Raindance 2017 reviews: You’re Killing Me Susana, In Another Life
Ivan Radford | On 26, Sep 2017Reading time: 4 mins
The 2017 Raindance Film Festival takes place in London from Wednesday 20th September to Sunday 1st October, showcasing web series, VR shorts and indie films from around the world. We take a look at some of the movies screening, from those in search of distribution to those heading soon to VOD.
In Another Life
Over the last two years, cinema has risen to tackle the refugee crisis with fierce passion and fascinating diversity. From Jonas Cuaron’s stripped-down survival thriller Desierto to Gianfranco Rosi’s powerful documentary Fire at Sea. Now, Jason Wingard’s combining the two extremes with his extremely effective, and affecting, directorial debut, In Another Life.
Somewhere between documentary and drama, the film manages to convey the tragic realism of life in the Calais refugee camp while still stepping up the tension in the tale of one’s man struggle to stay alive – and stay himself.
That man is Adnan, a teacher who is now learning harsh lessons first-hand, as his morality is stripped from him by the desperate circumstances he faces, having fled his country of Syria. Wanting to get to his wife, he gets caught up in the smugglers and dodgy dealers of The Jungle, while still having to face the judgement of a world that has criminalised these people as less than human. A scene in which a group of refugees are served in a cafe, only to be given plastic mugs because they’re not worth real porcelain, rings with bitter truth – emphasised by the stark monochrome cinematography throughout, as the camera moves from handheld close-ups to detached overhead shots of vans, trucks and cars carrying people from all backgrounds unseen.
In an age of xenophobia and discrimination, this is a stirring reminder of the humanity behind the headlines in the right-wing press, and a distinct announcement of a new filmmaking talent unafraid to go to new places to discuss major issues.
Screenings: 26th September, 8.30pm / 28th September 3.30pm
You’re Killing Me Susana
Gael Garcia Bernal is one of his generation’s great actors. Charming, funny, serious, brooding, unpredictable and infectious, he’s the kind of actor that filmmakers dream of building a story around. You’re Killing Me Susana is one such a film. The only problem? It’s so enamoured with the star at the centre that it never quite gets into orbit.
Bernal plays Eligio, a soap opera actor who thinks he’s better than a soap opera actor. A womanising husband, he nonetheless gets annoyed when she plays away from home – specifically, by leaving the country and joining a scholarship in America. And so he does what you’d expect from someone so self-centred: he takes it upon himself to go after her and win her back.
It’s a quest that’s half romantic and almost entirely creepy, as his double-standards become increasingly obvious in his demanding, pleading cries for her return. She, meanwhile, is busy focusing on writing and moving on with another man. Or, at least, that’s what we’re told: the film is so focused on the “me” in its title, that it doesn’t spend enough time with “Susana”, leaving her feeling like a two-dimensional character in what is essentially a two-hander.
Cassandra Ciangherotti delivers a strong performance, able to convincingly flip-flop between two mindsets, half charmed by her husband’s persistence and half frustrated by it. But while their scenes together click with a believable chemistry, without her tale to back up the story, our interest in their relationship can only go so far: by the time we’ve cycled through their marital dilemmas the third time, it begins to lose its interest. The themes of losing oneself, of an immigrant coming to America (Eligio taunting the professors at Susana’s college is a delight, as is an intimate stop-and-search at the airport) are never quite fleshed out enough either, leaving things unfortunately underdeveloped.
Thankfully, Bernal is present throughout to elevate things with real heart and wit: he skips through the campus to avoid security and flirts with gun trainers without shame, to the point where you really do enjoy spending time in his company. If only Roberto Sneider’s script could quite do his talent justice.
Screenings: 23rd September, 5.45pm / 29th September 3.30pm