DVD reviews: My Happy Family; Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series; The Hitman’s Bodyguard and more

A mother throws her family into disarray in Netflix’s wonderful Georgian drama, while Twin Peaks is everyone’s best nightmare

If you’re still getting your head around the idea of Netflix as a viable distributor of first-run films, 2018 isn’t going to ease you into it. The streaming behemoth has a massive 80 original movies – either developed in-house or acquired at festivals – slated for release next year, nearly doubling this year’s amount. One hopes their worthy but lower-profile offerings don’t get entirely lost in the crush. As it is, I didn’t notice that the Sundance-acclaimed Georgian drama My Happy Family had recently premiered on Netflix until Village Voice critic Bilge Ebiri named it his film of the year, its absence from cinemas notwithstanding.

I’m glad he did – it’s a stunner. Personal and professional partners Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross previously directed the quietly stirring coming-of-age drama In Bloom. Their follow-up shares that film’s perceptive humanism, but steps it up a notch in terms of emotional and narrative breadth. It begins centred on a fiftysomething Georgian teacher (the wonderful Ia Shugliashvili) who, without ceremony or acrimony, resolves to leave her husband and grown children for a life of calmer solitude. With no history of significant marital discord or domestic dysfunction to back it up, it’s a decision that throws her extended family into perplexed emotional disarray.

As Ekvtimishvili and Gross pull back and zoom in on each person affected, the picture deepens and darkens, the rights and wrongs of the crisis growing harder to resolve with each exquisitely observed detail. It really is a 2017 standout. I’m glad Netflix has given it a platform, though I wish it could be raised a bit higher.

Kyle MacLachlan and Naomi Watts in the ‘extraordinary’ Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series.
Kyle MacLachlan and Naomi Watts in the ‘extraordinary’ Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. Photograph: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Naming a Netflix film the year’s best is only mildly contentious relative to the critical debate that ensued when Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series (Universal, 15) came in at No 2 on Sight & Sound’s films of the year list (and No 1 on Cahiers du cinéma’s). For days, the enclave of so-called FilmTwitter came to blows over whether or not television can be cinema, and how much the distinction matters. Tricky questions, maybe, but small beer beside the richer, more mind-chewing puzzles laid out by David Lynch’s extraordinary return, which can less controversially be described as the most transfixingly nightmarish anything of the year. It’s out on Blu-ray now, with hour upon hour of extras and features, if you’re not yet ready to emerge from its labyrinth.

Luckily, I don’t have to engage in any finicky, format-related arguments before naming The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Lionsgate, 15) the year’s worst film. The fumes of lunk-headed toxicity from this shoddy, dated, anti-buddy comedy can overwhelm any size screen. As, respectively, a hitman and a bodyguard – it’s nothing if not clearly titled – paired up to bring down a Belarusian warlord, Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds attempt to slick their way through it, but can’t override the film’s grim, sporadically racist mismatch of glib comedy and grisly political violence.

Watch the trailer for An Inconveient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Grisly violence gets less objectionably playful treatment in the documentary 78/52 (Dogwoof, 15), a brisk, lively anatomy of Psycho’s immortal shower murder scene. Stuffed with celebrity observers, it entertainingly works critical and anecdotal detail into every stab. Playfulness obviously isn’t the order of the day in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (Universal, 18), an unimpeachably intentioned but homework-like follow-up to 2006’s hit documentary study of Al Gore’s climate-change awareness mission. The enduring need for a sequel 11 years later is itself a testament to the value of Gore’s campaign, but for the converted, there’s little here that’s illuminating.

Finally, The Odyssey (Altitude, PG), an attractive but mostly Wikipedic biopic of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, turns its subject’s environmental activism into a minor narrative marker. There’s an opportunity here for a deeper documentary dive.

Contributor

Guy Lodge

The GuardianTramp

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