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Non-Review Review: Berlin Syndrome

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

Berlin Syndrome is a potentially interesting psychological drama about kidnapping and captivity that gets  lost in a CriminalMinds-style focus on the perpetrator and an awkward attempt to shoehorn near-misses into the script.

Berlin Syndrome seems to be named in allusion to Stolkholm Syndrome, the psychological label applied to the co-dependent relationship that may form between captive and captor; the geographic shift in the title is a nod to the story’s setting. Shaun Grant and Cate Shortland’s adaptation of Melanie Joosten’s novel follows a young Australian backpacker who hooks up with a stranger for a one-night stand in Berlin only to find herself locked in a creepy apartment in the abandoned quarter.

Killer one night stand.

Killer one night stand.

Berlin Syndrome works best when it stays with Clare as she finds herself locked in this city apartment and trying simply to stay alive while weighing the possibility of escape. Cate Shortland brilliantly captures Clare’s sense of anxiety and uncertainty, balancing on a knife-edge as she tries to avoid provoking her captor while also trying to figure out a way out of this trap. However, Berlin Syndrome loses tension when it allows its focus to drift away from Clare and to focus upon the life and tribulations of Andi, the kidnapper.

The result is a film that struggles to maintain a sense of tone, veering radically between the trauma and terror of Clare’s experience and the more sensationalist thrills of a conventional serial killer narrative. Berlin Syndrome cannot decide whether it is a gripping psychological thriller or heightened schlock, and suffers from that lack of definition.

"This means nothing to me... ... oh, wrong song."

“This means nothing to me…
… oh, wrong song.”

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Non-Review Review: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies is a very curious film – a weird genre fusion that feels like it really shouldn’t work, but with just barely enough charm to pull it off. The movie hinges on the wonderfully crazy idea of blending zombie horror with romantic comedy. Drawing from the book of the same name, the film is light enough and fast enough that it never overstays its welcome. There are times when it overplays its hand, when it threatens to descend into sentimental nonsense, and when the two genres seem to threaten to smother one another. However, it has enough charm and wit that it never veers too far off course before correcting itself.

At its best, it demonstrates that there’s life in these two old genres yet.

Uncanny.

Uncanny.

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Non-Review Review: Take Me Home Tonight

There’s something strangely charming about Take Me Home Tonight. I say “strangely” because I’m not blind to the movie’s many awkward flaws. I can spot the predictable plotting, the douchebag entitled protagonists and the shallow “high school crush” romance. None of these are any less conventional than the plot’s attempt to conceal saccharine romanticism with cheap lowbrow humour. I can see those problems with the film, but for some reason I think it works well in spite of them. I think the strongest aspect of Take Me Home Tonight is not the eighties setting (though that helps), but the sense that Topher Grace may have finally found his niche.

We can dance if we want to…

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