Movie reviews: Wonder Woman, My Life as a Courgette, After the Storm

Wonder Woman

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

Wonder Woman 4/5

My Life as a Courgette 4/5

After the Storm 4/5

 

The semi-divine daughter of Zeus, Diana (Gal Gadot), aka Wonder Woman (12A), is raised an Amazonian warrior princess on an island paradise. 

When British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands into the sea nearby, with half the German navy in hot pursuit, Diana decides that the God of War, Ares, is abroad and wreaking his mischief again.

Determined to finally defeat Ares and bring peace to humanity, Diana leaves behind the world of Greek mythology and embarks on a quest to end all wars … Written by Allan Heinberg and directed with panache by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman is by some distance the most enjoyable superhero movie in years. 

The early sequences on the idyllic Amazonian island are beautifully sketched in (even if the CGI is a bit wobbly at times), while there’s plenty of deadpan humour to be mined from Diana’s first experiences of the modern world, not least of which is her outrage at the very notion that men, and only men, call the shots. 

Gal Gadot makes for a terrific superheroine, as tough as she is beautiful, and it’s hugely refreshing to watch a woman dominate the rock-’em, sock-’em slugfests that tend to punctuate the superhero flick.

Pine offers a charmingly deferential presence in the supporting role, with Robin Wright, David Thewlis, and Danny Huston all pulling their weight.

Those keen on historical accuracy, and particularly in terms of trench warfare in WWI, may want to avert their eyes on a regular basis, but while the storyline of Wonder Woman is as wholly improbable as caped crusader movies tend to be, it’s also an exhilarating reminder of the days when superhero movies used to be fresh and fun.

My Life as a Courgette (12A) is an animated French film centring on nine-year-old Courgette (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter), who is sent to an orphanage after accidentally killing his alcoholic, neglectful mother. 

There he encounters other social outcasts, including Simon (Paulin Jaccoud), a bully who torments his fellow inmates despite the best efforts of the kindly care assistant, Rosy (Véronique Montel).

Plunged into despair, Courgette contemplates a life of rejection and loneliness, until a new girl, Camille (Sixtine Murat), arrives to throw the orphanage into turmoil … 

Adapted from Gilles Parris’ novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette, and directed by Claude Barras, My Life as a Courgette is an unusual blend of delightful stop-motion animation and hard-hitting social commentary, particularly in the way the abandoned children learn to cope on their own terms with the pain of physical or sexual abuse, with being the child of a deported refugee, or the neglected child of drug addicts.

A misstep in either direction could have rendered this a sickly-sweet fairytale or heavy-handed polemic, but Barras maintains a finely judged balance throughout, allowing the children to speak for themselves as they band together to face the world with a united front. 

Shot through with moments of mordant comedy, as Courgette & Co develop the child’s equivalent of gallows humour, the film is gently paced and beautifully detailed, a tale that is likely too complex for young children, but offers adults a rare and unsentimental opportunity to see the world through a child’s eyes.

Set in contemporary Japan, After the Storm (PG) centres on Ryôta (Hiroshi Abe), formerly an award-winning author but now a man with a promising future far behind him. 

Divorced from Kyoko (Yôko Maki), and struggling to pay the child support for his son Shingo (Taiyô Yoshizawa), Ryôta is working as a private detective as he tries to make ends meet. 

Might conning his aging mother (Kirin Kiki) out of her savings provide the impetus Ryôta needs to kick-start his life again?

The title of Hirokazu Koreeda’s compelling drama refers to the typhoon, which is about to rip through the characters’ lives, although its metaphorical equivalent is never far from the surface despite the apparently mundane details: Ryôta, still mourning the father he never loved, blackmails clients to earn some extra money, puts his faith in lottery tickets, struggles to buy his son a baseball glove, and bickers gently with his disillusioned mother. 

Hiroshi Abe is superb in the lead, particularly as Ryôta is as disingenuously flaky a character as his father was before him, still living on faded glories as he whines his way through life.

Nevertheless, it’s Ryôta’s instinct to be a good father that proves his redeeming feature, and it would take a heart of stone not to sympathise with his plight. 

Yôko Maki and Kirin Kiki are equally impressive, however, the former a woman who refuses to allow her own life to be destroyed by Ryôta’s endless litany of broken promises, the latter an hilariously free-spirited woman who, having survived a self-destructive husband, refuses to be fooled by her shiftless son.


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