Tag Archives: Tim Roth

On the Ropes


by Christie Robb

If Tim Roth is attached to a project, I’m intrigued. In Punch, he’s playing Stan, the alcoholic father of 17-year old up-and-coming boxer Jim (Jordan Oosterhof). Stan’s been training Jim since elementary school. It’s a familiar story—small town kid hoping to get out by nurturing his athletic talent. 

In this case, the small town is located in picturesque New Zealand and what the town has going for it in terms of rolling grassland and beaches is more than ruined by the small-minded racism and rampant homophobia of its residents. 

One day, while blowing off his training to pursue his true passion of shooting footage for music videos, young Jim is stung by a jellyfish and is rescued by Whetu (a resplendent Conan Hayes). Whetu is both Maori in what appears to be a majority White town and openly gay.

Jim will have to navigate his growing feelings for Whetu, the pressure of his dad’s dreams for his future, and the demands of all the various folks around town who want to define the man he will become.

The first feature written and directed by Welby Ings, Punch‘s story and timeline feel a bit uneven. Most of the film has a meandering, dreamy pace that is an appropriate touch for the organic way the boys’ relationship develops.  But, this is set in contrast to the ticking clock established at the beginning of the film with an upcoming crucial boxing match and, later on, by Stan’s growing ill health.

Some of the character development is uneven as well, and sadly Roth is a let down here as Stan veers dramatically from a tyrannical figure to an empathetic shoulder for Jim to cry on without earning that moment. Similarly, the ending seems abrupt and also, perhaps, not quite earned. 

Matt Henley’s cinematography, though,  is atmospheric and gorgeous and elevates the film, especially in the scenes  Whetu and Jim spend together. They are a delight to watch.

Woman on the Verge


by Hope Madden

In 2020, Rebecca Hall starred in The Night House, a nice little haunted house tale. That movie worked, partly because it was filmed gorgeously, but mainly because Hall herself elevated all the little contrivances with an awe-inspiring performance.

It’s 2022 and she does it again, this time in writer/director Andrew Semans’s psychological horror, Resurrection.

Hall is Margaret, and as the film opens, she’s sitting on her desk, looking benevolently at young intern Gwen (Angela Wong Carbone), patiently offering advice. Margaret’s wisdom feels earned, but it’s hard to imagine this competent and controlled woman was ever weak.

What follows is the unearthing of a backstory that might seem maudlin and ludicrous in other hands. In these hands, though, Resurrection becomes unnerving and horrifying.

Semans’s film walks that worn path: is she crazy or is this really happening? Has Margaret’s past finally found her? Or has the prospect of watching her daughter (Grace Kaufman) turn 18—Margaret’s age during her own trauma—fractured her psyche?

Kaufman, along with Michael Esper as harmless love interest/office bestie Peter, offer grounded, tender performances that strengthen the film’s “is she or isn’t she” vibe.

Enter Tim Roth as the mysterious David. Roth channels the understated approach he used to great effect in Sundown and Bergman Island. Only here, the result is chilling.

On the surface, The Resurrection is a stalker thriller, bearing all the markings of the subgenre. But there is a deeply weird story unraveling here and Hall’s performance ensures that it leaves a mark. The lingering monologue where Margaret reveals the source of her panic is the kind of material that would break a lesser performer. It builds, as the camera closes in, to a reveal so bizarre it could easily become grotesquely silly. But you believe Hall.

And that’s the heart of Resurrection’s effectiveness. The fact that both Hall and Roth take the story seriously, never play it for laughs, and remain so understated in their performances creates a diabolical atmosphere. You’re as unmoored as Margaret.

You will squirm and look away long before the film’s bloody climax because watching Margaret come undone is traumatizing. Semans’s wrap-up is not as successful, but the damage his film does can’t be undone.

Made in the Shade


by Hope Madden

Usually, when you try to avoid giving any plot synopsis it’s because so much happens in a film that you don’t want to spoil any surprises.

That’s sort of why it’s nearly impossible to describe Michel Franco’s latest drama Sundown. And yet, it’s also kind of the opposite.

The film in its entirety is a sleight of hand. In a way, it’s as if you’re watching a dysfunctional family drama, then an international thriller, but always from the perspective of someone barely involved in what’s going on. The result is simultaneously frustrating and mesmerizing.

Tim Roth provides a slyly empathetic turn as Neil. He and Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) plus two young adult kids are on a pricy vacation. Franco lingers for about 25 minutes on pools and vistas, private beaches and ridiculous accommodations. The dialog—what there is of it—amounts to background noise. The point is there’s love here, a bit of distance, and an absolutely insane amount of money.

Then a tragedy calls the family home, cutting short their holiday. From here the show belongs to Roth. Franco trusts the actor to carry the full weight of this character and this film with no exposition at all, next to no emotion and bursts of action withheld until the last half hour of the film.

Roth delivers. A blend of tenderness and resignation, he fascinates and the less he explains the more confoundingly intriguing he becomes. Neil is the mystery, his every action a surprise delivered in the lowest of keys.

Gainsbourg’s tumult of emotion offers a brash counterpoint, while Iazua Larios balances that drama with something raw and sometimes sweet.  

It’s almost amazing how much happens in a film that feels so meandering and lethargic. Sundown defies expectations, but it’s all the better for it.

Scenes from Another Marriage

Bergman Island

by Hope Madden

A lot can go wrong when a filmmaker toys with meta-filmmaking. The movie can become cloyingly clever, it can lose the audience in its self-indulgence, it can become more of a trick than a film.

While Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island is arguably as self-indulgent a film as you will find, she risks all these trappings but falls to none.

Her movie follows two filmmakers, Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth), who leave their daughter with Chris’s mom so they can devote themselves to some solid writing time. They travel to Fårö island, where Ingmar Bergman lived, worked and shot some of his most famous films.

Bergman Island feels extremely personal in the way that it mirrors, to what degree it’s hard to know, Hansen-Løve’s real-life relationship with filmmaker Olivier Assayas and their devotion to the work of Bergman. There’s also a very intimate sense of the way one filmmaker’s inspiration from the same source can look so very different from another’s. And, of course, there is a kind of dreamy link between generations of filmmakers.

Most importantly, though, this is the story of a couple. Casting is one of Hansen-Løve’s greatest strengths here because, without the committed and vulnerable performances she draws from Krieps and Roth, the film could easily have folded in on itself. It does not, not for a moment.

Roth’s distance as a partner speaks not only to Tony’s ego and insecurity but to his support and understanding – Tony recognizes that this process will be prickly and leaves as much room as he thinks his partner may need to create.

This subtlety becomes a sly maneuver, as you begin to understand the story Chris works on.

The entire tale unfolds on the breathtaking island, where Chris’s stories — her real-life story with Tony, as well as the story within a story she writes — benefit from the windswept beauty of the island.

Bergman Island tells you a lot but leaves it to you to decide what it’s saying. Whatever tale you decipher, your time on the island is well spent.

Dovidl the Conservatory Boy

Song of Names

by Matt Weiner

A Holocaust movie where the central tragedy haunts the characters just offscreen like a specter, anchored by two forceful leads and a mystery that spans decades. What could go wrong? A lot, it turns out.

Dovidl (Clive Owen/Jonah Hauer-King) is a Jewish violin prodigy from Poland. Martin (Tim Roth/Gerran Howell) is an accomplished musician in his own right, but once Dovidl joins the household as a wartime refugee, Martin seems to lack both the talent and the affection to win over his father’s attention.

When Dovidl disappears on the night of a big coming-out concert, it tears families apart and leaves Martin with a lifelong quest for answers about what happened that fateful evening. Directed by François Girard and written by Jeffrey Caine (based on the novel by Norman Lebrecht), The Song of Names jumps back and forth in time between Martin’s contemporary search for the missing genius Dovidl and the wartime London childhood that originally brought them together.

The second biggest problem the film is up against is that while Roth does yeoman’s work keeping the present-day mystery engaging, it’s the slow drips of revelations from the past that hold the movie back.

But the biggest weakness is how flat and inoffensive those revelations end up being, which points to a sad milestone for the genre. It’s not that The Song of Names is aggressively bad with its background treatment of the Holocaust. In fact, it goes out of its way not to take offense. (Although Clive Owen’s spirit gum Haredi beard comes dangerously close.)

That inoffensiveness holds the movie back from being memorable, or at least different enough to merit the solemn subject. If we’re so far removed now from the Holocaust that not every movie needs to be a Prestige Event (remember that time we collectively lost our minds pretending Life Is Beautiful was deeply observed and worthy of awards, rather than a peerless grotesquerie of the era?), we should also be far enough removed for those involved to add something new to the conversation.

And for a brief moment, The Song of Names comes close. The World War II-era storyline trembles with pregnant pauses around themes like there might be nothing inherently heroic about survival, or that losing hope might be a recognizably sane response to unfathomable enormities.

But the schmaltzy resolution is a hard comedown. And given what it’s all about in the end, The Song of Names would’ve been better off playing up the mystery—at least Tim Roth is great. And who doesn’t like a mystery that wraps up with tidy answers?