Tag Archives: Shane McRae

Family Matters


by Hope Madden

Just two features in, filmmaker Michael Pearce is proving himself a master craftsman. His sly ability to shift tone is matched by storytelling instincts that leave you holding your breath against seemingly inevitable heartbreak.

Pearce’s 2017 film Beast (see it if you haven’t!) benefitted from Jessie Buckley’s raw, morally complicated performance. For his latest, Encounter, he can thank Riz Ahmed.

Fresh off his Oscar-nominated turn in Sound of Metal (see it if you haven’t!), Ahmed delivers another searing, searching turn, this time as Malik. A marine with 10 tours under his belt, Malik returns to the home his wife makes with another man. He arrives not to cause familial conflict, but to save his sons (Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada, both as cute as they are talented) from a problem much bigger than mere marital discord.

Ahmed’s chemistry with the young actors brings a touching vulnerability to every scene, and as the boys’ road trip turns ever darker and wearier, Chauhan proves a formidable acting partner.

Rare missteps stand out specifically because of their rarity. When a line delivery rings false, over-the-top or melodramatic it screams its presence because this cast and this script deftly convey so much so honestly.

Octavia Spencer offers support in a role that feels out of step with the jarring authenticity the main cast brings to an otherwise wild, almost sci-fi storyline. Likewise, the police force Spencer’s parole officer Hattie rides along with — soft-spoken Shep (Rory Cochrane) and self-satisfied Lance (Shane McRae) — toe the line between character and cliché.

Otherwise, though, Pearce, Ahmed and gang uncover tensions and complications, picking at your worries for these sweet boys and their beautifully damaged father. Tone shifts gradually but decidedly, every moment building a queasying energy until the inevitable finale (a beautifully choreographed sequence that calls to mind the insect infestation imagery of Act 1 while articulating the nerve-frazzling tension).

The filmmaker and his game lead challenge expectations both in theme and in genre, and while their gamble doesn’t entirely pay off, it’s often riveting stuff.

Love & Friendship

Modern Persuasion

by Cat McAlpine

Wren Cosgrove is happy to go on her morning runs, talk to her cat Wentworth, and work too hard. But when her ex-boyfriend hires her marketing firm, she’s suddenly forced to face her past and contemplate whether or not she’s actually happy at all.

Based on Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, Modern Persuasion trades social balls for launch parties and romantic poets for lyrics by The Smiths. Jonathan Lisecki co-wrote and co-directed the film, with fellow writer Babara Radecki and co-director Alex Appel. Even with three different visions at work, plus Austen’s original groundwork, the film largely fails to find any footing.

Wren (Alicia Witt) is more likable and more approachable than predecessors in the workaholic trope. Unfortunately, her counterpart/ex Owen Jasper (Shane McRae) says and does little to tease any anguish out of her. What makes Austen’s novels so compelling, even after all this time, is the absolute longing they are filled with. That tension is largely missing from this adaptation.

Wren has better chemistry with her two other love interests. And at 1 hour and 20 minutes, three love interests are a lot to juggle, making Owen little more than an awkward inconvenience for most of the film.

Modern Persuasion is filled with an interesting cast of characters, but they stay flat for the length of the film. It seems late in the game to be making millennial jokes, but two of Wren’s coworkers are reduced to trendy lingo and illicit “Speak English please,” responses from their much older boss.

The film is strongest in the moments where it finds genuine connection between characters, like when Wren gives new assistant Denise (a lovable Adrienne C. Moore) help on her first day. Another shining moment is when Wren and Sam (Dominic Rains, charming) connect over a moody playlist. Witty lines, mostly from the women in the cast, keep it comedic and grounded.

For Austen and romcom fans alike, the film might be worth a curious watch. But for the rest, Modern Persuasion has nothing new to offer.