The Help (12 – Dir: Tate Taylor – Stars: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain)
What makes The Help so moving and poignant is its unusual emotional terrain.
In segregation era Mississippi black women act as maids in wealthy white households, but they also act as proxy mothers. Absent for long hours from their own children, they form strong bonds with the babies and children of white parents.
Then they watch as inevitably, under their parents’ unrelenting influence those same children turn into bigots as they grow up.
Skeeter Phelan (Stone) is a white southern society girl who witnesses one such betrayal by her own mother, and determines to record the maids’ stories. Her book, The Help, is published anonymously, a small step in the growing civil rights movement.
It’s powerfully acted with Davis running Meryl Streep close for the Oscar, and Howard especially good as the appalling Hilly, leader of a group of white matriarchs so uniquely awful they must surely be caricature.
Julia’s Eyes (15 – Dir: Guillermo Del Toro – Stars: Belen Rueda)
Julia (Rueda) is losing her eyesight. Her sister is found hanged, committing suicide after suffering a similar loss. But Julia believes there is a more sinister, hidden explanation for their peril.
The Pan’s Labyrinth director has created a brilliant thriller with unique cinematic features. The paranoia of fear is captured in a maze of threats, half-light, contrasting flashlight and sullen darkness, miserable, barely functioning characters, and unpredictable violence.
A touch overlong, but well worth the wait.
My Week with Marilyn (15 – Dir: Simon Curtis – Stars – Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne)
Marilyn Monroe (Williams) is at Pinewood Studios making The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, but filming has stalled.
Stage giant Olivier doesn’t like Monroe’s method acting, and she’s a wreck from drink, drugs and a failing marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.
Then third assistant director Colin Clark (Redmayne), according to his own version of events, is favoured by the unstable actress and provides the emotional prop to get her through.
Branagh’s the best thing in the movie, having fun hamming up Olivier.