SIFF 2012: ‘The Eye of the Storm’ and ‘Coming Home’ [Reviews]
The Eye of the Storm
The Australian drama The Eye of the Storm is playing this weekend at the 38th Seattle International Film Festival. Based on the novel of the same name, Fred Schepisi puts a lot of emphasis on family. We all like to think our families are perfect, but we also know this sadly isn’t true. The Eye of the Storm is a great example of what different issues and personalities can do to family dynamics. Even if only one of the facets resonate with the viewer, it’s enough to praise the story.
When Elisabeth (Charlotte Rampling), a matriarch, falls ill, her two kids make their final visits. In a too-little-too-late gesture, Basil (Geoffrey Rush) and Dorothy (Judy Davis) try to spend as much time with their dying mother as possible before she passes. From the onset, we can tell something is off with their relationship.
The movie’s driving force becomes the different personalities. Basil is a quirky, peppy, and introspective womanizer, while Dorothy is an uptight and anxious pessimist. Uncovering what made them themselves makes this truly fun to watch, although it may not necessarily be fun in the strictest form of the word. Within the narrative, there are flashbacks and hallucinations that slowly start to unearth the past. It’s not a conventional (I’m not sure this word applies here) use of non-linear storytelling, but it is effective.
The movie’s title is a good indication of what’s going on. There is a lot of symbolism pertaining to storms. The flashbacks do a great job of maintaining the calm-before-the-storm feel.
When the inevitable storm does hit, the movie comes together well. There aren’t as many benchmarks to gauge the narrative progression, but the story still fits together. The beginning and end shots do a better job of closing the story up.
Basil asks us if it’s better to hide your unhappiness or to take it out and examine it. This interesting question isn’t easy to answer, but sometimes movies need to pose these types of questions. Family dynamics are generally pretty complicated, which makes a three-character study a smart move. The Eye of the Storm battles with the ever-relevant topic of death and all of its struggles. And much like last year’s movie The Descendants, it hits a lot of the right notes.
If you are in Seattle this week, try to find time for this film.
The Eye of the Storm is showing at SIFF at the following times:
May 25 – 6:30 PM (Everett Performing Arts Center)
May 26 – 4:00 PM (Egyptian Theatre)
May 27 – 6:30 PM (Egyptian Theatre)
Sharing some similarities with other reintroduction-into-society tales (most notably, last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene), the French film Coming Home dones a non-linear narrative. It tries a little too hard to pack eight years of story into one movie, though. I wouldn’t consider the picture a failure, but it’s not up to par with similar movies.
Vincent (Reda Kateb), a kidnapper, starts off by taking a young girl. Later, we find out that this girl is the much older blonde named Gaëlle (Agathe Bonitzer). Eventually, Vincent releases her, but not before the damage can be done. Cutting back and forth from past to present, Coming Home shows us the entire ordeal.
It’s an interesting character study, for sure, but the motivations and justifications aren’t fully explored. Perhaps we’re not supposed to understand the whole thing, but that’s not good enough for me. Vincent plainly states he won’t touch or hurt Gaëlle, which muddles his motivations. Likewise, we don’t get clear reasoning behind why she sticks around.
I should clarify for people who would retort what I’ve just said. The movie’s mission may be to make a statement pertaining to Stockholm Syndrome. However, I still don’t think there is anything to support the phenomena here. In other words, we can’t really empathize with her actions.
There are other aspects that do definitely work, though. For example, the aftermath surrounding Gaëlle’s disappearance are done nicely. There are psychological, emotional, media, and family implications. As a whole, humans have a need to explain or justify everything (this is even evident in my review).
Some of the things work well in Coming Home, while others do not. I’m interested in the story and the implications, but I don’t quite get enough explanation. It may be unexplainable circumstances, but I’d argue that the viewers deserve some inclination that this could happen (which it unfortunately does). The film succeeds more, in terms of ambiguity, when it reaches to the whole narrative. When it stays within Vincent and Gaëlle, it struggles to pack a lot of story into a touchy subject.
If you’re in Seattle this week, check it out for yourself and feel free to agree or disagree with my take below.
Coming Home is showing at SIFF at the following times:
May 26 – 6:30 PM (Harvard Exit)
May 27 – 12:00 Noon (Harvard Exit)
June 5 – 9:00 PM (SIFF Cinema Uptown)