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The Bay of Silence

by George Wolf

You know those films that make you think, “Man, I bet this was a great book”?

The Bay of Silence is one of those. It has the intrigue, the mystery and the performances to hold your attention, but it feels as if something’s missing. Something like several pages, or even a chapter or two from Lisa St. Aubin de Terán’s 1986 novel.

Design firm exec Will (Claes Bang) and photographer Rosalind (Olga Kurylenko) are enjoying an idyllic getaway in Italy, where Will pops the question with a pull tab (don’t worry, he’s good for a real ring). An opening prologue gives us a glimpse of some trauma in Rosalind’s youth, but it seems like Will, Rosalind and her 8 year-old twin daughters can look forward to happiness as a blended family.

Months later, a very pregnant Rosalind falls from a balcony. Though baby Amedeo is delivered healthy, Rosalind has changed. She’s convinced that she actually delivered another set of twins, and that everyone involved (including Will) is in on the deception.

Ros returns to her photography and her erratic behavior continues, until Will returns home to find his wife, the children, and their nanny (Shalisha James-Davis) all gone.

Will turns to Rosalind’s mother (Alice Krige) and manager/former stepfather Milton (Bryan Cox) for answers, but the mystery of Rosalind’s past, present and future only deepens.

Are we dialing M for madness of murderousness? Director Paula van Der Oest (Oscar nominee for 2001’s Zus & Zo) nails a Hitchcock vibe in spots, but the adapted screenplay from Caroline Goodall – or an editing hachet job order from the studio – leaves too many dangling threads for a completely satisfying payoff.

Rosalind’s fascination with twins is just one of the questions nurtured and then forgotten, apparently in service of a quicker trip to the resolution which is telegraphed pretty early on.

The cast is uniformly splendid (especially Cox, natch) and the locales ooze sophistication. But while The Bay of Silence qualifies as perfectly acceptable adult fare, you can’t help wishing it would have said a little more.

When You Wish Upon a House

The Room

by George Wolf

Why was Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult classic called The Room, anyway? Why not Tuxedo Football? Doggie McFlowers? Or the obvious: Oh, Hi Mark!

I know, I know, The Room made no sense as a title, which made perfect bizarro sense for a perfectly bizarro film.

This The Room is the new Shudder premiere from director/co-writer Christian Volckman, and while its title is perfectly fitting (though curious, considering the ease of confusion with Wiseau’s entry, as well as Brie Larson’s Room from 2015), the film itself struggles to add anything compelling to a familiar narrative.

Kate (Oblivion‘s Olga Kurylenko) and Matt (Kevin Janssens from Revenge) are moving into their new place in waaay upstate New York. It’s quite a fixer- upper, and somehow nobody hipped these homebuyers to all the gruesome details of the killings that occurred there.

“Nobody told ya?” asks an incredulous yokel.

Nobody did, thanks old-timer. Good thing, then, that Matt can get filled in with a quick Google. But wait, that’s not even the home’s biggest secret.

It’s got a room, a special room, that will give you whatever you ask. A ton of cash? Done. Priceless art (Matt is an artist)? Van Gogh for it!

What about a child? After two miscarriages, the room could be the answer to the couple’s prayers…or there could be a catch to all this wish-granting.

Kurylenko and Janssens are all in, and Volckman (helming his first live action feature) sets an acceptably creepy mood on the way to a mind-bending, off the rails finale, but The Room can never get below the surface of themes that have been tossed around since the earliest Monkey’s Paw adaptations.

The only thing more dangerous than someone who gets nothing they want is someone who gets everything they want. It’s a moral declaration with numerous possibilities, but always more effective when left for an audience to realize on their own, and then maybe underlined by a Rod Serling parting shot.

The Room includes the lesson as a line of dialog, which is a crystal clear picture window into the subtlety to be found inside.

Worthy of a White Flag

 

by George Wolf

 

From 1973 to 1998, Terrence Malick created a grand total of three films. He must be slamming down the energy drinks, because it just the last eight years, he’s finished three, with three more currently in post-production.

The latest release is To the Wonder, a sort of companion piece to the brilliant and beautiful The Tree of Life from 2011. This time, Malick’s mind is on the mysteries of love, both physical and spiritual.

Those who were perplexed by the abstract nature of The Tree of Life will be even more challenged by To The Wonder. Unlike Tree, it does not have a tangible narrative at its core, existing mainly as a series of exquisite montages undercut with whispers of philosophical dialogue.

Of course, writer/director Malick does have a philosophy degree from Harvard, so he’s in his element.

The film’s abstract centerpeice is the relationship of Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko). They meet while Neil is traveling in Marina’s native Ukraine, eventually settling (along with her 10 year old daughter) in his home state of Oklahoma.

When things get rocky, she finds emotional comfort through Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), a priest who has begun to question his own faith. As Neil and Marina pull farther from each other, Neil reconnects with Jane (Rachel McAdams), a girlfriend from years past.

Malick is often elusive, and it would be easy to dismiss To the Wonder as a beautifully filmed commercial for a dating service, as lovers playfully chase after one another,  romping in tall grass with adoration in their eyes.

Look deeper, and you’ll find a meditation on troubled souls struggling for spiritual fulfillment.  Affleck is rarely held in the frame and barely heard, suggesting his character may not represent flesh and blood at all, but rather a faith-based spirit with which the other characters are striving to bond.

Much like the love Malick is exploring, his film requires a certain amount of surrender. Though not the wondrous success The Tree of Life was, To the Wonder is worthy of a white flag.

 

Verdict-3-5-Stars