Mahershala Ali’s performance in ‘Swan Song’ sets the tone

TOP CHOICE OF THE WEEK

swan song

*** When a performer plays identical characters in a film, it is often a distorted acting showcase: from Doppleganger (1964) until Dead ringtones (1988). But rarely, if ever, has it been done with the nuance and poise of Mahershala Ali in swan song. In this Apple TV+ sci-fi drama, the two-time Oscar winner plays Cameron Turner, a terminally ill husband and father who struggles with whether to clone himself (consciousness included) for the benefit of his family. In the icy, minimal stillness of Benjamin Cleary’s directorial debut, Ali’s performance sets the tone with every conflicting breath, establishing the exact variation between the two Camerons. The original suffers from controlling a process out of his control (nod to Glenn Close as the preeminent cloning scientist should we trust him), while the genetically ill version wants to rely on the memories of the wife of Cameron (Naomie Harris) and son (Dax Rey) whom they now both share. From a distance, Cleary struggles to balance whether we’re watching an almost hokey tech thriller or an almost teary piece of memory (an uncomfortable mix of Alex Garland Ex-Machina and Never let Me Go), and we don’t always know who to identify with from one shot to another. But the details of the genre don’t matter. It’s a film by Mahershala Ali, twice. R CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. AppleTV+.

ALSO PLAYING

A hero

**** Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi looks set to become a household name among moviegoers around the world following the release of this latest project. It has already nabbed two Oscars and recently won Best Director at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in November 2021, and A hero is now a top contender for the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category. It begins simply with the main character, Rahim, portrayed with quiet grace by renowned Iranian theater and film actor Amir Jadidi, breaking out of prison and into the Iranian cityscape. Over the course of two days we learn that Rahim was incarcerated because he couldn’t repay a debt and upon his release he tries to start over and even does a good deed. Of course, as the saying goes, such righteous actions never go unpunished. Farhadi never insults his audience with obvious exposition. The viewer must find out who Rahim is, the motivations of the various characters, and who the villains and heroes of the stories are. All of the film’s atmosphere and emotional vibrancy are delivered with naturalistic fidelity by the actors, and ambient street noise replaces an artificial score to underscore that tone. The story unfolds exactly as it is introduced by the main character. With quiet grace. PG-13. RAY GILL JR. Amazon Prime, Lounge.

Macbeth’s Tragedy

**** Both dignified and deranged, Denzel Washington’s Macbeth is just one of countless pleasures to be found in Macbeth’s Tragedy, director Joel Coen’s beautifully austere adaptation of Shakespeare’s chilling saga of power and madness. The hustle and bustle is the same – once again Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand) plot to assassinate the rightful king of Scotland – but with the help of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie) and decorator Stefan Dechant (The Call of the Wild), Coen brings a new burst of dark beauty to the Bard’s text, using shades of black and white and eerily sterile backdrops to deliver a masterclass in menacing minimalism. The performances are even better, with Washington playing Macbeth as a creepy, affable guy – “If there’s power to be had, why shouldn’t I have it?” he seems to wonder – and McDormand scorches the screen with steely terror. She understands that Lady Macbeth’s defining characteristic is her impatience with her husband’s pesky conscience, which makes her all the more haunting when she discovers her own conscience. She, Washington, and Coen understand the piece inside and out, which is why Macbeth’s Tragedy is more than a movie. It’s a real Macbeth. R BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cinema 21, Laurelhurst, Lounge, Studio One.

The Matrix Resurrections

*** When the fourth installment of The matrix early in the franchise, we join white rabbit ink hacker Bugs (Jessica Henwick) as she peers into the still stunning opening footage of the 1999 period blockbuster from entirely new angles just before reanimating inadvertently Morpheus by Laurence Fishburne in fake FBI drone / sensitive malware (Yahya Abudul- Mateen II). In the first feature to be made without her brother and lifelong collaborator, Lana Wachowski has a surprisingly funny touch and really shines during trademark bursts of balletic shoot-’em-ups seemingly taken from a zero-gravity fashion week. in the near future. Now that the franchise has granted our heroes unlimited lives (and the world has shown itself too eager to reuse anti-authoritarian slogans for crypto-fascist purposes), it’s hard not to notice that the film has away from ultra-chic super-violence without any semblance of consequence. In the weirdest way, though, Neo and Trinity’s de facto immortality makes their fall romance all the more meaningful. As silly as the narrative is, which demands Keanu Reeves, reborn as a famous game designer, spend every morning wistfully watching Carrie-Anne Moss’ latte order as the Bay Area’s supermother. , his unconditional desire echoes his eroticized devotion that defined the original. This should push the buttons for all aging cynics hoping that their first love might yet prove to be a savior. There is a spoon. Take the little blue pill. R JAY HORTON. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Cornelius, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Studio One, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza.

salt in my soul

*** If you plan to see salt in my soul in the rooms, bring Kleenex. The heartbreaking documentary follows the life of Mallory Smith, a young woman who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child. As a teenager, she contracted B.cepacia, a bacterium in his lungs that is often fatal to patients with cystic fibrosis. The film combines personal footage, diary excerpts and interviews with friends, relatives and doctors to bring Smith’s remarkable story to life. The film is decidedly lo-fi, with long underwater shots of the sun filtering through the ocean waves. It’s often disgusting, from the revelation that an experimental phage therapy that attacks bacteria could have saved her life, if only she had received it sooner, to home videos of Smith at age 4 undergoing the exercises. exhausting and painful dailies necessary for her to breathe. Despite chronic pain, she was a star athlete in high school and went on to produce a book of poetry while studying at Stanford. She kept a 2,500-page diary from the age of 15 until her death at age 25. The writing highlights in lyrical and often heartbreaking prose the pain of her medical journey and the wisdom and zeal for life she developed as a result of her experience with CF. I challenge anyone to finish salt in my soul with dry eyes. NR. GRACE CULHANE. On demand.

The tender bar

*** Ever since Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) flatly declared his little nephew hopeless in sports and instead directed him to a closet full of books, JR Moehringer (Daniel Ranieri) has been set on the path to writing. And when The tender bar about JR living a life worthy of his namesake 2005 memoir, the film is irresistibly charming. Abandoned by his radio DJ father, JR and his mother (Lily Rabe) move into the cramped extended family home of Long Island with oversized personalities like Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd) and Uncle Charlie. Directed by George Clooney, who has enjoyed a cold streak of directing since 2005, The tender bar wisely fits the avuncular spirit that a nearly 50-year-old Affleck inherits from top men like Clooney – quick with a line, a wink and (in this case) a free round at the family bar . While Tye Sheridan (as a college-aged JR, flirting quite well at Yale) is in no way to blame for the film’s shortcomings, his home stretch recklessly fixates on the fact that JR plans to write The tender bar and – even more bizarrely – the viability of the memory industry. This self-reflective turn is almost bewildering, assuming we care more about JR’s book than JR’s family. Fortunately, soul sucking is not fatal; this one is all heart. R CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Amazon Prime.

Parallel mothers

** Not long ago Pedro Almodóvar adores more than colors with intoxicating accents, single mothers and Penélope Cruz. The Three Factors are prominently featured in the Spanish author’s 22nd feature, which revolves around a soap opera plot treated with moving seriousness. Cruz’s seventh collaboration with Almodóvar sees her play Janis, a magazine photographer in her forties who unexpectedly welcomes a baby after meeting the archaeologist who helped locate her grandfather’s grave during the Spanish Civil War. Janis shares a delivery room with Ana (Milena Smit), a teenage mother much less sure of her present and her future. To keep things vague, their parental destinies intertwine in traumatic, erotic and emotionally confusing ways. Using deep close-ups, splashes of primary color, and a score of weeping strings, Almodóvar begins to experiment with how humanely a filmmaker can treat an absurdly gnarly story. Yet over time, he becomes too enamored with themes like hereditary and historical trauma, painting on Janis and Ana with brushstrokes that are too loose, too neat, and alienating the audience from the characters they had invested in. Respect to Cruz: She’s as gorgeous and self-possessed as ever. But in Almodovar’s illustrious canon, Parallel mothers is a minor. His heart breaks for mothers blocked by fate, men and nations, but surely he could do something more caring with the coins. R CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21, Netflix.