Tag Archives: Raffey Cassidy

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.

Stage Mother

Vox Lux

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

No doubt you’re hip to the talent of Natalie Portman.

But if you only know Brady Corbet as an actor (Funny Games, Melancholia, Simon Killer), or maybe don’t know him at all, get to know Corbet the visionary filmmaker.

Corbett writes and directs an astute and unusual pop ballad about celebrity—American celebrity, at that.

Vox Lux opens in 1999 as young Celeste (Raffey Cassidy, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and her high school class are visited by a disgruntled young white male. Corbet’s camera plays with the horror of the scene as it dawns on those in the classroom as well as the audience what is about to happen.

As Celeste heals from a bullet to the spine, she and her older sister Eleanor (Stacy Martin) work through their collective grief and trauma by writing a song, which Celeste later performs at a memorial vigil.

Thanks to the astute strategy of a no-nonsense manager (Jude Law) and straightforward publicist (Jennifer Ehle), the song becomes a healing anthem and Celeste—her protective sister at her side—is launched into pop stardom.

Corbet’s chaptered “21st Century Portrait” (the proper subtitle to his film) offers infrequent omniscient narration from Willem Dafoe, a glib narrative device that’s part “Behind the Music” and part sociological commentary. Tragedy is commodity in modern America, a fact that can only mean more tragedy.

When the timeline shifts forward and Portman takes over in the lead, we see a new character fully formed from years of living that are only hinted at. Celeste is now a veteran megastar with a daughter of her own (also played by Cassidy) and strained relationships with everyone around her.

Portman’s performance is such an all-in tour de force it effectively divides the film into parts: with and without her. She commands the screen with such totality you’re afraid of what Celeste might do if you dare to shift your focus somewhere else.

Corbet knows better than to do that. With Portman as a mesmerizing guide, he crafts a fascinating fable with two uniquely American pillars – gun violence and celebrity culture. Vox Lux is shocking, funny, sad, and haunting, with plenty of visual flourish and even some new songs by Sia.

It’s a statement, and coming from a relatively unknown writer/director, a pretty audacious one.

Keep ’em coming, Corbet.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dolxUIZzb3w





No One Is to Blame

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

by Hope Madden

What if God exists and he’s an awkward adolescent boy?

That’s not exactly the point of Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but it’s maybe as close a description as I can muster.

Lanthimos’s work (The Lobster, Dogtooth) does tend to balk at simple summarization, none more so than Sacred Deer. The film offers a look inside the life of a successful surgeon (Colin Farrell), whose opthamologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two children (Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic) are, well, perfect.

It’s the kind of perfect you might find in a Stanley Kubrick film—cold, clean, sterile. In fact, from the framing to the violently intrusive score to the thematic suspicion of intimacy, Sacred Deer leans heavily Kubrick.

But Lanthimos brings with him a particular type of absurdity all his own. He hints at it with the memorable opening shot and deepens it with the now-characteristic stilted, oddly detached dialog.

But the filmmaker’s unique tone finds its perfect vehicle in Barry Keoghan (also wonderful this year in Dunkirk). Unsettlingly serene as Martin, the teenage son of a patient killed on the surgeon’s table, he controls the film and its events.

With Martin, Lanthimos is able to mine ideas of God, of the God complex, of the potentially ludicrous notion of cosmic justice.

All the while he sends up social norms, dissecting the concept of the nuclear family and wondering at the lengths we will go to avoid accountability.

Sacred Deer, though certainly absurd, lacks the comedic flourish of 2015’s The Lobster. This film’s comedy is ink black and subversive in a way that’s equally likely to break your heart as draw a chuckle. This is particularly true as Anna and her children begin bargaining for their lives in scenes that are astonishing in their insight.

Nicole Kidman is chilly perfection in a surprisingly unlikeable role. The uneasy chemistry she shares with Farrell helps the film balance its weirdness with moments of authenticity. She and Farrell shared the screen earlier this year in the also engrossing The Beguiled, a fact you may almost forget as they trade in the steamy tension of the first relationship for the frosty, antiseptic nature of this one.

As was true with The Lobster, Farrell comfortably shoulders lead responsibilities in Lanthimos’s weird world. His scenes with Keoghan, at first treated as if some kind of illicit affair, give the film its unsettling power.

Their karmic battle strangely told will be hard to forget.