Kansas International Film Festival – Day 3

So Sunday came around and it was day three of the festival.  I didn’t plan on catching some of the early afternoon shows as they didn’t look terribly appealing and Dexter needed a run.  There were two movies that I was excited to see that were getting a ton of buzz from their showings at Sundance and SXSW.  One is movie about two distant lovers trying to make it all work when the stack is against them.  The other film is, well a fringe film that is a road trip, self discovery, love story and darkly funny film that got a 4-star rating from the audience in attendance at the festival.

The nice thing is that these two movie will be getting some more theatrical releases, so if you enjoy the reviews below, you will have an opportunity to check them out.

Like Crazy:

One of the most gorgeous and beautifully put together trailers this year, it captures the quiet beauty of two young lovers and their longing for one another through different phases of their lives.  The trailer is elegantly captured with Ingrid Michaelson’s rendition of Can’t Help Falling In Love.  It says everything about the movie one perfect song and the movie seemed as graceful as the trailer makes it out to be.

The movie stars Anton Yelchin as Jacob and Felicity Jones as Anna, two young college students who fall in love with one another after Anna leaves a quirky note on Jacob’s car and two have several dates.  The story follows their time together in LA and how each get addicted to each others affection and love they share.  Anna’s visa is set to expire as her time studying America is almost up, they share a moment under the covers to not think about what is to come, but rather live in each others moment.  Jacob meets her parents, the two slip away on a get away trip and Jacob gifts her chair (which plays a role in the relationship).  It’s all well and good until Anna skips out on the visa and she isn’t allowed to come back to America, thus causing a rift and separation between the two lovers.  The two must now contend with miles between them and their changing lives.

It is a familiar romance story, one that you might have seen in numerous movies or even read about in a romance novel.  But the pieces of this story are so well put together that it seems refreshing and honest, all the while tugging at your heart strings.  Even if you aren’t in a long distance relationship or have someone close to you, it hits you close as you can relate in some fashion to the young love that the two feel for one another.  Director Drake Doremus has crafted a touching love story that captures the moment of new love and wonderful feelings that accompany the two lovers.  From the get go, the story hits all the right notes with a whimsical meeting of the two leads and we watch through finely tuned montages  of their relationship in fast motion.  The montages are playful and tempo-ed with touching piano pieces, we follow along closely and share in their special moments.  But as the characters lives change and grow, so does the imagery.  It doesn’t keep the fairy tale like imagery in check for long until things become complicated and the mood changes.

What got me most was the acting.  This is the most honest portrayal of love and relationships that two actors could hope to exude on screen.  Anton Yelchin was perfect as Jacob, the confused young man who holds on to the memories of his time with Anna and how he yearns for her.  What helped elevate this is that Anton is a young actor and he has this natural vulnerability that shows in every scene where the two are not together.  Felicity Jones is perky and energetic as Anna, but while her character is a love struck optimist, she is confused and clings to the past of what they had, gripping to the things that made them love one another.  She brings this amazing energy to her role and paired with Anton, the two have solid chemistry.

I am practically fawning over this movie and rightly so.  While romance movies use cheap emotion ploys or difficult situations to produce some connection or empathy with their character, Like Crazy actually works for every emotional beat of the movie.  I think why this works is that the movie portrays a young love that we have all experienced at some point in our lives and couple that with the difficulty of having it suddenly ending because of hard circumstances, you long for the two to be together no matter what the costs.  Regardless of the characters actions in the movie, there is a part of you that roots for them in the end, even with the ambiguous ending.

It’s a touching movie that reads like a love note written between distant lovers.  We watch them start and stop the relationship again and again, but each time we hope for the best.  The two leads are amazing and embody the best in all of us, even with their decisions and faults that they make.  We overlook that and hope that in the end it works.  If the trailer moved you and lit a spark in you, go see this movie.

Rating: 4.5/5

Natural Selection:

So I don’t have a trailer to show everyone, which is weird considering this movie is one of the festival darlings from SXSW, getting every possible award there.  With no trailer, how can a movie like this get more coverage?  Well with people like myself who go out and see it when available and spread the word.  Natural Selection sounded great from the get go and with a relatively unknown cast, minus Rachel Harris who plays the lead female role Linda, the movie had indie darling written all over it.  This was the last show for the evening for me and the theater was packed and the producer was in attendance that evening, so the excitement for the movie was high.

Linda White, a barren Christian housewife, leads a sheltered existence in suburban Texas. Her world is turned upside-down when she discovers that her dying husband, Abe, has a 23-year old illegitimate son named Raymond living in Florida. Somewhere on the edge of guilt and loneliness, Linda grants Abe’s final wish and sets off on a quixotic journey to find Raymond and bring him back before her husband passes away. Along the way, Linda’s wonderfully bizarre relationship with Raymond will teach her more about herself than she ever imagined possible and force her to come to terms with her troubled past. – Official Synopsis

This is one of the best character movies to be shown at the festival with Rachel Harris nailing her part perfectly as the misguided housewife who really doesn’t have her life figured out.  She doesn’t know what she wants and doesn’t even truly know the man she calls her husband.  She is sheltered and too trusting with people, but her journey to find her husbands illegitimate son leads her to a new path in life.  She begins to flesh out more as a character and begins to develop as a person.  She figures things out as the trip comes to a close and her close friendship with the son Raymond allows her to experience an openness that she doesn’t have with her husband.  She is funny and joyful, too trusting at times, but ultimately she comes to a realization about her life at the close of the movie.

Matt O’Leary as Raymond is convincing as the reject, slum society, illegitimate son of Linda and Abe.  We see him escaping from prison in the opening shot of the movie, indicating his fringe lifestyle and solidifies his rejected place in society, both as a son who doesn’t have a father and his place in life that he seems comfortable in.  At first his meeting with Linda shows his sleazy side, looking to take advantage of his current predicament, but much like Linda’s growth during the tumultuous trip to Texas, he begins to develop along with her.

The odd-couple trip is enjoyable, with Linda being naive about Raymond’s intentions to escape the law and use her money to fund his getaway.  But through the adversity of both their pasts, they come to grow on one another, eventually leading each down a path they didn’t know was there.  It might be a bit difficult to accept that the sexless Christian woman would learn to lie, steal and succumb to the sins of life so quickly on her journey, but the two people are thrown together in some un-ordinary circumstances.

This was a rather refreshing movie, something different that mixes the road trip aspect with dark humor and sympathetic characters.  The movie is rather funny with some interesting throw away jokes and blink or you’ll miss it visual jokes (the sperm bank video selection is hilarious).  One of things that was explained to us by the Producer Paul Jensen and that is the title of the film.  When put into context, Natural Selection isn’t about the strongest and desirable people of society, but those that society just forgets about.  Linda is incapable of having children, thus her Christian husband doesn’t want to have sex with her unless she can give birth to children.  Raymond is just a fuck up, part of the penal system and discarded by society.  Both characters are essentially destined to find one another in that they are the dregs of society.  They have no real place other than being on the outside of life.  The title also relates to the growth that both have as the movie nears the credits.

Rating: 4.5/5

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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