Tag Archives: Jamie Ramsay

Parks & Resignation


by George Wolf

It shouldn’t take a film such as Living to make us realize what a treasure we have in Bill Nighy.

But then it shouldn’t take a grim diagnosis for Rodney Williams to seek true meaning in his life, so maybe Nighy’s long wait for a first Academy Award nomination is somehow cosmically right.

In this adaptation of Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru (To Live), Nighy earns every bit of that Oscar nod as “Mr. Williams,” the humorless manager of a public works office in 1950s London. Various floors full of buttoned-up civil servants pass on projects to other departments until the papers finally come to rest on one desk or another, with piles always kept as high as possible so co-workers won’t “think you have nothing better to do.”

Mr. Williams doesn’t, until a fateful trip to the doctor makes him realize how sad this is. A night out with that rascal Sutherland (Tom Burke) offers some cheap thrills, but it’s the persistence of the local ladies petitioning for a new public playground that give Mr. Williams the chance to leave a legacy.

Nobel prize-winning writer Kazuo Ishiguro adapts Kurosawa (and lands his own Oscar nom) with a script that shaves about 45 minutes off the running time while it adds layers of beauty and sentiment. Mr. Williams’ distance from his son becomes more heartbreaking, while the relationships with his two youngest employees (Alex Sharp and Aimee Lou Wood) are given more arc and resonance.

Director Oliver Hermanus replaces the original film’s clinical narration and B&W palette with gentle grace and the splendidly picturesque cinematography of Jamie Ramsay. Outside the office confines, this is a gorgeous London of crisp lines among detailed color, light and shadow, all in orbit around a lead performance of endless humanity.

Nighy is just the epitome of wonderful, with every sigh, furrowed brow and slight smile conveying so much about Mr. Williams’ journey to contentment. Nighy’s every moment on screen nearly glows with honesty, and provides the film with a unique and dignified identity.

Kurosawa’s take still hits hard, but Living would have been foolish to follow a similar fight plan. These blows may indeed be softer, but don’t think for a second they won’t leave a mark.

Fire Walk with Me

She Will

by Hope Madden

There is nothing quite like an excellent set of cheekbones.

The effortlessly elegant and formidable Alice Krige and her fine cheekbones deliver another quietly powerful performance in director Charlotte Colbert’s bewitching horror, She Will.

Krige is Veronica, an actress seeking some time away from prying eyes. She and healthcare aid Desi (Kota Eberhardt) will seclude themselves in the Scottish Highlands so Veronica can convalesce from a double mastectomy. She’ll also be able to escape the media frenzy around a proposed remake of the controversial film that made her a star back when she was only 14.

It’s hard to say which of the two traumas haunts her more.

The traveling pair find, thanks to a self-help guru (Rupert Everett) leading his own little squad of guests, that the rustic getaway inhabits a spot used to burn witches in older, more barbaric times. Witty feminism doesn’t overwhelm but enlightens a tale with vengeance on its mind.

Colbert, who co-wrote the script with Kitty Percy, crafts a moody shapeshifter of a film, allowing atmosphere and images to drive the narrative. The result is hypnotic. Clint Mansell’s transfixing score spills into Jamie Ramsay’s dreamy cinematography and suddenly you can’t tell whether you’re in the woods or in Veronica’s headspace or neither or both.

Eberhardt’s thoughtful turn creates a lovely opposite to the brittle Veronica, their growth offering an enduring image of the strength in companionship and sisterhood.

Colbert peppers the film with unexpected humor that serves it well. She seamlessly blends styles and ideas into a singular vision – no minor feat for a first-time director.

On top of the controversy surrounding the Hocus Pocus sequel, it is nice to be reminded, however artfully, of the legacy of witchcraft: the powerful tormenting and in many cases torching the powerless. Colbert shows us how lovely revenge can look when those women have a little power.