Another Netflix Trilogy bundle, this one focusing on favorably reviewed dramas:  Sunday’s Illness ( 94% | Avg. 7/10| 16 reviews ),  The Kindergarten Teacher ( 88% | Avg. 7.2/10 | 50 reviews ),  Private Life ( 95% | Avg. 7.7/10 | 78 reviews ).
The order above reflects the order from best to worst.
With the opening sequence reminiscent of On Body & Soul and Loveless, this new installment from Ramón Salazar plays well to a trilogy of familial disrepair in the woes of life and overcoming. Sunday’s Illness is a beautifully shot film buried inside the mystery of a family reunion that feels like the forming of the stage for a predetermined separation. Bergman in pace and visual, the film finds itself in perfect balance between the undoing and the creation. Minimalistic in dialogue, the film leaves its essence vocal in the inaudible moments of togetherness. Moments of tedium and seeming optimism with the solace of the setting mountainside and the isolated confines of the home where the sensation of loss is sickening.
Eric Kohn (Indie Wire) describes it best:
In its disquieting, deliberate pace and otherworldly imagery, it takes on a ghostly quality even though no actual spirits materialize. As the past haunts both women, they’re drawn together by a mutual need to exorcise their feelings. Sometimes, the scariest possibility comes from the most authentic place.
While much remains remiss regarding the dialogue and philosophy at its core, Sunday’s Illness has a haunting appeal that makes it worth the patience. With the well received Élite currently available on Netflix, Salazar seems poised to become the bedfellow of directors with eyes for haunting visual poetry.
The Kindergarten Teacher
A pensive and relevant look into a teacher’s quest to facilitate a gift of a young boy until that quest becomes an obsession and ultimately a criminal mental break-down where she tries to steal the light and keep it hidden. Reminiscent of The Man Who Knew Infinity, Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers an exceptional and immensely uncomfortable performance behind a timely script from director Sara Colangelo, with profound ideas surrounding our distraction-based culture where parents are nowhere to be found and authenticity is stolen away by cell phones and socializing.
“Talent is so fragile and so rare. And our culture does everything to crush it.”
Rich themes, but not a complete work that could have been better developed if the film didn’t feel rushed. Like The Tale, this is one of those worthwhile Netflix Originals from young directors showing promise. The two films have much in common in their relation to the promise of youth and the haunting adult realization of what could have been. Fact the posters look identical is uncanny.
The fundamental problem with the Private Life is ironically the basis for the films overarching narrative: adults (understandably) seek to the rescue of science and modern medicine after a lifetime of seemingly rejecting the familial vocation in favor of occupation. Finding the moment too late, they find themselves forced to exploit youth opportunism to no avail. Taking nothing away from the difficult themes (and important one’s at that), but the mantra of feminist tropes and undetectable literary references inundating the scenes become pedantic and distracting.
The drop-out writer experience from Kayli Carter was genuine and the ending was excellent. I applaud Tamara Jenkins for resisting the urge to leave the audiences with closure — painting the reality of life with a brush of existential reality. Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn deliver a forceful performances, with grit and hopeless optimism, they move the story along with excellent tempo and dialogue. But Jenkins doesn’t have the wit or emotional stamina of Woody Allen (older works), Olivier Assayas, Alexander Payne, or Noah Baumbach’s Meyerowitz Stories to engage these topics holistically, so she turns to gratuitous crotch shots and essentially the New York Times op-eds to do her writing for her — which is exactly why the critics loved it more than the other two.