Sunday, April 2, 2023

Movie recommendations.


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Isn't it crazy how you can live in a place for a while and still be surprised to find something you didn't know was there? That was me this week. I discovered what amounts to an art house theater here in Santa Fe and saw two -- count 'em, two -- movies there. And I am recommending them both.

The first one I saw was The Lost King. It's based on the true story of an amateur historian who made it her mission to find where the remains of England's King Richard III were buried. I remember hearing about it when the body was discovered -- under a car park, as they call parking lots there -- but there was a lot I didn't know. 

The historian in question is Philippa Langley, played by Sally Hawkins. As the story opens, Langley is working in marketing and has just been passed over for a promotion -- supposedly because her manager wants to give younger workers a chance, but it doesn't help that Langley suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and misses a lot of work because of it. She's also co-parenting her two sons with her ex-husband (in an arrangement that so many divorced parents would die for). 

Seeing a performance of Shakespeare's Richard III awakens her interest in him. She comes to believe that Richard's role as villain was engineered largely by the Tudor kings who came after him. Before long, she's joining a local chapter of the Richard III Society, doing her own research, and raising money to help Leicester University fund a dig at that parking lot in their town. And that's where they find Richard III -- right under the R painted on the pavement.

At this point, the film strays into controversial territory. Langley, who worked with the producers on the film, insists that when it came time to give credit for the discovery, Leicester University shut her out. The university insists that's not the case. The producers are siding with Langley.

One of the charming things about the movie -- or at least, I thought it was charming -- is that the king himself begins appearing to Langley. She has numerous conversations with him throughout the movie; at one point, she asks him whether he actually killed his two nephews, and Richard stalks off without a word. Of course, no one else can see Richard, and she doesn't try to convince anyone that she can see him, thank goodness. The task she's set herself is tough enough without giving people a reason to think she's crazy.

Anyway, the movie has a happy ending -- the king's remains are laid to rest properly, and his reputation is at least partly restored -- and it's true that without Langley's persistence, none of that would have happened.

The second movie I'm recommending is called The Quiet Girl. It's much slower paced than The Lost King, and the ending is decidely not a happy one. In fact, it wrung my heart.

Nine-year-old Cáit (pronounced "caught"), played by Catherine Clinch, is a middle child in a poor family full of girls. The father is an alcoholic and the mother is pregnant with yet another child. They consider Cáit a handful -- she's given to skipping school and hiding from her parents -- and her mother arranges for the girl to spend the summer with a distant cousin and her husband, three hours' drive from home.

Cáit's foster mother Eibhlín (pronounced Eileen) is warm and caring; her foster father Seán is initially distant, but he eventually warms up to the girl, and they bond. For the first time, Cáit has a home where she's neither neglected nor abused, and she begins to blossom. But then she has to go home. And as her foster parents drive away, she runs after them, throwing her arms around Seán and calling him "daddy" as her sperm donor approaches to take her back. Describing the scene that way makes it sound more dramatic than it is; the most shocking thing about it is that it's the first time in the whole movie that we see anyone hug Cáit. 

That hug will stay with me for a long, long time. 

The Quiet Girl is mostly in Irish with some English; the film is subtitled throughout, which I appreciated. It has won a bunch of awards, and it's the first Irish film nominated for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film. If you can find a screening, see it. It's a great movie. Although I defy you not to cry at the end.


These moments of moviegoing blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

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