THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE (2017)
Beautiful animals, beautiful sunlight, beautiful gardens, The Zookeeper’s Wife begins like a promising, feel-good film about zoophiliacs and then… “Warsaw. Poland. 1939.” You know what kind of film this is going to be. Predictable and working with familiar tropes of films based on Jewish persecution, Jessica Chastain uses the opportunity to break from her usual roles by playing a introverted, gentle, and nurturing wife and mother. While her performance, alongside the rest of the cast, help to elevate the quality of the well-told story, a cliche-ridden script drags the film down into just another film about how awful the nazis were with some tricky unexpected additions in the second act involving a young girl which the film is too light to fully explore or do justice to in any tasteful way.
THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI (2016)
Winner of the award for Une Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, this Finnish boxing film about a young man who has a chance at the belt is a charming, muted, and sentimental film that surprisingly subverts the hypermasculine narratives that often plague these sports movies – a fact emphasized by the primary dilemma being whether or not Olli will effectively lose weight in time for the match. Essentially Raging Bull on antidepressants, the exploration of the relationship between Olli and his girlfriend Raija under the constraints of daily training and publicity managed by former boxing champion, Elis, is an emotionally satisfying treat to watch. There’s something both sweet and unusually charming about a boxer training by running through a forest with a kite.
THEIR FINEST (2017)
A perfectly serviceable and enjoyable British film that relies a bit too much on a meta-celebration of the craft of screenwriting, but equally celebrates what is, for many, a watershed moment in the history of women entering the workforce. Definitely enjoyable, especially Gemma Arterton, who has continually proven to be a charismatic actress in recent years, and Bill Nighy, who gets the opportunity to show how promising a dramatic role might be for the actor.