The Commencement of an A24 Summer
By Anthony Sennett
A24 is a glorious independent entertainment company. They truly gained mainstream recognition with ‘Moonlight,’ and went on to have their best year ever in 2017 with ‘Lady Bird,’ ‘The Florida Project,’ and a myriad of other gems. Now, in 2018, they have a huge lineup that is only just beginning. Following up a great spring with projects such as ‘Lean on Pete,’ A24 has a stellar summer planned, starting with ‘First Reformed’ and ‘Hereditary.’
‘First Reformed’ is a genuine character study of a small town priest, journaling his day to day life. This analysis of a spiraling man is a call back to director Paul Schrader’s first writing credit, ‘Taxi Driver.’ On the outside, this film has an air of barrenness in the church, town, and relationships. The muted colors make the moments of vivid imagery much more significant. Within the layers of the town and man, true passion and grit emerge. The relationship between Reverend Toller, played by Ethan Hawke, and Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried, is a driving force that brings us into a realm of vulnerability and emotion. While this film is wholly about the mind of Reverend Toller, it managed to bring about fascinating viewpoints on the issues of global warming and politics. The structure and the progression of this story is admirable and intriguing, but it can grow dull in moments. While it is certainly is not a film for everyone, that’s what makes bold art like this and risk-taking companies like A24 so great.
"While it is certainly is not a film for everyone,
that’s what makes bold art like this
and risk-taking companies like A24 so great."
Moving on from priest dramas, we are in a great age for horror. Year after year, we have been getting memorable and unique films that have lifted this genre out of its 2000’s slump.’Hereditary’ is a well-deserved addition to this list. It begins with the death of a distant grandmother, continuing an insane chain of events for this troubled family. From start to finish, there is so much to praise about this film. Ari Aster, the director, brings a wonderfully unique style, with wonderful lighting and many wide shots giving the feel of the miniature houses that the mother in this film creates. Aster is no stranger to the lengths of uncomfortability this movie goes to. While this is his debut feature, he has made a name for himself with his bold short films, most notably ‘The Strange Thing About the Johnsons.’ From his experience, it is evident that Ari knows how to get the best out of his actors, since every performance in this film is praiseworthy. Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro are both awestrucking, saying so much without opening their mouth. The two star as brother and sister, giving an interesting dynamic filled with haunting looks. Of course, the most show stopping performance comes from horror alum Toni Collette. Being the mother of this family comes with its fair share of grieving, anger, fear, and witchcraft, and Toni hits every beat flawlessly. While this film takes a few familiar twists and turns, the boldness of it all brings a breath of fresh air. No one should walk into this film expecting conventional storytelling or jump scares: this is a huge slow burner and unsettling in the best way. Give this a chance, and you are sure to leave with some emotional trauma.