Then Playing — She Said; The Corn Is Green; Aftersun

She Said (Maria Schrader, 2022). This journalism procedural is adapted from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s book of the same name which recounted their pursuit of the blockbuster New York Times story that exposed years of sexual predation by producer Harvey Weinstein. She Said invariably faces comparisons to All the President’s Men and Spotlight, the dual standard bearers for such fare, and in falls a bit short in that context, hampered by occasional stiffness in the storytelling. The film livens up when Carey Mulligan, playing Twohey, gets to flash some anger or irritation. (Zoe Kazan is also good as Kantor, but the role is more restrained by designed.) It brings forth a crusading spirit that suits the material. Maria Schrader directs with care, patiently making time for the women whose lives were knocked asunder by an abuser. The film is candid without being sensationalistic, empathetically detailing the difficulty women faced in coming forward with their stories while also directing justified scorn at the systems that allowed an abuser to prosper. Andre Braugher has a nice supporting turn as Times editor Dean Baquet, providing both a steady hand and several different variants on contempt for the stonewalling of powerful cads.

The Corn Is Green (Irving Rapper, 1945). In this period piece set in the waning years of the nineteenth century, Better Davis stars as L.C. Moffatt, a well-to-do woman who moves to a Welsh mining community with the intention of starting a school to provide a better option for children who are other sent underground to dig up coal. She meets resistance and is almost ready to quit when she realizes a young fellow named Morgan (John Dall) has a hidden aptitude for book-learning. She redoubles her efforts and makes it her mission to get him into Oxford. Based on a play by Emlyn Williams, the film is a sterling drama with a vein of winning impudence. Dall nabbed an Academy Award nomination for his performance, as did Joan Lorring, a bratty cockney child who ages into a cunning schemer. It’s Davis who commands the film, though, playing the part with her customary combination of classic Hollywood emoting and more modern snap, the latter best demonstrated by moments of proto-feminist assertiveness peppered throughout. Director Irving Rapper deftly keep the complex story moving. No matter how dense certain portions get, The Corn Is Green keeps gliding along.

Aftersun (Charlotte Wells, 2022). The feature directorial debut from Scottish writer-director Charlotte Wells is an absolute stunner. The autobiographical film depicts a vacation to Turkey taken by eleven-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) with her father (Paul Mescal), presumably part of a custody agreement associated with a fairly recent divorce. The plot is skeletal and yet packed with feeling and insight. Daughter and dad bond, squabble, and move slowly through their own individual courses of personal growth. She has relatively common coming-of-age experiences — tentatively testing more adult behaviors with some older kids, playing at romance with a boy her age — while her father is clearly carrying, and straining to hide, a deep despair about what he is and isn’t doing. Mescal gives a powerful performance that relies on undercurrent more than explicit expressions of emotion, and Corio is just as effective in her natural guilelessness. Wells has an enviable eye for images and a keen intuition for when to share secrets and when to hold back. Plainly put, Aftersun is a cinematic feat.

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