Beginning with the End
dir. David B. Marshall
The first SXSW film I watched this year was a screener of David B. Marshall’s Beginning with the End that I watched on my computer, a viewing experience that only amplified how minimalistic the film felt given its subject matter. The documentary follows a group of students enrolled in an elective class on hospice care that will teach them skills for taking care of dying patients and allow them to employ these skills as volunteers at a hospice care center. Marshall follows these students over the course of the school year, showing that no matter how different each student is, death affects us all. It’s a simple message, told through interviews with different students as well as quiet observations at a hospice care center. At only 60 minutes, Marshall’s doc feels more like an extended commercial for a class than an in-depth look at how humans deal with mortality. There are certainly some moving moments to be found in Beginning with the End, but it ultimately comes up very short of being great.
[notification type=”star”]60/100 ~ OKAY. There are certainly some moving moments to be found in Beginning with the End, but it ultimately comes up very short of being great.[/notification]
dir. Allison Berg, François Keraudren
One the surface, The Dog looks like something that was thrown onto the extra features disc of Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afteroon. The film tells the story of John Wojtowicz, the real-life inspiration for Al Pacino’s character from Dog Day Afternoon. Where most documentarians would focus only on the robbery itself, Berg and Keraudren lay out a portrait of a man from the beginning of his life to its very end. We see John’s faults, his better traits, and even the sides of him that suggest that sometimes he isn’t always telling the truth. Quite simply put, The Dog is one of the best portraits of a human being ever made. Like the best documentaries, it accomplishes the rare feat of making us not only think about the subject on screen, but also leaves us pondering how our own story will be told after we have moved on.
[notification type=”star”]80/100 ~ GREAT. Quite simply put, The Dog is one of the best portraits of a human being ever made.[/notification]
dir. Adrián García Bogliano
Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s Late Phases is an incredibly frustrating mixed bag of a film that too often settles for remaining lukewarm when it has the potential to be scorching hot. Nick Damici stars as Ambrose, a blind Vietnam veteran who returns home to find people dying from mysterious causes. His relationship with his son Will (Ethan Embry) is rocky at best, and finding a way to fit into the community also proves to be a difficult ordeal. There is evident in Late Phases a passionate desire to tell a character-driven story, and Eric Stolze should be applauded for setting out to do just that. His action-packed final act is not only incredibly badass (thanks largely in part to some great creature design), but also packs a moving emotional punch. Sadly, the movie preceding said ending fails to do it any justice.
[notification type=”star”]40/100 ~ BAD. Late Phases is an incredibly frustrating mixed bag of a film that too often settles for remaining lukewarm when it has the potential to be scorching hot.[/notification]