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My Letterboxd reviews of A Silent Voice, Life, The Discovery, The Believers, and A Decade Under the Influence

A Silent Voice:

Yoshitoki Ōima’s slice-of-life manga perhaps naturally loses some of its plot clarity and character development in the translation to the big screen, compressing an 18-month-long story into a two-hour movie and all that. But the spirit is intact, as a disconnected group of teenagers – one of them deaf – try to mend the wounds they inflicted on one another when they were younger and knew no better. Emotionally genuine, and beautifully animated. Very much recommended if you liked Toradora!

Life:

Life is what happens when you cross Alien with The Expanse and the results are barely a shadow of what makes either tick. Forget the mean-spirited climax; I was out as soon as Baby Cthulhu used a pointy stick without having possibly been able to learn how. Trust me, the logical lapses only grow from there.

The Discovery:

An interesting if not entirely successful experiment, this. Part near-future sci-fi, part relationship drama, part detective story, Charlie McDowell’s second film posits a world where a neuroscientist’s proof of an afterlife prompts a global suicide epidemic, but fails to grapple with the bigger questions that raises. Instead, it opts for a twist on Flatliners that keeps its philosophical probings within a very narrow spectrum, even though it’s trying to be so many different things at once, and gives its impressive cast for an indie film — Rooney Mara, Jason Segel, even Robert Redford — some unfortunately florid prose to recite.

The Believers:

This 1987 cult panic shocker must’ve felt old hat even in its own day, the lazy, other-ist vilification of Santeria notwithstanding. In the company of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist — both painfully obvious influences — and contemporary voodoo scares like The Serpent and the Rainbow, it’s diluted and weak; a TV movie of the week with notions. But Martin Sheen yells a lot, so swings and roundabouts.

A Decade Under the Influence:

Nothing new for anyone already schooled in the stories of ’70s Hollywood as told in exhaustive fashion by Peter Biskind in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, among countless other histories, tributes and tell-alls, both in print and on screen. Indeed, I’d start with any of those over this documentary, with its tinge of self-congratulation. It’s the film buff’s equivalent of empty calories, is what it is. Still, sometimes empty calories are exactly what you want.