AFI Fest 2011: Day Six (Wednesday)

After a day of disappointing features on Monday and a day of mostly shorts on Tuesday (albeit very excellent shorts), I was ready for some features to blow me away, and that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday. These were two of my most highly-anticipated films of the festival, and they both actually turned out to be even better than I was hoping. Both of these films are in my top ten for the year right now, and We Need to Talk About Kevin is pretty much guaranteed a spot on it, sitting in the #2 slot right now. That’s what I call a good day at the festival.

Attenberg

My first foray into the new wave of Greek cinema emerging over the past couple of years was an unmitigated success, at least for me. I have yet to see either of Yanthos Lorgimos’s films (which I need to do, especially Dogtooth, as it’s a frontrunner in current Greek cinema), but I pretty much loved Attenberg, from his friend and collaborator Athina Rachel Tsangari, from start to finish. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I got is something very similar to a Czech New Wave film, closely focused on a single twenty-something character and her struggle to come to terms with her father’s impending death and the way that’s all tied up her late-blooming sexuality. On the surface, not a whole lot happens here, but there’s a lot underneath, and that’s what I like to see. Right now this is in my top ten for the year. We’ll see if it can hang on through the final month of big-name releases. Reaction: LOVED. Full review on Row Three.
2011 Greece. Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari. Starring: Ariane Labed, Yorgos Lanthimos, Vangelis Mourikis, Evangelia Randou.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Now here’s one that will DEFINITELY be on my top ten list his year – I was expecting a lot from this film based on the buzz from other festivals and advance screenings, and it delivered even more than I could’ve hoped. Almost a psychological horror film, delving into the disturbed psyche of a mom whose son seems to be a child of the devil. But whether the boy really is astoundingly fiendish or whether she’s an incapable mother (or more likely, somewhere between those two extremes, as they both bring out the worst in each other) is left ambiguous, as Lynne Ramsay builds a portrait of a woman who’s lost everything and vascillates between blaming everyone else and assuming blame herself. The film is structured with a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, keeping the audience in doubt as to the exact chain of events until a chronology starts building up to a terrible end – this structure, standout performances from everyone involved, and an enormously effective soundscape combine to make this one of the most terrifying pictures about parenthood ever made. Reaction: LOVED.
2011 UK. Director: Lynne Ramsay. Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly.