• Cinephilia

    Review: Oliver Sacks – His Own Life

    Neurologist, author and generally wonderful human being Oliver Sacks died in 2015 after a months-long battle with cancer. On receiving the news that his prognosis was terminal, he wrote a moving Op-Ed in the New York Times reflecting on his life, his work and what it means to know death is not far away. After a lifetime spent observing his patients and in analysis with a therapist of his own, Sacks approached his final days with the clarity and grace of someone with a unique perspective on the value of every life. Filmmaker Ric Burns chronicles those final months in a new documentary, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, a beautiful tribute…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Our Time Machine

    If the best things are worth waiting for, that certainly goes for poignant documentaries on family ties, legacy and channeling our most complex emotions through art. I first saw Our Time Machine, a film by S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun, over a year ago at the Chicago Critics Film Festival, a week-long event that’s made a name for itself by featuring some of the most impressive films of the year. Now, the film is available via Siskel Film Center’s virtual cinema, and it is very much worth seeking out. The film follows Chinese visual artist and puppeteer Maleonn as he navigates this father’s progression into dementia by creating a steam-punk…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: All In – The Fight for Democracy

    For longer than I care to admit, before seeing All In: The Fight For Democracy, I referred to it in shorthand as “the Stacey Abrams documentary.” I meant no offense by this; rather, it was simply a quick way to reference a film about a rising political player who made a name for herself during her historic 2018 run for the office of Governor of Georgia. Reader, so that you don’t make the same mistake I do, please know that this important documentary about the history and value of voting rights in America is not so much “Stacey Abrams’s documentary” as it is an urgent call to action to every member…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Sibyl

    After winding its way through film festivals around the world since premiering at Cannes in 2019, Justine Triet’s Sibyl is now available to screen in the United State through limited-capacity theaters and at-home virtual cinemas. And the film, about a therapist trying to become a writer despite one last client who refuses to let her go (and vice-versa), is a serviceable option as a bit of an escape from the dreary, nearly-fall chill that’s recently set in over Chicago. But the script, which Triet co-wrote with Arthur Harari, is a bit too confused—despite the title—about whose film this is exactly, and it comes quite close to being stolen entirely by a supporting…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Rent-a-Pal

    While I don’t have much reason to interact with “incels” (involuntarily celibate (usually) men), like anyone who spends any time online, I’m familiar with the trope. Rent-a-Pal, written and directed by Jon Stevenson, is set some twenty years before that concept ever caught on, but it plays like an instruction manual for how to build a bitter, unfulfilled man who’s so entrenched in his own victim mentality that those around him become victims to his brutality. Stevenson’s directorial debut is a moody, retro exploration of toxic masculinity, both historic and contemporary, one that will disturb more than scare. Brian Landis Folkins is David, who lives in a dank, small house with…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: The Mole Agent

    Though it’s ostensibly a film about an elderly spy going undercover in a retirement home to catch the staff in their neglect and abuse of its residents red-handed, there is very little worrisome drama in The Mole Agent, a documentary by Maite Alberdi. With that almost comical set-up, Alberdi’s warm and moving film is instead a welcome reminder of the life left to be lived in our seventh, eighth decades and beyond. The film begins with an almost comical set-up, as Rómulo Aitken, a private investigator, interviews potential moles to place in the facility where his client believes their aging relative, Sonia, is being abused. Seeking a man in his 80s…