Dark Water (2005) – film review

Here’s a young mother with a five-year-old daughter freshly divorced from her husband who thinks she’s delusional, paranoid even, and wants to keep sole custody of their daughter. The daughter is everything she has reason to live, a life that has been so hard to endure with an indelible traumatic childhood. Yet, because she sees herself in her daughter needing constant unconditional love, which she was not allowed to have, she will do anything to protect her from the harsh reality of life, even from the supernatural peril of the beyond reality.

So the story of Dark Water (2005) narrates Dahlia, a young divorcee trying to take full custody of her daughter Ceci away from her assiduously hostile husband. Instead, he embarks on a legal battle to claim sole possession of Ceci because of Dahlia’s unstable mental state. Dahlia, a once copy editor from Seattle, takes a low-paying administrative position at a Manhattan Radiology office for livelihood in a delipidated apartment in Roosevelt Island with Ceci. The semblance of the apartment is the working-class version of Rosemary’s apartment. Dark water is leaking everywhere: from the elevator to their bedroom ceiling, and the laundry room, which is a prelude to the finding of a tank on the rooftop where the traumatic ends of a certain young Russian girl abandoned, unloved finds her and her memories. Or is it Dahlia’s phantasmal delusion of confronting her own child self in her painkiller-induced pill to alleviate the cruel migraine caused by the yoke of woes?

Dark Water is an American adaptation of the original Japanese film Dark Water (2002) by Koji Suzuki, the famous writer of the Ring trilogy, excellently translated to an American audience who will find broad universal themes of human nature, psychology, and behavior. You don’t have to have perfect childhood fed on parental love to be a loving parent. Of course, unhappy childhood will affect the development of one’s character and behavior pattern more or less, but it all boils down to one’s nature to be loved and be loving. Dahlia wants to counteract the demon of the past, which still grabs her with its tenacious tentacle of recurring nightmares and murderous migraine, by being constantly -and eternally – loving and kind to Ceci despite her unhealed scars left in her child self. Perhaps that is why her name is Dahlia, whose flower word is loyalty, dignity, courage, and support due to its withstanding of harsh conditions.

Jennifer Connelly, playing Dahlia, is not only beautiful but also talented in a way that few actresses on screen possess in our time. Her presence in scenes is unique in that her character is downright realistic yet oddly out of the world in a riveting way, as exhibited in this film. No wonder the late film critic Roger Ebert admired her for the same reason. With her exceptional performance and the storytelling that grips the eyes and ears of the beholder, Dark Water is a worthy film for those who delight in supernatural horror without blood and screams.

‘Buck and the Preacher’ (1971)

Rousseau’s dictum of “Men are born free and are chains everywhere.” fittingly describes the condition of what it means to be free from slavery after the Civil War. Even so, freedom was recalcitrant to belong to them, and the hardships that came with the price of liberty from the carnage of the war still beset the newly freed along the trail of exodus to the new promised land in the west as articulated in Sidney Poitier’s classic western film “Buck and the Preacher” (1971).

Buck (played by Sidney Poitier), a former Union sergeant turned scout, leads a wagon of freed blacks from Louisiana to the west, where they hope to start their new lives without a shadow of slavery. But alas, the shadow of slavery still haunts them. It is up for grabs in the form of renegade ex-soldiers, probably both of the Union and the Confederates, hired by the former enslavers to bring the migrants back to the chains of slavery. They attack the wagon, rape women, and kill the old and the young, constantly intimidating them to return to where they belong. But the pain of loss and death is even less painful than the thought of returning to the past, and the journey marches on. Buck protects the journey, and the self-proclaimed preacher conman artist (played by Harry Belafonte) a former slave, chimed in, despite his original ulterior motive of money-gaining. This unlikely dup proves to be something of Moses and Aaron, so to speak, in a way that they guide and protect the persecuted people from the sordid bondage to a new promised land even if it takes a nearly decimal lot.

Then there are Indians across the wilderness as gatekeepers to the land of freedom. They are no outsiders to the persecution with their land taken away and their very beings threatened to decimate. The Indians live by the toll fees migrants have to pay when crossing their territories, not the least due to the paucity of livelihood resulting from the government’s confiscation of the land. When Buck implores the tribal chief to help them against the white attackers because they are all brothers, the chief retorts him by saying, “But black people also fought against us with the whites.” The mistrust is natural, as is the confrontation of the two peoples whose rights are put to contests orchestrated by the forfeiter of the rights. The class consciousness between the Indians and the blacks needs a manifestation of shared injustice and empathy, which both of them attest to an objective reality where they prove to be on the same side.

This film is one of the great Sidney Poitier’s and finest as I have been watching as remembering this brilliant actor who has recently died. Always poised with a commending presence filled with natural confidence and will without being febrile and vociferous, Poitier exudes his irresistibly graceful charisma on screen in this memorable Western about blacks and Indians, who are often seen in the peripheral characters contributing to highlighting main white characters. But this is not a revisionist Western at all to polarize the thematic elements of the genre. Hardly so. Instead, “Buck and the Preacher” is an eye-opening Western film about the peoples who are likely to be cast as outsiders even if they also rightfully belong to, to quote Lincoln, “the family of freedom with a jewel of liberty” called Americans.

Hakuna Matata! ‘The Lion King’ (2019) – film review

Whether animated or dubbed, good movies are conversant with more delicate tissues of conscience and spirit than others replete with vehement manifestos. I am talking about ‘The Lion King’ (2019 film),’ that is. It is a wholesome movie with simple adages of friendship, love, patience, and courage—only the more vividly alive and visually superb with the Cute factor. The film is also what Plato says in the Republic, a work of art that best imitates the objects and events of human life, a good entertainment.

The a priori reasoning is sometimes apt, and so was the movie. I admit that had it not been for the cute Simba’s face in the movie’s advertisement on my newly subscribed Disney Plus channel, I would have passed it. Besides, living with nature in the form of thirteen-month-old tabby cat Toro at home perfected the inclination to watch it. What captured my eyes most was the realistic animals and landscape that rendered undoubtful verisimilitude of natural wildlife in Africa. It’s a hybrid of the 21st science and timeless imagination that created the world’s awe-inspiring symmetrical view of natural beauty in cinematography. Contrary to unwelcome and acerbic opinions about the movie for its lack of fluid emotions and spectacular action scenes, I find it genuine and honest. It illustrates the natural habitats and habits of the animals in the wild as authentically as possible, which may seem less than what today’s audience inured to gratuitous special effects and outpourings of dramatic gestures. However, nature is simple, and Leonardo da Vinci saw it as the ultimate sophistication of beauty.

If Aesop’s Fables are the ancient Greek’s way of teaching morals or virtues to people of all ages, this film follows the tradition of teaching the good in the audience’s hearts. There are four types of love subtly construed as thematic subjects in the movie: (1) Eros – passions between lovers; (2) Philia – friendship; (3) Storge – love between parents and children; and (4) Agape – humanity. Furthermore, the Homerian code of honors that Simba and his father Mufasa possess and the eponymous virtue of arete consists of moral integrity and physical finesse. The goodness described above incarnates in the pride of the lions and alludes to human characteristics laid bare in the majestically untamed landscape of the Pristine Wild.

‘The Lion King’ (2019 film) is thought-provoking and entertaining. Plato, whose view on the best of art as the best imitation of the physical world, would approve of this film as a wholesome entertainment in the constellation of the great minds. But, notwithstanding his approval, the film is worth watching when you feel lonely and need some pick-me-up spirit with smiling cheer. After all, a good mood in the buoyancy of a cheerful soul with hope for an uncertain future is what makes our lives pleasant. Hakuna Matata!