Recent: Jackie (2016)

Jackie (2016) takes a little while to warm up to it. The human side of Jackie Kennedy, the wife of assassinated US President John F Kennedy, doesn’t come to the fore until some moments in. Then, I was caught up watching Natalie Portman as Jackie get her hands dirty in getting under the grief of the former first lady who has just witnessed the assassination of her husband. Portman is so natural in conveying the mannerisms and emotional hurt of Jackie, that she morphs seamlessly into the role. She is ably supported by Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, Richard E Grant as Bill Walton, and John Hurt as the Catholic priest Jackie confides in about her God issues over the untimely death. It is here that there’s a great spiritual moment in the film, when the priest retells Jesus’ parable of the blind beggar to comfort Jackie. The parable becomes a spiritual lesson for her and elevates her as a kind of symbol for the nation and the world, as she’s here to now glorify God. Peter Sarsgaard gives a compassionate performance and Richard E Grant is sensible and has presence in his official kind of role. Jackie is a compassionate portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, which is certainly apt considering the subject matter.

Older: Awakenings (1990)

This is the film I chose from my picks from 1990.

Leonard Lowe (Robert de Niro), and other patients of a Bronx hospital, during the 1960’s, ultimately could not live a normal life despite attempts at alleviating the symptoms of sickness. As viewers, we may be painfully aware of their real depth of loss. Undeterred by failure, a sensitive and compassionate doctor never gives up in finding a better solution to the L-Dopa drug phenomena which helped patients for a while, only for them to revert back to their ‘sleeping sickness’ state. Robert De Niro is breath-taking as Leonard Lowe, the sleeping sickness sufferer who is brought temporarily out of his comatose state by Dr Malcom Sayer (Robin Williams), only to regress. De Niro and Williams have good doctor-patient chemistry, and are supported by Julie Kavner, as a conscientious nurse, Penelope Anne Miller as a visitor to the hospital who cares about Leonard and who Leonard likes and Ruth Nelson as Leonard’s protective Mom. These put in outstanding supporting performances. This five-star film is a true story based on physician Oliver Sacks’ book Awakenings.

Recent: Darkest Hour (2017)

Had the opportunity to watch Darkest Hour (2017) again–a five star gem, so why not? It’s the choice of my movie picks from 2017.

It’s a larger than life portrayal of English responses–mostly political, but also militaristic, personal and public–to the German invasion of Europe during World War II in the month of May preceding the Dunkirk evacuation. Winston Churchill’s reply, as the Prime Minister of England, is riveting. This well-mounted film, with its finely tuned and brightly tempered aesthetics, combined with, as Churchill, Gary Oldman’s flashy, headstrong and transformative performance makes for something quite a bit more than life, which makes it palatable to watch, of what was a real depressing time in Britain. But which touches on the gravity of the moment–their ‘darkest hour’–in some sobering scenes. This one riveted me to the seat.