ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES
While out running one early morning, high school student Theodore Finch saw his classmate Violet Markey standing on the concrete railing of a bridge. Finch talked Violet from jumping, and since then took extra effort at school to snap her out of her depression, which was caused by the accidental death of her sister. When their teacher assigned a project to report about beautiful places around their state of Indiana, Finch convinced Violet to be partners. As Violet opened up to him however, Finch began to withdraw from her.
This serious teenage love story was based on Jennifer Niven's best-selling 2015 young-adult novel of the same title. Niven herself adapted her book and co-wrote the script with veteran screenwriter Liz Hannah ("The Post"). Like many young adult films, the words in the dialogues are quite eloquent and quotable, though not necessarily realistic. Lead actors Elle Fanning and Justice Smith had charisma and gravitas as the troubled young couple in the middle of the story. The mental health advocacy of the material (about depression and suicide) was front and center throughout. However, I felt the abrupt climax lacked emotional impact the way it was executed, and actually gave the whole film an unexpectedly ironic twist at the end. There could also have been more flashback scenes to better flesh out the respective back stories of the two teens to understand them better instead of relying on narrations only.
TUNE IN FOR LOVE
In 1995, juvenile delinquent Hyeon-u (Jung Hae-in) took a job in the neighborhood bakery run by Mi-su (Kim Go-eun. The two start to get close, but Hyun-woo's troubled past got in the way and they parted ways. Over the next 10 years, Mi-soo and Hyun-woo took divergent careers which kept them away from each other. While fate had been allowing their paths to cross occasionally, unfavorable circumstances persisted to cause problems, making it difficult for them to get back together as a couple.
When I started watching this movie, I did not expect that the lead actress was Kim Go-eun, best known now as Police Lt. Jung Tae-eul in the ongoing Netflix series "The King: Eternal Monarch." I would admit that Kim was the main reason I persisted to watch this even if the storytelling of the drama became rather slow and melodramatic towards the middle to the end. One of the criticisms against "The King" was Kim's lack of chemistry with superstar Lee Min-ho in the sophisticated sci-fi fantasy series. I thought her unconventional beauty and restrained acting style fit the simple reality-based drama of "Tune In" more. Leading man Jung Hae-in (star of dramas "While You Were Sleeping" and "Something in the Rain") was deglamorized in workman duds as Hyeon-u, but his scenes with Kim still carried heartfelt emotions. Who would have thought that an email password could become something romantic?
TWIN MURDERS: THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY
Detective Unai Lopez de Ayala (Javier Rey) was called back by Vitoria police chief Alba Díaz de Salvatierra (Belén Rueda) to investigate an apparent resumption of a series of ritualistic murders which he handled 20 years ago. The previously convicted perpetrator Tasio (Àlex Brendemühl) was still behind bars. The new murders followed the exact pattern before: two victims, one male and one female, from rich families, of the same age, both nude but decorated with flowers and positioned in a dramatic tableaux. Autopsy showed that they were killed in a particularly grisly process that involved bees.
The gothic atmosphere of this film was so very well-captured by the director with the locations, the lighting and the music. In this regard, I thought the chase scene on the rooftop and nave of a cathedral was very well-shot. The main mystery actually started off as very interesting, but as the story went along, it ultimately became very confusing and convoluted because of the numerous characters involved played by different actors going back and forth in time. The scenes of Ayala interviewing Tasio in prison were reminiscent of "The Silence of the Lambs." The way the identity of the murderer was even revealed midway without any build-up was a strange and disconcerting storytelling decision that affected the narrative flow negatively.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."