Closed Circuit *** 1/2
Of the three films mini-reviewed here, Closed Circuit is the least memorable and just makes it into the category where I post a mini-review (above three stars).
Nevertheless, as the film ended, I was wishing to myself that the film had continued for another half hour or so, at least. I was involved in this British crime thriller throughout its 1 hour & 36 minutes, and I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the acting.
Perhaps some of my interest came from the current concerns of our NSA’s infiltration our daily communications, or at least their ability to do so. Not that this film addressed the specific issues that are so troublesome about what the NSA is doing, but it comes close and does focus on the role of government crossing boundaries as it attempts to stem terrorism.
However, despite its ability to keep the viewer totally engaged, it was not memorable in the way that some of the best ‘whodunit/what happens’ films are (whether that has to do with my increasingly short term memory challenges or the film itself, I’m not sure).
So, if you’re looking for a thriller film that will keep you entertained, if only briefly, check it out.
Short Term 12 *****
Definitely one of the best I’ve seen so far this year.
I admit I was primed to enjoy the film (tho also perhaps to be critical of it) as it has much to do with how I’ve spent my professional life, working with unhappy, hurt, angry, and emotionally troubled adolescents and also my close involvement with the staff charged with the care and treatment of these young people and their families.
The setting of the film takes place in a short term (supposedly 12 months) residential facility for adolescents who have all been in foster homes and who have been scarred and for various reasons have nowhere else to go at this point in their lives.
The portrayal of these troubled adolescents is as good as I’ve seen in any film. The three or four individuals that director Destin Daniel Cretton features are presented so realistically that I recognized each of them and kept saying to myself, “that’s exactly the way it is.”
But the film goes further as it also focuses on the interactions of the young, ‘front line’ staff (mostly in their 20s) with these adolescents. Grace (wonderfully played by Brie Larson) is the young supervisor of the residence, and the film is also about her struggle with issues from her own past as well as her relationship with a coworker, Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.).
Writer and director Cretton based the film on experiences and observations he had working in a similar institution earlier in his life. And he gets it all right. He also gets wonderful performances from a remarkably strong, young cast.
Leaving the film, I wondered if my ‘enjoyment’ and judgment about Short Term 12 was perhaps skewed by my own experiences in a somewhat similar situation (a day school tho, not a residential setting).
My wife Ellen, who has spent her professional life in or near the political world, was as enthusiastic as I was about the film and also remarked that it was as good a film as she’s seen so far this year.
Museum Hours ****
Museum Hours is the opposite of Closed Circuit, that is if two films can be opposites.
Almost nothing happens in Museum Hours. The ‘plot’ involves two people, a guard (Johann) at the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum in Vienna and a Canadian visitor (Anne) who spends time at the museum when she’s not sitting by the bedside of a distant cousin who is in a coma at a Vienna hospital.
Actually, it’s probably not totally fair or accurate to say nothing happens. The two people meet, talk, and explore the museum and Vienna. At the end, the cousin dies and the woman leaves Vienna.
I went to see Museum Hours knowing I don’t like museums, and I certainly don’t like spending time in hospitals. Because the reviews were so positive, I put my dislikes aside, convincing myself that at least I might get to know a bit about Vienna, a city where I’ve never been.
Of course, I was surprised by what I saw. The exploration of Vienna, much of it non tourist Vienna, didn’t particularly entice me. But I found myself more interested in the museum than I ever expected to be, particularly seeing it through Johann’s eyes, then Anne’s, and also through the lens of Jem Cohen, the writer/director. Cohen brings the art to life as he mixes the paintings with current life issues.
Museum Hours is indeed a film primarily about art and the meaning it may have for our lives. To a lesser degree, it is also a film about friendship, but that is mostly a vehicle for Cohen to explore the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum and Vienna.
Slow at times (I admit to nodding off twice as I saw it shortly after lunch one day), it is a lovely film, with wonderful photography and an endearing performance by Bobby Sommer (his first film) as Johann.