Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Jessie Buckley

QuickView: The Courier (2020)

“I’m sorry it has to be you. But Greville, it has to be you.”

Oleg Penkovsky

A cold war spy thriller that itself feels like a throwback to the likes of Le Carré, The Courier succeeds because its trusts the slow burn tension of its script to hold the audience’s attention without the need for superfluous action. Cumberbatch is excellent as the businessman Greville Wynne recruited by MI6 to help infiltrate the Soviet nuclear programme, his superficial salesman’s charm developing into a genuine and more relatable affection for GRU defector Oleg Penkovsky. Much of the tension arises from the fact Wynne is not some suave superspy but an amateur who knows he is woefully out of his depth. The Courier unfolds against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and trusts the audience to be sufficiently aware of its importance whilst the film’s focus is more personal — its overarching theme is personal cost of conflicting loyalties. It is peppered with thoughtful visual choices like the two trips to the ballet — in the first, during Greville’s first, nerve-wracking introduction to Moscow, we never see the stage but only see Greville and Penkovsky’s faces in the darkened theatre; in the second, we see Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake performed to symbolise Penkovsky’s contemplation of his imminent abandonment of his homeland.

7/10

QuickView: The Lost Daughter (2021)

The Lost Daughter poster

“I am an unnatural mother.”

Leda

Olivia Colman delivers a powerfully understated performance in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, a moody character exploration of a woman’s troubled past, which rises to the surface during a beach holiday alone. Colman is initially charming as the academic Leda, lonely and awkward as she can be, but this gradually wears away over the film’s two hours as we glimpse something darker beneath. With its structure hinting at a mystery, Gyllenhaal’s script leaves some motivations deliberately (if frustratingly) vague, but it is through seeing Jessie Buckley play Leda as a young mother that we recognise more overtly impulsive and selfish characteristics that are veiled⁠ — yet still present ⁠— in Colman’s performance. Through the family Leda meets on the beach, The Lost Daughter casts its net wider in addressing the societal expectations placed on young mothers in contrast to the harsh reality of parenting and the inescapable resentment and regret at lost opportunity despite love for one’s children.

7/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2022 Priyan Meewella

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