The Look of Love
In this lush, classic romance set amongst immigrant communities in mid-century Brooklyn, Saoirse Ronan shines. The film is gentle and lovely, and just when you think you understand its story, it switches gears, asking important questions about what constitutes home, where you find family, and what it means to commit to someone and something. I can’t get it out of my head, principally because most of the work is done in the actors’ eyes. What vulnerability, to look into another’s face and see love there.
This is another film where everything is in the gazes. I have trouble explaining my reaction to this film; the first time I saw it I wasn’t sure what to think, and the second time it was shattering. The relationship (and eventual romance) that develops between the two main characters (played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) is a painful and very realistic exploration of the inexplicable human glue we call attraction. It’s shot with the same eye, which means we’re part of that exploration as viewers, too.
To speak of 45 Years is to speak of Charlotte Rampling, even though Tom Courtenay is fabulous as well. The two portray a long-married couple who encounter a revelation and feel the sands of their marriage shift under their feet. Everything in this film happens in Rampling’s face as she tries to make sense of what happened. Can you love someone when you’re not sure you know who they are anymore?
Can You Be Great and Good?
The ostensible subject of The End of the Tour is David Foster Wallace, whose writing literally changed my life (I wrote about it here). But really the film functions best as a two-man play, one that Wallace himself could have written, since it covers all of his recurrent themes: whether it’s possible to live a good life, the conflicted nature of fame, the possibility of trusting and loving another person. It makes very little sense that this works as a film, but boy does it ever.
Like The End of the Tour, this Aaron Sorkin–penned film featuring Michael Fassbender as the Apple founder feels more like three one-act plays than a film, and its drama resides entirely in its conversations. The main question at stake is whether Jobs is actually as important as he thinks he is, and the answer is more complicated than anyone expects, including Jobs. Even though it falters a bit at the end, Steve Jobs is exhilarating; in some ways, this is the film that Birdman wanted to be. And the question at its center—can you be a genius and a good person?—is more important in a world of instant celebrity than it has ever been.
Many of these films include content that some readers may find problematic. Check the MPAA’s ratings and movie reviews so you have the information you need to make an informed decision about viewing.
And of course, I haven’t seen every film from 2015, yet.
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today’s chief film critic and an assistant professor of English and humanities at The King’s College in New York City. She is co-author, with Robert Joustra, of How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World (Eerdmans, May 2016). She tweets @alissamarie.