First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
Angelina Jolie directs the memoir of Loung Ung, who also wrote the screenplay, a Cambodian woman who, as a child, survived the genocide brought upon her country by the Khmer Rouge in the mid ’70s, after the Vietnam War. The result is a triumph for Jolie and Ung, who succeed in telling the story through Ung’s eyes as a child. Young Sareum Srey Moch is a movie miracle as Ung, a happy child the day the Khmer Rouge arrive in her town, marking her dad for death and causing her family to flee into the jungle. Jolie keeps the vantage point of the movie through the eyes of this child, ingeniously filming the landscape around her in a way a child would see it: as something beautiful being invaded by monsters. Moch is required to deliver every emotion in the role, and she delivers them in a way that would seem impossible for a child actress. The movie is terrifying, and it should be. It stands alongside 1984’s The Killing Fields as a fierce, unyielding depiction of this terrible time in human history. Jolie filmed the movie in the Cambodian language, and it is actually Cambodia’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It’s definitely a contender. (Available for streaming on Netflix during a limited theatrical run.)
4 MotherWriter-director Darren Aronofsky is a nut, and his latest film, Mother!, is one helluva nutty movie. Jennifer Lawrence is currently dating Aronofsky, a fact that infiltrates the mood of Mother! because the film takes unabashedly nasty aim at relationships—among its many targets. Those targets also include the Bible, narcissism, celebrity, art, family, smoking and, oh, yeah, motherhood. By the time it’s over, you might not know exactly what went down, but you know that it landed on the side of cynicism—highly stylized, lunatic, entertaining cynicism. Lawrence plays Mother, an apparently kindhearted partner to Him (Javier Bardem). They live in an old-style country house out in the middle of nowhere. Him is a writer, going through some major writer’s block and occasionally speaking of having lost everything in the past to a fire. He has some sort of crystalized object on a stand that he claims empowered him to move on after the fire. It’s in a room nobody is allowed to enter alone. They live a quiet life in their little Eden, Mother preparing meals while Him tortures himself, unable to produce a single word for his next great work. Then, there’s a knock at the door. It’s Man (Ed Harris), soon to be followed by Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), a strange couple who wind up houseguests thanks to Him’s hospitality, and much to the chagrin of Mother. Man and Woman invade Mother’s space, with Man huffing cigarettes and frequently vomiting from illness while Woman swills alcohol and asks Mother extremely personal questions. Later, after a rage-inspired sex session, Mother becomes pregnant, and Him is suddenly fertile with ideas. He writes his next big thing, and their home is besieged by agents, fans, religious zealots, paparazzi, former SNL cast members, policemen, soldiers, terrorists and fire. If there’s a takeaway from Mother!, it’s that Aronofsky doesn’t have the most pleasant attitudes toward celebrity and Sunday school. Lawrence delivers her rawest, sometimes angriest performance to date in a movie that is most definitely designed to mess you up.