John Petrakis teaches screenwriting in Chicago.
The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, are known for their low-key, plot-light, character-heavy tales of survival, usually played out in a small Belgian town that serves as their spiritual microcosm and often focused on the struggles of children to make it to adulthood in one piece. The Kid with a Bike, which won a top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, continues down this path, though Dardenne purists may find fault with the film’s upbeat conclusion, a contrast to the harsher endings of their earlier efforts.
reviewed by John Petrakis May 3, 2012
Readers of a certain age may remember “women’s pictures,” those four-hankie weepies from the 1940s and ’50s. Celebrated British director Terence Davies has lovingly embraced the once-popular genre via an adaptation of the 1952 play The Deep Blue Sea.
reviewed by John Petrakis April 29, 2012
A Separation is a highly ambitious piece of work. It successfully tackles a range of topics and themes, from class, religion and gender to pride, guilt and justice. It is a tale that appears uniquely Iranian but quickly transcends physical and spiritual borders to portray the difficulty of doing the right thing under difficult, even life-threatening circumstances.
reviewed by John Petrakis April 1, 2012
Undefeated is a solid piece of filmmaking that is also too little too late. The Oscar-winning documentary by Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin concerns the travails of a high school football team in a poor black neighborhood of North Memphis that overcomes years of futility thanks in large part to a white volunteer coach who inspires them to believe in themselves both on and off the field.
reviewed by John Petrakis March 7, 2012
Albert Nobbs's journey from page to stage to screen has been long and bumpy. Simone Benmussa adapted a short story by Irish writer George Moore into the play The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs; this was then nearly made into a film by the celebrated Hungarian director Istvan Szabo. The fact that the project was still alive and kicking in 2011 is due, in large part, to the determination of Glenn Close.
reviewed by John Petrakis March 4, 2012