The Jewish Chronicle
Detention and re-invention
The Mauritanian Cert: 15
TAHAR RAHIM (A Prophet, The Serpent) stars in this engaging drama based on real life events from Scottish director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland). Based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary, The Mauritanian tells the story of a man accused of being behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and held without charge by the US Government.
After being apprehended by the CIA in his native Mauritania in 2002, Slahi (Rahim) is transported to Guantanamo Bay detention camp where he is subjected to daily interrogation and torture. As Slahi fights for his right to be tried legally, his new lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) believes she can help get him in front of a judge to prove his innocence.
Despite its contrived Hollywoodian approach, The Mauritanian remains largely affective as a critique of America’s treatment of terror suspects held in Guantanamo. Notwithstanding the ambiguity over Salahi’s possible guilt, Macdonald is still able to garner just enough sympathy for his subject to make us root for him, which is no mean feat.
Rahim gives an exquisite performance as the crafty, resilient and unequivocally likeable Slahi, while it is a return to form for Foster who is given a part truly deserving of her true talent.
Elsewhere, Woodley gives an impressively understated turn as the conscientious young lawyer who falls for Slahi’s charms.
Overall, while the procedural aspects of the legal case sometimes gets in the way of the existential and moral side of things, Macdonald still manages to tell a truly riveting story, one which needed to be told.
Cert: 12a ★★★★★
THIS MULTI OSCAR nominated family drama from writer/director Lee Isaac Chung is a semi-biographical take on his rural upbringing in 1980s. The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun and Yeri Han (Worst Woman) star as a married thirty-something couple with two children building a new life on a farm in Arkansas.
After years of working as chicken sexers in a Californian hatchery, Jacob and Monica Yi buy 50 acres in Arkansas in the hope of growing and selling their own produce. Things however don’t quite turn out the way they’d hoped as they finds themselves struggling to make ends meet.
Forced to take on a new job to help with expenses, Monica calls upon her elderly widowed mother to come from Korea to look after their ailing seven year old son David (a thrilling performance from Alan S. Kim) and his older sister. Despite a bumpy start, David and his eccentric grandmother form a close bond leading him to understand his own parents’ motivations.
Sensitively written, sparse and gorgeously acted, Minari is the kind of film that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. Its meticulous depiction of quotidian chores and inner turmoil is reminiscent of Kelly Reichardt’s beautifully intricate rural narratives. Chung’s film is peppered throughout with weird and wonderfully eccentric characters and some truly exhilarating performances from a great cast.
Minari’s strength resides in the simplicity of its story and the way in which its characters interact with one another. It’s a film full of heart, warmth and honestly. This truly is a genuine treat from start to finish.