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.


Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


RBG is an intricate portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that is serious, funny, and moving by turns. Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen have laced their documentary with interviews and footage that let us follow this Justice along her path from high school to the Supreme Court. They fill in the blanks about a woman who has worked for equality before the law since 1950. The documentary is by turns a funny – in an affectionate way – and deeply serious look at this strong woman who became a major player in legal history.

We meet a scholar who is a dedicated defender of the Constitution, an opera lover, a mother, grandmother, and wife of Marty Ginsburg – the man she adores. She is a warrior who spreads her beliefs with determination but without anger. And she started early. She was one of nine women in a class of 500 at Harvard Law School who were asked by the Harvard dean how they could justify taking a spot from a qualified man.

Humor? Just watch her workouts with her trainer, Bryant Johnson, who understands completely his student’s absolute determination to stay fit in order to remain on the court. Her marriage? The deeply happy core of the long years with lawyer Marty Ginsburg who she met at 17 at Cornell is heartwarming. After they married he encouraged every detail of her rise from college to the Supreme Court. When he was transferred to New York, she transferred to Columbia Law School where she tied for first in her class at graduation.

During her rise she was determined and quietly defiant even after she became a political target for her views about recognition of women. As recently as 1970 a woman could be fired for being pregnant, and in twelve states, husbands couldn’t be prosecuted for raping their wives. She taught law at Rutgers with a deep determination to create equal protection of the law.

During the 1970s, Ginsburg won five of six cases before the Supreme Court and was appointed to the Court herself by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She excelled at every single point in her career (Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard Law Review, distinction in all subjects). Through all the events on her long legal path, the Justice has been a dignified voice for many of the legal advances that have changed our country.

RBG contains all this but does it with recognition for the ironies in her life and with appreciation for her humor and her perspective. Hers is the story of one person juggling career, marriage, and family in an atmosphere where her beliefs have constantly been challenged. This is a strong, happy, smart woman dedicated to bringing equality before the law to all corners in our society. Directors West and Cohen have created an entrancing documentary that catches the core of the amazing daughter of immigrants who has influenced us all with intelligence, hard work and a smile.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : RBG
Word count : 502
Running time : 1:37
Rating : PG
Date : April 29, 2018


This review was posted on April 29, 2018, in Documentary.