It is not simply that this film is utterly unrealistic – perhaps that can be overlooked; it’s a fable of sorts, set in a scrupulously neutral pan-European setting. What is unforgiveable is that Langseth’s approach to complex emotional issues is unsubtle at best and untruthful at worst.
This film, about a French war correspondent and the Kurdish Amazon with whom she is embedded, has the worthy intention of telling the story of the women’s battalions in Kurdistan, but it’s formulaic and melodramatic.
Perhaps you can accuse all historical fiction of presentism, the sin of applying contemporary values to historical events. Why does the past interest us if not for the comparisons it provides with the present? But with the example of "The Favourite’s" wittily anachronistic romp through the 18th-century court of Queen Anne so fresh at hand, it is hard not to judge the earnest Mary Queen of Scots for its ignorance of the problem.
The results are highly affecting – so much so, that viewers who suffer from motion sickness may find the film hard to watch. If the approach feels empathetic rather than pretentious, it’s thanks to a crucial anchor: Willem Dafoe’s subtle and humble performance conjures a pitiable van Gogh, shredded by doubt and estranged from people, yet urgently aware of his painterly vision.
So, the safely scary and often amusing formula holds. Meanwhile, the movie’s conclusion includes enough plot about Stine’s fate to suggest Goosebumps 3 will feature more of the elusive Black and that can only be a good thing.
There are only two erotic scenes between the two women, and Macneill, Sevigny and Stewart handle them with conviction: For all the horror of her situation, Lizzie needed some larger motivation to wield her axe. Lizzie dramatically provides it.
It rejoices in a classic structure in which one upward trajectory and one downward meet for a shining moment in the middle. Under Cooper’s direction – and thanks to his chemistry with his co-star – the movie throbs with the excitement of that meeting, while the downfall of his alcoholic rocker achieves an almost tragic catharsis.
Turtletaub has some difficulty ending the film, which resolves itself with one too many closeups of Macdonald gazing out at the world, whether from a lakeshore or a train window, as both the script and its director struggle to figure out what happens next.