Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Myha’la Herrold

QuickView: Leave The World Behind (2023)

Leave The World Behind posters

“As awful as people might be, nothing is going to change the fact that we are all we’ve got.”

Ruth Scott

Unfolding during an impromptu vacation to a remote hamlet outside New York, this apocalyptic tale bears thematic similarities to White Noise in its examination of the affluent middle class response to events outside of their control, displaying complacency, mistrust, and terror. Sam Esmail rose to prominence after creating the superb Mr Robot (he directed 38 of its 45 episodes), a meticulous audiovisual experience of paranoia and isolation. In Leave the World Behind, adapted from a novel by Rumaan Alam, Esmail reunites with Mr Robot cinematographer Tom Campbell, who deploys unnatural framing like overhead shots and frame-filling geometry, or gravity-defying camera angles, drawing out the ominous from the mundane. This is coupled with stunningly captured modern apocalyptic imagery — an oil tanker run aground, fleeing autonomous vehicles, and migrating animals invading human spaces. Although the score’s vibrating strings can become unnecessarily overbearing at times, Esmail delivers a masterclass in ratcheting tension through slow release of information and calmer sequences that foster a growing sense of fatalism. A recurring suggestion is that our perception of society as functional and logical is simply a communally accepted delusion. Leave The World Behind has already proved divisive and there is plenty to critique — the character interaction often feels hollow despite the acting calibre of the leads, and the film is undoubtedly overlong; ultimately, however, viewers’ enjoyment is likely to depend on whether they appreciate Esmail’s pervasive cynicism about the modern world.


QuickView: Dumb Money (2023)

“Yo, what up everybody. Roaring Kitty here. I’m going to pick a stock and talk about why I think it’s interesting. And that stock is GameStop.”

Keith Gill

As a Reddit user, I followed the GameStop short squeeze in early 2021 with great interest as several Wall Street hedge funds were blindsided by loosely coordinated action from retail investors (to whom the finance industry derisively referred as “dumb money”), leading to the Robinhood trading app turning on its own users. Where The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street are “inside out” explanations of financial manipulation that affected the public, Dumb Money focuses on the outsiders breaking in, a grassroots movement that began on the r/WallStreetBets subreddit. The film is candid about the online community’s propensity for crude and offensive memes, reproduced here with the same weight as archival news footage. Presenting events as a “David and Goliath” story (characters are each introduced with their net worth) is an oversimplification but it captures the underlying emotional arc from hope to outrage. Dumb Money often feels like a zeitgeist movie that captures a specific point in time: the COVID pandemic highlighting wealth disparity, the rapid growth of fintech startups, spiralling student debt, and the new influence of TikTok. Craig Gillespie again collaborates with I, Tonya cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis, though here they opt for a more naturalistic style whilst building tension using David Fincher’s technique of cutting between a multitude of camera angles. The ensemble cast is impressive, Paul Dano standing out in his portrayal of Keith Gill, capturing his cadence but finding emotional resonance as well. As Gill has become a very private individual, there is a great deal of speculative material in this dramatisation, though it leans more toward aspects like the supportiveness of his wife rather than sensationalism. Dumb Money is entertaining without really having a message, Gillespie describing the film as “part of the conversation” in its portrayal of an inherently rigged financial system — there is a perhaps unfounded sense of catharsis as Dumb Money shows many regular folk winning despite the lack of structural change; in reality many retail investors also suffered huge losses, represented here only through America Ferrera’s sympathetic portrayal of a nurse burned out by the pandemic. It is a fantasy, then, but a relevant one.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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