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I try, I really do, not to fall back on Netflix too often in a column meant to cover a growing streaming realm: in one sense, it feels like a restaurant critic plucking their subjects from a shopping mall food court. Yet the commitment of the biggest brand in home entertainment to a spirit of genuine discovery continues to surprise on a near-weekly basis. When I saw that German director Eva Trobisch’s first film, Alles ist gut (2018), had quietly slipped on to this week’s online release roster – yet another low-profile critics’ cause quietly plucked from the festival circuit and rebranded as a Netflix Original – I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather spotlight.
I first encountered Alles ist gut – named All Good in English, though only the German title shows up on Netflix’s search engine – at last summer’s Locarno film festival. In the sticky August swelter, it landed like a hard-frozen ice pack to the neck. Since the #MeToo movement broke out in 2017, it has become idle critical practice to label almost any notionally feminist film as emblematic of the movement, but Trobisch’s unsparingly observed drama of sexual assault and its fallout in the workplace distils this cultural moment without any cheap button-pushing.
The story is simple, its psychology complex. A young woman called Janne (the extraordinary Aenne Schwarz) is raped by a stranger whose advances she rejects at a school reunion, only to find shortly afterwards that he’s her new colleague. Janne’s plan not to tell anyone, even her sensitive boyfriend, about the assault and continue as before – “All good”, she tells everyone, herself included – comes apart in progressively painful, chaotic ways. It’s as subtle and exacting a study of post-rape trauma as any in memory, and easily the most poised and auspicious directorial debut I saw last year.
I wasn’t alone in my admiration, as Alles ist gut was duly rewarded by the festival jury, while my Observer colleague Wendy Ide named it among her top films of 2018 for Screen Daily. Yet it seemed at risk of sinking without trace after bigger autumn festivals such as Toronto and London passed it over, while no big-screen distributor stepped forward for a film that is, however you slice it, a bruising watch. Intimately cinematic as it is, perhaps Netflix is the perfect platform for Alles ist gut: you may want to watch it on your own, and in your own time; either way, don’t miss it.
If it’s feminist uplift you want, however, Netflix’s other big release of the week should fit the bill. A crowd favourite at Sundance in January, Rachel Lears’s lively, purposeful documentary Knock Down the House is already assured a place in the archives as the first film portrait of the US Democrats’ fast-rising force of nature, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A little-known outsider at the start of filming, the smart, dauntless Bronx bartender turned congresswoman grows before our eyes into a fierce political animal.
Conventionally constructed, but as snappy and persuasive as its subjects, Lears’s film isn’t merely an AOC valentine, but devotedly covers the trajectories of three other progressive Democrat women – Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin – who challenged incumbents in last year’s midterm elections. Ocasio-Cortez may emerge as its star by virtue both of her salt-and-vinegar charisma and the eventual outcome of her campaign, but the documentary bristles with restless hope for a smarter, kinder, less oppressively male-oriented political future.
Also on DVD and streaming this week
A Face in the Crowd
The latest addition to the Criterion library, Elia Kazan’s brilliantly vicious media satire may be from 1957, but its portrayal of cynical political populism is so acutely Trump-era, it hurts.
Meanwhile, Michael Moore’s present-day attempt to nail down the Trump problem doesn’t land as hard – his strident muckraking is as entertaining as ever, but it’s too familiar by now to carry much in the way of power.
(Curzon Artificial Eye, 15)
Artful and exquisitely acted it may be, but Lukas Dhont’s portrait of a teenage transgender ballerina has proven fiercely divisive, prompting accusations of trans erasure and exploitation in some quarters. It’s worth making up your own mind.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Streaming: 2018’s boldest directorial debut finally finds a platform | Film