Film Movement's March '08 Releases
Arranged (March 19/08)
Arranged is a slight yet thoroughly charming little effort revolving around the friendship that forms between an Orthodox Jew (Zoe Lister Jones' Rochel) and a devout Muslim (Francis Benhamou's Nasira), with the bulk of the film following the characters as they struggle to cope with the sporadically unreasonable expectations of their families (ie both are destined for arranged marriages). While there's little doubt that the film is rough around the edges - the midsection is peppered with a few undeniably melodramatic plot developments, for example - Arranged benefits substantially from the subtle, flat-out compelling work by both Benhamou and Jones (the latter delivers a star-making performance that's downright eye-opening in its effectiveness). Directors Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer have successfully infused the proceedings with an honest and authentic sort of vibe that proves impossible to resist, as the filmmakers offer up a low-key (and surprisingly non-judgmental) portrait of life within the restrictive confines of Rochel and Nasira's respective religions. The inclusion of several crowd-pleasing elements within the third act ensure that Arranged finally comes off as an uplifting and unexpectedly moving piece of work, though it's the touching bond between the two central characters that ultimately lingers with the viewer long after the end credits have rolled.
Her Name is Sabine (March 20/08)
From French actress Sandrine Bonnaire comes this highly personal and sporadically heartbreaking documentary, in which the first-time filmmaker offers up a portrait of her autism-afflicted sister Sabine. The bulk of the movie follows Sabine through her day-to-day life at the assisted-living home where she resides, while Bonnaire peppers the proceedings with home-video footage of her sibling's early years. The difference between Sabine now and then is downright jarring, as she comes off as a relatively normal, downright functional individual in the flashback footage. We learn that Sabine spent a disastrous five-year stint at a mental hospital, where she was treated with absolutely the worst care one could possibly imagine (ie she was periodically kept in a straight-jacket). She emerged from her stay there a changed person; as Bonnaire illustrates, Sabine now suffers from a whole host of problems (ie she spits and screams randomly, lashes out physically without provocation, etc) that ensure she'll require round-the-clock supervision for the rest of her life. Bonnaire's efforts at fleshing out some of the other residents at Sabine's countryside home generally fall flat, as - though kind of interesting - such moments are rarely as affecting as those dealing with the film's subject. As intriguing as it is poignant, Her Name is Sabine is ultimately a very moving (and very depressing, admittedly) piece of work that paints a less-than-flattering picture of France's health-care system - as the viewer is left with little doubt that the devastating mental-hospital stay was instrumental in Sabine's mental and physical decline.