More Mill Valley Movies

Here are the last five films I’ve seen and reviewed for this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival. This time, there are two documentaries and three fiction films. They go from excellent to pretty bad.

A Town Destroyer

This local and very short documentary (55 minutes) does something rare in today’s political docs: The filmmakers look at both sides of the controversy. Remember the debate over destroying or saving Victor Arnautoff’s mural The Life of Washington, at San Francisco’s Washington High School? Is it an insult to indigenous people, or an attack on our first president? Aside from the mural, the film looks at other works of public art that no longer seem appropriate.

B+ One Fine Morning

This French romance has no real plot. But it works as a collection of minor and important events in a young woman’s life. Sandra lives with her young daughter (there’s no papa to be seen). She works as an interpreter. Her father is suffering from a degenerative disease, and she must find a good place for him. There’s a big and joyful Christmas party. But then a male friend becomes a lover – one with a wife and children. I have no idea why the film is called One Fine Morning; it takes place over several days.

  • Rafael, Saturday, October 8, 4:00pm
  • BAMPFA, Sunday, October 9, 7:00pm

B+ The Son

I’m not sure if this is a brilliant film, or a very well-made mess. A teenage boy has serious mental problems. His parents, who are divorced, try desperately to find out what’s causing the problem and how to fix it. The boy lies about going to school and everything else. He may be suicidal. The brilliant cast includes Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Anthony Hopkins, and the young Zen McGrath. You know very early on how the movie was going to end, and the main characters, who seem to be very intelligent, do the most stupid things. I’m not sure if that was intended.

B Elemental: Reimagining Our Relationship With Wildfire

This is at least the second documentary I’ve written about wildfires in recent years (the other is After the flames: Rebuilding Paradise). Director Trip Jennings took a different path in Elemental. It’s mostly about how scientists learn about how fires spread, the need to keep forests and, yes, to allow forest fires. It doesn’t have solutions for all the problems, but some. But living in today’s California, it’s important.

  • Lark, Thursday, October 15, 7:15pm
  • Streaming throughout the festival

D+ Erin’s Guide To Kissing Girls

Writer/director Julianna Notten provides middle school angst without any depth. Open lesbian Erin hangs mostly with her jock friend. Then a famous girl with two moms comes to this school, and Erin drops her jock. The attempts for comedy usually fall flat. The best thing about the whole movie is that no one in this middle school cares if someone is gay or black–but then, it’s a Canadian movie.