SIFF Double Feature – Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart and Dearest
Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart: Gendarme Franck Neuhart (Guillaume Canet) has a lot on his plate: he’s engaged in an awkward romance with his laundress, he’s trying to solve a serial killer case, and he’s got a lot of people to murder because he’s the guy everyone’s looking for. Based on a real-life 1970s case in France, director Cédric Anger’s Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart, tells the story of a man who uses his police position to make his own crimes possible. I was really confused when I started watching because the gendarmes slag off of the police several times in the film, and I was under the impression that the gendarmes were the police. They are actually part of the military that is used to police the general population. France has both gendarmes and regular police, and – at least according to this film – they maybe don’t have the highest opinion of each other.
This is a slow movie, focusing on mood more than anything else. The color palette is murky and dark, with lots of long shots of beautiful scenery. I have to say it’s a little boring for being about a serial killer. I wasn’t looking for a Hollywood-style action flick, but there’s no entry point into Neuhart’s interior world, which made it difficult for me to emotionally engage. French viewers might bring their own baggage to this film by being already familiar with the events, but I came knowing nothing. I have no idea what Neuhart’s motivations might have been or what he felt about the things he was doing. And since he’s the protagonist that’s a bit of a problem. Watching a movie is more than seeing a series of events unfold on screen; art is meant to provoke a response, but this left me very dry. Also, the romance subplot with the shy laundress would have worked much better for me if she had not looked like a model. It’s just another example of surfaces being more important here than meanings. It’s not horrible, just a little dull.
Final Grade: B-
Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart is playing at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian on May 31 and June 2 and the Kirkland PC on June 3.
Dearest: The first half of this movie directed by Peter Ho-Sun Chan deals with Tian Wenjun (Bo Huang) and Lu Xiaojuan (Lei Hao). They are divorced, but share the raising of their three year-old son Pengpeng. Tian Wenjun gets distracted at work one day, and Pengpeng runs off to play with some friends. He doesn’t make it back home, and both of his parents begin a multi-year search for him. Because of China’s one child rule, there is a thriving child-abduction industry. Tian Wenjun and Lu Xiaojuan join a missing children’s group, relentlessly pursue leads, and never give up hope. They are constantly being preyed on by conmen, and even legitimate leads are eventually met with suspicion. They find their son, but it’s been three years, and he no longer knows them.
The second half of the film not only deals with their adjustment to being a family again, but with how Pengpeng’s recovery also affects his adopted mother Li Hongqin (Wei Zhao). Her husband abducted Pengpeng and brought him home to their village, telling his wife that he had fathered a child on another woman. She also has a younger adopted daughter, who was supposedly found abandoned at a construction site. The police take both children away, and Li Hongqin follows them to the city to try and get the little girl back.
This film does a very good job of showing the complex issues surrounding Chinese child abduction. Li Hongqin is heartbroken at losing the children she thinks of as her own, and Tian Wenjun and Lu Xiaojuan still struggle after bringing Pengpeng home. There’s a lot going on here though. In addition to these two storylines, there’s a half of another dealing with the man who heads the parents of missing children support group. The movie comes in at over two hours, and I wish that they had just picked one of the stories to follow. Pengpeng’s parents make great protagonists because they are well-rounded characters that elicit sympathy. Li Hongqin, on the other hand, was hard for me to care about because she was so pathetic. I don’t know if there is a cultural thing I am missing, but she just seemed a little crazy to me. She’s willfully unaware of the impact of her actions, and never seems to be able to step away from her own desires. I would have liked a lot less of her, but this is still a movie worth watching if the subject matter interests you. While I wasn’t as emotionally moved as I could have wished, I still learned a lot.
Final Grade: B-
Dearest plays on May 29 and June 1 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown