Monday, 3 September 2018

NZIFF 2018 Diary: Good Manners

Clara (Isabel Zuaa) gets a job working for expectant mother Ana (Marjorie Estiano). Shortly after she begins work, Clara realises that her employer is not all that she appears to be. By night, Ana turns into a sleep-walking, meat-craving monster.

While their bond grows more intense by day, by night Clara has to figure out how to contend with her nocturnal roaming. As her due date draws close, it becomes clear that whatever is afflicting Ana is related to her pregnancy...

I had a choice between this and The Guilty. This one looked weird - and started earlier - so it won. And I am glad I checked it out.

This movie is so wonderfully specific in look and tone. And it touches on so many different tones and ideas: a supernatural horror; a love story; and a story about adolescence, and breaking away from parental control.

As Clara, Zuaa is wonderfully understated. The story is so potentially ridiculous that it requires a careful balancing act in terms of performance. The actress conveys so much with believably human reactions. There is none of the histrionics one gets occasionally in horror movies.

Aesthetically, this movie is fascinating - Ana's apartment is hyper-realistic; the colour palette and lighting of early scenes reminded me of a soap opera. The exteriors are shot against green screen backdrop - or using some weird colour grading. And yet, it never feels cheap - it feels like a contemporary version of the miniatures and matte paintings of an earlier era.

Ultimately, Good Manners feels like a fable - this is a story about the power of love to overcome all hurdles - including lovers who try to kill you, or children who kill their parents (or eat other kids). I have to say, watching films at the festival this year really shook me out of the idea that cinema can only work with three acts/a clear plot. While Good Manners is pretty straightforward, there is something so off-book about the relationship between the leads: The dynamic between Clara and Ana is so well-established, and so unpredictable, that the second half, based around Clara raising Ana's lycanthropic son, feels formulaic.

When this movie is a slow-burn chamber piece about the shifting power dynamic between Clara and Ana from employer-employee to friends to human-monster to lovers - is so engrossing and unpredictable that the second half cannot help but come across as just another monster movie. The CG werewolf effects do not help.

While flawed, Good Manners - at least in the first half - is an intoxicating cocktail of fantasy, black comedy and relationship drama.



The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Skate Kitchen

Let The Corpses Tan

Little Woods

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