Yield yourself to this text and it’ll drive a Saab-shaped stake into your red heart. The narrative layering and mirroring here is riveting in its discussion on the power of art and in its own artful power (see Yu-rim’s Yoon-a’s Sonya’s stunning climactic sign-language monologue) as it carves a breathtaking road through tunnels of suffering into the good morning of redemption. Mesmerizing performances, music (tastefully placed), and cinematography (see the intense to-camera backseat dialogue).
Friends/foes, parents/parties, studying/sneaking out, crushes/crushing embarrassment–it’s all part of the crimson-faced chaos of puberty, and it’s captured perfectly here (see the exaggerated emotion close-ups) within a refreshing cultural context and time period. Lots of cute and hilarious bits to go with the huge dramatic sweeps (red moons and rituals and multiple existential planes), weighty themes of identity and family heritage, and even a stunning gazing-out-the-car-window sigh of a scene.
Rides a lot of very familiar story waves (see the unlikely duo, the parting, the return just in time) but they’re beautifully animated, their sailors Moana and Maui are very likeable (also special shout-out to enigmatic Gramma: “Is there something you want to tell me?” “Is there something you want to hear?”) and there’s great splashes of music, mirth (the chicken is just fucking hilarious), and eco-feminist-tinged magic throughout. The pacif-ic/ist ending is stunning (“This is not who you are”).
The beautiful opening shot starts things off well, and the way the movie tenderly teases the inevitable coupling right up until the sweet final scene and line (“It’s nice to meet you”) is to be lauded too, but a lot of the stuff IB (in between) is WTF (what the fuck), like Acronym Jessica, Annoying Jonah, Allergic-thus-Unattractive-Walter, and that one painful scene that’s just a 5 minute long movie recap followed by a woman’s husband and brother making fun of her for having emotions?? Wut?
Some of its satire is cringe-y (see post-credits), but the loud, busy edit is info age-appropriate and at its core is a poignant picture of how we face the inevitability of our end: some ignore it, cut to commercial, or dream of utopia; others turn to hashtag activism at concerts or nihilist stickers on skateboards. But when death actually arrives at the door, our fear is made plain and all we can do is hold hands and pray and talk about all the small things that made up the “everything” we had.
Lil’ Lindsay Lohan is remarkable in her double (sometimes even quadruple) role and definitely carries the film; with the help of some seamless editing, you never feel like it’s not actually two actors (the discovery in the cabin is a marvel of a scene). All of the plot holes and contrivances make it feel like it was written by an 11-year old too, but that’s not all bad (who doesn’t enjoy pranking villains and reuniting families?) and there’s some fun dramatic irony in acts two and three as well.
A beautiful batch of memories (the present-day in-colour intro is a nice touch) gorgeously shot, lovingly soundtracked, and wonderfully performed. The sharp tonal shifts from brutal violence to charming childhood innocence are jarring and undermine the impact of the former but they feel authentic to the film’s recollection patchwork perspective, which Branagh sews perfectly, finding all those sweet spots of significance in the past for the present: “I’m going nowhere you can’t find me.”
“The thing about stories, they never really end do they? We’re still telling the same stories we’ve always told, just with different names, faces.” A great meta quote that ends a probably overly meta scene (the WB mention is too much) but kicks off the film’s fascinating re-examination of narrative truth and fiction, identity and choice, binaries and in-betweens in an old but new world. As the plot picks up it stumbles though; the story mechanics are convoluted and the stakes feel strangely low.
Maguire’s lead turn adds consistent melodramatic cheese right from his opening voiceover (“Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart”) to his last one (“This is my gift, my curse”) but it feels authentic to the awkward, angsty, coming-of-age teen experience and works well with the other campy comic-book elements (Dafoe and Simmons leap off the page with their performances). Fun action and quirky humour (“up, up, and away web!”) top things off.
A uniquely unsettling character study, leaning hard into its leads’ imperfections, inscrutability, and feelings of fear, pain, regret, and parental ennui in past-present parallel examinations of motherhood, helped by terrific performances, good editing, an enigmatic soundtrack, and in-their-face cinematography. Could have benefited from a tighter focus (Lyle and the Greek gang felt a bit unnecessary to the thrust of the film) and a less easy and orange-y final scene. Cool titles after though.