THE BIG RELEASE
EVER since the Twilight saga made him a megastar, Robert Pattinson has committed himself to out-there highbrow indie dramas. It’s like The Lighthouse is his last big blast of indie crazy before he plays Batman and re-enters the blockbuster universe. And what a blast of bonkers this truly is.
New England, somewhere in the 19th century. Pattinson is Efraim, a troubled loner with a frankly baffling accent, who arrives on a tiny, storm-lashed island to take up his new post as a ‘wickie’ (slang for lighthouse keeper). The only other human on the island is his boss, Thomas Wake (a late-career-best Willem Dafoe), a wild-eyed, wild-bearded, stridently flatulent alcoholic with a line in salty insults (‘ye curdled foreskin!’) whose previous assistant reputedly died of lunacy.
Wake consigns Efraim to the grunt work while he tends to the lamp up in the tower. ‘The light is mine,’ cackles Dafoe like Gollum gloating over his ‘precious’. But as time goes on, Efraim grows resentful. As isolation fever sets in and reality crumbles into madness and delusion, a power struggle ensues.
A unique sort of horror movie, where Herman Melville meets HP Lovecraft, this is the second project from 36-year-old Roger Eggers (The Witch). Dazzlingly shot in black and white, Dafoe and Pattinson boldly go where most actors fear to tread as roommates from hell. It’s like Samuel Beckett with more farting — and extra mermaid sex.
As with The Witch, it’s the atmosphere that seeps into you like sea brine. You don’t watch this film, you are submerged in it. Expect to be spat out, reeling, from the cinema, clutching on to your sanity.
Bonkers black-and-white masterpiece.
Queen & Slim
‘Well, if it isn’t the black Bonnie and Clyde,’ says Bokeem Woodbine to lovers-on-the-run Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith (both pictured above). That’s the thrust of this debut by music video director Melina Matsoukas (Beyoncé’s Formation). The set-up sees a Tinder date between an aspiring lawyer (Turner-Smith) and a God-fearing checkout clerk (Kaluuya) go badly wrong when their car is stopped by a trigger-happy racist cop. Matsoukas has a visual swagger and the leads are electric — the camera just can’t get enough of Kaluuya.
As this hot couple unwittingly become Black Lives Matter icons, the provocative script is increasingly peppered with implausible beats and infuriatingly dim decisions but it’s worth riding those out to reach the transcendent moments between. Protest art at its bare coolest.
A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood
It’s a sad sign of the times that when you see that this is a ‘based on a true story’ drama wherein a cynical journalist (Matthew Rhys) sets out to investigate a beloved children’s TV entertainer called Mr Rogers (Tom Hanks), your ‘paedophile’ alert is instantly triggered. Mercifully, this story’s quite the opposite. A hymn to acceptance and the power of listening, it’s a balm in a dark world.
We Brits may not know him but when it comes to pre-school fame, Mr Rogers was the US equivalent of CBeebies’ Mr Tumble for over three decades. A Presbyterian minister and pinnacle of community decency, this gentle, introverted puppeteer seems to good to be true.
So who is the real Mr Rogers? All you need to know is he’s Tom Hanks, who deserves the Oscar (he’s nominated) for his transfixingly still and wistful performance.
Another superbly tuned project by director Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), this miraculously swerves the schmaltz to create something quietly profound and spiritual. A beautiful day indeed.