Saturday, November 6, 2010

Denver International Film Festival: Morning and 127 Hours

Both films caused me to shed tears. Both films had phenomenal acting that got my core, kept me fixed to the screen from start to finish.

Leland Orser's film Morning literally takes you into the collapsed world of Alice and Mark Munroe (Jeanne Tripplehorn and Leland Orser), two grieving parents who have just lost their young son. Unlike Rabbit Hole, Orser's film does not offer a break from the agony of the parents; there are no comedic moments, just sheer angst. As both parents try to find their own way through their grief, separate in their despair, they are tenderly watched over by the housekeeper in her daily ritual of bringing the newspaper to the door and tending to a shrine she's made for the young boy, lighting candles and adding objects to the memory outside their home. Alice's descent into darkness takes her away from her home, seeking temporary shelter in a hotel of anonymity, while Mark remains in the house, using the bouquets of flowers brought by mourners as golf balls, descending into his own darkness while inhabiting the world of his dead child (eating cans of spaghettiOs and fruit loops with his fingers while watching children's cartoons). Their screams are heard by nobody; their pain is felt by everyone.

Danny Boyle's 127 Hours is a nonstop ride with Aron Ralston (James Franco) as he triumphs in the canyons of Utah. Prior to the film, I seriously wondered how Boyle would create a film solely around Ralston's struggle with the boulder, trying to free his arm over the course of 5 days. Where would the story focus? Would the 90+ minutes of film simply focus its lens on Ralston stuck with the boulder, and if so, how would that succeed? True to Boyle's phenomenal directing talents, 127 Hours rests its lens on Ralston, taking the viewer through all his emotions and survival sense from start to finish. There's a bit of preamble as Ralston prepares for his trip to Canyonlands, showing his arrogance and adventure prowess to some girls, and eventually finding himself alone journeying to his destination. The minute the boulder unleashes and immobilizes him, you are stuck there with him, wondering how he will survive and set himself free. You gasp each time he fumbles for water from the Nalgene bottle, wondering when he would lose his grip and drop the bottle; you see into the future with him as he pictures reasons for living; you grimace as he swallows his urine, desperate to quench his thirst; and you scream a bit inside as he tears through his tendons in his arm. Simply riveting from start to finish, 127 Hours is not only a triumph of spirit, but brilliance in acting and directing.

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