Movie reviews: Going in Style, Raw, A Quiet Passion

Here are the top three films you don’t want to miss this week, writes Declan Burke.

Movie reviews: Going in Style, Raw, A Quiet Passion

Going in Style 3/5

Raw 4/5

A Quiet Passion 4/5

When his pension is liquidated and the bank threatens to take his home, Joe (Michael Caine) decides that, rather than go out with a whimper, he’s Going in Style (12A).

Rallying his friends Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Al (Alan Arkin) to the cause, Joe decides to rob a bank — but how do three law-abiding retirees go about planning a heist?

Adapted by Theodore Melfi from the 1979 movie of the same name, and directed by Zach Braff, Going in Style opens with a neat set-piece in which Joe gets caught up in a bank robbery and finds himself treated with courtesy by one of the gang, who informs him that a culture should take care of its aged.

The early stages fizz by, with Caine, Freeman and Arkin revelling in their roles as cantankerous old coots, with Braff investing proceedings with a ramshackle charm.

The story is at its most buoyant during those scenes when Freeman, Arkin and Caine share the screen, their banter underpinned by genuine affection and unswerving loyalty.

It’s a fine ensemble piece, although Caine just about claims the laurels with yet another affecting variation on the quavering intensity that has become his trademark over the last decade or so.

The story loses some of its pizzazz in the latter stages, as Braff micro-manages the final scenes to tie up a few loose ends, but for the most part Going in Style is an offbeat take on the conventional heist movie.

Raw (18s) opens with Justine (Garance Marillier), a vegetarian, following in the footsteps of her estranged sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) in attending university to pursue veterinary studies.

Forced by Alexia, now a second-year student, to eat a chunk of raw meat during a rites-of-passage hazing, Justine quickly finds herself experiencing bizarre symptoms, among them a ravenous hunger for bloody meat which quickly becomes a craving for human flesh.

Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw evolves into an unusual vampire movie, as Alexia coaches her younger sister in the dark art of sating her morbid appetite.

It’s a disconcertingly clever script: torn between her compulsion and the self-loathing it causes, Julia is a reluctant predator who might easily be suffering from an eating disorder, or struggling to cope with addiction.

Ducournau doesn’t sugar the pill: Justine and Alexia are abrasive characters, not easy to like or sympathise with, and the story plunges them into increasingly grotesque and bizarre scenarios.

Despite its realism when it comes to blood and gore, the movie suffers from a number of abrupt narrative segues that aren’t entirely logical — although if it was Ducournau’s intention to give the film a nightmarish feel by creating a disjointedly febrile tale, she succeeds handsomely.

Rumpf and Marillier are in compelling form as bickering siblings who discover that blood is thicker than water.

A Quiet Passion (12A) opens with young Emily Dickenson defying her religious schoolmistress in announcing the independent nature of her soul, a theme more fully explored by writer-director Terence Davies when Emily (Cynthia Nixon) grows up and begins to write her unique poetry.

A single woman in a time of strict patriarchy and even stricter religious conformity, Emily had many hurdles to overcome as she pursued her quiet passion. Women, according to one of her first publishers, were incapable of great literature.

It’s a finely wrought character study, one which Davies expands to incorporate not only Emily’s sister Vinnie (Jennifer Ehle) and the immediate Dickenson family, but also Emily’s closest confidante, the irreverent Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey) who entertains all and sundry with her Wildean aphorisms.

There’s a theatrical feel to the storytelling, with an emphasis on extended scenes of static characters delivering carefully crafted dialogue, with Davies further enhancing the claustrophobic sense of Emily’s increasing isolation by cramming his characters into tiny, half-lit spaces, as if mimicking the work of the Dutch masters.

Nixon, of course, steals the show with a performance that is as subtle as it is steely: genteel and almost saintly as the story begins, Emily’s frustration at her lack of recognition gradually causes her beatific smile to harden into something akin to a rictus, so that it comes as no surprise when, in later years, she begins to suffer physical manifestations of what must have been a considerable mental torture.

Equal parts celebration and tragedy, A Quiet Passion is a gorgeously filmed tribute to one of literature’s more idiosyncratic geniuses.

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