My reviews of Watcher, 892, and Call Jane, all of which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Watcher is a tense, well-made thriller reminiscent of Hitchcock. The film follows Julia (Maika Monroe) a woman who has just moved to Romania with her husband Francis (Karl Glusman) for his job. Busy with work all day, Julia is left alone in her large, creaky apartment in a place she knows nothing about. She does some exploring around town in her free time, but soon gets the feeling that she is being followed and watched. Julia’s paranoia gets even more frightening when she gets word that a serial killer is lurking around town.
Director Chloe Okuno crafted a relentlessly intense thriller. From the first time Julia sees a mysterious man starring at her from the apartment building across from her, your heart starts racing and doesn’t stop until the film’s final moments. Okuno does a brilliant job of making the paranoia and suspense stay throughout the entire movie. We never know what is real and what is coming from Julia’s mind and Monroe’s excellent performance as a woman lost in a new place and a chilling score only helps elevate the suspense and confusion. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and though the ending didn’t quite land as smooth as I wanted, Watcher still gripped me from start to finish.
John Boyega gives the best performance of his career in 892, Abi Damaris Corbin’s intense hostage drama.
Based on a true story, Brian Brown-Easley (Boyega) is a frustrated Marine war veteran down to his last straw. Unable to pay for the cheap motel room he lives out of, separated from his daughter, and having just been screwed over on some money he is owed by the Veteran Affairs, the seemingly kind Brown-Easley decides to rob a bank and hold hostages with a bomb. But as police and news outlets get word of this hostage situation, it becomes clear that there is more to this situation than just money.
892 belongs to John Boyega. Without his incredible performance, the film would not work as well as it does. Boyega’s portrayal of Brown-Easley is deeply moving and layered. He makes us really understand Brown-Easley as a person and his motivations. Despite holding up a bank with a bomb, you never see Brown-Easley as a bad guy, but just as a man who wants what is owed to him, which isn’t what you think it is. It’s outstanding work from Boyega and the main reason the film works.
892 is a powerful and sad look at the treatment of veterans when they come back from war. This is an issue that seems to have been going on forever now, but one that doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. The film runs a little long and runs a bit flat in the middle, but Corbin hammers home her message about our responsibilities to our soldiers and humanity.
In the late 1960s/early 1970s Chicago, a group of women known as The Janes, because they all go by the name instead of their real names, started an underground abortion clinic. In a time when women’s reproductive rights were decided by old, stuffy white men and abortion was illegal, this clinic offered a safe and affordable for women to terminate their pregnancies. It’s an incredible story and was a huge push for the passing of Roe v. Wade.
Sounds fascinating, right? Unfortunately, Call Jane is only partially about The Janes and their story. The movie’s true focus is on the fictional character Joy (Elizabeth Banks), a seemingly happy and pregnant suburban housewife who comes down with an illness that would kill her if she gave birth to her child. With abortion being denied by a group of doctors, Joy finds The Janes and gets a safe abortion. She then becomes involved in The Janes work, from screening the girls to eventually becoming a doctor who performs the abortions.
Joy being fictional really hurts the film because we also look at her fictional life with her husband and daughter, which isn’t nearly as interesting or exciting as watching the process of The Janes. This is a group that was funded by the mafia, had to dodge police and other practicing doctors for doing something that was technically illegal, and they eventually became very popular for their service and were forced to decide which women took priority over others. Sigourney Weaver gives one of her best performances in years as the leader of The Janes and the movie would have been best served if it focused around her and The Janes as a group rather than having a fictional character be a surrogate for us to explore this inspiring group of women.
Despite good performances, Call Jane doesn’t do justice for this incredible true story and these women.
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