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Chicago International Film Festival 2013

Standout films to see

Jayme Cain | 10/23/2013, 2:24 p.m.

Movie bits

Early Oscar Buzz

The Oscar race is on and it’s only October. Two of today’s greatest female actors, Dame Judi Dench and Meryl Streep, have films in this year’s Chicago International Film Festival.

Dame Judi is Philomena, an Irish woman who was forced not only to give away for American adoption the baby she conceived out of wedlock, but also forced to sign a contract that she would never look for him. Fifty years later she and a BBC reporter set out to find him. Philomena Lee is down to earth, loving and forgiving.

In August: Osaage County, Meryl Streep’s Violet Weston is of similar age to Philomena, but a totally opposite character. She is a pill junky whose truth telling to her family makes Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf a children’s lullaby. Her famous laugh is rarely heard, but she must have had a hoot tearing up the scenery. Julia Roberts is Violet’s #1 daughter, Barbara. Watching the two of them go at one another is sometimes painful (especially for girl children), but always captivating.

Marriages

Le Week-End:

Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) go to Paris for their 30th anniversary–whether to celebrate or separate and divorce is unclear. Lovingly and honestly, the film explores the routines and resentments that both bind and erode a long relationship. Nick was the smartest and best boy at university, but that was his peak: he has spent many years toiling away as a middling academic in a nondescript college. His old college chum and then acolyte (Jeff Goldblum), now living is Paris with his new, young wife, is the success Nick was expected to be.

Lifelong:

This Turkish film opens with early morning sex, the last and only intimacy of any kind we see from a couple (only a little younger than that in Le Week-End) that have grown apart from one another and, somewhat, from their post-college age daughter. The interactions between this creative couple-Ela is a recognized but underselling artist, Can is a successful architect–is on auto-pilot turned way down. They divide their time between a sterile house, narrow with an enormous staircase that looks like an eye, and a weekend house. Ela believes Can is having an affair and tries to catch him out. Lifelong is visually beautiful and emotionally draining.

A Thousand Times Good Night:

Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) is a war photographer. She returns home to her family in Norway to heal from serious injuries she sustained covering suicide bombers in Afghanistan. As in Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still (Steppenwolf Theatre 2012), the question is what Rebecca will do when she is healed. Her husband (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) says he can no longer handle his constant fear for her and the damage to their children. All the characters are loving and strive for the best outcome. Rebecca wants to somehow maintain her family, but if she doesn’t tell the story, who will? There is no best choice. Norwegian coast is breathtaking.