Domhnall Gleeson

Film Review: mother!

by Chris Piper on September 15, 2017

If a stranger knocks at your front door…

Jennifer Lawrence’s Mother struggles with hostess duties as Javier Bardem’s poet entertains.

Standing before an unpainted bedroom wall, a young and thoroughly domesticated woman ponders which shade of eggshell will look just so. She mixes up a tester, applies a strip, and steps back to regard her work. Elsewhere an older man inhabits his writing study, conjuring magic onto the page and thence to his readers. Later the two will enjoy her hearty meal, and settle into reading by the fire.

But something isn’t right. A sound, or maybe a feeling, forces the woman to cock her ear. She moves as quietly as possible, propelled by a feeling she can’t explain, to peek in on the man. He isn’t writing. He’s just sitting, waiting, watching. Something isn’t right.

Such is the ominous atmosphere of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film mother!, which only partly succeeds, through the use of the horror genre overlaid with biblical themes, at offering a portrait of female anxiety.

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Film Review: Unbroken

by Carrie Kahn on December 25, 2014

Fierce performances, incredible true story balance picture’s limited scope

After 47 days adrift at sea, Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Louis (Jack O’Connell) have the additional misfortune of being rescued by a Japanese war ship.

Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s popular book of the same name, Unbroken boasts impressive credentials: directed by Angelia Jolie and co-written by none other than the Coen Brothers, the movie generated much pre-release buzz. While the film succeeds immensely as a riveting survival tale, it often feels a little repetitive and one-note.

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by Carrie Kahn

Frank 2

Michael Fassbender portrays the mysterious rocker Frank.

Loosely inspired by alt rocker Chris Sievey’s stage creation Frank Sidebottom, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s new film is co-written by Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson, whose memoir details his experiences with Sidebottom. But no knowledge of the film’s backstory is necessary to be utterly delighted by this quirky and very funny film, which chronicles Jon’s (Domhnall Gleeson) induction into, and relationship with, an avant-garde band led by the mysterious Frank (Michael Fassbender). The catch is that Frank wears a large papier-mâché mask not only when on stage, but during all parts of his life (even while showering). What is amazing is that although the mask has just one expression – a crudely drawn, unsmiling, wide-eyed stare, its features seem to change simply by virtue of Fassbender’s tone of voice and body language; his performance is truly remarkable. Why Frank chooses to cover himself this way is one of the film’s central questions; themes of identity, artistic integrity, and creativity are explored with nuanced humor and depth. Does creativity have to stem from inner darkness, the film asks, or can normalcy and happiness drive the creative process just as forcefully? If artistic creations become widely popular, is their worth somehow lessened? With hauntingly beautiful cinematography (many scenes were filmed around Austin) and a weird and wonderful soundtrack, Frank delves into these issues with style, charm, and black humor. Plusses: Unique, intelligent story; brilliant performances by Fassbender and relative newcomer Gleeson. Minuses: Maggie Gyllenhall is slightly grating as fellow band-mate Clara; her range here seems to hover only between fiercely angry and completely insane. Final Analysis: A smart, compelling picture about the inner lives of artists that, frankly (yes, pun intended) may well be one of the best films of the year.

Frank opens today at the Landmark Embarcadero theater in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck theater in Berkeley.

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