The Films of Sebastián Lelio
The Sacred Family
The Year of the Tiger
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A Fantastic Woman (February 6/18)
Directed by Sebastián Lelio, A Fantastic Woman follows Daniela Vega's Marina Vidal as she undergoes a series of challenges and humiliations after the death of her much older boyfriend (Francisco Reyes' Orlando). Filmmaker Lelio, along with cowriter Gonzalo Maza, delivers a subdued character study that is, for the most part, held aloft by Vega's transfixing, thoroughly accomplished turn as the sympathetic central character, with Vega's impressively strong work compensating for a narrative that's often just a little too lackadaisical for its own good. (This is particularly noticeable within the movie's occasionally repetitive midsection, as much of this portion of the proceedings details the discrimination faced by Marina on a day-to-day basis.) The viewer does, as a result, begin to wonder if there's a bigger picture at work here, although such concerns admittedly become rather moot as A Fantastic Woman progresses into its progressively compelling second half - with Vega's protagonist taken into somewhat heartbreaking territory that's far more compelling than one might've anticipated. The end result is an erratic yet ultimately rewarding drama that heralds the arrival of a major new talent in Vega, with the film itself, though consistently watchable, never quite able to make it up to the hypnotic level of its breakout star.
Disobedience (June 26/18)
Sebastián Lelio's English-language debut, Disobedience follows Rachel Weisz's Ronit as she returns to the deeply-religious community of her adolescence after her father dies - with the narrative detailing the forbidden romance that ensues between Ronit and Rachel McAdams' Esti. Filmmaker Lelio has infused Disobedience with a somber, excessively deliberate sensibility that grows more and more troublesome as time (slowly) progresses, as the director's inability (or refusal) to offer up an entry point for the viewer makes it impossible to work up any interest in or sympathy for the characters and their exploits - which is surprising and unfortunate, certainly, given the somewhat tragic nature of the movie's incredibly spare narrative. And while Lelio admittedly does a decent job of establishing the closed off, cloistered community in which McAdams' character resides, Disobedience's few positive attributes are inevitably crushed beneath the weight of an oppressively slow execution and preponderance of padded-out sequences - with the movie's many, many problems compounded by a complete and total lack of chemistry between the two central characters. (It's certainly telling that the long, drawn out love scene comes off as passionless and overly rehearsed.) It's subsequently not surprising to note that Lelio's climactic attempts at wringing emotion from the viewer fall hopelessly flat, which ultimately does secure Disobedience's place as a fairly disastrous misfire that simply doesn't work in any way, shape, or form (and this is to say nothing of McAdams' consistently distracting accent).