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Tag: Robin Weigert

QuickView: Smile (2022)

“It’s smiling at me. But not a friendly smile. It’s the worst smile I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Laura Weaver

Content warning: suicide, trauma

I am a sucker for minimalist, high concept horror and writer/director Parker Finn’s feature debut Smile may be the best example since 2014’s It Follows. After witnessing a patient’s suicide, hospital psychiatrist Rose becomes terrified that a supernatural presence is stalking her, leading her toward the same fate. Like It Follows, the method transmission serves an allegory, in this case for the way that trauma begets trauma from one person to another. Although there is some gore to be found, it is the simplicity of the rictus grins which plague Rose that make Smile so unnerving. These false visages serve as a metaphor for masking — the need for neurodivergents to wear a veil of normality in public — something that Rose finds herself increasingly unable to maintain. Returning to a theme of Finn’s previous short film Laura Hasn’t Slept, Rose’s sleep deprivation becomes a factor in the horror – it is writ large on Sosie Bacon’s face, drained of colour, but it also provides a legitimate reason for the common horror trope of nightmares bleeding into reality. Smile may do nothing groundbreaking, but Finn deftly weaves the mechanics of horror with the awkwardness of human interaction to craft something truly memorable.


QuickView: Pawn Sacrifice (2014)

“Chess is basically a search for truth, right? So, I’m searching for the truth.”

Bobby Fischer

It is infinitely harder to translate a cerebral face-off to film than a physical one. The advantage to Bobby Fischer as a subject is that man’s personality and paranoia provide energy in between bouts. He is contradictory in nature, by turns self-assured and cowardly, single-minded and constantly distracted. Zwick’s film largely glosses over his worst traits, whilst not trusting the viewer enough to slow the pace sufficiently to allow games to breathe (the camera is instead as distracted as Fischer). Often it is through the eyes of Liev Schrieber as his rival Spassky that we find more nuanced understanding of Fischer. This is a film that will mean far more to those who lived through — or are at least familiar with — the Cold War, else the idea of geopolitical ramifications (on which the film frequently relies for its stakes) being attached to a game of chess seems a quaint curiosity. Merely relying on newsreels and mentions of White House attention fails to communicate how this became perceived as a battle of ideology.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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