GONE BABY GONE (2007)

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Ben Affleck’s directorial debut tackles the tough issue of child abduction in Boston and asks the question: what is home?

Gone Baby Gone stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as private investigators, hired by a distraught couple to look for their young niece, who has seemingly been taken. The police chief, played by Morgan Freeman, rejects the interference of the investigators – he too lost a child and feels passionately about the work police do in solving these cases. Affleck never attempts to sugar-coat this scenario, he has written a screenplay which reflects the gritty underworld of Boston, shows the terror in drug abuse, and presents the depraved side of society – paedophiles, corrupt police and one couple trying to work their way through it all.

Without giving away spoilers, this film never takes the direction you expect it to. I found myself being constantly surprised by the decisions characters made, and it left plenty of questions regarding what morality means to different people. Gone Baby Gone had me thinking after the film had finished about whether we as human beings are products of our surroundings, and if we had the opportunity to grow up somewhere else, would we be different? The film is purely worth seeing on this basis to reflect on. But Affleck’s great, subtle direction, the entire cast’s performances (including some Boston residents Affleck hired to have parts) and an authentic snapshot of humanity in the most vicious of situations makes this a film worthy of reflection and study.

4/5

THE DANISH GIRL (2015)

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This Oscar-nominated (semi) biographical drama film tells the story of one of the first openly transgender women, Lili Elbe, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1930. Lili, born Einar Wegener, was a successful painter and was married to Gerda Wegener, also an artist. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) and starring Eddie Redmayne and Academy Award winning Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl explores the transition of Lili, along with the affect this has on her wife and relationships.

The best thing about this film undoubtedly is the performances. Redmayne and Vikander are invisible in their roles, both treating the delicate subject matter with respect and emotional depth. Vikander is the standout, her tragic portrayal of Gerda is where the majority of the film’s emotional resonance is the most effective. Although Redmayne is equally convincing and comfortable when playing the reserved Einar or the much more playful and flirtatious Lili, the truly moving scenes are watching Gerda witness her husband go through deep emotional and physical turmoil.

Hooper’s directing is good, but the lack of colour in the film underplays the potential of what could have been a visual storytelling device of Einar’s transition. The film is shot to look very grey throughout, and although this is representative of Einar’s inner feelings, colour could have brought the film to life when he is his true self as Lili.

My biggest issue with The Danish Girl, aside from the fact it gets lost in its second act and becomes unfortunately slow, is that it is marketed as a true-life story, when in fact, it is based on a fictional book. The majority of secondary characters here are fictional, the ending is left on a particularly touching (but false) moment, and the true justice to Lili and Gerda is never reached. The film is tackling an issue which is more prominent than ever in our society, yet by telling a fictionalised version of real events, it becomes problematic. How can you discuss such an important issue without telling it properly? This, for me, is where the film ultimately falters, and with this knowledge, it is hard to find any connection with its characters. A scene where Lili is beat up for her appearance loses all its meaning when that event never happened in real life, and has clearly been put on the screen to inspire sympathy. Truly, I think it would be far more respectful to have made this film based on Lili’s published memoirs.

Overall, I would award The Danish Girl 3/5. A worthwhile subject matter, breathtaking performances and a great first act, but ultimately a film that falls flat.