s a credit to how fleshed out everyone comes off.

If you’re someone who likes Bollywood, you’ll be glad to know this movie manages to incorporate the flair and passion you normally get in an mainstream Indian movie, but ties it down into a wholly unique plot that demonstrates serious writing ingenuity. There’s even an item song that’s incorporated both as an injection of a fun vibrant energy and as a way to highlight the themes at play. Offering a unique story is hard enough but managing to do that while playing to convention is something else. Sound design is excellent and the music can be scary and exciting at the same time. By playing up the normal romcom ideas we expect to see and adding a supernatural twist to the background those affairs take place in, the movie manages to keep the audience constantly guessing what’s going to happen. There’s more than one moment that had me nervously laughing, both because of the comedic tension of the situation at play and the fear that something horrendous would happen.

Despite my glowing praise, there are some plot elements that stand out as being less developed than others. It makes sense given the breadth of what the movie is trying to do, but those little moments feel like they could’ve really cemented some of the themes. Thankfully, a sequel is due to come out , so I’m excited to see how this creative team will answer or develop these threads.

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TLDRStree is a one of a kind horror comedy that mixes traditional Bollywood elements with a one of a kind ghost story. If you’re familiar with India’s culture/social history, the movie really shines as a critique of some of the country’s most pressing issues. With the sequel coming out soon, there’s no better than than now to watch this masterpiece.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Flesh of the Void

Director(s)James Quinn
Principal CastMan Without a Face as Priest
Kmsura as The Amputee
Dead Flesh as Rapist
Elektriking as Man in Gas Mask
Release Date2017
Running Time 77 minutes

What is death? Is it the end of the spirit or does it just mark the end of the physical body? People have always taken comfort in the idea that death is either a void bereft of any sensation or that there’s some kind of afterlife. This highly experimental movie throws those answers out and instead looks at death as the worst, most horrifying, event. Instead of a void, instead of heaven or hell, this a journey into death in its most intimate and horrifying, the end of physical existence and the sensation of the flesh.

There’s not a real plot. There are no real characters. If I’ve lost you already, then you know this movie isn’t for you. This is an experience through the most miserable depths of the human experience and isn’t something that should be touched by the faint of heart. Forget NSFW, there are NSFL scenes in here that haven’t left my head since I saw I first saw this movie. The black and white movie is an assault on the senses and doesn’t care about answering questions or making you feel secure. It only wants to hurt you. It wants to make you despair and break under its torrent of visceral depravity.

The words that come onto the screen are scratched and sharp, like the text in the movie poster above. It cuts into the screen and feels violent, like the movie is being effaced. Quinn uses expired Super 8, modern super 8 , and 16 mm film to capture a variety of different visual effects. Most of the movie is gritty and indecipherable. The horrors come at you in droves. Sometimes they’re blurry, barely at the periphery, showing you just enough to stir your mind into finishing the idea and image at play. Other times, horrifying actions are shown on screen in disturbing long takes that seemingly never end. When the old super 8 film comes into play, the movie takes on a whole new surreal feeling, bombarding the senses and really getting underneath the skin. Most dialogue happens in the form of interspersed poetry, barely heard, and distinctly sinister in tone. Indecipherable noises, and short growls crowd the soundscape and haunting music makes you feel like you’ll never feel safe again.

The movie veers on the line of overly pretentious and deeply meaningful and I could definitely see arguments for the former. I was deeply affected by the piece, and think it’s a horrifying trip for anyone that wants to explore the depravity of humanity, but can see how it can feel like meaningless torture porn to some people. If I didn’t see the advertising/marketing for the movie that told me it was supposed to be an experience of death, I might have been frustrated, but I knew what I was getting into. This is not a movie for everyone, but I think people with a taste for it will find themselves haunted by this piece for sleepless nights to come.

That being said, I think the path to the journey could be heavily improved. I get wanting to be ambiguous and unnerving, but the lack of subtitles makes it almost impossible to make out certain bits of dialogue. It’s a strange complaint and I wouldn’t fault for you think it’s nitpicking, but the movie is hard enough to find and is all about the meaning created through the experience, so being able to know the words is important. I found myself more distracted by trying to parse what was happening, but ignoring the words and just being scared by their recitation didn’t work for me that well.

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TLDRFlesh of the Void is a movie for people that want to know what death as the ultimate horror would feel like. This piece is highly experimental and explores the most miserable depths of human existence, constantly bombarding the audience with unnerving noises and dialogue combined with surreal and disturbing imagery.
Grade A

Review: High Life

Director(s)Claire Denis
Principal CastRobert Pattinson as Monte
Juliette Binoche as Dibs
Mia Goth as Boyse
Jessie Ross as Willow
Release Date2018
Running Time 110 minutes

This slow, non-lineally told, atmospheric ride into space is a one of a kind look into the human condition. Denis is not focused on spectacle or sci-fi hi jinks. Instead, she uses space as an tool to alienate our protagonists, trying to isolate and draw apart the elements that we commonly associate with being a human. The movie is really hard to talk about without some spoilers, so be warned. I won’t talk about anything that isn’t revealed within the first few scenes in the movie, so don’t worry. Nothing important, just enough to help explain the stuff I liked and didn’t. The movie also depicts some fairly dark stuff. If rape/assault bother you, watch with someone who can tell you when those scenes stop.

The story opens up on Monte, a man who’s apparently in charge of taking care of a baby, Willow, on a seemingly empty spacecraft. From there it cuts to Monte in the past, as part of a crew sent to explore black holes. The catch? Each member of the crew is a criminal who’s participating in the mission in lieu of sentencing. Denis isn’t as concerned with keeping up the mystery as some major questions are answered fairly early. The focus of the movie instead is on the human body and the way it responds to different stimuli.

As part of their sentence, the crew members are not allowed to masturbate or have sex. Instead, they must relieve themselves in a sex box, a mysterious object filled with sexual paraphernalia that bring subjects to orgasm and relieves them of their relevant fluids. The scenes involving it are disturbing in how they make sex mechanic and programmable. By stripping such an intimate action of its human element, the story asks us if humanity really has any meaning outside of the composition and arrangement of our organs. Are we just our genitalia, our sweat glands, our eyes, our mouths, etc working together like a biologically pre-programmed machine, unable to do anything worthwhile in this universe or are we creatures that can impact the universe in a way that creates meaning? Are we held back by traditional rules of thinking about ourselves and others or are they the things that keep us grounded and capable of doing anything at all? I won’t spoil the film’s answer (mainly because I think it varies based on how you take the story), but I think the journey it takes to get there is interesting.

I think this is a movie that’ll only continue to grow on me and I’m sure I’m missing a lot of ideas. The movie almost plays like a microcosm of Earth, with a population of radically different individuals trying to work with each other under a draconian set of rules (plug in whatever social system you want; ex: patriarchy, capitalism, prison industrial system) and their subsequent responses to alienation within that system. The way the movie is shot, edited, and presented allow you to to tinker around with different ideas and I think different people can walk away with different meanings.

The movie is gorgeous in its visuals and presentations. There are scenes that genuinely had me feeling upset and wouldn’t leave my head for a while. There’s not too much visceral violence outside of a few assault sequences, but they’re not the focus of the horror. The real scares come the eerie set up and poignant imagery. Blood splattered walls, objects floating outside of the spacecraft, and the beautiful image of a black hole (that shockingly looks like the recently discovered image by the Event Horizon Telescope team) should keep visual audience members enthralled. Despite taking place on a spacecraft, the movie is teeming with colors. Clever use of flashbacks, ship mechanisms, and lighting choices keep each shot feeling distinct and picturesque. There are scenes in the latter half of the movie that are absolutely stunning to watch and should be seen by any fan of the science-fiction genre. In fact, the movie’s presentation of gravity, orbit, black holes, and other phenomena are exquisite and are beautiful to watch play out. It’s a physics marvel.

The lead performances are also great. Pattinson is impressive as Monte. He’s calm and collected and the way he grows along with Willow is remarkable to see. His nickname on the ship is “monk” and he really exudes that aura, staying strong in will and action. The way he’s contrasted with his crew mates makes him all the more interesting and makes his backstory that much more relevant, both from a character arc and thematic view. Binoche does a great job as the lead scientist, Dibs. She’s in charge of collecting the fluids from the crew members and is responsible for ensuring that sexual urges are gratified via the machine. It’s disturbing to watch her ideas come into play, and her fervent obsession in getting what she wants keeps your eyes glued to her whenever she shows up on screen.

Most of my issues come from the way the story is under utilized. There’s a major plot thread that ends up being ignored (in a literal sense) that’s never explained. It makes the entirety of the story’s setup confusing and I wish that it was addressed again at some point. The movie also dumps a lot of exposition, in spite of its excellent use of visual storytelling. These moments fell really out of place and make the movie flow strangely. When the editing is otherwise so crisp, these sequences end up standing out even more. I would rather have just been shown more beautiful images hinting at what happened like what the rest of the movie ended up doing. A lot of these decisions could be argued to be done for the sake of distilling themes at play, but they come off feeling like missed opportunities instead of lean cuts.

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TLDRHigh Life is a beautiful look into the human condition and our respective place in the universe. It’s slow and methodical, told in non-linear order, and prioritizes eerie atmospheric existential horror over visceral jump scares. If that sounds like something you’d like I highly recommend checking this out. It’s definitely something I plan on checking out again.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!