2016 Catch-up Triple Bill #4

Battering through a few more missed films from 2016 before a combination of tiredness and food-induced apathy strikes me down.

I found Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle, 2016) a rather hollow portrait of the genius businessman (or was he?) and I didn't much like it, despite the obvious talent involved. Eschewing the standard biopic format, it uses three key business launches (the Apple Mac, the failed NeXT computer and the iMac) to compare and contrast Jobs' success at business with his failure at relationships. As usual, Aaron Sorkin's snappy dialogue makes everyone sound much cooler and articulate than I suspect they actually were, but it's nowhere near as engaging or dramatic as his similar work on The Social Network. There's also a sense that what made Jobs tick is slightly retrofitted to fit the legend - even allowing for dramatic license, it never rang true for me. It's an upgrade from the previous Steve Jobs film (Jobs with Ashton Kutchner), but it still has major glitches.

Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar, 2016) is a tale told in flashback about a middle-aged woman living in Madrid who harbours great pain from her past. There's a distinct touch of Hitchcock in this typically colourful melodrama from Almodóvar, from the strangers meeting on a train, to a Mrs Danvers character, to a mysterious disapperance, to the Herrman-esque score. But this is warmer than Hitchcock; a perceptive exploration of (maternal) guilt, family relationships, love, grief and missed opportunities, anchored by two superb performances from Emma Suarez and the gorgeous Adriana Ugarte as the old and young Julieta respectively. However, for me it lacked the emotional wallop of Almodóvar's best work and I felt a little frustrated by the oblique ending. Still, it's proof, if more were needed, that Almodóvar remains the foremost male writer of strong female roles in contemporary cinema.

Strange Occurrences in Small Irish Village (Aoife Kelleher, 2016) is a documentary about the curious case of Knock, a small town in the West of Ireland where 15 villagers apparently witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1879, an event which has shaped the fortunes of the place ever since. For many Irish people, it is a place of devotion and pilgrimage, drawing over a million pilgrims a year to pray, confess and hope for miracle cures. At the same time, for many others it is a place of ridicule and amusement, an uneasy reminder of how much the Irish population is still in thrall to the Catholic Church. Thus it would be easy for the film to be cynical about the place, whilst some of the quirky details means the shadow of Fr. Ted is never far away. However, Kelleher's film is respectful, allowing a range of contributors their say and revealing some of the background workings of the place, which range from very savvy to borderline mad. Ultimately, judgement is left up to the viewer and whilst it's unlikely to change anyone's mind on the place one way or the other, it's an interesting, topical film about how the Church is attempting to adapt in these increasingly secular times.

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