Film picks: Anti-Valentine’s Day films; Argentina, 1985; Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Carey Mulligan is Cassie in the black comedy Promising Young Woman. PHOTO: UIP
French drama Revenge stars Matilda Lutz. PHOTO: MES PRODUCTION

Movies that toss Valentine’s Day into the bin

Need an antidote to the season of saccharine?

Turn to the Oscar-winning black comedy Promising Young Woman (2020, NC16, 113 minutes, 4 stars), which has just been added to Netflix. The woman of the title, Cassie (Carey Mulligan), hits the dating scene and meets only creeps. She is not as defenceless as she seems, however.

Also on Netflix is the French revenge flick titled, appropriately enough, Revenge (2018, M18, 108 minutes, 4 stars). Jen (Matilda Lutz) loves her wealthy married companion Richard. But when his rich buddies let their urges get out of hand, Richard takes their side and joins them in silencing her. French film-maker Coralie Fargeat takes this tale of survival and female retribution to places Hollywood dares not go.

Argentina, 1985 (NC16)

Ricardo Darin (left) and Peter Lanzani in Argentina, 1985. PHOTO: AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

141 minutes, showing on Amazon Prime Video, 5 stars

In an act that has never been repeated in Latin America, a civilian government that replaced a military junta took the former regime to court. In the place and date of the title, public prosecutor Julio Cesar Strassera (Ricardo Darin) is given the perilous job of building a case against the generals and colonels whose death squads have murdered thousands of citizens.

This depiction of actual events won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and has been nominated in the Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Argentine director and co-writer Santiago Mitre depicts, in stark, non-didactic terms, the quagmire that lies ahead of the prosecution. Through his conversations with other lawyers, political figures and his family, a picture emerges of a population beaten down by years of terror. A nationwide form of post-traumatic stress disorder has taken hold.

This engrossing legal drama shows the amount of grit it takes to put a former military regime on trial – justice moves slowly and painfully when the names of those being prosecuted still inspire a primal fear.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (R21)

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

97 minutes, now showing, 4 stars

British actress Emma Thompson plays 55-year-old Nancy Stokes, a retired religious studies teacher who hires Leo, a male escort, to provide the sexual gratification she has never enjoyed.

In this 2022 Sundance Film Festival hit, Thompson is at her funniest, as much because of her expert delivery as it is for how painfully honest Nancy is.

Every bit her equal is Daryl McCormack from the BBC series Peaky Blinders (2019 to 2022), whose Leo Grande is smart, sensitive and at ease in his sexiness as he patiently calms his nervous client.

Tension arises when Nancy tries nosing into the real person behind this fantasy lover. Director Sophie Hyde’s intimate one-room two-person act spans four sessions over which the pair of strangers get to know each other – and themselves. It is a liberating story on the need for human connection and self-acceptance.

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