Director: Jim Jarmusch.
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani. USA 2016. 118 mins..
Jim Jarmusch’s immersive follow-up to Only Lovers Left Alive chronicles a week in the life of Paterson (Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey.
He leads a homespun life that finds comfort in ritual: he rises each day at the same time, goes to work, and then comes home to his creative, adoring wife, Laura (Farahani), whose ever-changing world of new projects and dreams dovetails happily with his. In the broader strokes, each day is the same, differing only in the details – but this regularity is underpinned by Paterson’s passion for poetry, in which he finds refuge for reflection.
A hit at the Cannes Film Festival, Paterson is both a searching study in aloneness and a celebration of the small wonders woven into the fabric of life.
Roger Ross Williams’s Life, Animated is one of the year’s most heartwarming and uplifting documentaries. Based on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Ron Suskind’s 2014 memoir Life, Animated: A Story Of Sidekicks, Heroes And Autism, Williams’s documentary recounts the Suskind family’s 20-year journey to connect with their youngest son, Owen. Diagnosed with regressive autism at the age of three, Owen lost the ability to speak, and developed an obsession with Disney’s animated movies. Latching onto their son’s new-found interest, the family began to converse in Disney dialogue, which eventually helped Owen regain his speech. Over the subsequent years, the Suskinds and their son’s therapist used the famed studio’s output to help Owen connect with the world around him. Enlightening and educational, Life, Animated (winner of the Directing Award at this year’s Sundance) is an inspiring story of triumph over adversity, and a moving celebration of family.
Director: Nate Parker.
Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King. USA 2016. 120 mins.
Giving a film about an 1831 slave uprising in Virginia, USA, the same title as D. W. Griffith’s Ku Klux Klan-championing silent epic from 1915 was a bold and wonderfully pointed decision on the part of first-time African-American director Nate Parker. In an interview, Parker stated that he had reclaimed the title and “repurposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America”.
Parker takes the central role, and also co-wrote and co-produced this tale based on the life of Nat Turner. An enslaved African American, Turner led a violent rebellion that resulted in the deaths of up to 65 white men, women and children. Timely and confrontational, Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
Director: Clint Eastwood. Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney. USA 2016. 96 mins.
It’s rare that you know the outcome of a film from the get-go but nonetheless remain riveted throughout, but that’s exactly what Clint Eastwood’s Sully provides. It tells the story of how Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Hanks) landed his airliner in Manhattan’s Hudson River in 2009 without loss of life, following a bird strike that disabled both of the plane’s engines. In the aftermath, even as the public and media heralded the heroics of the captain and his co-pilot Skiles (Eckhart), the pair faced an official investigation that accused them of endangering the lives of the 155 souls they actually saved. Using time jumps and Sullenberger’s imagined nightmare outcomes, Eastwood and writer Todd Komarnicki astutely recreate the events that happened and the disaster scenarios that were avoided.