Connect with us

Movie Reviews

‘Darkest Miriam’ Review: Britt Lower in a Marvel of a Drama About a Young Librarian’s Loves and Fears

Published

on

‘Darkest Miriam’ Review: Britt Lower in a Marvel of a Drama About a Young Librarian’s Loves and Fears

Writer and director Naomi Jaye has taken the unpromising story of a soft-spoken young librarian and turned it into a small wonder of a film, eloquent and captivating. Britt Lower (Helly in Severance) is subtle but magnetic as Miriam, who works in a neighborhood library in Toronto, eating lunch alone every day in a nearby park. She seems content with her quiet life, even when wafting a little robotically through the library stacks in her oversized sweater. Whether her aura suggests sadness or complacency we don’t yet know.

The film has a definite narrative trajectory, as Miriam begins a relationship with Janko (Tom Mercier), a Slovenian taxi diver and artist who eats lunch on the park bench across from her. But its distinctive quality comes from how deftly Jaye balances that story with Miriam’s inner life. She delicately moves us in and out of Miriam’s memories and observances, with an occasional poetic touch, yet the film never loses its tether to the real world.

Darkest Miriam

The Bottom Line

An elegant, imaginative gem.

Advertisement

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Viewpoints)
Cast: Britt Lower, Tom Mercier, Sook-Yin Lee, Jean Yoon
Director and writer: Naomi Jaye

1 hour 27 minutes

Much of that reality depends on Lower’s layered performance. Even when Miriam is enigmatic, Lower suggests the depth and, as it turns out, grief beneath her self-protective calm. The tone itself is not grim though. In voiceover, Miriam wryly describes the library’s regular visitors, filing reports on any disruptive event.  Deadpan, she describes Suitcase Man, who always carries one, Fainting Man, who often does, and Unusually Pale Female Patron.

The odd, almost fantastical events kick in gradually. Miriam discovers letters stashed in books and signed Rigoletto, as in the opera her father took her to when she was a child. “I am Rigoletto and I will not be doing any more suffering,” one reads. Others seem to be explicitly about Miriam, referencing her movements through the library.

Advertisement

This plot thread doesn’t play out as a detective story, even though Miriam’s boss and a police officer also read the letters, so we know they exist. Jaye treats it as a psychological mystery, part of the key to Miriam. Her father is the touchstone. We don’t learn until nearly halfway into the film that he has died, although we have seen him in Miriam’s memory. He sits in the garage surrounded by books piled to the ceiling, the image sending an unspoken signal that something is off. But she tells Janko he is alive and selling insurance.

Mercier’s performance also reflects the film’s understated tone perfectly. Janko is just as soft-spoken as Miriam, but more direct and open than she can be. He nicknames her Darkest Miriam, but his own paintings include a textured, entirely black canvas. As a couple they seem like a perfect fit.   

The film is based on a 2009 novel by Martha Baillie called The Incident Report, composed entirely of reports Miriam has filed. Darkest Miriam is far less elliptical, yet it is also comfortable with leaving things unexplained, allowing viewers to piece together what they will. Questions and strange events begin to pile up. Riding her bike home one evening Miriam falls into a construction hole, and, unharmed, looks up at the night stars. While getting checked at the hospital the next day, she is asked questions she’d obviously rather not answer, including whether she’d ever had suicidal thoughts. The camera is close on Lower’s unmoving face and pained expression, as Miriam stares silently ahead.

Jaye is a Toronto-based installation artist as well as a filmmaker with one previous feature, The Pin, (2013) but is scarcely known in the U.S. Darkest Miriam displays a sure sense of when to move the camera fluidly and when to let it sit, when to let images speak for themselves. Miriam seduces Janko by stopping on her way out of his apartment, turning to face him and matter-of-factly taking off her clothes as if she has simply made a decision. The film is full of risky choices that work. Miriam is often seen though windows or silhouetted against a doorway.

Between sequences, Jaye sometimes includes close-ups of flowers and plants in the park, once cutting from the darkness of Miriam’s father’s garage to the bright garden colors. In less capable hands this would all be pretentious, but Jaye maneuvers beautifully, using those touches just enough to evoke the mysteries of Miriam’s life.     

Advertisement

There is a dramatic turn at the end that we don’t see coming, and Lower allows us to feel Miriam’s deep emotional pain, yet the film ends with Miriam pointed toward the future. That mix of the tragic and the hopeful is just the kind of off-kilter balance that makes the film so exceptional and compelling. Charlie Kaufman has lent his name to the project as an executive producer, and while there is a definite sympathy between his imaginative approach and hers, Jaye’s artistry comes through as purely hers, a true discovery.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Movie Reviews

Movie Review| Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024)

Published

on

Movie Review| Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024)
Marcus and Mike played by Martin Lawrence and Will Smith respectively, seem to be the duo that can’t be kept down. After running away with the most successful film of 2020, perhaps everyone could have predicted the bad boys would ride again. The…
Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

Chandu Champion first reviews: Kartik Aaryan's film touches hearts with its gripping storyline | Hindi Movie News – Times of India

Published

on

Chandu Champion first reviews: Kartik Aaryan's film touches hearts with its gripping storyline | Hindi Movie News – Times of India
Chandu Champion’, the sports drama that marks Kartik Aaryan‘s debut collaboration with Kabir Khan, is scheduled to release in theaters on June 14. The film is inspired by the life of Murlikant Petkar, India’s first Paralympics gold medallist.
The first review for the film has come from the people who watched the film at the special screening hosted by Kabir Khan.Those who have watched it have shared their verdict on social media. While Sumit Kadel called ‘Chandu Champion’ one of the finest films of 2024, Siddharth Kannan wrote, “It would be an understatement to call this @TheAaryanKartik ‘s best performance. Just like #MurlikantPetkar ji, he has risen over all odds and has made an indelible mark with his performance in the film.”
Sumit Kadel took to X and wrote, “#ChanduChampion is one of the finest films of 2024. It is a sports drama done right, telling the remarkable and legendary life of Murlikant Petkar. Director Kabir Khan narrates his story with great skill, research and most importantly honesty without going overboard. The movie explores every chapter of Murlikant Petkar’s life, which is full of heroism, valor, and courage. We see his journey from his village to joining the army, becoming a world-class boxer, struggling with his injuries, and finally achieving success at the Paralympics. His story is extremely inspiring, emotional, and powerful. #KartikAaryan delivers his best performance in this film. His body transformation is extraordinary, and he looks like a real athlete throughout. More than his physical transformation, Kartik’s emotional performance is what truly stands out. There are many scenes in the film where his acting will make you cry. He is sure to be a contender for the best actor award this year. #VijayRaaz lent strong support and the child who played Kartik’s Young version is brilliant. The first half of the film is excellent, while the second half is a bit slow and stretched at times. However, the last 20 minutes make up for these shortcomings. The major highlights of Chandu Champion are the boxing matches and the fantastic war scenes just before the interval. Overall Chandu Champion is a very honest film with a beautiful story, direction, screenplay, and many inspirational moments. Kudos to producer Sajid Nadiadwala for giving the film the scale and grandeur it deserves.”

On the other hand, Siddharth Kannan wrote, “#ChanduChampion… It would be an understatement to call this @TheAaryanKartik’s best performance. Just like #MurlikantPetkar ji, he has risen over all odds and has made an indelible mark with his performance in the film. #VijayRaaz, Nobody could have been a better mentor than you in the film for apna Murli. #KabirKhan packs a punch with yet another blockbuster. #Kartik, you have shut down all those who you would have once said, #HastaKaykoHai?”

Ramesh Bala tweeted, “#ChanduChampion Review : Kabir Khan is back in full form with this film. Emotions, actions, drama, relationships, motivation and unexpectedly killer performances. The film sticks to your mind. Kartik Aaryan deserves a standing ovation. Extremely watchable movie 🍿 full Paisa vasool.”

While seeing the movie, a few audience members who were invited to the private screening were also seen crying. Sharing the video of the same on Instagram, Kartik wrote, “First screening of Chandu Champion with the Man himself. An evening filled with honor, joy and tears with THE REAL CHAMPION. The Man who refused to surrender MR MURLIKANT PETKAR.”
The Kabir Khan film is based on the life and events of Petkar, the first Paralympian gold medallist, who bravely confronted every hurdle life threw at him. The titular role is essayed by Kartik Aaryan.

Kartik Aaryan’s Most Candid Interview On Chandu Champion: I Am Manifesting A Lot And That’s Why These Roles Are Coming My Way

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

Arcadian (2024) – Movie Review

Published

on

Arcadian (2024) – Movie Review

Arcadian, 2024.

Directed by Benjamin Brewer.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, Sadie Soverall, Samantha Coughlan, and Joel Gillman.

SYNOPSIS:

A father and his twin teenage sons fight to survive in a remote farmhouse at the end of the end of the world.

Advertisement

Finding a human story within a post-apocalyptic creature feature is typically a creative choice to appreciate. Director Benjamin Brewer’s Arcadian (from a screenplay by Michael Nilon) has a similarly intriguing concept. It focuses on how two twin teenage boys must set aside their differences and become a more cohesive survival unit following a life-threatening injury to their father, a quieter, more restrained Nicolas Cage. Played by Jaeden Martell and Maxwell Jenkins, the boys are at odds in the expected ways; one is more mature and crafty, the other headstrong and less concerned with duties in favor of visiting a nearby farmhouse to hang around his crush (Sadie Soverall), who has also yet to see much of the leveled and decayed world beyond her home.

It’s also not necessarily an issue that the filmmakers aren’t concerned with explaining much about this apocalypse or the monsters, choosing to focus on the human element and day-to-day routines, which primarily consist of scavenging during the day and locking themselves up at night in an isolated home. The family is a tightknit trio, but even with Nicolas Cage’s calm demeanor and patience as Paul, breaking up the bickering between Joseph and Thomas, it’s made clear that they would either completely unravel without him or come together stronger than ever to protect him. 

Despite the generally compelling setup and potentially complex character dynamics, Arcadian never finds much depth within any of that. As a story, it’s going through the motions and placing the brothers in other perilous situations that come across as contrived, as if the filmmakers don’t know what else to do. Even the friendship between Thomas and Charlotte feels more like a skeleton rather than something properly fleshed out. It plays out more like an obligatory love interest subplot instead of something substantially adding to the characters and the shaky sibling dynamic.

By the time Arcadian descends into a prolonged action-packed third act against agile, prehistoric-reminiscent beasts with elongated necks, quite literally chomping at the bit to devour human flesh, there is a degree of emotional investment into these characters, albeit a lingering sensation that, much like the preceding hour, there is something off and dull about all of this. 

It also has nothing to do with the gutsy decision to sideline Nicolas Cage for a sizable portion of Arcadian; that’s a subversively clever choice, but there isn’t enough on the page for the boys to elevate the material. As for the monster design, nothing is striking or unique here. However, even if there was something aesthetically nightmarish and exciting, the presentation is drowned in darkness to cover up mid-tier CGI most likely resulting from budget constraints.  Viewers are left clinging to a human story that is disappointingly shallow and generic, especially for a time and genre that has recently seen superior offerings.

Advertisement

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/playlist

 

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending