Film reviews: new from March 31 to April 2

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  • Casey Affleck and Sam Claflin in Every Breath You Take

Every breath you take **1/2

Every once in a while, after decades of watching way too many movies, I happen to come across a story where, after just a few minutes, I’m 90 minutes ahead of where it’s ultimately going to take me. Such was the case with this psychological thriller about Seattle psychologist Philip Clark (Casey Affleck) and his family, his wife Grace (Michelle Monaghan, reunited with her Gone baby gone co-star Affleck) and her teenage daughter Lucy (India Eisley) – whose lives are rocked when one of Philip’s patients commits suicide and the patient’s brother, James (Sam Claflin) tangles with them all. There’s a traumatic story for the Clark family involving a young son killed in a car crash, and screenwriter David Murray gives Affleck and Monaghan material to explore how the Clarks’ unhealed wounds leave them especially vulnerable. But it is always clear that it is, at bottom, a “[fill-in-the-blank] from hell”, told at a creeping pace towards developments that are alternately inevitable or implausible. It all leads to a third-act reveal that rolls across the screen like it should be a dropper — director Vaughn Stein’s camera zooms in on someone’s budding realization is the pipe — but seems quite obvious for the majority of the film. For those who don’t watch 300 movies a year, your mileage may vary. Available April 2 in theaters and on VOD. (R)

French release ***
See feature review. Available March 31 in theaters. (R)

Godzilla vs. **1/2
See feature review. Available March 31 in theaters and via HBO Max. (PG-13)

Roe vs. Wade*
Let’s assume for a moment that every piece of information provided by the filmmakers about the story behind the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights is factually accurate – and based on all the receipts they present in the closing credits, it’s very important to them. And further assume that there is nothing inherently problematic about ideologically stacking the game by telling the story of a controversial topic. What we are then left with is the ineptitude of the film itself. It’s told from the perspective of Dr. Bernard Nathanson (Nick Loeb, who co-wrote the screenplay and co-directed with Cathy Allyn), the abortion pioneer who later became a lifelong advocate, as he thinks so about the circumstances that led to the affair. Here’s a movie where the characters are introduced by their full names and resumes (“Well well well, if not The feminine mystic author Betty Friedan”) – you know, like people do. Here’s a movie where Loeb’s voiceover provides relentless reminders of the math involved in the SCOTUS judges’ vote (“That meant it would be a 5-4 vote…which meant we’d lose!”). Melodramatic strings play every time a pro-life character makes a point, and 15 minutes never goes by without being reminded that doctors who perform abortions – get this – make money by doing it. Given the likelihood that anyone watching this film would already agree with Loeb and Allyn morally and politically, you’d think they wouldn’t treat this minute-by-minute audience like they were idiots. Available April 2 on VOD. (PG-13)

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