At its strongest, Charlie Says remembers that true justice is never easy, nor should it ever be. Its importance is in Harron asking those very questions, putting the audience in the uncomfortable position of contemplating at what point punishment is enough, and that gives Charlie Says true worth.
The exquisitely precise direction by Seligman (making an impressive debut here), the trim editing by Eric F. Martin, the gorgeous nighttime cinematography by Matthias Schubert – all contribute to an eerie otherworldliness in this beautifully executed opening sequence of Coyote Lake. As you witness it, you wonder: Is this a real place in a real time, or some metaphysical state of mind? The movie has barely begun, and you’re utterly intrigued.
This footage is essential to this film, allowing us to view Marianne as a solo human being and not just as a muse to a great man. It is she who first noticed the figurative beauty of a nearby “bird on a wire,” not he. Yet this is also how the movie fails. Praiseworthy for finally providing some three-dimensionality to the figure of Ihlen, the film doesn’t go far enough in examining the plight of the muse.
It’s a shame that the narrative, with often astute and eloquent reflections on humanity, fails to cohere as a whole and gets bogged down by a common love triangle. Our Time is gorgeously filmed, but it is also vapid, and perhaps the languorous mind of this auteur needs to be shaken up.
When Nothing Stays the Same is best is when it's about what it takes to survive, rather than indulging in handwringing: the flexibility, the raw business savvy melded with artistic vision that makes for great booking, and innovations like early evening residencies.
The Tomorrow Man is totally dependent on Lithgow and Danner to imbue the characters with warmth and humanity, and elevate them to figures worthy of our interest. Good supporting work from the other actors also keeps us attuned to the story. But otherwise, The Tomorrow Man gives off a feeling of having seen it all before.
The movie remains patchy as it continues to jump somewhat arbitrarily from day to day without fully realizing its subject matter. The one dependable constant in all of this is Christo himself. Smiling ecstatically one minute, despondently hangdog the next, he exhibits a genius lunacy on par with his life’s work.
The performances are wonderful, especially Hoult and Collins, who exude a charming chemistry, and fans of both the books and the films will find pleasure in this look at the early life of the man whose work still influences artists to this day.