My reviews of Summer of 85 and Sleep from the 2020 Chicago International Film Festival.
SUMMER OF 85
Directed by François Ozon
Summer of 85 opens with Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) walking down a prison hallway handcuffed with a guard walking next to him. We hear in a voiceover we assume to be Alexis that he a fascination with death, but doesn’t like the idea of a corpse. Alexis then informs us that he is in this situation because of a corpse.
A few scenes later we see Alexis meet David (Benjamin Voisin) after David saves Alexis when is boat capsizes. Through voiceover, Alexis informs us that David is the corpse.
Color me intrigued. This was such a good opening and had me hooked immediately. My mind immediately started running. How did David die? Did Alexis do it? What does all of this mean?
Unfortunately, the buzz of intrigue that hit me in the first moments of Summer of 85 wears off relatively quickly. The film jumps back-and-forth between when Alexis first met David and their growing relationship and after David has passed, where Alexis is constantly being questioned by a case worker who is trying to figure out what happened, which is an interesting enough story device that should have kept me interested in what was going on.
But the film never really takes off and only gets blander as it goes on. It doesn’t help that that it takes too long to reveal the mystery, which isn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been. But what really kills the film are the two lead actors. Neither of them give great performances and there is no chemistry between them. There were some Call Me By Your Name vibes in this one, but only vibes and nothing coming close to that movie. Seeing as the movie centers around them and their relationship, it kind of kills the whole thing if nothing about them and their relationship works.
Though gorgeous to look at, Summer of 85 never capitalizes on its interesting beginning.
Directed by Michael Venus
Sleep is the kind of horror movie I would imagine Christopher Nolan would have made early on in his career. It’s slow, quiet, creepy, weird movie that looks at dreams, trauma, and family secrets.
Marlene (Sandra Hüller), a woman plagued by horrific dreams, suffers a breakdown in a remote village. Her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) goes to visit her mother, she comes upon a well-kept family secret and an old curse that ultimately threatens her life and puts her in a never-ending nightmare.
Director Michael Venus does a great job of building tension throughout the film. The films acts as a mystery, but also has surreal elements that include dream hopping and time jumping. Though some of it is a little confusing, as you don’t know what’s real and what’s a dream and who every character is, Venus wraps it up perfectly and it all becomes clear at the end. Venus blends an intriguing mystery with horrifying images the will scare you, yet only add layers to the story at hand. The final act of the movie moves us between reality and dreams, past and present, violence and emotion. It’s utterly insane, yet executed to perfection.
Sleep is a creepy, gripping movie that’ll have you guessing until the very end. It plays with your mind and emotions and ends up being a rewarding, thrilling experience.
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