The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A brilliant one that almost got lost on the sea

with 10 comments

all is lostThe sea of cinema is huge. It’s also unfair. The movies that deserve eternal oblivion buried on the sea bottom end up sailing on forever, taking everyone aboard, seemingly unsinkable. And the true gems that you wish everyone would get the chance to see inevitably pass unnoticed, out of view behind the large waves from the large budgeted ferries.

All is Lost is one of those movies that got lost on the ocean. It was close that I hadn’t watched it either, since it didn’t get any wide cinema distribution in Sweden; it was screened at a film festival and that was it.

Even if I don’t agree with the decision not to show it to a large public, I can sort of understand it, from a commercial point of view. Basically it’s a movie about one man who is alone in his boat way out on the ocean. After an accident, his boat starts to take in water and without a functioning radio and navigation he suddenly finds himself fighting for his survival. And that’s the entire plot.

He’s not kidnapped by terrorists. He’s not facing morale issues about who is going to eat who on the ship when starvation sets in. Because there is no one else, just him. There’s no one else to talk to. He doesn’t hallucinate like James Franco in 127 Hours and he doesn’t talk to ball like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. He barely says a word throughout the entire film. The only sound you hear is from the ocean, the wind and the creeks from the boat.

When I describe it I realize that it sounds like an experiment more than like a movie – something that can amuse cinephiles, but hardly a film that could attract a large audience. So I can see why it went this way. But I think it’s a shame, because it’s a lot more accessible than it appears to be.

Somehow this works, against all odds. I was on my edge all the way through as I watched Robert Redford heroically fighting against the elements, determined to stay alive and stay calm, no matter what. It’s a lot more exciting than you would think. With only one actor in it, the film stands and falls with his performance. And he absolutely nails it – physically as well as emotionally. I was drawn into the film and the elements and I almost expected to fall into the film, like Eustace, Edmund and Lucy fell into the picture in the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And that is an evidence of just how good this film is because I watched it under the worst circumstances possible, as I was travelling to Cambodia earlier this year.

It takes quite a remarkable movie to make such an impact, seen as on-board entertainment on a screen smaller than a laptop. I’m glad I caught it before it was washed away in the tide of time.

All is Lost (J.C. Chandor, US 2013) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

July 21, 2014 at 7:00 am

Posted in All is Lost

10 Responses

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  1. Agree. Too bad this movie didn’t get more attention. Redford’s performance was really something. Would have been a great feeling seeing it in the cinema.

    Jojjenito

    July 21, 2014 at 9:23 am

    • I think so too. I’m trying to convince my local film club to screen it within the next year. Then I’ll finaly get to see it on a big screen.

      Jessica

      July 21, 2014 at 11:45 pm

  2. I understand you loved this one, although it wasn’t one I was able to enjoy. It might also not have helped that at the end of the screening I went to the whole audience started laughing. I felt it was way too long and somehow never was able to get invested in the character even though Redford was good.

    Nostra

    July 21, 2014 at 10:10 am

    • Laughing? That’s a strange reaction. It’s a shame but that’s the backside of watching movies in a theatre. If they “get it wrong” it can ruin the entire experience.

      Jessica

      July 21, 2014 at 11:44 pm

  3. Completely agree and I gave it the same rating. Strong performance and I found it to be quite moving. Amazing how much story can be told with such few words.

    keith7198

    July 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    • I know! And I’m a sucker for it. I love movies that do a lot with very small means. Like this. Or Locke. Or Buried. There are several. But this is the one that I’ve seen that pulls it furthest I think.

      Jessica

      July 21, 2014 at 11:42 pm

  4. It’s an amazing movie, I think I recommended this movie a few months ago. As you mention, it’s not easy to make movies like these, with so little communication going on. I’m having a hard time remembering any others. I can think of Kim Ki Duk movies like Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Or Tarkovsky’s movies. Hardly commercial films.

    Btw, have you seen Boyhood? Just went to see it, I’m sure you’ll like it.

    carrandas

    July 21, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    • You surely did. I get so many great recommendations from you! I haven’t had the chance to see Boyhood yet I’m afraid. It’s one of my most anticipated movies this year. It will open in Sweden in the end of December. I just hope they’ll show it in my city and not just in Stockholm, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.

      Jessica

      July 21, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      • They gave coupon for “two tickets for the price of one” in a popular magazine. While walking out, I overheard a teen telling to her girlfriends “bah, he lead a boring life”. The free part must have lulled them into the wrong movie.

        Poor Swedes, having to wait so long. If it’s any sorrow, I heard that it’s a boring movie.

        carrandas

        July 21, 2014 at 11:55 pm

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