Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
Actor Kenneth Branagh has been directing almost as long as he’s been acting on the big screen. His first directorial effort, Henry V was a huge success. It was his four screen credit as well. Both his skill and performance were praised with that debut and since then, he’s created a strange blend of Shakespearean adaptations and blockbuster favorites. Not many directors can lay claim to both.
Belfast is Branagh’s 20th directorial effort (technically his 21st as he completed Death on the Nile almost two years ago, but Belfast got out the door first) and it’s the work of a skilled craftsman who works well with actors and employs numerous admirable techniques with his camera. Set during The Troubles in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the film follows 9-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), a carefree Protestant boy who is coming of age during one of the most tumultuous periods of Irish history, that of the riots and violence inflicted on Catholics by the ruling Protestants of the area.
His father (Jamie Dornan) is hoping to find a way to get his family out of the tension-filled, violence riddled neighborhood where Protestants and Catholics live side-by-side without issue. His mother (Caitriona Balfe), on the other hand, wants to stay so as not to uproot Buddy and his brother (Lewis McAskie) from a place where the neighbors look out for them and care about protecting each other. As The Troubles intensify, the once unconcerned Buddy becomes confused and angry, not wanting to leave his grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds) behind.
The story reflects a regional history that a young Branagh might have lived through, being 9 years old at the time as well. The film embodies that memory in the form of black-and-white photography, intended to accentuate just how long ago the events depicted were while highlighting the present day bookends in color along with a handful of colorized moments as the family reacts to the various entertainment programs they experience, including a color segment of the play A Christmas Carol starring uncredited Tom Wilkinson.
This is a well-mounted film that wants the audience to experience the joy and sorrow that accompanies such trials and exists in a simple space within its own narrative without finding a way to be more than lightly cathartic.
House of Gucci
Real life with a soap opera flavor make up Ridley Scott’s look into the collapse of the Gucci dynasty as the family who gave its name to the luxury clothing brand succumb to petty internal squabbling that allows outside forces to worm their way into the lives of one of the most celebrated families in Italian history.
Each country has their legendary business families. The US had the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers while Italy had the Guccis and the Versaces. The latter of those two families had a recent TV movie made about the assassination of one of its members. The former is given similar treatment in this film with Lady Gaga taking the lead as Patrizia Reggiani, the daughter to the owner of a small trucking firm who runs into Maurizio Gucci, the youngest member of the Gucci family with whom she becomes smitten. As the pair marry against his father Rodolfo’s (Jeremy Irons) wishes, they begin a behind-the-scenes assault on the family legacy trying to earn Maurizio is proper due while exposing the internecine conflicts between Rodolfo, his brother Aldo (Al Pacino), and his nephew Paolo (Jared Leto).
The film amounts to little more than a salacious melodrama that could have fit well into the television landscape of the period in which it’s set. Shows like Dynasty, Dallas, and Knots Landing seem clear inspirations here, though I doubt Scott would see it that way. It’s an engaging drama to an extent, but it’s the kind of backstabbing and in-fighting that have been a part of television for decades and while this film may seem tame comparatively, it doesn’t ultimately fill the soul or the mind as a result.