Ogden’s Art House Cinema 502 is already bringing back one of its greatest hits, plus one that visited Salt Lake City earlier this year. ---
The return in engagement is Poetry, Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s story of an aging woman
dealing with the twin struggles of raising her grandson and experiencing early
dementia symptoms. Check out the full blog capsule review for this quietly
powerful drama here.
There’s a compelling story to be told about the true-life subject of The First Grader—and I suspect it was the version already told in a short documentary. Director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) expands it to feature length, telling the tale of an 84-year-old Kenyan named Maruge (Oliver Litondo) who decides to take advantage of the country’s new free schooling system to learn how to read for the first time; the dedicated teacher who champions his cause, Jane (Naomie Harris), learns her own lessons about the long shadow of the country’s history. Chadwick mixes in flashbacks to young Maruge (Lwanda Jawar) as a Mau Mau rebel, and scenes of physical and psychological torture he endured are certainly harrowing. But the narrative keeps drifting into a dozen different subplots—Jane and her husband being harassed; bureaucratic attempts to expel Maruge; a young boy struggling with his numbers—that feel like perfunctory padding. The filmmakers here don’t trust the characters to carry the story, and the result is something that feels mostly like a dry, earnest history lesson—one that the short documentary probably conveyed much more efficiently.
Also new this week but not yet reviewed: The Mill and the Cross, an adaptation of the book about Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel’s 1564 painting “The Way to Calvary.”