If you scratch the outback, it might eventually scratch you back when you're looking for answers about an unsolved murder. Working as the writer, director, cinematographer, editor, composer, VFX supervisor and casting director, auteur Ivan Sen's crime drama Limbo is undoubtedly in need of some answers, setting its eyes on the slow, gruesome discovery of a small slice of justice and closure. Simon Baker stars as Travis Hurley, a detective who arrives in the small mining town of Limbo in rural, quiet landscapes of southern Australia. He's been sent there to reopen the investigation of a case about a murdered Aboriginal girl named Charlotte that's been unsolved for 20 years. Travis meets with the victim's sister Emma (Natasha Wanganeen), brother Charlie (Rob Collins) and other locals along the way, learning about the hatred, secrets and neglect that lead to the suffering of indigenous communities and women particularly.
Limbo is absolutely the very definition of a slow burn but the good thing is that its flame never gets smothered, even when Travis encounters coldness in the southern heat as he tries to dig deeper into the case. Sen as a filmmaker most importantly captures the urgency and gravity that comes with a good story that has something to say about the flawed system and its indifference toward indigenous populations. Striking vistas shot in black-and-white and tight compositions highlighting architecture together with beautifully used locations paint the picture of a quiet town that somehow doesn't hear—or pretends not to—the infinite yells from victims of inhumane crimes despite the silence.
Some of the slowness in the slow burn comes down to bland characterisation, whether that's Travis' past with addiction or lacking details about the locals that we meet. Fortunately Sen, Baker and their collaborators make up for a few of those bugs with the last 20 minutes of the movie, which use all the minor details and revelations from before to form a biting, satisfying ending that maybe brings us slightly closer to that closure. Maybe.
Smileys: Story, locations
Beautiful outfits, obnoxious hissy fits. Well, as long as it's a survival of the fittest. Moving past that survival and trying to avoid drama until the main character brings it along with him is Passages, director Ira Sachs' romantic drama about what you can describe as ''bisexual chaos'', written by Mauricio Zacharias and Sachs. Tomas (Franz Rogowski), the main character mentioned above, is a German film director living in Paris who meets school teacher Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos) at a wrap party, striking a connection and ending up sleeping together. Next morning, Tomas returns to his home where his husband Martin (Ben Whishaw) has been waiting for him. Tomas tells Martin about the affair, planting doubt in their marriage. After Tomas keeps seeing Agathe and Martin finds comfort in another man, they finally decide to separate and follow their new romantic endeavours.
With Passages, Sachs is interested in exploring different forms of love and intimacy in terms of how it then affects an individual, that being primarily Tomas in this instance. You are drawn to Rogowski's erratic portrayal of insecurity and pride, as well as Khadija Zeggaï's costumes that tell us a lot about him and those who he surrounds himself with, although it's Whishaw who then translates that show-and-tell attitude most efficiently when the movie needs a perceptive, humane touch.
It's rather perplexing and regrettably ironic with this particular title that it's the way that we move in and out of these portrayals that loses that touch. Sachs and Zacharias' drama has a frustrating ''this happens and then this happens and then more of it happens'' approach, which fails to add connective tissue between scenes, relationships and arguments, underlined by Sophie Reine's humdrum editing that is at the mercy of overlong interactions. In the end, you're not frustrated with Tomas' personality as you're intended to be, you're just frustrated because the narrative is neither sensible nor thought-provoking.
Smileys: Ben Whishaw, costume design
Frowneys: Story, pacing, editing