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JDIFF 2014 Reviews #4 – Inequality for All, Hide Your Smiling Faces, The Past (le Passé)

Our fourth set of reviews from the 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival come from Nigel.

Follow all our JDIFF 2014 coverage here

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inequality-for-allInequality for All

Director: Jacob Kornbluth
Country of Origin: US
Duration: 90 minutes
Year: 2012

Jacob Kornbluth’s documentary Inequality for All has been conceived to try and explain the problem with the American economy – the simple fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, or to use a stat shared in the film, “The 400 richest Americans now hold more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined.”

The centrepiece of the film is the remarkable character of Robert Reich, a man who served under U.S. Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton. He’s a fantastic interviewee and the fact that he’s done so much in the public eye while suffering from Fairbanks disease which has left him at only 4″ 10′ makes his diligence and self-deprecating sense of humour (he refers to being on Clinton’s “shortlist” before taking the job – LOL) all the more admirable.

Anyway the film is more to do with economics than Reich and it’s with this subject matter that the film initially excels but then waivers a bit as it gets a little harder to take in. Whereas films like Inside Job and An Inconvenient Truth made big U.S. government policy decisions seem accessible and even exciting, here it’s probably a little harder for a non-America audience to connect with the numbers.

A must-see for economic or political buffs, but for the rest of us it comes up a little “short” of being a must-watch.

hide_your_smiling_faces_1_pubsHide Your Smiling Faces

Director: Daniel Patrick Carbone
Cast: Ryan Jones, Nathan Varnson, Colm O’Leary
Country of Origin: US
Duration: 80 minutes
Year: 2013

Daniel Patrick Carbone’s feature debut is a dreamy look at the lives of two adolescent boys, 9-year-old Tommy (Ryan Jones) and 14-year-old Eric (Nathan Varnson), focusing on the emotional toll that results from one day discovering the dead body of one of Tommy’s friends under a bridge.

The film is set in nondescript rural New Jersey during a typically dull summer. There are no mobile phones, internet or girls and these guys are mostly interested in fighting with each other and exploring the outer environs of the area. When violence and death slowly moves in the sinister tone swells, aided by superb work by Jones and Varnson. Tip of the hat to the terrifying Colm O’Leary, a man whose accent leads me to assume he is Irish, and also to the black bear who it seems was sourced with money from a kickstarter!

It’s a slow, meditative work that’s not going to get many laughs and will drive some people crazy with its low-budget indie tendencies and vague ending. If you buy into the world created by Carbone, then there’s plenty to ponder about the working of the young male mind. Consider it a more oblique Stand By Me, Mud or Mean Creek.

pastThe Past (le Passé)

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Ali Mosaffa, Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim
Country of Origin: France/Iran
Duration: 130 minutes
Year: 2013

Director Asghar Farhadi burst onto the scene with A Separation, the 2012 Foreign Language Oscar winner which managed to achieve that rare trick of “transcending its subtitles” and became a constant present on end of year best of lists for 2011.

Those who liked A Separation will initially feel at home as Farhadi sticks with a similar themes of marital problems and parenthood in The Past. Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa, pictured above) travels from Iran to Paris to sign divorce papers with his estranged wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo, of The Artist fame, being a real bitch here). This simple act is complicated by the presence of Marie’s new partner Samir (Tahar Rahim of A Prophet fame) and three children from different relationships to those featured, led by sullen teenage daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet).

The film slowly evolves into more of a melodramatic mystery, as the reasons for Lucie’s permanent bad mood and the reason for Samir’s wife’s coma are slowly revealed. The script probably tries one or two twists too many, and the final fifteen minutes – and in particular the hospital-set final scene – almost ruined the whole film for me as it seemed to unravel around itself and it really felt the weight of its 130-minute running time.

Despite those final act problems, there’s plenty to like here and Farhadi is still in my good books. The characters all feel really spot on, and the intricacies of relationships where children from different parents are expected to live with each other are all explored well. It’s just a pity that his script felt the need to go for broke on the mystery meter.