Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival. For more information visit sxsw.com and follow SXSW on Twitter at @sxsw.
Ex Machina (2015)
Dir. Alex Garland
Alex Garland’s directorial debut doesn’t feel at all as though it is set many years into the future. Instead, its story about a fully functioning A.I. being feels like it could take place right now. Ex Machina basically boils down to Oscar Isaac and Domhall Gleeson butting heads for 100 minutes, but it is one of the most riveting Sci-Fi movies in years. Garland’s tightly constructed script is endlessly intriguing and doesn’t provide any easy actors. Oscar Isaac continues to remind us that he is a national treasure, while Domhall Gleeson furthers his case for best post-Potter career. The entire success of the film rests on Alicia Vikander’s shoulders, and she flourishes with flying colors. Too many science fiction films go too broad and ultimately lack a human element. Ex Machina is as stripped and basic as most Sci-Fi outings go, but it is one of the best examples of filmmaking the genre has ever seen.
6 Years (2015)
Dir. Hannah Fidell
Two years ago, I noted in my review for A Teacher that Hannah Fiddel had a great movie inside her waiting to be made. For all of A Teacher‘s mastery on a technical level, its story left so very much to be desired. Fiddel returned to SXSW this year with 6 Years, a story of a long-lasting romance that is finally put to the test. Fiddel’s behind-the-camera prowess is as sharp as ever, and despite the film’s loose structure her writing has improved as well. Perhaps the strongest element of all in Fiddell’s third directorial outing is her two leads, Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield. Of all Fiddell’s strengths, perhaps directing actors is her strongest. These are people whose feelings, situations, and problems feel very real. Though the film ventures one too many times into melodramatic territory, Farmiga and Rosenfield keep you invested in their story. While this isn’t the great movie that Fiddell has brewing inside her, 6 Years reassures you it could just be right around the corner.
One and Two (2015)
Dir. Andrew Droz Palermo
How could a movie about teleporting siblings be so dully executed? Andrew Droz Palermo, whose previous credits include cinematography on films like A Teacher, V/H/S and You’re Next, has birthed with his directorial debut a premise so ripe with potential and bursting with intrigue. However, by the time the story reaches its conclusion it is painfully clear that every storytelling decision Palermo made was the worst one possible. One & Two is interest enough to watch in its opening moments, but all its intrigue evaporates once the premise is completely revealed. Not only does Palermo confuse lack of information with deep storytelling, the avenues he sends his characters down are the least interesting ones possible.