Film Picks: The Vigil, City Dream, They Shall Not Grow Old

The Vigil fits a world inside the single room of the movie. PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT

The Vigil (NC16)

90 minutes/Now showing/4 stars

Spooky movies are at their spookiest when both the haunter and the haunted are fully-realised characters who make choices that fit with who they are and what they want.

On that score, this superbly crafted piece of creepy minimalism does well - it not only fits a world inside the single room of the movie, everything done by both the living and the dead also makes sense.

Yakov (Dave Davis), a New Yorker in need of cash, takes on the job of shomer, someone guards the body of a dead person at night as part of the Jewish funeral ritual. While he is Jewish, he is no longer a believer and does his best to pull away from his community of Orthodox Jews.

Writer-director Keith Thomas, making his feature debut, sets the stage for dusk-to-dawn terror as Yakov is assailed by the horrors of his past - the ones that caused him to renounce his faith - and those that haunt the woman whose body he has to watch over.

City Dream (PG)

103 minutes/Available on Kinolounge/4 stars


Pity the urban enforcement officer in the Chinese city of Wuhan. His job is to clear Lumo Street of its hawkers so a chic new retail complex can be built.

But there is a problem in the form of a 70-year-old stallholder. Mr Wang Tiancheng has for years run a clothing and fruit stand there and is a beloved neighbourhood fixture. He will not go without a fight.

Documentary maker Chen Weijun has captured in this fascinating film the contradictions that make modern Chinese society: An aggressively capitalist system that has enshrined a time when the poor overthrew the rich; a place where social mobility through education is sacred but physical mobility is restricted by hukou, or the household registration system.

Chen's camera distils these currents down into a feud that beats anything on American reality television.

This is a study of old and new, of a society in a hurry to get rid of its old ways and move forward while trying to deal with the human cost.

But in watching Mr Wang's antics, there is also the guilty pleasure of watching a man, in the most tragi-comic way possible, assert his right to be left alone.

WHERE Shaw Theatre's Kinolounge website

ADMISSION $9.99 for a 48-hour viewing period

They Shall Not Grow Old (PG13)

99 minutes / Available on Netflix


This 2018 documentary is notable for two achievements - the use of computers to breathe new life into footage shot a century ago; and the storytelling, which immerses audiences in the world of of the ordinary soldier trying to keep his socks dry and blanket free of lice while breathing in gasses from corpses litteringWorld War I's Western Front.

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings franchise, 2001 to 2003), working with a commission from Britain's Imperial War Museum, makes the war appear as if it happened 50, instead of a hundred, years ago.

This is a small, human-scaled presentation. You will not come to understand imperialist politics or the alliances that made up the warring sides, but instead see war as a mix of drudgery and horror, made bearable by tea with sugar.


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