Sunday, May 15, 2022

Hard-Earned and Simple

I was fourteen once. It took me a year to get over it. Apparently, the movie-going public today has found a way to remain at that age well into their forties and Marvel Cinematic Universe has obliged with comic book juvenilia. Audiences can’t seem to get enough superheroes, mayhem and special effects to bedazzle their senses.

All this has left me longing for quiet, simple cinema. I flashed back to one such movie from about twelve years ago set in inhospitable, rugged Connemara, Ireland. Not a pub in sight.

A young woman (Lotte Verbeek) appears in flight from we know not, as I remember it. Her worldly goods are on her back including some sort of roll-up blue tent, her sanctuary. Just a few words are spoken for the first fifteen minutes and not many after that.

She comes upon a house set at the end of a peninsula, owned by a lugubrious Stephen Rea. He welcomes her company but neither offers a name or anything of their past as if they have none. We are transported to life reduced to its elements. Genesis reenacted, perhaps.

She is fiercely independent, rejecting his move at goodwill. Yet when she begins to trust he pulls back. Over time she accepts his invitation to sit at his table even as he becomes silent. Rea’s face is a biography of his wounded life, cratered but with a heart of kindness.

The craggy countryside is as stark and raw as their interior landscape. Yet it is sensually suggestive as the slow-paced camera closes in on her fingering sinuous, slithery kelp and pulling onions from his garden. Together they transform the austere patch of land into something nearly Edenic.

She cooks him soup. He offers her music. She dances a jig. The blue of her tent becomes a blue jar on the sill, his blue shirt, the blue light at dusk.

Their insistence on anonymity yields to a primordial intimacy. They are unable to resist forbidden knowledge in spite of themselves and the film’s ironic name, Nothing Personal.

As simple humanity emerges, he suffers a heart attack just as it opens. She watches over him and when he succumbs, she wraps his body in a sheet and embraces his nakedness; a most memorable movie image both erotic and poignant.

There is a redemption of life through hard-earned love, the way potatoes grow between ancient stones and bogs, through non-arable soil.

Marvel's big budget movies usually deliver bloated characters. Their out-sized urges tend toward good or evil of allegorical proportions with loud and tiresome lessons of morality. The villainy is monstrous and the righteousness a form of vigilantism which further undermines our institution. By contrast Nothing Personal finds an audience who cherish matters of the soul and the shared quiet of a cinema experience.

P.S. I don't believe this movie is available on streaming. However my friend Marcia just told me it can be ordered from Netflix by mail.




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