Tribeca Film Festival Review #2 - Rounding / January

Rounding, Alex Thompson’s second feature, is a film full of ideas that never comes to life thanks to a suffocating and tepid narrative. We follow James (Namir Smallwood) as he is transferred to another hospital after an incident in his previous job. James becomes obsessed with Helen Adso (Sidney Flanigan), a young girl who suffers from asthma. The film doesn’t seem to know which way it should go, making it feel like we are watching three different films in one. The idea of using elements of psychological horror is promising, but the director doesn't seem to trust in his own idea. Compared to his previous film “Saint Frances” - a film which I respect and admire more than love - Rounding has a totally different approach and atmosphere, which at least shows Thompson’s range as a director. Maybe the length didn’t allow him to fully develop his ideas - which, by the end, makes the film feel like a completely half baked project. Despite all that, there’s some good things here. Thompson is capable of creating a thrilling environment that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Michael S. Smith’s editing is immaculate, showing the similarities of the rounding process while reminding us of James’ trauma.

Sidney Flanigan is underused in a rather thankless role, but with enough presence to sell the part and it’s great to see her after her great breakthrough performance in “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, but the main standout of the film is Namir Smallwood. Smallwood shines in the leading role, delivering a chilling and subdued performance performance that is beating heart and brain of the movie. He is capable of showing the guilt, the pain and the need to do something as he becomes more obsessed and worried about the patients. One aspect of the film, which like some others, was poorly developed was the feeling of exhaustion and often the inability of the doctors making the rounds. In some cases, there’s just nothing they can do to help the patients, which ends up becoming a burden that can destroy them emotionally, like it did with James.

With a building up that ends up getting nowhere, "Rounding" is disappointingly middling. The film is not able to overcome the several shifts in tone and holes in the script, turning all events and character developments into something astonishingly shallow.

- Vitor Miranda

Showing the Latvian independence and how war affects the life of everyone involved, Viesturs Kairiss’ seventh feature film is as timely as possible. January follows Jazis (Kārlis Arnolds Avots) as he tries to become a filmmaker. During the period of war, he tries to find in art a way to express himself. He finds love in Anna (Alise Danovska) and both of them try to navigate their lives in a country where violence and oppression are around every corner. The film serves to show how impossible it is to talk about cinema without talking about politics, especially when the two seem more intertwined than ever. Cinema at its core is nothing more than capturing a story, and if the story takes place in a war, how do you expect the filmmaker not to take a side? Kairiss is able to blend the passion for cinema along with the desire to be free in a place where your rights are taken away from you.

Kairiss's dreamy direction gives a bohemian feeling to the characters before the war strikes, while Wojciech Staroń’s cinematography helps to build a cold and harrowing Latvia, where the dreams are shattered with a crushing reality. The documentary images of the war serve as a rude awakening to Jazis, who finds himself increasingly involved with what is happening. The script balances well the contrasts between love, cinema and war, interspersing events in a way the story never loses steam. Kārlis Arnolds Avots and Alise Danovska have good chemistry together and Avots perfectly inhabits the part and plays Jazis as a young lover whose dreams can only get bigger. His urge to live and to love is what keeps it all together.

In all of its positivity in expecting something that may never come, January is a love story full of hope, even when it feels like something out of reach.

- Vitor Miranda