Hilmir Snӕr Guᵭnason and Noomi Rapace in Lamb
The documentary profile of Dr. Anthony Fauci by directors John Hoffman and Janet Tobias isn’t exactly flat-out hagiography of the lightning-rod epidemiologist, but also delivers only sporadically what he’s really like as a human being. There’s a bit of deep biography with references to his Brooklyn childhood and a cute anecdote about how he met his wife, Dr. Christine Grady, but the structure here focuses largely on the two public-health crises that have defined Fauci’s career—AIDS, and COVID-19 . Regarding the former, there’s a tremendous amount of archival footage and intriguing history about that era, attempting to re-frame the way Fauci became a villain for AIDS-advocacy groups like ACTUP and its firebrand spokesman, writer Larry Kramer. On that level, it’s tremendously effective, allowing Fauci to acknowledge his mistakes and show how he attempted to build bridges. The contemporary stuff proves a lot thinner, perhaps due to lack of access during the still-raging pandemic months of 2020, offering a bit of Fauci dishing on his interactions with Trump (prefaced by a hearty “yikes”) yet not much insight into his day-to-day activities as public spokesperson or dealing with threats. After more than 40 years in government service, and several of those spent with a target on his back, perhaps it’s too much to ask that he really open up on camera. Available Oct. 6 via Disney+.
I’m Your Man **1/2
It feels like there’s a tug of war going on in co-writer/director Maria Shrader’s adaptation of an Emma Braslavsky short story, between lighthearted-albeit-quirky romantic comedy and a headier meditation on the nature of love. Maren Eggert plays Dr. Alma Felser, a solitary anthropology researcher who agrees to participate in a pilot program to test robotic possible-life-partners like Tom (Dan Stevens), programmed based on Alma’s data to be her ideal mate. You might guess that complications ensue based on what it actually feels like to be paired with an algorithmically perfect partner, and Shrader finds a few low-key farcical situations to explore that notion. But while both of the leads are solid—Stevens particularly so as his understanding of loving behavior evolves from simplistic romantic gestures—ultimately I’m Your Man
seems terribly confused as to what Alma comes to learn about what she wants. That’s not inherently a problem, and indeed fodder for a tale willing to be thorny rather than pat regarding conflicted human desires. It just too rarely pulls together in a way that makes it clear there are any interesting answers here to the questions it’s raising. The result is a dash of A.I.
, a smidgen of Her
and a general sense that the ethics of creating things to fill emotional holes in our lives are messy—too
general a sense to inspire anything more than a nod of appreciation at the attempt. Available Oct. 8 in theaters and via VOD.
Myths and fables have always been stories about our own human experience, and they work best in film when you have something compelling to experience before you get to the moral of the story. On a remote Icelandic farm, Ingvar (Hilmir Snӕr Guᵭnason) and María (Noomi Rapace) live quietly and in solitude tending their sheep—until the birth of one particular lamb clearly shakes the foundation of their world. The details are best left a bit sketchy, though it’s clear from the outset—with María’s wistful references to going back in time, their conspicuous childlessness and the emergence of an unused crib from their storage shed—that the couple is working through some grief. Co-writer/director Valdimar Jóhannsson emphasizes the way the landscape almost engulfs our protagonists, leaning into remarkable images of people alone in dense fog, with long dialogue-free stretches further emphasizing emotional as well as physical distances. Then Ingvar’s black sheep brother Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) shows up, complicating the dynamic while hinting at a more complicated back-story that doesn’t ever seem connected to the primary plot. The fantastical elements do, however, ultimately lead in some poetically just directions, leaving an odd but satisfyingly stark narrative about loving what you have more than what you’ve lost. Available Oct. 8 in theaters.
No Time to Die ***
See feature review
. Available Oct. 8 in theaters.