It’s always a treat to watch films that are far from the Hollywood norm of formula films where the protagonist is: (1) faced with a problem, (2) sets out to solve it, (3) along the way falls in love with a girl who helps him with the problem, (4) in the case of a comedy–lies to the girl, causing a relationship crisis, (5) in the end, solves both the problem and the girl, and they all live happily ever after. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this formula in various incarnations, but I’d be willing to bet that it covers at least 50% of the movies I’ve seen.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of viewing two DVDs that do not fit “the formula.” The first is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I’m guessing most people have seen by now. It is a mainstream film, but it is well-acted and has a quirky enough story to keep the viewer’s attention on the storyline. This is one strange movie—anything that focuses on the innerworkings of the human mind would have to be—but it comes to an end that fits well with the rest of the storyline. My rating: 7 out of 10.
A much deeper offbeat film is Andrei Zvyagintsev’s The Return. This Russian film about two brothers whose father mysteriously returns home after 12 years is one of the better-acted films I’ve seen in a long time. The cinematography is also stunning, but it’s the screen presence of the father and the youngest son that really makes this film. The Russian portrayal of fathers in literature and film has always been intriguing to me, and I can’t seem to put a finger on what is unique about it (that’s something to ponder for a while…). The Return is a thinking movie, and it’s worth watching even if you don’t have it all figured out by film’s end. My rating: 8 out of 10.