The Midwife

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Midwife

The Midwife opens with a series of births in the hands of solemn, accomplished Claire who is dedicated to her profession and to the clinic that is her workplace. Actor Catherine Frot learned the trade for this role in the interest of reality. Most countries have a protective time limit on filming newborns that means the new babies we have seen on film were usually more than three months old. This is the real deal.

In addition to introducing us to Claire in her profession, the long scene of live births suggests that each of these newborns will grow up to lead different lives in families that grow as they grow. This is how their lives began and the story of the family they become.

Within minutes we learn that outside of the clinic Claire lives a healthy, if reclusive life. She rides her bike to and from work, dislikes alcohol, grows and eats healthy vegetables in her backyard, and works at something she believes in deeply. The sad part for her is that her clinic is slated to be closed by a modern hospital.

Claire’s earnest world is pierced suddenly by an invitation from Beatrice (Catherine Deneuve) who was once mistress to Claire’s father and eventually left him. Would she meet for lunch? For Claire, that’s an invitation from Hell.

Beatrice left Caire’s father because she couldn’t stand the dullness of living in the country. And we soon learn why. “How come there’s no fun in your life?” she asks Claire, and answers her own question: “I believe in the power of pleasure.” And then, suddenly, we learn Beatrice has brain cancer and has come to her former lover’s daughter for help.

As the two of them begin to learn from each other’s wildly different selves, Claire slowly begins to open to a wider world by letting herself know Paul (Oliver Gourmet), the friendly neighbor she sees while they garden in the backyard. Beatrice gains strength from Claire’s new fidelity. This story would have paled in lesser hands.

Catherine Frot creates an earnest woman with deep integrity whose only love is her fine work of delivering babies. Catherine Deneuve’s Beatrice drinks, gambles, and thrives on the bustle of the city and uncertainty. She paints a vivid portrait of a woman devoted to risk, fun, and pleasure of all kinds.

This movie is the story of the unlikely journey toward friendship between a dying lover of life and a living lover of work. Each gives to the other while Beatrice opens Claire’s eyes to the possibility of Paul (Oliver Gourmet), the fine man who would make either woman happy for different reasons.

Martin Provost, wrote and directed the story and worked with the two grand actors to create a relationship that teaches each woman a lot about herself. It is the delicacy of their acting that is so remarkable here. They take us on that journey and they do it with rare grace.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Midwife
Word Count : 501
Running time : 1:57
Rating : nr
Date : July 23

 

This review was posted on July 30, 2017, in Drama.

Dunkirk

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Dunlirk

Have you discovered, as I have, that most young people have never heard of Dunkirk? Writer/director/producer Christopher Nolan has recreated it in an inspired movie that runs just one hour, forty-six minutes, exactly the right length for a required high school history class. Nolan’s film is a tribute to the men who died and to those who rallied to rescue the allied forces trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. It couldn’t be a better lesson that war can no longer be a solution for settling disagreements.

Christopher Nolan filmed Dunkirk in three alternating sections on the beach, on the water, and in the air, all of it set against a relentless score of pure tension by Hans Zimmer. They have turned the volume high on the explosions, plane crashes, and bombs blowing ships and men to bits. Far louder than a normal soundtrack, it stuns the audience with the sounds of war. This is not the background noise of an ordinary war movie. It is the relentless noise of brutal death, and Nolan leaves us caught in tension through the whole battle. That’s the way it was.

This is history brought to gruesome life at a time when the outcome of the war was thoroughly in doubt after the fall of France. Western Europe was broken. The allied forces went into full retreat ending in unimaginable death and injury as they came to the beach and the water where there was no safety. The few naval ships became targets for Nazi planes that were being shot down by British Spitfires. Soldiers on foot were trapped and dying in the open, no place to hide.

The reason it is hard to salute specific actors is that there is very little dialogue here. Every young man is enveloped in noise and fear and all of them are surrounded by dying, broken soldiers. Suddenly the theater, rocked by an hour of noise, sees the screen fill with the small boats that came from everywhere to save 330,000 men. The audible gratitude throughout the audience is a tribute to the reality of the battle created by Christopher Nolan.

A special salute is due Mark Rylance who, as a rescuer with a small boat, creates a character driven to stay in the danger by a deep set of personal values, a stand in, as it were, for all the civilians who rallied in their small boats. There are no false notes among others in the cast, just silent men knowing many of them will die. The beach behind them will soon be full of Nazi soldiers. The water ahead, the sky above, all full of German soldiers, sailors, and pilots determined to slaughter them as they wade into the open sea.

War movies have never conveyed the reality of the sound of war and death. That is what Christopher Nolan has done to audiences with this movie. No one who sees it will forget the terrible sounds of inevitability.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title Dunkirk
Word Count : 501
Running time : 1:46
Rating : PG-13
Date : July 23, 2017