We continue our catch-up series with a trio of 2020 films worth watching: Sound of Metal, Collective, and Another Round.
Sound of Metal
Simply put, Sound of Metal is one of my favorite movies of the year. It blind-sided me a bit, given that its narrative trails close to the line of the conventional. It just never crosses that line. When the plot could fall into the traps of addiction narrative cliches, or romantic melodrama, or hollow emotional appeals, it instead does something unexpected. Thus, its ties to these genres produce genuine and powerful emotional moments.
I knew nothing about the plot going in, and I think that elevated this emotional experience even more. So I won’t even establish the premise here. I’ll only say that the pieces of style and performance which are tied directly to this premise make this film a special piece. The sound design is immersive in exactly the way it has to be to make the film work. The performance of language by the cast also adds to the experience, presenting small, quiet moments which are charged with pathos.
The performances from Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci are particularly notable. Ahmed not getting awards attention for this film would be a shock, but Raci is my pick for Best Supporting Actor. He delivers two monologues which are flooring.
Sound of Metal: A-
Collective is the type of documentary that starts as one compelling, small-scale exposé and slowly expands to be a second, even-more compelling, even bigger exposé of its subject. The film begins with the investigation of the fallout from a fire in a Bucharest nightclub. With no fire exits in the building, the fire quickly became a tragedy. 27 people died in the fire, with over 100 injured. In the coming weeks, 37 more people died in Romanian hospitals. A sports paper followed the trail of these deaths to reveal substantial government corruption involving diluted medicine which was the ultimate reason for these patients’ deaths.
This news story resulted in the ousting of Romania’s Minister of Health, but the film does not end there. Instead, the film pivots to focus on the interim Minister of Health in his attempt to snuff out the corruption within the system, which proves to be much more widespread than the documentary initially lets on. Collective is disturbing in the sense that it puts a spotlight on the hollow bureaucracy of government corruption, as well as the uphill battle to even address that corruption, let alone stop it. It is also one of the most compelling documentaries of the year.
Thomas Vinterberg and Mads Mikkelsen collaborated on the 2012 film The Hunt, a straightforward yet adequately tense man-falsely-accused narrative. They return with Another Round, a decidedly lighter film about four school teachers who undertake an experiment in which they live their daily lives slightly intoxicated. It is a dark comedy that takes a realist approach to what is on paper a slightly silly premise. Vinterberg does a good job of illustrating the allure at the heart of alcoholism, while never mining the subject matter for broad humor nor simplistic tragic character arcs.
Another Round has a fascinating tone. It has a dry humor mixed in with moments of bitter realism, and this tone culminates in an almost fantastical sequence at the end. The ensemble complements this tone well, doing a particularly sound job of acting inebriation (which, if you’ve seen it done horribly wrong, you know that is a deceptively difficult task). While I am sure this tone will not be for everyone, I found it holding my attention for the entirety of the runtime.
Another Round: B
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)