The Portland Film Festival ends this week with seniors playing tennis. The most blockbustery of your options is Morgan, in which Paul Giamatti psychoanalyses a synthetic human.
Related: The three local features to watch at PFF.
OPENING THIS WEEK
[ B ] A group of senior citizens travel the country to train and compete for a national tennis championship in this feel-good documentary. It's a hopeful film that sets out to prove you're never too old to follow your dreams—even if pursuing those dreams means having knee surgery, a hip replacement, and sleeping in a van in between championship matches. While watching old men reflect on their heyday and engage in some healthy competition provides some harmless fun, the film's most productive moments are the enlightening glimpses into the history of tennis that are scattered throughout the documentary. NR. CURTIS COOK. Laurelhurst.
The Light Between Oceans
Writer-director Derek Cianfrance has made a pair of towering dramas about families splitting at the seams: Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines. Adapting M.L. Stedman's romance about a lighthouse-dwelling couple who aren't sure what to do with an abandoned baby makes for quite the thematic trio. Starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz, The Light Between Oceans looks like the height of tearful, lovesick acting showcases. Screened after deadline. See wweek.com for Chance Solem-Pfeifer's review. PG-13. Cedar Hills, Vancouver.
Miss Sharon Jones!
[ B ] After decades of being told that she was "too black, too short, [and] too old" to succeed, Sharon Jones fought her way to becoming a Grammy-nominated soul singer. But when she's diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Sharon faces an entirely new battle. Directed by two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (American Dream, Harlan County USA), this documentary humanizes the tragic hardships of a deadly disease by capturing intimate moments such as Sharon holding back tears as she clings to the clumps of hair she's lost to chemotherapy. The film also showcases the full range of Jones' uplifting talents and features footage from her inspirational live performances. NR. CURTIS COOK. Hollywood.
[ C+] Though not a unique story, Morgan has a plot much like a fine craft cocktail: There is a twist. Filmed in a forest that you might mistake for our own backyard, Morgan showcases an apathetic "corporate troubleshooter" who is sent to yea or nay the mass production of a synthetic human (Morgan), a confined adolescent who dreams of visiting "the lake." Good metaphor. Trouble ensues when a bigwig shrink (was that Paul Giamatti?) arrives to measure Morgan's emotional restraint. Despite the rabid Twilight vibes, you'll find a few good memes here. "Everybody likes lasagna" is sure to find itself on Tumblr, eventually. R. JACK RUSHALL. Cedar Hills, Vancouver.
My Millennial Life
[ C ] If you want to watch as five North American millennials look for work and live like typical 20-somethings, this documentary will deliver. While the film features youths in both Canada and the United States, very little class or racial diversity is represented, and the film seems to purposefully focus on the subjects who best uphold millennial stereotypes. Ultimately, the documentary asks viewers to reluctantly sympathize with five specific young people rather than empathize with the unique conditions of an entire generation. If you're a 20-something, skip this movie and just keep living your life. If you're a bitter Gen-Xer, this will vindicate your frustrations with millennials. NR. CURTIS COOK. Laurelhurst.
To Keep the Light
[ B ] Abbie is the wife of an ailing lighthouse keeper on an isolated island off the coast of 1867 Maine. When a stranger washes up on her shore, she's forced to confront her life and desires. Based on the approximately 300 women who served as lighthouse attendants in the 1800s, this film offers a glimpse into the lives of often forgotten heroines. Slow pacing sets an appropriately oppressive atmosphere, and the repetitive scenes of Abbie's daily routine (tending chickens, cooking breakfast, tidying the house, preventing sailors from crashing their ships and sinking to watery graves, etc.) reflect the tedious yet demanding workload of a determined woman. NR. CURTIS COOK. Laurelhurst.
[ A ] Misconceptions of blindness go out the window within the first five minutes of Miroslav Janek's fly-on-the-wall documentary. The film centers on Jaroslav Jezek School, a school for the blind in Prague. When the kids are introduced to cameras, they become consumed by photography, almost addicted to their new ability to capture a moment. We see their photography throughout the film in impressive, mostly silent, montage sequences, in which the silence reinforces the punk nature of blind photography. An omniscient camera glides around the school, witnessing creativity bloom as the kids experiment. As their photography begins to fuse with music, sports and creative writing, their blindness becomes less an obstruction and more their guiding inspiration. The film's quiet, mesmerizing tone makes for total immersion, daring us not only to rethink photography but blindness as well. NR. CODY DEAN. Laurelhurst.