Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan CranstonEdward NortonBill MurrayJeff GoldblumKunichi NomuraAkira TakayamaGreta GerwigFrances McDormand, Akira ItoScarlett JohanssonKoyu Rankin

IMDB Synopsis

Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.

*Minor spoilers*

Part of me was wary of wading into Wes’ Isle of Dogs and I’m not sure why. I knew it would be visually stunning but I think part of me was worried it would be all style and no substance. I was wrong thankfully and I’m so delighted about that.

I’ve come to understand that the world is split into two camps: Wes lovers and Wes haters with very few in between. I would consider myself the former although I didn’t rate Moonrise Kingdom that highly. I loved  The Grand Budapest Hotel though with its intricate detail and eye-popping visual aesthetic. Now I can say Isle of Dogs is definitely up there as one of my favourites.

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In a dystopian near-future Japan, dogs find themselves banished from the city when a  virus spreads through the canine population. New mayor Kobayashi (Nomura) signs a decree that outlaws all puppies to Trash Island – and he sacrifices Spots (Liev Schreiber), the dog of his ward and orphaned nephew Atari Kobayashi (Rankin) first to set an example.

Scientist Professor Watanabe (Ito) insists he is just a mutt’s hair away from discovering a cure but the mayor is adamant that the poor doggos will remain on the island regardless. There’s some folklore at the beginning of the film that explains the drama between dog and cat lovers which I’ll leave to you to discover for yourselves.

Turns out though that Atari isn’t cool with this arrangement so he steals a light aeroplane and crashes onto the island, determined to find faithful old Spots. On the way he meets a group of pups who facilitate an epic adventure across the island – and joins the great dog rebellion. Will he find Spots, deliver the dog flu cure and save the lives of all the forgotten dogs before it is too late – or…?

You know what to do.

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Isle of Dogs is so visually stimulating and is as subtly funny as Anderson films always are. The voice work is spot on and I’m happy to say that the film is not so whimsical as to set your teeth on edge. As with most of his films, the sugar-coated sheen often gives ways to darker themes and this is no different.

Highlights for me are Frances McDormand’s Interpreter, Gerwig’s American exchange student and Pro-Dog activist – and hands down Brian Cranston’s stray mutt Chief, who’ll break your heart and then stitch it back together again.

Get on it, even if you are a cat person – there’s something for everybody and honestly, this is cinematic magic.

My Rating

4.5/5.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird (2017)

Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse RonanLaurie MetcalfTracy LettsTimothée ChalametBeanie Feldstein

IMDB Synopsis

In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.

*Minor spoilers*

I like being in Greta Gerwig’s world. It looks like a (good) Instagram feed but feels real at the same time, you know? She can take a slice of life and make you care about the characters within it – and that’s a gift.

Lady Bird feels like a very personal film and one I’m sure most people can see a glimpse of themselves (or their relationship with a parent) in. Particularly, within the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother.

I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be Marion McPherson
What if this is the best version? Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan) is an artistic girl with plans to leave Sacramento and attend a college in NYC, whatever it takes. Unfortunately, and as everyone around her keeps reminding her, she isn’t likely to get the grades to get into any of those colleges. Secretly, she concocts a way to get funding for school anyway with the help of her father, who’s recently lost his job.

While she puts in the work to get out of her hometown, Lady Bird is also coming of age. Falling in love, stamping her V card and having her heart broken are all high on the agenda. She’s also juggling friendships and family life – and as a dramatic teenager all of this is set to the beat of her own drum. And the lashing of her razor sharp tongue.

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Lady Bird centres around the relationship between Christine and her mother, Marion (Metcalfe) and boy, is it relateable. While I’m lucky to have a good relationship with my mother, I can definitely highlight certain scenes that could have been lifted from our relationship growing up. It’s hard to watch at times because as far as my own experience is concerned, there is nobody who can get under your skin like your mother can. (Sorry ma, but you know it’s true!).

While Marion wants the best for Lady Bird, sometimes her delivery seems cold or mean (certainly to her daughter) and there are constant barriers building up between them. But it’s so, so beautiful with some of the best dialogue and one-liners I’ve heard in a long time. (There’s one uttered by Timothée Chalamet’s Kyle Scheible that made me scream, it’s so damn accurate).

All the performances are great but nominees Ronan and Metcalf are so deserving of all the praise they’ve been getting. I believe them as mother and daughter so much. There’s also brilliant support from Lady Bird’s best friend Julie (Feldstein), Chalamet and Odeya Rush who plays Frenemy Jenna Walton.

My Rating

4.5/5.

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