"Lord knows I've held onto way too much hate in my life."
Synopsis: A brother, a sister, their parents and lovers, on a journey involving forgiveness, and the gradual processing that comes with taking time. Trailer 1.
dir. Trey Edward Schults. 135m; 1.85:1, 2.39:1, and 1.33:1.
A trailblazer in every regard. Schults’s experimentation with a bifurcated mirroring structure, emotionally motivated aspect ratio changes, and shifts in tempo pay off tremendously. The camera documents the human figure in ways I’ve never seen before. Trey and DP Drew Daniels take advantage of the smaller digital camera body to execute unique moves in tight spaces (the rotating shot in the car that opens the film, for instance). They shot the whole film at an unheard-of 3200 ISO, going for a more filmlike tone curve, retaining highlight detail and a quick shadow fall-off. The attention to color, fluid movement and saturation levels make this one a sensual experience unlike any other film.
The blues and pinks, the intricate interweaving of songs with the Trent Reznor-Atticus Ross score, the stillness infusing the brilliant second half, the acute understanding of how grief changes our perception of time… this is a new master in the intoxicating first moments of hitting his stride. A masterpiece.
2. Honey Boy
"You can walk on water until someone tells you that you don't know how to."
Synopsis: About Shia LaBeouf's complex real-life childhood and relationship with his abusive father. LaBeouf plays his father in the film. Trailer 2.
dir. Alma Har’el. 94m; 2.39:1.
As a screenwriter, LaBeouf has the self-awareness that only comes from years of considered distance. The final line reframes our understanding of his abusive father with a humanity that brought me to tears. His friendship with the quiet neighbor would in any other picture be described as illicit or else eliminated entirely; here it is transgressive solely in its kindness, and redolent with the absurd specificity that comes only from real life events.
The film is peppered with many such moments, and the long-running father-son conversations go places most dialogue scenes don’t allow themselves the length and depth to probe to. Ms. Har’el’s capable direction nimbly handles the subtleties with flair, color and resonant style, despite it being her first feature. An intensely cathartic experience.
Note the propensity toward lens flares; she’s unafraid of backlighting. A convincing patina of grain lends a filmlike image, along with a pungent tone curve saturated with rich blues and oranges. Note her precision in ramping down from slow motion to regular speed while pulling up on lights during the pie-to-the-face shot: TV as comedy becomes cinema as tragic metaphor, all through the execution.
There are so many levels of genius here, but none surpass the film's studied, delicate fragility, its sensitive knowing heart. Hopefully the above trailer expresses how special this one is, the sort of picture you walk out of different than you were before.
Nathan's Films of 2019 Index here.