Streaming Surprises, Volume 18

Our “Streaming Surprises” series calls attention to good movies new and old that our board members are watching. Titles are available from various streaming services.

“A Fantastic Woman” (2017)
Winner of the 2018 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, this Chilean drama from filmmaker Sebastián Lelio stars Daniela Vega as Marina, a transgender woman, waitress, and cabaret singer who lives with her lover, Orlando. Marina rushes Orlando to the hospital when he suffers an aneurysm in the middle of the night. At the hospital, Marina is treated as less than a person: Doctors and security officers insist on using masculine pronouns when referring to her. A detective looking into the circumstances of Orlando’s death then pursues Marina until the investigation borders on harassment. Orlando’s ex-wife refuses to permit Marina to attend the funeral “to protect Orlando’s daughter from humiliation.” Marina retains her composure in the face of these indignities, handling them with equanimity and beauty. Critic A.O. Scott of The New York Times says, “She has a charisma that defies pity and a sense of poise that can be intimidating and heartbreaking.”
Submitted by Linda Knight. Available on Amazon.

“Landline” (2017)
Nineties babies rejoice! “Landline” is a nostalgia-packed comedy set in Manhattan, New York City, circa 1995. Jenny Slate stars as quirky cool-girl Dana, who’s struggling with the reality of “adulting,” which is underlined by her recent engagement to long-term boyfriend Ben, played by the lovable Jay Duplass. In an effort to escape the pressure, she crashes at her family home with her angsty teenage sister and revels in the illusion of adolescent freedom. Although “Landline” tackle weighty themes including adultery, isolation, and drug experimentation, the film handles them with rebellious aloofness similar to the YOLO ideology that emerged at the cusp of the new millennium. Filmmaker Gillian Robespierre – who also directed Slate in 2014’s pregnancy comedy “Obvious Child” – reimagines the classic bildungsroman narrative into a sort of re-coming-of-age story that twenty-somethings can appreciate, as the film bridges the gap between the comfort of the past and the uncertainty of the future.
Submitted by Rachael Stubbert. Available on Amazon Prime.

“Unsane” (2018)
Claire Foy is synonymous with her role as Queen Elizabeth in the critically acclaimed show “The Crown,” yet in this psychological thriller, Foy is barely recognizable. Like 2015’s “Tangerine,” “Unsane” is shot entirely on an iPhone. Most viewers will not be distracted by the filming and some may take delight in analyzing how this easily maneuvered camera makes the film more interesting. Foy’s character, Sawyer Valentini, has been traumatized by a stalker, forcing her to move from Boston to Pennsylvania. After settling in, she is once again tormented by her stalker, who appears to have followed her. She seeks counseling and inadvertently signs papers that commit her to a mental health facility for a 24-hour evaluation; this quickly spirals into seven nightmarish days. Sawyer believes her stalker has followed her to the facility and it is then we find ourselves struggling to understand her state of mind. Is she the prey of a demented individual, or is she mentally unstable? While at times the plot is mired in logic that is inconsistent, the film still works as a thriller because it allows those watching to reach their own conclusion as to Sawyer’s mental state. Foy’s brilliant performance is reason enough to see this film. For those who loved her portrayal of the intelligent and dignified Queen Elizabeth, it is thrilling to see her versatility as an actress, something we are likely to see again when her star turn as Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” this fall.
Submitted by Cindy Peters Duzi. Available on Amazon Prime.