ERASED BOY (15, 110 mins) Drama / Romance. Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Joe Alwyn, Troye Sivan, Xavier Dolan. Director: Joel Edgerton. Streaming on Netflix from Thursday, January 17
IN 2004, Garrard Conley, the 19-year-old son of a Baptist preacher, voluntarily entered a Love In Action facility in Tennessee to purge homosexuality that put him at odds with his family’s religious zeal.
Conley’s nightmarish experiences with conversion therapy informed a successful memoir, Boy Erased.
Writer-director Joel Edgerton sensitively plucks this sincere text for a deeply moving dramatization without sentimentality.
The filmmaker presents himself as the pious advisor in charge of malleable spirits, encouraged to chant “I use sexual sin and homosexuality to fill a void in the form of God in my life”.
Cut to the Bones and Lucas Hedges are heartbreaking as a teenage witness to controversial practices, including a heartbreaking scene of a family hitting their terrified son with a Bible to drive Satan out of his body.
The script boils down firmly to one side of the conversion therapy argument and calmly but powerfully preaches to the outraged.
DARK WATERS (12, 122 mins) Thriller / Romance. Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber. Director: Todd Haynes. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
A DOGGED fight for justice that lasts more than 20 years exposes shady business practices and corporate greed in Dark Waters.
Inspired by the New York Times magazine article The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare, the slow-burning thriller from director Todd Haynes details the ripple effect of a 1970s cover-up in West Virginia, where the product Man-made PFOA chemical used in the production of Teflon may have leaked into the water supply.
Screenwriters Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan infuse a conventional legal feud between David and Goliath with a quivering paranoia reminiscent of The Parallax View.
Mark Ruffalo transforms from a muscular Avengers superhero into a bent, harangued lawyer, who shudders at the repercussions for his own family as he heads with sickening speed toward physical depression.
As the end credits roll and a title card reveals the shocking extent of the chemical spill, our hackles are lifted and every trace of PFOA in our bloodstream is bubbling with indignation.
THE STRAIGHT STORY (U, 107 mins) Drama. Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton, Jane Galloway Heitz, Joseph Carpenter. Director: David Lynch. Screening on Film4 on Monday January 18 at 11 a.m.
FORGET everything you think you know about the work of the strange Mr. David Lynch and his obsession with exposing the evil of the American suburbs. The Straight Story is, as its title suggests, a simple, linear tale.
No supernatural killers, no blood, no kinky sex – just a real-life thread about Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), 73, from Iowa, who made a pilgrimage to see his 76-year-old brother critically ill in Wisconsin, traveling the several hundred kilometers between them on a gasoline-powered John Deere lawnmower.
Very little happens except for one incident in which the mower brakes fail on a steep hill, but that doesn’t matter because Alvin is such a wonderfully expressive character, lively animated. by veteran actor Farnsworth.
The Straight Story is arguably Lynch’s most accessible and conventional film (if, indeed, there is such a thing).
Beautifully photographed and performed, facing the greens and golds of rural Central America, this is a thrilling, captivating and moving road movie in its true sense.
UNBROKEN (15, 132 mins) War / Drama. Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, Finn Wittrock, Vincenzo Amato. Director: Angelina Jolie. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken documents the extraordinary true story of Louis Zamperini, who competed in the 1936 Olympics, survived a plane crash during World War II and then suffered at the hands of the Japanese in a prisoner of war camp.
Director Angelina Jolie’s admiration for her subject matter is evident in each beautifully crafted frame of this life-affirming biopic, which features superb cinematography by Roger Deakins and an elegiac score by composer Alexandre Desplat.
Scenes of cruelty inducing a grimace warrant the film’s 15-year certificate, but the violence still serves the narrative and is never gratuitous.
Emboldened by the tour de force performances of Jack O’Connell as Zamperini and pop star Miyavi as his Japanese tormentor, Unbroken approaches greatness.
Taking to heart the words of Louis’ brother – “If you can take it, you can do it” – we look into the heart of darkness with Zamperini, wanting him to overcome his horrible test.
A WALK IN THE WOODS (15, 100 mins) Comedy / Drama / Romance. Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Dame Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Schaal. Director: Ken Kwapis. Screening on Film4 on Saturday January 16 at 9 p.m. and streaming on Amazon Prime Video
For several years, journalist and author Bill Bryson returned to America from Britain.
During this creatively fertile time, he hiked the physically demanding Appalachian Trail with his good friend Stephen Katz, which inspired the book A Walk In The Woods.
Ken Kwapis’ film version retains the writer’s wry sense of humor and episodic structure, giving Nick Nolte a peach of a role as crotchety sidekick, hissing and blowing in Bryson’s shadow. as they travel the 2,200 miles between Georgia and Maine.
Robert Redford lends his dashing good looks to the lead role of family man Bryson, who hopes to get out of a rut by traversing the arduous road.
“Seriously Bill, even for you this is ridiculous!” his wife Catherine (Emma Thompson) despairs.
Director Kwapis relishes comedic backdrops, including Katz’s seduction of the laundromat of a woman whose little silks are hung in one of the washing machines.
The hearty laughs are well balanced with moments of introspection and regret.