Tag Archives: Michiel Huisman

Strangers on a Plane

The Last Right

by Hope Madden

A few months back, Jamie Dornan and Emily Blunt stupefied us all (well, the dozen or so of us who saw Wild Mountain Thyme) with an Irish romance about as authentic as a Shamrock Shake. Writer/director Aoife Crehan’s The Last Right takes us back to the Emerald Isle to see if there’s any romance or magic left.

Oh, there is? Well, fine then.

Dutch actor Michiel Huisman plays Daniel Murphy, Irishman. Or American. Well, that’s fuzzy, but he’s certainly not Dutch, although his accent is tough to pinpoint. Daniel’s been called back from Boston to County Cork for his ma’s funeral, and to look in on his younger brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley, Get Duked!)

And old man – also named Murphy – dies on the airplane and authorities believe Daniel is his next of kin. They want him to deliver the remains to a church on the northern tip of Ireland, but that’s not his responsibility plus he has all this work to do and he can’t wait to get back to Beantown where his fancy lawyer job waits for him.

But Louis wants to go, and Louis has autism, which is where the film really gets a bit off the rails.

Crehan nods to Barry Levinson’s Rain Man early into the cross-country drive between two brothers with a large age gap, a long way to go and a lot to learn. Along for the ride is mortuary assistant Mary (Naimh Algar) and more contrivances than you can shake a shillelagh at.

Performances are solid. Algar brings a fiery spirit to the roadtrip experience, and Crehan fills small roles with the venerable talents of Brian Cox, Colm Meaney and Jim Norton. Plus the scenery is gorgeous.

There is a perfectly middle-of-the-road romantic dramedy here somewhere. You may enjoy it, assuming you can get past the tangle of convenient plot twists and you don’t wince at the device of an autistic character (played by an actor who is not on the spectrum, although Bottomley delivers a layered and respectful performance) teaching the real lessons.

Moonlight and Teeth

The Other Lamb

by Hope Madden

The first step toward freedom is telling your own story.

Writer C.S. McMullen and director Malgorzata Szumowska tell this one really well. Between McMullen’s outrage and the macabre lyricism of Szumowska’s camera, The Other Lamb offers a dark, angry and satisfying coming-of-age tale.

Selah (Raffey Cassidy, Killing of a Sacred Deer, Vox Lux) has never known any life except that of Eden, the commune where she lives with the sisters, the wives, and the Sheperd (Michiel Huisman, The Invitation).

Szumowska doesn’t tell as much as she unveils: Selah’s defiant streak, Sheperd’s unspoken rules, what puberty can mean if you’re a good follower. She strings together a dreamlike series of visions that horrify on a primal level, the imagery giving the film the feel of gruesome poetry more than narrative.

Selah’s first period and the group’s migration to a new and more isolated Eden offer the tale some structure. Like many a horror film, The Other Lamb occupies itself with burgeoning womanhood, the end of innocence. Unlike most others in the genre, Szumowska’s film depicts this as a time of finding your own power.

The Other Lamb does not simply suggest you question authority. It demands that you do far more than that, and do it for your own good.

Selah’s emotional arc plays itself across Cassidy’s face, at first all eyes, piercing blue and eager. But restlessness and defiance outline every expression. Soon Selah’s painterly beauty gives way to the hardness of anger—a transformation Szumowska celebrates.

Young Turks

The Ottoman Lieutenant

by Hope Madden

With an almost offensively naïve – or more likely, revisionist – sense of history surrounding an entirely anachronistic amount of gumption, The Ottoman Lieutenant is the third historical romance to hit theaters in as many weeks.

And the weakest.

The lovely A United Kingdom struggled to find an authentic voice for the true story of Seretse and Ruth Khama’s love. Bitter Harvest, on the other hand, lacked the focus to use its love story to articulate the horrors of war.

Both films made a valiant effort to shine a light on a historical period. The Ottoman Lieutenant separates itself from the pack primarily with its open attempt to rewrite history, to make it more noble, palatable and romantic.

Lillie Rowe (Hera Hilmar) is a young woman of privilege. She’s also an American with a thick Icelandic accent, but no matter. Lillie spurns her stuffy 1914 Philadelphian upbringing in in favor of mission work in Anatolia, thanks to a cardboard-stiff speech given by mission doctor Jude Gresham (Josh Hartnett).

Once there, as Dr. Gresham falls in love with Lillie, she’s busy falling for Lieutenant Ismael Veli (Michiel Huisman) who, luckily, speaks English – as do all Turks in the film, even when they’re talking amongst themselves. How convenient!

Armenians – a population all but wiped from existence one year later – figure minutely in this soft focus clash between Muslims and Christians. But why tell their story just because your film is set in their backyard on the eve of their genocide? The important thing to understand is that, in war, everyone is wrong and only love is right.

That’s the gallingly simple outlook of the nurse with the tousled hair whose cloying voiceover tells us everything and nothing, simultaneously.

Though Joseph Ruben’s direction can never transcend Jeff Stockwell’s historically vacuous screenplay, the film often looks quite lovely. As does Hilmar, which is great as she is never called upon to act. She poses really well, though, and never laughs no matter how precious the dialog. Plus, Lillie has so many great hats!

It’s almost a shame Ben Kingsley shows up when he does because, even saddled as he is with this one-dimensional stereotype of a character, Ben Kingsley can act. His talent only exposes the balance of the cast for the posers (and poseurs) they are.

The Ottoman Lieutenant offers a lot of easily won wisdom and quick solutions – and hats. None of these strike me as items abounding during a time of war, but stark reality is not the goal of the film.

What the point is, I couldn’t tell you.


RSVP Required

The Invitation

by Hope Madden

Dinner parties are the worst.

This is especially true when said party is thrown by your ex and her new man in the house that used to be yours. So, why go?

Curiosity – which is what will or will not keep you invested in director Karyn Kusama’s new film The Invitation.

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his new girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) tough it out. They drive out to the LA hills to join Will’s ex Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and all the friends Will has forgotten about since his son accidentally died in this very house a couple years back.

The party marks Eden’s return to the fold and an introduction to the new man in her life, David (Michiel Huisman), another grief survivor who, like Eden, owes his very sanity to the life-changing vision of Dr. Joseph.

Oh, God. Have they unwittingly submitted themselves to the one thing worse than a time-share opportunity gathering – a religious conversion attempt?

Kusama’s slow build mines societal tensions well. Besides the obvious ex-lover friction and the fear of cult propaganda, many in this once tight circle of friends have avoided the grief-stricken parents since the accident. It’s all very uncomfortable, though the film slowly turns the discomfort toward paranoia as Will begins to wonder where missing buddy Choi (Karl Yune) may be, why Eden has a bottle of barbiturates in her bedroom, and why David keeps all the partygoers locked inside.

Is something amiss, or is Will just dealing with those damaging issues of grief that Eden and David were able to overcome thanks to Dr. Joseph?

As The Invitation slowly evolves from tense drama to thriller to horror, Kusama is always throwing uncomfortable moments and unsettling clues at you. Were it not for the often tediously stilted dialog penned by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi – whose track record includes the Ride Along series, if that tells you anything – The Invitation would have a consistently nightmarish, hypnotic quality that keeps you uncomfortably captive.

You know, just like that last dinner party you went to.