Directed by Marielle Heller
Self-absorbed, stubborn and terribly insecure: weren’t we all like this as teenagers? Minnie, Diary‘s protagonist, is all of these things to an almost excruciating level, and for almost two hours, I saw a part of myself that I’m so terrifyingly glad to have now grown out of. Diary, first and foremost, doesn’t hold back any punches. It doesn’t try to make you love the characters with forced sentimentality or catharsis, or sugarcoat any of the situations Minnie experiences: she makes mistakes, she hurts people and she faces the consequences. The performances in the film are outstanding, with each actor superbly channeling their own methods of self-destruction (seriously though, Kristen Wiig is on a roll right now). Ultimately, it’s a relatively breezy film with quite a thin plot, but it’s made with a raw, truthful honesty, as painful as that truth sometimes may be to watch.
Directed by Crystal Moselle
Almost certain to find a residual place in film culture history, The Wolfpack examines the result of a life lived indoors, with the only window out being that of a movie screen. A twisted Plato’s cave of sorts, we see the unsettling effects of a sheltered world, with the escapism of cinema taken quite literally. As a directorial effort, the sound design works well to emphasise the discordant nature of the subjects’ situation, but to a degree, I feel as though we’re always kept distanced from the family of subjects, as opposed to understanding them a bit more by the end, thus our characters still remain portrayed as not much more than “subjects”, like a special feature on The Discovery Channel. The Wolfpack ultimately has a devastatingly interesting story to tell, but to maintain an air of mystery and voyeurism, we’re forced to stay stagnant, trapped inside the first act.
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
The much-loved Sundance smash of the year, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, is the bittersweet coming-of-age film full of pop-culture references and witty, insecure teenagers that everybody’s talking about. Adapted from the novel of the same name, Earl features a few minor differences in narrative from it’s written counterpart, that might – depending on who you are – alter your perspective about the lead character, Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann). The film version is perhaps more emotionally solipsistic than the book, as we dive into the subjective imagination of “Greg-the-filmmaker”, replacing verbal and internal reflection with pastiche-heavy scenes, Sergio Leone soundtracks and Wes Anderson camera movements aplomb. I encountered moments in the film where I would find myself both enjoying and disliking it at equal measures – part of me enjoyed the playfulness of it’s style, but other times I found it on the level of “irritatingly quirky”. Part of me was hugely turned off by how narcissistic and lazy the protagonist character was, but the other part of me saw a validated truth in the character: people like Greg Gaines really do exist, and to my very real frustration, they might never have their third-act change-of-heart, like we hope Greg has by the film’s conclusion. I’m probably getting off-track here – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is still an intriguing, melancholy experience, which is still grounded in real emotions, by a great cast and a beautiful soundtrack by Brian Eno. Who knows, it’s the kind of film that could help people.