Movie reviews: teens are synonymous with problems – in hyperspace, in Paris or at university


Travelers

Three stars, now on SKY Cinema & NOW TV, Cert 12A

We may not have fully covered it yet, but the filmmakers seem certain that humanity will need to take refuge in space. The concept provided a rich vein of cinematic inspiration, and Colin Farrell is the latest actor to rocket.

Neil Burger’s movie, Travelers, which he wrote and directed, begins in 2063. A potentially vital planet is discovered 86 years of travel. Children with specially selected genes are raised and kept in isolation until they are old enough to travel.

Scientist Richard (Farrell) is their only parental figure and decides to accompany them into space.

Ten years into the journey, they form a group of drab, pale young adults including Lily-Rose Depp, Tye Sheridan, and Fionn Whitehead. However, when the crew discovers that they and their desires are under chemical sedation, peace ceases to reign.

The film raises many interesting ideas and questions about human nature. This recalls the Lord of the flies, although it focuses more on sexuality and consent. But he avoids looking too deeply at anything.

It’s also strangely low energy, even when the action begins. Overall a useful YA sci-fi story.

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Gagarin

Four stars, now showing at IFI & select cinemas, Cert 12A

This lovely French film, although niche, looks like a fairy tale. Like so many fairy tales, it takes place in harsh reality and revolves around an orphaned child. There is a sprinkle of magic and imagination sprinkled, impending danger, a handsome prince (ss) and a kind of fairy godmother.

Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh open their first feature film with images of a visit in 1963 by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to the vast building complex that bears his name. Almost 60 years later, the complex, on the outskirts of Paris, risks demolition.

But Gagarin is more than buildings for Youri (Alseni Bathily), 16, who wants to save his house.

The film was shot in the Gagarin housing estate, shortly before its demolition in 2019, and the directors find beauty in the crumbling concrete juggernaut. Newcomer Bathily is just great as a leader, you really feel it, and Lyna Khoudri (seen soon in The French dispatch, the new film by Wes Anderson), is a great Roma princess.

What does all this mean? It’s about dreams, belonging and vulnerability, all wrapped up in how the future becomes the past. It is also about the meaning of the house.

First year

Four stars, now available on VOD, without cert

Cooper Raiff wrote, directed and starred in First year, his first film, and it’s a strangely timeless feature film. The premise is simple: Raiff plays Alex, who struggles to fit into college, despite not being a typical underdog. A sleepless night spent with the most socialite Maggie (Dylan Gelula) turns out to be a catalyst.

At first, it all feels like a throwback to 2000s mumblecore – films based on naturalistic thinking, rich in dialogue and in their twenties. And of course, the mumblecore aristocrat Jay Duplass was a big supporter of the film.

However, the film also feels very contemporary, from the tech to modern dating politics and how it plays with traditional gender roles.

Part of the timelessness comes from the issues under the lens and how Alex, who has this wonderful millennial self-awareness and ability to express his feelings, is always bewildered by certain situations. The new sensibilities do not change the old lessons.

Late night get to know you chats are great, but not necessarily one to watch – and for that reason, the first half of the movie drags on. But overall, it’s smart, wise, funny at times, and always sweet.


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