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Quickie Review: The World To Come

Dreary. That’s the life of the people who inhabit this film. It’s 1859, somewhere in upstate New York, and a farmer and his wife, Abigail (Katherine Waterston, Fantastic Beasts, Steve Jobs) and Dyer (Casey Affleck, Our Friend, Manchester By the Sea) are still coming to terms with the loss of their only child, when another couple comes into their lives. The wife Tallie (Vanessa Kirby, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) is a welcomed distraction from sad Abigail’s drudgery. Her own marriage to Finney (Christopher Abbott) is claustrophobic, as he has a very limited view of a wife’s role. So the two women immediately click. And before you know it, they have moved from bosom buddies to lesbian lovers. And for a brief period they’re happy. But it can’t last.

Review: Saint Frances

Written by and starring Kelly O’Sullivan Saint Frances is a small dark comedy that centers on the expectations women live with and one young woman’s choices. Bridget (O’Sullivan) is in her 30s and constantly reminded that everyone around her is having kids, succeeding in their careers, and generally being a better grown-up than she is. She’s a server in a restaurant, even though she was a rising star at Northwestern before she dropped out. But things start looking better when she lands a summer job as a nanny to Frances (aka Frannie), a six-year-old in the upper middle class Chicago suburbs whose Moms are expecting another baby.

Review: Funny Boy

Set in Sri Lanka in the 70s and 80s, Funny Boy begins as a gay coming-of-age drama, and it is that, but it’s also the story of the violent Sinhalese/Tamil ethnic tensions that came to boiling point during this period in a very bloody Civil War that lasted for decades. The central character Arjie (Arush Nand) is only 8 when the film starts, and he’s already pretty sure of his identity, though his family keeps trying to make him more “masculine.” But when his cool Aunt Radha comes home from Canada, ostensibly for an arranged marriage, she recognizes his spirit and encourages him to be himself. And frankly, he couldn’t be different if he tried.

Review: Ammonite

Set on the wild Dorset coast in the 1840s, Ammonite begins with a real life historical figure, Mary Anning, who was an early paleontologist in an era where women were not respected as scientists. But she was an exception, and her discoveries changed the world. In this fictionalized interlude, Mary is played by Kate Winslet (Titanic, Sense and Sensibility). She’s past the time of her great discoveries and already famous to other paleontologists. And when one of them visits, hoping she’ll take him for a guided dig, serendipity brings her together with his young and pretty wife Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan, Little Women, Lady Bird), and they develop an intense bond.

Quickie Review: Uncle Frank

It’s 1973. And small town America is still not awake to their gay citizens. 18-year-old Beth, from Creekville, South Carolina adores her Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany, Avengers, Journey’s End) who lives in New York. So where does she decide to go to college, but NYU, where he’s a beloved professor of literature. Naive as she is, she’s surprised to discover that her uncle is gay and has a partner! But when his father, her grandfather, with whom he’s had a frosty relationship dies, the two of them head south for the funeral. And his partner Wally/Walid (Peter Macdissi) unexpectedly joins them. It’s a family melodrama that doesn’t always work, but is elevated by some strong performances, particularly Paul Bettany.

Quickie Review: Friendsgiving

It’s that time of year. The holiday movies are upon us and the first one out of the gate is this sometimes funny comedy centered on a couple of besties in Hollywood who had planned on a low-key Thanksgiving together, but end up in a crowded house with a bunch of wacky friends and characters. Molly (Malin Akerman, “DollFace”, Watchmen) is a famous actress who’s just been through a divorce and is looking for some distraction. And her life-long friend Abby (Kat Dennings, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Thor) is just getting over her first lesbian relationship. But when their friend Lauren’s (Aisha Tyler, “Archer, “Criminal Minds”) Thanksgiving plans fall through, she invites herself and a dozen others over and it turns into a crowded plot that goes nowhere. And that’s sad since it has a talented cast. I was hoping for a warm and funny Home for the Holidays, but got an R-rated Lifetime holiday flick.

Review: Vita & Virginia

Vita Sackville-West was a British socialite and a popular writer in the 1920s. She was also fond of scandalizing the society in which she lived, especially with her female lovers. Virginia Woolf was also a writer at the time, though less popular, but Lady Sackville-West set her sights on her after meeting at a dinner party. What followed was a relationship that lasted a decade and was responsible for one of Woolf’s greatest books, “Orlando.” Vita & Virginia is the story of these two women as they come together passionately for a while and then remain friends for a while. The film feels a lot like the lost lesbian episode of Downton Abbey, and while the performances are quite good, the costumes gorgeous, and the sets to die for, this telling of the famous literary romance does leave you less than satisfied and wishing Julian Fellowes had had a hand in it.