Although drier than it should be, “The World to Come” is a moving, suspenseful drama about the plight of two rural women caught in unhappy marriages. The friendship they form, which turns into love, is a thrill to witness when the film is at its brightest.
Directed by Mona Fastvold (“The Sleepwalker”) based on a script by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard and based on Shepard’s short story of the same name, the film (streaming on demand from Friday) is reminiscent of Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on” Fire “, Francis Lee’s “Ammonit” and Sebastian Lelio’s “Disobedience” with his female love story and observations on the plight of women in the presented environment. Fastvold’s film takes place in New York State.
Low-key, well-read Abigail (Katherine Waterston) lives on a farm with her decent but aloof husband Dyer (Casey Affleck). The two have not had a romantic relationship since the death of their young daughter months ago. Dyer offers her another child, but Abigail longs for an atlas in isolation. She sees self-education as essential to cope with her misfortune.
As a supplement to Dyer’s methodical farm book, which only contains facts and figures, Abigail keeps a diary in which she describes her perceptions and feelings in detail.
“The water on the potatoes froze as soon as they were washed,” is a winter entry. “We start the new year with little pride and less hope.” Such a text, read by Abigail, serves as a narrative.
Desolation turns to joy when new neighbor Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) enters Abigail’s world. Tallie, who, like Abigail, has married in a life that gives women little opportunity for joy, has red hair and an exciting abandon, and she and the intelligent, learned Abigail fascinate one another.
The two become close friends and soon find each other in love.
They are so excited about what is happening to them that they barely acknowledge the dangerousness of the situation. Interestingly, filmmakers do not express concern about homophobia in society, but about jealousy and obsession in husbands. The biggest threat in this regard is Tallie’s controlling husband, Finney (Christopher Abbott).
Finney constantly rebukes Tallie for failing to do her “wifey duties”.
The drama gets darker as it progresses.
Compared to Sciamma’s film, which oozes emotion, Fastvold’s is a dry affair hampered by romantic montages and especially Abigail’s Terrence Malick-style voiceover. The frequent narration disrupts the interactions of the able actors rather than enhancing them.
But there is a lot of vitality and a satisfying romance emerges.
Waterston is a believable 19th century woman who drives covered wagons, milks cows, and quotes Shakespeare. Abigail is a kick as she comes out of her bowl, inspired by Tallie.
Kirby’s Tallie may be too modern a creature to exist in the mid-19th century, but she is such a force of vigor that credibility issues hardly matter. She animates Abigail and the film. Together the women create some splendid sparks.
The film also features quaint exterior scenes, rustic interiors, an expressive clarinet score by Daniel Blumberg, and cartographic annotations that reflect the Atlas theme.
The world to come
With: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott
Directed by: Mona Fastvold
Written by: Ron Hansen, Jim Shepard
running time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Elizabeth Lo’s “Stray” follows the adventures of homeless dogs in Istanbul. (Courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
“Stray” – streaming from March 5th in Roxie’s virtual cinema and on March 10th at the Fort Mason Flix Drive-In – follows three homeless dogs roaming the Istanbul countryside, and director Elizabeth Lo also reflects on capturing their everyday lives the unwanted human inhabitants of the Turkish city. This isn’t the first film about the plight of stray dogs – last year we released Space Dogs and Marona’s Fantastic Tale to start with. But Lo’s take on the subject has produced a uniquely thoughtful documentary.
The film was shot in the streets, parks and squares of Istanbul, a city where the killing of stray dogs is illegal and a lack of narratives and “kedi” -like respondents. It shows urban life largely from the perspective of a dog. Tan mongrel Zeytin, the anchor dog, and the costars Nazar and Kartal show the way, while a ground-level camera films them looking for food, drinking from a fountain, poking over a bone, enjoying a pat on the head and being sprayed by a critic’s hose and howling in a priceless scene.
Dog-related quotes from ancient Greek philosophers comment on the dog’s inner character.
Overhead voices recorded by Lo from couples, tourists, authorities, equal protesters, and scary young homeless Syrian refugees sniffing glue – issues ranging from work permits to clean drainage – represent Istanbul’s human flow. At some point, the Syrian boys who want a dog for a companion steal Kartal from the construction site where the guards are watching over puppies.
You won’t find much action or narration here. If the film was longer than 72 minutes, we might be bored.
However, when one considers the plight of the Zeytin canines coupled with the plight of the human refugees, immigrants, and other Istanbul residents who are considered inferior beings, the film solidifies into a moving brooding of what it means to be an outcast, and about our tendency to equate value with social acceptance and validity with documentation.
With: Olive, Evil Eye, Eagle
Directed by: Elizabeth Lo
running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes
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