A FIELD IN ENGLAND
⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Drugs, violence.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.
England’s rising star director Ben Wheatley (“Kill List,” “Sightseers”) loses considerable altitude with this incomprehensible muddle of 17th-century warfare, necromancy, psychotropic mushrooms and buried treasure. Shot in black-and-white, it opens with stately tableaux and soldiers in flight from a nearby battle. These deserters from the English Civil War, one royalist Cavalier and a few parliamentarian Roundheads, are captured by the imposing O’Neil (Michael Smiley), who forces them to dig for the loot he is sure lies in an open field. The group’s interpersonal friction turns to infighting, paranoia and, when the men eat some peculiar fungi, a mind-bending strobe-lit voyage to uncharted realms. There are engaging moments and funny lines (one expiring soldier tells his comrade to carry his final message to his wife. “Tell her … I hate her.”). The surrealism is clumsily forced, however, and the significance of the single grassy open-air location and the laboriously mannered dialogue is dubious. It’s dementia for its own sake, an empty head-trip.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: in subtitled Japanese.
A deeply affecting Japanese family tale from Hirokazu Kore-eda, renowned for his films about parents, children, blood bonds and loss. The premise of this nature/nurture tale is babies switched at birth, but Kore-eda's superlative story sense and legendary ease with child actors make it thrillingly alive. A hard-charging architect and his proper wife are bowled over by news that their adorable 6-year-old child belongs to another couple, a lower class, rough-edged but deeply loving couple who have been parenting the yuppies' son. Both parties agree that it's best to switch the boys back, a decision that leads to tough issues of flesh-and-blood vs. emotional ties. Pop idol Masaharu Fukuyama plays a well-off workaholic forced to grapple with his own family issues. Keep your handkerchief handy — this impeccably executed tragicomedy is guaranteed to open up the waterworks.