March film roundup

Eva Mackevic

Strong, determined women dominate the passionate love stories and ambiguous character studies in this month's cinema offerings

Film of the month: Portrait of a Lady on Fire 

It seems that films about co-dependent relationships unravelling on isolated islands are currently very en vogue, what with last month’s trippy Robert Pattinson-Willem Dafoe double act, The Lighthouse, and now, with this spiky, sensual drama about a romance between two women on a remote island in Brittany. And as much as the former relished its ragged, testosterone-fuelled brutality, The Portrait of a Lady on Fire revels in its ultra-femininity, alluring subtext and not giving a trace of a damn about including a single man with any real agency or purpose in its story.

Don’t jump to conclusions though; it’s not another skin-deep flick hellbent on jumping on the #MeToo wagon; French director Celine Sciamma’s work is a clever, fiery celebration of female friendship in all its complexity, as well as masterclass in tastefully handled symbolism, with analogies to the haunting ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice delicately tracing the entire film. 

The premise couldn’t be simpler: a painter arrives on a hostile island to undertake a wedding portrait of a young woman who just left the convent. There’s just one catch: she needs to do it without her subject’s knowledge.  As the two grow closer, the task becomes an increasingly challenging one. 

And Then We Danced

A smouldering, illicit romance flourishes between two young dance students in Tbilisi, Georgia in this dazzling piece of cinema that’ll stop you in your tracks. The dream-like cinematography, the intoxicating intensity of Georgian folk dance and the pulse-raising claps and stomps of the equally traditional soundtrack all come together to form a tantalising base for the sublime performances of these first-time (!) actors.

Misbehaviour 

Starring Keira Knightley and Jessie Buckley, this film depicts the real life events that happened at the 1970 Miss World competition which was disrupted by the Women’s Liberation Movement. The action takes place mostly in the run up to the contest, alternating between its organisers and the women scheming to take it down—both to highly underwhelming results. If nothing else, Misbehaviour would make a great drinking game where one takes a shot anytime someone denounces “the patriarchy” or Jessie Buckley pulls a derisive scowl to remind us that she’s a tough chick.

Radioactive

If you don’t know much about the two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie and her pioneering research in radioactivity, you might find this film to be a highly educational introduction to her life and work. Sadly, it never quite rises above that duty.

A pre-packaged, calcified biopic straight off the conveyor belt of in-demand stories of strong women, Radioactive turns out to be an underwhelming, prosaic run-through of Marie Curie’s crucial life events and the devastating effects her discoveries had on the history of humankind. Rosamund Pike, who plays Curie, tries to imbue the lifeless script with some spice and nerve; yet even her signature steely allure never quite manages to lift this bland biopic. 

The Truth

Screen legend Catherine Deneuve leads a stellar cast including Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke in this charming if quietly pungent French comedy-drama. Fabienne (Deneuve) is an ageing movie star who cherishes her career more than anything—even her daughter Lumir (Binoche), it seems, who comes to visit her with her husband Hank (Hawke) and daughter to celebrate the publication of her mother's memoir. Family drama, ugly dinner table scenes and lots of deliciously biting witticisms ensue, yet the film never loses track of the story's big, beating heart.