Remember the old ad for chocolate bars: Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t. Well, that adage applies to films as well as candy. Two recent quality films available for home viewing may well satisfy your craving, whichever that craving may be.
If your taste is running to a serious film that comments on everyday life, then you might want to see Sorry We Missed You, a drama of working-class life in Northern England directed by Ken Loach, an award-winning film festival favorite now in his mid-eighties. Through the decades, Loach has directed more than fifty films and TV programs, including I, Daniel Blake and The Wind that Shakes the Barley. His 1979 feature Black Jack, a darkly comic adventure based on a children’s book by Leon Garfield, inspired Wes Anderson to make Moonrise Kingdom in 2012.
A good number of Loach’s works fall into the category of social realism, and Sorry We Missed You is a fine example. The film centers on a family – husband, wife, teenaged son and younger daughter— good people drowning in debt and thrashing around in muck as they come close to falling into society’s pitfalls. The husband changes jobs often. He has just become a delivery person at a company that talks a modern, humanitarian game but treats its workers like dirt. The wife is a professional caregiver, the perfect kindly and capable woman for such a job. She, too, is badly treated by her bosses.
Their emphasis is on making a living in an atmosphere where they just can’t get ahead, and the result is that they and the children develop problems. Sorry We Missed You is a relatively low budget production, with its exceptionally high quality coming from a perceptive script by Paul Laverty who has worked with Loach often, sensitive direction, and realistic acting. Nominated for a slew of awards, it’s a film to be savored. And note the title. It definitely has a double meaning, not only referring to a package left on a stoop but also a family forsaken by the advantages that society is supposed to furnish.
Now…, sometimes you feel like a nut. If that is the case, and you are searching for a smart, literary comedy, then you may wish to see Cyrano, My Love. This film is free to view with a Prime Video subscription on Amazon, as well as from other sources. It’s a French film with English subtitles that relates a somewhat fantasized retelling of the theatrical origins of one of the most famous plays ever written, the clever masterpiece, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand.
The time is 1897; the place is Paris. Young Rostand hasn’t had a hit, and, with a wife and two children to support, he no longer is trying to create another play. Then his circumstances begin to change, and he starts imagining a piece about a gallant gentleman named Cyrano who has a huge nose. It is a nose so large that he cannot bring himself to court the woman he loves – the same woman that his handsome young friend adores.
The play within the film is formed in small bits, with key details supplied through the inspiration of history-based characters, including the renowned comic actor Constant Coquelin. Other stage legends appear, such as playwright Georges Feydeau and the great Sarah Bernhardt. The role of Feydeau is acted by Alexis Michalik, the talented director of Cyrano, My Love.
This film is fast-paced, clever, at times farcical, and beautifully conceived. The viewer’s enjoyment does not depend upon knowledge of Cyrano de Bergerac, but it helps to know the content of the play. Every public library should have this volume on its shelves, and there are many paperback versions for sale. Those who prefer films to books can see several versions of the play, including a color silent feature from the 1920s, the 1950 version starring Jose Ferrer, and the 1990 film with Gerard Depardieu.
Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.
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