The Guardians

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The GuardiansThe Guardians is an astonishingly beautiful movie. In the hands of French writer/director Xavier Beauvois and writer Marie-Julie Maille, their movie becomes art. Just sink in and feel the effects of the silences and colors as they envelop what is unfolding on screen. This story is an important piece of history seen through the eyes of women.

The time is 1915, World War I. In France, men were leaving the farms that were the gut of their country to go to war. The focus here is the huge acreage of the Abbott farm. In the absence of the men, Hortense Abbott (Nathalie Baye) is running the farm with her daughter Solange (Laura Smet) and a very few others. She hires Francine (Iris Bry), a lone woman with a deep work ethic, to help with the coming harvest.

There it begins. Raking, seeding, and harvesting – all with hand tools – rakes and sickles. In that pre-machine age the physical strength of women vs that of their absent men is tested to its limits. The first hour concentrates on filming this work under the changing light of dawn, midday, and dusk. The audience gains a deep understanding of these women and their work. They must grow the grain, harvest it, and sell it or they will lose the farm while the men are at war.

After we have been shown the pressures and the risks, we see the women begin to interact. When Francine, the only non-family member, falls for Hortense’s son Georges (Cyril Descours), a more familiar movie plot unfolds. In a wide misunderstanding, the family turns on Francine while Georges is at war.

Everyone is weakening under the relentless physical work while emotional issues have injected anger and judgement into the family. Even as the movie switches from the physical toll to unfolding personal dramas, the glorious, changing light delivers magic to the audience. For the first time someone has made a movie about a war fought by men without making us endure battle scenes. What we learn is that when the men went off in that pre-industrial age, the women had to hold the country together by feeding it. As it nears the end, we realize that WWI was the catalyst that eliminated farming by hand as the dominant feature of the world’s culture.

Nathalie Baye is the center strength of the story. She leads the women in the demands of their overwhelming physical work with quiet but absolute authority and yet delivers the fragility that is hiding right under her surface. Iris Bry’s Francine, who has been quiet as the non-family new hire, shows us the strength of a woman when it is demanded. In her fine performance, she is also the perfect symbol of how World War I changed the world’s culture forever. And as we watch, the women, the farm, and the vanishing culture are all bathed in a quiet, changing light that reduces the audience to appreciative silence.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Guardians
Word count : 497
Running time : 2:18
Rating : R
Date : May 6, 2018


This review was posted on May 5, 2018, in Drama.

A Quiet Place

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

A Quiet Place

Just to level with you at the outset: I’m no fan of horror movies. When good reports began to sift in about A Quiet Place, it seemed the best choice during this extremely weak movie spring. Just about two minutes passed before the originality and skill up there on the screen scared the audience into stone cold silence. Who is responsible for this wickedly absorbing movie?

Director John Krasinski worked with writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck to bring this story to life. We are pulled in on the 89th day after a slew of monsters invaded the land around a New York State family. Because the monsters’ eyes can’t guide them successfully to the food they need, they pounce and eat anything that makes a noise. The Abbott family learns quickly to live in absolute silence, to walk barefoot, to sneak through life to avoid becoming food for the invaders. That premise ensures that the story will be delivered in silence while occasional background music reflects different moods. Complete quiet invites us to reexamine the noises of our own world.

Father Lee (John Krasinski) spends his time trying to figure out how to send an SOS to the bigger world. Mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) tends her children – teenager Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and eight-year-old Marcos (Noah Jupe). Both of these young people understand the disastrous possibilities of noise and both are cooperative and clever. No arguments in this situation, just how are they going to stay alive if these monsters hear even the noise from a dropped bottle cap – or when someone steps on a nail?

As for Mom and Dad, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, married in real life, do a beautiful job of creating two people who stay calm in the face of catastrophe. Each is believable in this outsize state of horror and both are dedicated to saving their children. Whenever a tiny noise erupts, a monster surges in for food. It is probably best just to say the actors are so good that you will be glued to your seat in fear. Each of them is not just credible, but inventive. The filmmakers were wise to delay the arrival of the monsters until late in the movie. Watching a family cope with living in silence gives us time to appreciate each of them. We don’t want anything bad to happen.

In a dire situation we’ve never imagined, this family wins us completely and then, suddenly a noise followed by the inevitable invasion of the actual monsters explodes. Those of you who love horror may love these final minutes. Those of us who don’t will keep rooting for the people we have come to know. Just hang in and imagine the creativity it took to create a world of absolute silence for an entire family. And when you go home, have fun listening to the sounds in the world around you that you thought was so quiet. Did someone just drop a bottlecap?

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : A Quiet Place
Word Count: 498
Running Time: 1:30
Rating: PG-13
Date: 22 April 2018