The Lighthouse is one of my favorite films from last year, if not my favorite. So, today I wanna look at a scene from The Lighthouse that in my opinion, is the perfect example of how to build and release tension in a single scene without any dialogue.
The particular scene that I’m talking about, happens around twelve minutes into the film where Robert Pattinson’s character is taking a smoke break after completing his chores at the lighthouse. Prior to this scene the movie sets up the two lighthouse keepers who have come to stay in this hostile environment completely isolated. Just in the scene before, we see Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe argue over dinner, on who should be doing the light duty as Pattinson thinks he’s ready for it. Now it might look like a very petty issue, but it creates one of the fundamental conflicts in the story. Dafoe completely rejects Pattinson’s proposition and in turn says, “The light is mine!” But this only increases Pattinson’s curiosity about the light, as now it has been told that it is forbidden to him. He imagines his master to derive some kind of divine pleasure, which he doesn’t want to share with his assistant. After all, Dafoe clearly says, “There’s enchantment in the light.” However futile this sounds to you, this scene actually lays foundation for the Prometheus allegory that runs as one of the main themes of the story. And that is the beauty of The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers takes these really simple scenes where nothing really happens on the surface, but he adds so much meaning to them through subtext,
The scene begins as we find Robert Pattinson smoking on the rock, staring up at the lighthouse with desire filled eyes. If you didn’t catch it earlier, the light here represents Zeus’s fire and Pattinson’s desire for it is deliberately showcased because it becomes one his character’s biggest motives later on in the film. But as a viewer watching the movie for the first time, you are not aware of what the light means, so you’re left wondering of its meaning and there’s an immediate tension and mystery attached to Pattinson’s actions.
The first shot is a tracking shot from behind, as the camera follows Robert Pattinson walking towards the mysterious pitch black sea, lit faintly by the moonlight. In the sea, we see a few wooden logs floating away like an illusion and it immediately grabs our attention. DOP Jarin Blaschke deserves special praise here, his cinematography makes even the most mundane visuals haunting, while being so pretty at the same time. And like us, the sight sucks in Pattinson too, as he in drawn towards it. He gets into the water and starts pacing towards the logs with his lustful eyes right on it, as the camera cuts between the enchanting waters and Robert Pattinson’s bewildered face which only increases the tension. We want to know what’s in the and we want to know what’s attracting Pattinson, so we have ourselves more unanswered questions.
But that’s not where it stops, as Eggers adds even more tension to the scene by placing a person in between the logs which is eventually revealed as the logs move away, and upon inspection anybody can tell that he dead. Suddenly you have a whole new set of unanswered questions – Who is person? How did he get here? What caused his death? And as the camera cuts back to Robert Pattinson, you see all the same uncertainty and tension in his face. And my God, does Pattinson act in this scene! This is by far some of the best acting by him, and he sells everything in movie that on paper might seem really crazy. And as for the last piece to building tension – Pattinson walks straight into his death. He starts to drown in the ocean and now, not only are you uncertain of what is happening or what Pattinson is doing, now you’re also uncertain of whether he’ll survive.
So now that all the tension is built, how does Robert Eggers decide to release it? There are mainly two ways to do this, either provide the audience with some kind of answer or jump cut to a more peaceful scene so that the audience is left wondering what the fuck happened. Eggers decides to do both, but only partially. He gives us an answer but it only complicates the plot even more, he slows us a mermaid. It is important to note here that, this is first supernatural occurrence in the story, and it remains to be the only one for a longtime. So as the story develops you’re always reminded of the mermaid and her chilling cries underwater, so the tension remains intact throughout. Even though, Robert Pattinson’s character never talks about it later, you can tell that it’s bothering him since it was earlier revealed that the last keeper died after talking of the mer-folk.
So what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? For that we’ll need to what’s the role of mermaids in mythology. While some western cultures do represent the mermaid as friendly beings, most mythical stories portray them as vicious creatures. In popular stories mermaids are found to lure seamen out of their ships into the and seduce them to death. And while being seduced to death doesn’t sound so unpleasant, it is really one of the worst ways to die as they feed off your soul for years.So, again what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? It represents desire – the very thing that leads Pattinson’s character to his doom.
The mermaid comes back in several scenes throughout the movie as a recurring theme. And because of this first scene, we’re always scared that something bad might happen to Robert Pattinson like the previous lighthouse keeper, whenever she appears. So not only does she act as a motif throughout the film, she also becomes a source of suspense and tension. With each appearance of the mermaid, Pattinson’s desire only increases and it comes out of in the last act of movie – first as a rage-filled masturbation scene where he imagines having sex with the mermaid, and second as a vengeful act against his master.
Now, some people think that all the scenes with the mermaid are actually dream sequences, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. You can think whatever you want to think that happened, it’s the symbolism behind the scene that matters. It is the story of Prometheus trying to steal what the gods denied him as an act of revolt, and in turn being punished for it for eternity. But what Eggers cleverly does in his take of the story is he doesn’t choose a hero, instead he paints both sides in dark nuanced tones, and what happens in result, turns The Lighthouse into an age old story of men going too far to fulfill their desires.
So, who’s sitting in their homes wasting all of their time watching movies? Just me, eh? Oh my bad. But still you must be getting bored stuck up in your apartment and must be looking out for some kinda source of entertainment. And trust me, ain’t no harm in passing your time watching movies in this panicky times. So, what movies should you see?
You have probably seen the big budget CGI blockbusters like Endgame or The Lion King. Also, you have probably checked out the award biggies like Once upon a Time in… Hollywood, Joker or 1917. And since almost everybody has Netflix, you must’ve seen Marriage Story or The Irishman (even though you didn’t sit through all 3 and half hours of it). But 2019 was a great year for movies, and you probably didn’t see a lot of the great ones overlooked by the audience at the theaters or on streaming. Well then, this coronavirus pandemic might have finally given you the time to check out this underrated gems from last year. So here are 18 overlooked movies from 2019, you must check out:
After 2017’s brilliant “It Comes at Night”, director Trey Edward Shults returns with this epic emotional journey of a suburban African American family as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the wake of a tragic loss. The movie is brave and bold in storytelling and the way it is structured. There’s a huge risk that’s taken midway through the film, and it definitely pays of. Though a sports movie at heart, Trey’s meticulous detailing and examination of love and family life will surely touch your heartstrings and maybe force a few ears down your cheek.
Featuring an impressive ensemble cast that includes Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (It Comes at Night), Sterling K. Brown (This is Us), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Broadway’s Hamilton), Taylor Russell (Lost in Space), and Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird), each and everyone gives an extraordinary performance. Especially Sterling K. Brown who is definitely robbed of an Oscar nom.
Despite the positive press, the turbulent family drama didn’t make many waves at the box office when it hit theater screens in November of 2019, most likely due to its limited release and restrained marketing campaign. The movie is available on Apple TV and Amazon for rent.
2. Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep is probably the most high profile movie on this list. But when the sequel to The Shining makes only $70 million at the box office, it’s definitely underwhelming, especially when it’s so good. Mike Flanagan was given an almost impossible task – to follow Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece and at the same time stay true to Stephen King’s original novel (since King very publicly hates the Shining, which he maybe even he should). And yet somehow, Mike Flanagan pulls it off. Doctor Sleep is both a worthy sequel to Kubrick’s movie and King’s novel. I have been a fan of Flanagan’s direction and editing since Oculus, and he definitely doesn’t disappoint here. Ewan McGregor is really good as Danny, and I love how the story deals with his character and it’s one of my favorite things about the movie. Both Rebecca Fergusson and Kyleigh Curran are fantastic in their respective roles. And for the horror fans out there, yeah the scares in this film are really good too. So make sure to check it out if you haven’t already. It might not be as good as The shining, but it’s the next best thing.
3. High Life
I love space movies,and High Life takes a giant leap ahead of the others in its genre. Unfortunately, many missed out on the visually moving, emotionally stirring, and deeply haunting film in favor of other movies that debuted on April 5, 2019.
Robert Pattinson leads the movie, helmed by 35 Shots of Rum director Claire Denis, as Monte, a man who is on death row for killing his friend when he was a child. Monte, his fellow inmates, and their criminal supervisor Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche) are carrying out a dangerous mission in space, hurtling toward a black hole for reasons not initially explicitly known. The journey doesn’t end well, and the path that the prisoners walk along is just as devastating. Told in a nonlinear fashion, High Life follows Monte as he attempts to learn what actually happened to the other inmates aboard the ship while caring for his infant daughter, Willow, who was born during the mission under chilling circumstances.
4. Under The Silver Lake
Mitchell’s It Follows was one of the best debuts of all time, his sophomore outing, Under the Silver Lake is a movie that only a certain few will like, but if you like it you’ll love it. Fortunately, I just love this movie. David Robert Mitchell’s modern-day neo-noir started off with plenty of hype, playing in competition at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Originally scheduled for a June 2018 release, the film was pushed back so that Mitchell could do another edit, and after further pushbacks, it was released in America to next to no fanfare on April 2019. Critics either loved or hated this one, with little space in-between, but nobody could deny the dizzying ambition on display. Andrew Garfield plays Sam (and he knocks it out of the park), a slacker with an interest in conspiracy theories who sets out on a strange quest after his neighbor (Riley Keough) mysteriously disappears. The movie is very influential for me and I find something new every time I watch it.A lot of Under the Silver Lake is deliberately aggravating but if you stick with its heightened style and accept its inherently baffling nature, you may discover something special.
5. The Nightingale
Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, The Babadook, was one of my favorite films when it came out and since then it has become a horror classic (and a fabulous LGBTQ+ icon!) Following that up, Kent decided to take a totally different direction and directed one of the most brutal but crucial films of the year in The Nightingale. Set during the Van Diemen’s Land Black War – a period of violent conflict between the Aboriginal Australians of Tasmania and the British colonialists – Irish convict Clare Carroll (played by Aisling Franciosi) works for the British Army in the hopes of seeking freedom for her husband and infant daughter.
After the sadistic Lieutenant Hawkins and his soldiers violently rape Claire and kill her family, she decides to seek revenge with the help of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy. Out of all the films on this list, The Nightingale is easily the toughest to watch. Deeply vicious, immensely disturbing, and hugely controversial for its extreme depictions of rape and violence, this is a story of deep anger that could never be downplayed or softened for general audiences. It takes no prisoners because war and colonialism never did, and Kent has no interest in sugar-coating the heinous crimes of British colonialism against the Aboriginal people of Australia. In that aspect, its bravery cannot be undersold.
6. Blinded by the Light
I love this love this movie for many reasons and if you are an Indian/Pakistani with a passion for art you’ll definitely love it too. At the intersection of Bruce Springsteen’s heart-tugging lyrics and the life of a teen in 1980s England is a story of self-discovery, coming of age, and the transformative power of a chorus that begs to be belted out loud. From director Gurinder Chadha, Blinded by the Light tells this very tale: contemporary rock fan and aspiring songwriter and poet Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), the son of two Pakistani immigrants living in the south east of England, discovers Bruce Springsteen and is suddenly struck with a feeling he’s never experienced before.
Though “The Boss” and the wide-eyed teen lead two very different lives, Javed finds all too relatable Springsteen’s lyrics of wanting to break free from his small town and make a name for himself. His parents (Kulvinder Ghir and Meera Ganatra) and his best friend Matt (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) may not understand, but Javed feels like he was born to run — outside the city limits of Luton, away from his traditional family values, and into a world where his dreams can become reality.
7. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
France, 1770. Marianne, a painter, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent. Héloïse is a reluctant bride to be and Marianne must paint her without her knowing. She observes her by day, to paint her secretly.
The movie is French, so they definitely fall in love and what develops is one of the most touching and heartwarming relationships put on film ever. The two actresses do work I can’t even comprehend and the direction is just off the charts. Celine Sciamma shoots very frame like it’s a painting and the effect is astounding. Please give this beautiful movie a watch, you’ll not be disappointed.
8. Fast Color
Im a huge comicbook nerd and love CBMs. And superhero movies are the talk of the town right now yet, one of the greatest superhero films of 2019 was one the vast majority of moviegoers completely missed out on. Fast Color, directed and co-written by Miss Stevens filmmaker Julia Hart, stars The Cloverfield Paradox actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ruth, whose seizures cause massive earthquakes, and Orange Is the New Black alum Lorraine Toussaint as Bo, Ruth’s mother who has the ability to disintegrate and reassemble objects with her mind and to see “the colors” — vivid flashes of light.
9. Don’t Come Back From the Moon
Starring Rashida Jones as Eva Smalley and James Franco (who I just adore) as her husband Roman Smalley, Don’t Come Back from the Moon is as deeply affecting as its title suggests. The film, an adaptation of Dean Bakopoulos’ novel directed by Bruce Thierry Cheung, angles itself from the perspective of the Smalleys’ 16-year-old son Mickey (Jeffrey Wahlberg), who is grappling with feelings of intense abandonment after his father becomes the latest man in their California town to pack his bags and leave, vanishing without another word. In short the kinda movie I’ll see.
It sounds like the logline of a new paranormal sci-fi series, but Don’t Come Back from the Moon is rooted in a harsh reality: the fathers and husbands in the rundown desert community walk away from their lives because they have nothing better to do — because they don’t care that they’re leaving behind boys who must turn into men before their time, and children who don’t know why their dads always end up “going to the moon.” As Eva resists the urge to self-medicate with alcohol, Mickey looks after his younger brother Kolya (Zackary Arthur), explores his sexuality, and lets his angst manifest in a rebellious streak — the whole time weaving a tale that’s “piercingly observant about the fragility of the family foundation.”
Released in a limited run in mid-January, Don’t Come Back from the Moon has garnered sweeping praise from critics, who regard the film as “poignant and visually striking,” “an artful and affecting mix of harshly defined specifics and impressionistic storytelling.”
The perfect film for people like you and me, who busted their ass last year for getting into the colleges of their dream. The flick follows do-good best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), who make the shocking realization that while they were hitting the books in the hopes of getting into good colleges, their peers were partying hard and gaining entry into those same universities. Motivated by a desire to prove themselves as carefree and a burning need to never be inferior to their classmates, Molly and Amy try to shove four years’ worth of rule-breaking fun into a single night. As you watch the pair attend parties, learn new slang, get in trouble with the law, face their fears in more ways than one, and finally come of age, you’ll laugh, cry, and wish your last day as a high school student was even one-tenth as interesting and life-changing as Molly and Amy’s blowout envoi.
It’s difficult to oversell just how incredible Booksmart is, how heartbreaking it is knowing that it didn’t make tens of millions of dollars, or why you should see it, like, yesterday. So, we’ll let Little White Lies’ Hannah Woodhead do the talking for us: “Booksmart feels like a watershed moment for the next generation.”
11. Last Black Man Of San Francisco
Exalted as “one of the best movies of 2019 by a long shot,” if not the top film of the year, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a rousing, soul-stirring, haunting effort from Joe Talbot. Talbot makes his directorial debut with this drama partly based on the life of Jimmie Fails, a black man trying to reclaim his childhood home in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, California. Jimmie’s best friend Montgomery “Mont” Allen, played by White Boy Rick and Captive State actor Jonathan Majors, accompanies him on his quest to recoup ownership over the Victorian house his grandfather built. What follow are discoveries about identity, truth, and belonging in a city they no longer feel has any space for them.
The film — which also stars powerhouse talents like Danny Glover, Mike Epps, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Thora Birch, and Finn Wittrock — left critics moved when A24 released it in a limited launch on June 7. Its scenes filmed and its story told beautifully, The Last Black Man in San Francisco bursts with emotion, grapples with life truths, and has the makings of an unforgettable classic. The pic definitely isn’t one to miss (though many did miss out on it when it hit cinemas), so catch it as soon as you can.
12. Wild Rose
If you are like me and you love British dramas about awkward young people, this movies this right up your ally. An invigorating take on the star-is-born tale, Wild Rose puts aspiring country star Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) up on stage, then draws the curtain back to show what life beyond the twangy tunes and cowboy boots is really like. You see, Rose-Lynn isn’t your typical doe-eyed country musician with a dream in her heart and a guitar in her hand — she’s also Scottish, an ex-convict, and the mother of two children. Struggling to make ends meet, to avoid falling back into the habits that landed her in jail in the first place, and to realize her ultimate goal of becoming the next Dolly Parton, Rose-Lynn hits a crossroads when the doors that lead to a better life finally open… and draw her away from her kids.
13. The Farewell
Released by A24 in a limited run on July 12, The Farewell centers on Awkwafina’s Billi, an aspiring Chinese American writer, and her family, who are shocked to learn that their beloved Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) — Mandarin for “grandmother” — is dying. Billi’s parents Haiyan (Tzi Ma) and Jian (Diana Lin) notify her just days after she’s turned down for a writing grant that Nai Nai has terminal lung cancer and only a few months left to live.
Billi’s family decides not to tell Nai Nai of her impending fate. They repeatedly deceive the ailing woman in an effort to realize the old adage about ignorance being bliss, ultimately scheduling a wedding for Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Chen Han) as a way to unite the family for one last celebration before Nai Nai passes. However, Billi is uneasy about lying to her grandmother and ends up disobeying her family’s request, showing up in China to rock the boat.
A gripping mystery-drama from director Julius Onah, Luce picks up ten years after the adoption of Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a bright boy born in war-torn Eritrea who has become a respected debater at his high school, an all-star athlete, a beloved member of his Arlington, Virginia community, and, of course, the pride and joy of his parents Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth). Luce’s dazzling reputation takes an unexpected hit after he submits an assignment — an essay written in the voice of 20th-century political revolutionary Frantz Fanon — to his history teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). The underlying message of Luce’s essay causes immediate concern, and when Harriet searches through Luce’s locker to see if there are any clues to explain the young man’s alarming remarks, she discovers something far worse than words on a page.
15. The Souvenir
Another one of those “every frame a painting” movies, featuring captivating performances from real-life mother-daughter pair Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne (who also star as mother and daughter in the film), The Souvenir follows a young woman named Julie who forms an unhealthy relationship with a much older man while attending film school. Based partially on writer/director Joanna Hogg’s own experiences at film school, The Souvenir weaves its narrative together using loose, dreamy stitches, relying on the audience to fill in the purposeful spaces it leaves as it skips through time in uneven strides. The result is an often painful and occasionally abstract coming-of-age tale that wrestles with addiction, ambition, and destructive romance that feels more like remembering an experience than telling a story.
The Souvenir may not be the best movie night pick for a casual film fan, but committed cinephiles should expect to be blown away by its strong performances and expert filmmaking. While this critical gem didn’t fare so well during its limited theatrical run, you can catch up with it in the comfort of your own home, since it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime
16. Honey Boy
When I first heard of this movie, I dismissed it as a vanity project for Shia LaBeouf. I mean nn paper, Honey Boy seems like the type of film that shouldn’t work at all, the type of self-indulgent and overly personal fare that is much more therapeutic for the filmmaker than entertaining for an audience. And yet, somehow, the Shia LaBeouf-penned film (in which he also stars as his own father) manages to defy expectations, delivering a deeply personal and introspective film that also works as a nuanced examination of a dysfunctional father-son relationship and a thoughtful commentary on child actors in Hollywood.
In a loose recounting of LaBeouf’s own childhood, Honey Boy mostly follows 12-year-old television star Otis (Noah Jupe), who lives his life between comedy sets and a seedy motel room, which he shares with his father, James, a former rodeo clown who now makes his living as Otis’ chaperone. James is several years sober, but still fails to give Otis the love and affection he craves, offering up hefty helpings of criticism and outright hostility instead. Yet, as the adult Otis (Lucas Hedges) reflects from rehab (the setting in which LaBeouf also wrote the screenplay), he can’t completely write his father off, much as he may want to, and still finds himself yearning for some sense of connection.
Fortunately for the majority of people who missed Honey Boy in theaters, the film is now streaming on Amazon.
17. The Lighthouse
Is the Lighthouse about two people going mad in a deserted Lighthouse, or an allegory for the revolutionary story of Prometheus? Whatever be the case, this movie might just be my favorite movie of last year.
Directed by The Witch filmmaker Robert Eggers, who also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Max, The Lighthouse is a surreal and disturbing “descent into madness,” with standout performances from both Pattinson and Dafoe. It may be a little too bizarre for the casual film fan — one critic called it a “visceral assault on the senses,” with others warning that it is “rough going” and “the opposite of a crowd-pleaser” — but these appear to be features, not bugs, playing into the overall effectiveness of the film. But while The Lighthouse performed respectably for a film of its size, it was still not widely seen by movie-going audiences as a whole, despite its warm reception from critics.
In 2021, Robert Pattinson will make his (hopefully) triumphant return to major franchise fare — after previously appearing in both the Twilight and Harry Potter films — when he’ll star as Bruce Wayne in The Batman. After plenty busy with several smaller, artistically ambitious films that challenge both actors and audiences alike, let’s hope he makes for a great Batman.
18. The Wind
2019 was hardly short of horror films, from the continued domination of Blumhouse to It: Chapter 2 following up one of 2017’s biggest hits and concluding one of horror fiction’s most popular stories. There’s always space in the calendar for a horror title to plug a gap in-between blockbusters. Still, more than a few slid under the cracks when they easily deserved a bigger audience. Emma Tammi took her story to the American frontier of the 19th century with The Wind. A Midnight Madness selection from the previous year’s Toronto International Film Festival, The Wind perhaps suffered from too many comparisons to Robert Eggers’s The Witch.
It’s not hard to see why those parallels were drawn but they did a disservice to Tammi’s film and her intent. Focusing on two couples who live in solitude on a vast unpopulated area of New Mexico, The Wind sees them possibly tormented by a poltergeist or prairie spirit seeking to cause havoc. At its heart, this is a film about women’s struggles in an isolated world where their fears are dismissed and gaslighting often drives them to ruin. Tammi’s directorial debut reveals her to be an assured filmmaker with a strong grasp over theme and craft, and her characters are all richly drawn in ways that often subvert horror viewers’ expectations.