Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival's Middle Week Has Hits, Sleepers, and Snoozers

 

The River
Heights Theater, Monday, April 15 at 7:00 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Tuesday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m.

On a Saturday morning punctuated by the sound of a plane breaking the sound barrier, the residents of a small Finnish town struggle with crises and secrets in their daily lives: an extramarital affair, a troublesome family function, a dying old man, closeted teen sexuality, bungee jumping...the works. Edited into seven mostly self-contained pieces, and framed by a story of two boys trying to save a woman who's drowning herself and her baby, Jarmo Lampela's well-made film is modest to a fault, failing even to merit the requisite comparison to Short Cuts. As is always the case in a film where the writer-director can't make up his mind, certain stories hold more interest than others: Standouts include the tale of an aging folk musician's return home for his alcoholic father's 60th birthday, while a sketch about a matchmaking, sex-crazed pizza waitress occupies the bottom of the barrel. In one sense, the fact that every story line is left unresolved leads the viewer to ponder the characters' futures; in another, more immediate and troublesome sense, far too much is left on a limb. While The River is adeptly made (and probably nowhere near as salacious as I've made it sound), it leaves you wanting less and more at the same time. --Mark Peranson

 

The Lawless Heart
Bell Auditorium, Tuesday, April 16 at 7:15 p.m.

In this undernourished British melodrama, writer-directors Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter couch the modest destinies of three funeral-goers in a gimmicky structure reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, hiccuping back to the same events from multiple perspectives. Set in a glum British coastal town with optimal conditions for navel-gazing, The Lawless Heart charts the romantic follies of the brother-in-law, cousin, and lover of the deceased, a beloved local restaurateur who accidentally drowned. Dan (Bill Nighy), a middle-aged malcontent who feels like he's suffocating in a loving marriage, makes an amusingly awkward effort to get in touch with today's youth. While he and his wife consider what to do with the estate, Nick (Tom Hollander) hangs in limbo at his lover's home, taking unexpected comfort from an ebullient grocery-store cashier. Nick's uninvited houseguest, the lovably raffish Tim (Douglas Henshall), looks to settle down after eight years of drifting, but he overstays his welcome in more ways than one. Taken individually, each story fragment has flashes of poignancy and charm; together, they're needlessly precious and thin, strapped to a conceit that springs few revelations and prevents many. --Scott Tobias

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