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Reviews for February 25th, 2011

A Good Man

Directed by Safina Uberoi

      In this captivating and heartfelt documentary, Chris Rorhlach, a sheep and cattle farmer, lives in Australia with his beloved wife, Rachel, teenage son, Kieran and their new baby boy, Liam. Fourteen years ago, Rachel had suffered a stroke which left her comatose for 6 weeks. Upon regaining consciousness, she had serious brain damage, and she’s been quadriplegic ever since. Chris has proven himself to not only be a good man, but also a good husband because he had remained by Rachel’s side from day one and has taken care of her both physically and emotionally. When a drought poses a financial threat to farmers, he and his friend, Danny, a Danish farmer, come up with the idea to open a brothel at a nearby town, Inverell. That task becomes easier said than done, though, but after a lengthy battle in court, he and Danny finally build the brothel with their very own hands. Director Safina Uberoi follows Chris as he struggles to keep the brothel open, but most importantly she shows how he has maintained a healthy, loving and supportive relationship with his wife and kids. Chris is so open and honest that he doesn’t even mind sharing info on camera about his sex life, which is still active, with Rachel. Gradually, Rachel’s personality comes about, and you can sense that there’s some sadness built up inside of her, but, for the most part, she seems content and even has a sense of humor. The same thing can be said for Chris who’s so diligent, brave and genuinely caring as an individual that his own sense of humor serves as a testament to his passion for life and making the most out of it.

      Uberoi could have asked Chris about where he learned his good values as such an unconditionally loving and devoted father and husband, or explored in further depth how his new task of running the brothel has impacted his marriage. Had Uberoi gone through that particular route instead of leaving more for audience interpret using their own intelligence, she would have probably had to deal with excessive heads which she fortunately avoids. Ultimately, A Good Man is a captivating, heartfelt and unflinchingly honest documentary brimming with warmth and humor.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Released by Emerging Pictures.

The Grace Card

Directed by David Evans

      In Memphis Tennessee, Mac McDonald (Michael Joiner), a racist police officer, struggles to cope with the death of his son who was struck by an African-American drug dealer’s car 17 years ago. Now leading a forlorn life with his wife, Sara (Joy Moore), and teenage son, Blake (Rob Erickson), Mac has a lot of anger, hatred and regret built up inside of him. Blake has his own problems to deal with because he’s failing his private high school which forces him to enroll in a public school, but he’s too afraid to tell his father the bad news. He sees a shrink, Dr. Vines (Cindy Hodge), to try to get to the root of his problems. Mac’s life takes a new path when he meets and interacts with Sam Wright (Michael Higgenbottom), his African American work partner who’s displeased with Mac’s racist remarks toward him. Sam, a devout Christian, lives with his beloved wife, Debra (Dawntoya Thomason), and yearns to open his own church---for now, though, he works part-time as preacher. A tragic turn of events, which won’t be spoiled here, occurs later during the second act and leads Mac, Sam and Blake to experience epiphanies. Fortunately, screenwriter Howard Klausner steers clear from including too many sappy scenes that would have made it all seem melodramatic or the tragedy too abrupt. Instead, the transition occurs smoothly because the characters of Mac and Blake are developed enough so that you not only get a sense of their flaws, but also a sense of the psychological roots of their serious problems that they’re dealing with day-by-day. In a particularly heartfelt and illuminating scene, Sam’s grandfather, George (Louis Gossett Jr.), explains to Sam the importance and power of grace, reconciliation and forgiveness, messages found at the very core of the Christian faith. Concurrently, though, those messages can and should be related to by anyone regardless of their religion. The messages may indeed seem corny and a bit cliché, but there’s nonetheless a lot of truth to be found among corniness and clichés.

      What makes The Grace Card such an important story is how Mac and Sam find hope, tranquility, peace and a sense of community by learning those valuable lessons as they go through their own hardships. Those lessons may not be the complete solution toward achieving ever-lasting peace and happiness, but at least they’re a giant step in the right direction. At a running time of 1 hour and 41 minutes, The Grace Card manages to be a heartfelt and inspirational drama about the healing power of grace, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Regal E-Walk.
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.


Directed by Xavier Dolan

Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Opens at the IFC Film Center.
Released by IFC Films.

Of Gods and Men

Directed by Xavier Beauvois

In French and Arabic with subtitles. Based on a true story.

      In 1996, a group of eight French Cistercian monks live in an Algerian monastery located on a mountainous region of North Africa. Monk leader Father Christian (Lambert Wilson) and his seven monks spend their time gardening, helping others and praying while living in harmony with the villagers. Father Luc (Michael Lonsdale), a doctor, treats locals with their ailments. The monks’ peace and tranquility become disrupted, though, when an Islamic terrorist organization, the GIA (Armed Islamic Group), murders Croatian construction workers nearby. The French government strongly urges the monks to leave their monastery because of the imminent threat of the fundamentalist organization. Should they stay or should they go? The monks vote to remain put which only complicates matters and threatens their life. Director/co-writer Xavier Beauvois and co-writer Etienne Comar have woven a very sensitive, profound and engrossing drama that gradually builds up with tensions. The monks’ decision to stay at the monastery and to come together to support each other during life-threatening events reflect their fervent devotion to their faith and their compassion for one another. Each actor delivers a convincingly moving, naturalistic performance thereby making it easier for you to care about what transpires to the monks. Their sense of camaraderie, kindness, courage along with their devotion to God feels inspirational. One of the many unforgettable scenes occurs when the monks gather for dinner during which they glance at each other in silence as their eyes swell up in tears. That scene alone, together with the beautiful musical score that accompanies it, speaks volumes about the monks’ thoughts and feelings which will cause your eyes to swell up with tears concurrently.

      It’s also worth mentioning the exquisite cinematography that makes the most out of the beautiful landscape and the interiors of the monastery. Of Gods and Men never overstays its welcome at a running time of 2 hours, and manages to be poignant, haunting and profound with thoroughly captivating performances. It's one of the most powerful and unforgettable films of the year.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.

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