Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including “The Nest,” Jude Law’s story of avarice and privilege, the mind-bending Janelle Monáe drama “Antebellum,” Susan Sarandon’s end of life story “Blackbird” and the documentary “The Way I See It.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the twisty-turny Janelle Monáe drama “Antebellum,” “The Nest,” Jude Law’s story of greed, the documentary “The Way I See It” and Susan Sarandon’s end of life story “Blackbird.”
“Blackbird,” the new Susan Sarandon end-of-life drama now on VOD, is a remake of the 2014 Danish film “Silent Heart.” Equal parts heartbreaking and humorous, it’s a movie whose humanity is first and foremost.
Sarandon is Lily, a vey sick woman whose body has betrayed her. Her long battle with ALS has taken the use of one of her arms and she struggles to maintain her dignity in the face of ever declining health. A self-diagnosed A-type personality, Lily has made the decision to end her life on her own terms. With her husband Paul (Sam Neill) she has arranged one last weekend with the family, a celebration of life complete with holiday traditions.
In attendance are daughters Jennifer (Kate Winslet) and Anna (Mia Wasikowska), their significant others, husband Michael (Rainn Wilson) and girlfriend Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus), grandson Jonathan (Anson Boon) and Lily’s lifelong friend Liz (Lindsay Duncan).
Lily has found a sense of comfort in her decision, but as the fateful time nears, unresolved issues arise as the children reveal they may not be accepting of her choice.
“Blackbird” is an end-of-life drama, bold in its presentation of delicate matters, that never dips into soap-opera sentimentality. With sensitivity and unexpected humor director Roger Michell transcends the disease-of-the-week genre, staging intricate scenes that allow for drama and discourse.
A Christmas dinner scene, for example, begins as a lighthearted gathering. It’s funny, warm, even romantic but deepens into something else as Lily gifts some of her prized possessions to family members. “I haven’t taken this bracelet off in 22 years,” she says, passing it along to her daughter. “I’ve never taken this wedding ring off.” It could have dipped into melodrama but Sarandon, in a tremendous performance, never allows the scene to become maudlin. It’s incredibly sad and for the members of her family, and for the viewer, it’s the moment when Lily’s decision to say goodbye becomes heartbreakingly real.
All the action in “Blackbird” happens inside Lily and Paul’s beautiful home, a powerful architectural presence that almost becomes a character on its own. On the downside the limited setting gives the movie a stagey feeling, as though we’re watching an elaborate play instead of a movie.
The lack of backgrounds, however, helps focus on the issue at hand. “Blackbird” doesn’t debate the ethics of assisted suicide or wallow in any sort of moral quandary. Instead, it celebrates life in all its multi-faceted and messy glory as the characters approach Lily’s end of life in their own, unique ways.
In its examination of the end-of-life “Blackbird” packs an emotional punch, illuminating not only Lily’s end but the entirety of a precious life well lived.
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the speculative “Clara,” the dark comedy “Dead in a Week” and the delightful “Nothing Like Dame” starring Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright and Dame Maggie Smith.
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the metaphysical drama “Clara,” the dark comedy “Dead in a Week” and the delightful “Nothing like a Dame” featuring Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright and Dame Maggie Smith.
There’s an old Irish proverb that says, “A good friend is like a four-leaf clover; hard to find and lucky to have.” Watching “Nothing Like a Dame,” a conversation between stage and screen legends Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright and Dame Maggie Smith, will make you feel lucky to have these four, four leaf clovers in your life, if only for the eighty minute running time.
Director Roger Michell keeps it simple, placing his four transcendent stars in a simple setting. The Dames convene at the rural cottage Plowright built with her late husband Laurence Olivier, taking tea and champagne in the garden and on antique inside. From witty and wistful to strong and vulnerable, the four women tell stories about their lives on stage and off. They laugh about terrible reviews—“You remember the bad ones.”—dish on working with their famous husbands (all deceased)—“Obviously mine was the most difficult,” Plowright says of Olivier. “We all found him tricky,” Smith interjects.—their health—“Have we got three eyes between us all?” says Dench.—and more.
The conversation sparkles but don’t come looking for a timeline of their careers. Look instead for insight into lives lived on stage. Atkins reflects on stage fright, admitting, “On my way to the theater I would always think, ‘Would you like to be run over now, or in a massive car accident?’ And I only just about come out on the side of ‘No.’” Dench calls fear, “the petrol.” “It can be a help.”
Smith owns up to never watching “Downton Abbey,” the show she refers to it as that “wretched thing” that won her three Emmys, even though the producers gave her a box set.
Late in “Nothing Like a Dame” the quartet are asked what they have learned. “When in doubt, don’t,” Smith says after some thought. It’s that kind of documentary, a rare pleasure that succeeds on charm, wisdom and personality, and there can be no doubt about that.