2010-19 2010-19 Reviews

Porto (2016)

I have found myself struggling with this film. Porto is a film that I enjoyed a great deal when I was watching it. But now that a distance from it has been established, the film feels like a justification or defense for Jake (Anton Yelchin) stalking and physically hitting Mati (Lucie Lucas). I know that is probably not the intention of the film, but that scene is such a profound moment that is enhanced even more due to the film’s structure. 

The audience is shown both point-of-views (Jake’s and Mati’s) and the film feels much like a “how did they get here” kind of film. I know there is probably a more nuanced way of saying that, but that’s how the film works. The structure is also a little complicated to explain because you see moments and flashes of images from all different time periods. You have moments of Jake and Mati before they met, moments of them together, moments of them right after they were together, and moments in the distant future. Director Gabe Klinger plays with the film’s structure by showing some scenes from different timelines back to back and does it with different point-of-views as well. 

It’s a very well-made film. With beautiful compositions, great acting from Yelchin and Lucas, and its clear love for European cinema, it’s hard not to be charmed and wrapped up in Porto. I can’t help but feel that if the film removed Jake hitting Mati and toned down his stalking, the film would feel way different. I found its structure and screenplay very compelling, although it’s not perfect. Mati feels much less fleshed out than Yelchin’s character, Jake. Porto begins with Jake and he seems to get the filmmaker’s sympathy, but it’s structure suggests Mati and Jake are supposed to equal, which makes it troublesome that Jake is more developed than Mati.

The message I gathered from Porto is people want different things in life and they sometimes make decisions that affect others in negative ways without anticipating the outcomes. It’s all about perspective and without it, it’s hard to understand why another person did what they did. I think this is rather interesting and Klinger’s structure helps sell this point. However, when you have a scene where one character hits another and have that serve as the turning point in the film it’s hard to move past it since it completely reshapes the film.


2010-19 2019 Reviews

Too Late to Die Young (2019)

Dominga Sotomayor’s film, Too Late to Die Young takes a personal and authentic look into the lives of a close-knit and isolated community in Chile. The events take place in 1990, right before the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It’s a coming-of-age story that focuses on three kids in the community.

A film like this is only as strong as its performances and the young non-actors are excellent. Sofía (Demian Hernández), Lucas (Antar Machado), and Clara (Magdalena Tótoro) are the leads of this ensemble film. In the interview with BFI (on the Criterion Channel), Sotomayor spoke of her directing style and how many of the actors didn’t have any prior experience. She tried to keep the performances as real as possible by guiding them and not having them focus on the script too much. She directed them in a way that in the end, the film follows the screenplay closely. All three of them feel real and you will become attached to them. You might find yourself wanting to know what happens to them next. I would love to get a follow-up film with the three of them.

My favorite performance came from Antar Machado. He wears a boyish sadness that is brutally honest. You can tell how much he loves Sofía (Demian Hernández) just by how he looks at her. Machado and Sotomayor perfectly capture a teenage boy’s first love and the heartache that comes when the other person doesn’t feel the same way. Even when Lucas knows it’s hopeless he still wants to try. It’s heartbreaking.

Dominga Sotomayor’s Too Late to Die Young is a touching and unforgettable film. Her screenplay has some clichés, but her characters are so real that the clichés come off more as stereotypes than lazy screenwriting. I highly recommend Too Late to Die Young. It feels criminally unwatched right now.


2010-19 2019 Reviews

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Almost Falls Flat

I want to start this review with stating that I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. Clerks is one of my favorite low-budget films of all time and Smith made a huge impact on me during my later teen years. I’m also not a “fan” who’s actually a former fan and wants every opportunity to hate on Kevin Smith. With that being said, this review is coming from a real fan who wants Kevin Smith to succeed.

Holy cow, the first twenty-thirty minutes of this movie are awful. The beginning of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot attempts to taint the legacies of Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and every other movie he’s ever made. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot’s start is even bad by 90s standards. What the heck was Justin Long doing? The writing is lousy and the jokes are lame. It’s so annoyingly and overtly self-aware I wanted to shut it off. The self-awareness isn’t as frequent as the rest of the movie goes on, so it makes you wonder why it’s so constant in the beginning. It ends up feeling like an incredibly misguided fan service.

In the beginning, the movie attacks reboots, but also is one. It feels like they’re picking on the fans who wanted Jay and Silent Bob Reboot in the first place and they’re being forced to make it. Is the beginning intentionally bad in order to make a commentary on the value of reboots? Was it a defense mechanism for the inevitable criticism and hate Kevin Smith planned to receive?

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot has plenty of cameos. Matt Damon gives the best one while Justin Long gives the worst one. Jason Lee does his best with the awful dialogue he’s given and it was nice seeing him after all these years. The cameos are more favorable than bad, which is good because when the film first kicks off it doesn’t seem like this will be the case. Adam Brody is funny and Ben Affleck has a really good cameo. Ben Affleck’s Holden McNeil serves as a vessel for Kevin Smith to do some self-reflecting. The conversation also serves as an explanation for Smith’s fans on why the quality of his films may have gone down. It’s a touching scene, especially coming from someone who doesn’t always put his personal life into his movies in such a straightforward and honest way.

The rest of the movie is much better if you can get through the first twenty minutes. The beginning is awful, the middle is good, and the ending is unrealistic, weak camp. There are positives within Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. Jason Mewes gives his best performance to date. He shows more depth than he ever has due to his character’s relationship with his daughter Milly (Harley Quinn Smith). Through this relationship, Smith’s writing reaches a level of maturity I don’t remember seeing and his jokes blend with the narrative well when it’s dealing with its serious topics. It’s relatively easy to get through Jay and Silent Bob Reboot if you’re a longtime Kevin Smith fan. If you’re not, this will very likely be insufferable.

It’s starting to look more and more like Tusk is going to be Kevin Smith’s last great movie. He seems to be content with that and if he’s content with that, I am too. I just want Kevin Smith to be healthy and happy and I’m really glad he seems to be.