Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


Any summary of Yesterday would miss its magic. Don’t look for the good, the mediocre or the bad in this one. Just try watching and waiting for it to wrap you in its arms. That takes about five minutes. In its entire length there is nothing by the scriptwriter or any actor that trips the whole, and the whole is not a story so much as it is a fairy tale.

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) and his dear friend Ellie (Lily James) have a friendship that borders on more but is rooted in her being his manager while she isn’t working at her job as a school teacher. She never gives up on his career even though singing to unresponsive bar patrons gives him no professional or emotional lift. How’s that for an ordinary beginning?

One night the whole world goes dark and silent for twelve seconds and when that’s over, Jack sings “Yesterday” on his new guitar and discovers the world has become a place where no one has ever heard of The Beatles. He searches frantically for them on his computer and finds no mention of them anywhere. In this sudden new world, they never existed.

By this early time in the movie, we are already hooked by Jack (Himesh Patel) who is now a creature of our imaginations as he sings the songs of the Beatles as if they were his own. As his success grows, he knows he must move to Los Angeles with Rocky (Ed Sheeran) who will manage his career as he soars to the heights of the celebrity he has earned with the songs of a group that has disappeared from world history.

That’s the last you’ll hear from me about the plot that unfolds and envelops us without even an ounce of conventional unpleasantness. Oh yes, one nasty successful business executive (Sophia DiMartino) reaches for control of Jack and fails. Her personality is so out of tone with all the others that we wonder if she was introduced just to show us mean people don’t survive in Jack’s world.

I went in thinking that any new interpretation by unknowns of the Beatles’ music simply couldn’t work and I came out grinning in its success. In no way a true anecdote, it’s a fable designed with imaginative twists and turns and acted by a cast that understood precisely what they were doing.

Sitting in the dark theater and hearing appreciative laughter in all different parts of the story was a lovely tribute to everyone involved. Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Richard Curtis created a flawless script that is interpreted beautifully by a cast of actors who understand exactly how to deliver the magic of the imagination created by those two men.

It’s hard to convey in words the magic running through the performance of Himesh Patel as he carries the fairy tale to all its happy endings. Just go and let it all roll gently over you.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Yesterday
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 1:56
Rating : PG-13
Date : July 7, 2019

The Shape of Water

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Shape of Water

This is a tough one. On one hand, The Shape of Water offers us hatred, cruelty, nudity, violence, murder, and beatings. On the other, it offers a tender love story between two afflicted people who lose themselves in a beautiful romance. The time is the Cold War. The place is a dark, decrepit Baltimore building that is a lab space for creating a creature that will become a weapon against the Russians.

Close friends Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) have janitorial work passes to clean the building without oversight. Eliza’s sharp intelligence allows her to pick up on the clues left behind by the men who are working on the secret project.

The studio puts it this way: “At a top secret research facility in the 1950s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.” True enough, though I would add “in deepest covert Cold War secrecy” in order to explain the dark gloom that surrounds their relationship. The amphibious creature (Doug Jones) has been created for deep cover use by U.S. Intelligence.

We endure the comings and goings of brutal intelligence agents whose presence is lightened only by Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), a man who has a formal, abiding respect for the creature. His American colleague is played by Michael Shannon who is convincing as a government agent wrapped in physical brutality – especially when carrying an electric prod.

When Elisa enlists the support of her lonely upstairs neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), this sweet, bumbling fellow agrees to help her save the sea creature she now loves. The always fine Octavia Spencer creates Zelda, the loyal, wise friend who will stand by Eliza through the nightmare that lies ahead. She understands the gestures and signals of her silent friend.

Elisa is a lovely young woman who can’t speak a word. She has walked silently through life with only the friendship of Zelda and Giles, that nice guy across the hall. In this role, Sally Hawkins utters not a word for two hours but tells us everything through the subtlety of her facial expressions and the language of her hands and eyes. Here’s a salute to Hawkins for making Elisa the woman who turns the movie – against all odds – into a sweet fable. After you are thoroughly on Eliza’s side, look forward to one of the most lovely dream sequences ever to grace the screen.

Throughout this strange and riveting story, one question rumbles in our heads: who thought this up? Who has the brain that could imagine these odd pieces and fit them together? If an ordinary person tried to write and film this story, rejection would surely follow. But Guillermo del Toro is not an ordinary person. He and the extraordinary Sally Hawkins, have turned his odd idea into a stunning fable. It is marred only by the barbarism of the ludicrous American Intelligence agents. The Academy overlooked that and gave this film 13 Oscar nominations.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Shape of Water
Word Count: 499
Running Time: 2:03
Rating: R
Date: 4 February 2018