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aiff 2019 sisters brother wildlife reviews

AIFF 2019: “Sisters Brothers” and “Wildlife”

The only way to see indie films in Romanian cinemas is to go to film festivals. In the spring we have the American Independent Film Festival (AIFF), and in the autumn we have Films des Cannes. Both show amazing films that otherwise get overlooked by the local cinema, who is only interested in blockbusters and comedies (because that’s what most people watch, apparently). 

So of course I was very excited to see what the AIFF had in store for us this year and it didn’t disappoint. I already saw Sisters Brothers and Wildlife, and I am considering going to see Eight Grade and Old man & the gun this week, if I have the time. Here’s what I though of the two movies I watched this past weekend.

Sisters brothers
“Sisters brothers”, directed by Jacques Audiard and starring Joaquin Phoenix & John C.Reily, opened the AIFF festival this year. The obvious reason was that it was partially shot in Romania, but also because they wanted to honor and recognize the local crew for the work they’ve done (the director actually invited part of the team on stage with him when he presented). 

The movie itself was good. It would have been great, if not for the uneven pacing: it had slow, introspective moments, that were followed by fighting and gunshots, and then went back to quiet. It never quite found its rhythm. 

I did appreciate the character development aspect of the film. Throughout the film you discover and understand both Joaquin Phoenix’s (the younger, more daring young brother) and John C.Reilly characters’ (the older, more sensitive and rational older brother), and you end up rooting for them, no matter what they have done in the past. Both actors did a fantastic job (especially John C.Reilly), and the supporting actors (Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed) were also really good. 

The ending was sweet, but felt a bit rushed. Like the script focused on the development of the characters and the movie climax, and then suddenly remembered it had to give it an ending. 
Overall, I enjoyed it and you should definitely check it out in your local independent film festival or on any streaming service (if they have it). 

Wildlife
I’ve loved Paul Dano ever since I saw him in “There will be blood” and I was also very impressed by “Ruby Sparks”, so I really wanted to see his directorial debut, “Wildlife”, especially after I’ve heard many people rave about it. The movie, written by him and Zoe Kazan (his girlfriend) and based on a novel by Richard Ford, follows the downfall of a marriage and how it impacts all family members.

“Wildlife” is a slow, quiet movie, but it works overall, and that is mostly due to the strong performances by the three main actors. You have Jake Gyllenhaal, the father, who is fired from his job and then gradually loses his motivation and will of living. His lack of interest and attention deeply affects his wife, played by Carey Mulligan, who seems to wake up from a 14 year-old slumber, only to realize she is not living the life she wanted. These two quarter-life crisis end up also taking a toll on their son, Joe (played with such emotion and conviction by newcomer Ed Oxenbould).

It’s a slow-building, messy affair, but it feels very real. The films is more like an interesting character study, because each of the three had a developing arc. There was the coming of age for the boy, the downfall of the father (because he lost his job), and the desperation and confusion of the mother, for not knowing what to do when the person who held the family together and made her feel useful suddenly leaves. 

It’s a very good movie, well-executed from every aspect (direction, acting, cinematography, sound, etc.), yet for some it will feel slow. But considering the story and what it wants to accomplish, that’s to be expected. Go see it, if you can.

4 thoughts on “AIFF 2019: “Sisters Brothers” and “Wildlife”

  1. It’s such a shame that we have to work so hard to see indie movies like this! Eighth Grade is finally getting a UK cinema release soon so I’m looking forward to seeing that. I’m desperate to see Wildlife too!

    1. Cool, definitely go see both, Eighth Grade looked really good.
      You’re lucky in the UK, I think they show way more indies than in Romania….well, in London, at least, if you’re not there, then no, I guess

  2. I disliked Sisters Brothers because I found it dull but Wildlife was really good! Eight Grade is a nice movie but I thought The Edge of Seventeen did the same things much better

    1. Oh, thanks for reminding me of Edge of Seventeen, I’ve had on my list for a long time, but I forgot about it.
      Glad you liked Wildlife, it was really good, especially acting-wise

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