The Sonata


Candlelight can be romantic – or terrifying.

(2018) Horror (Screen Media) Freya Tingley, Simon Abkarian, James Faulkner, Rutger Hauer, Catherine Schaub-Abkarian, Matt Barber, Christopher Brand, James Kermack, Myster Jo, Aurélija Pronina, Andrejs Zikovs, Maija Cipste, Artürs Ghoss, Laine Ligere Stegrévica, Janis Libietis, Jurijs Krüze, Atis Afréds Brasmanis, Olga Svecova, Aleksandrs Mihailovs, Alina Vasiljeva. Directed by Andrew Desmond

Music has an almost mystical hold on our imaginations. We define ourselves by it, link it to memories both dark and lovely, use it to buoy our spirits or help us carry out repetitive or boring tasks. We arrange ourselves into tribes according to the kind of music we like. Music is essential to who we are.

Rose Fisher (Tingley) is a concert violinist who may have a brilliant career ahead of her. She has yet to achieve her full potential which has led to a rift between her and her manager Charles (Abkarian), who is a recovering alcoholic. When the news that Rose’s estranged father has died, she fields the news with the same frosty demeanor that you’d adopt if you were told that you’re short change for the bus.

Charles is surprised to discover that Rose’s pa is none other than Richard Marlowe (Hauer), once a composer who was poised to remake classical music with his brilliant compositions – until he essentially withdrew from public life to a run-down French chateau. His name had sunk into obscurity – those who even knew who he was had assumed he had been dead for years. However, Marlowe had been busy in the last years of his life, creating a violin sonata that apparently was written with Rose in mind and might be his most brilliant work yet.

He also left Rose the aforementioned chateau with the obligatory nosy housekeeper (Schaub-Abkarian) which Rose doesn’t really want; she is much more interested in selling the Gothic abomination. However, when she discovers the new sonata, she also discovers a mystery; the sonata is dotted with strange symbols and appears only half-completed. As Rose looks into the piece, she discovers to her dismay that the symbols are Satanic in origin and as she begins to have horrific nightmares and unexplained occurrences make her waking hours no picnic either, she realizes that dear old dad had a much more sinister purpose with his piece than just tormenting his daughter with it.

The chateau makes for an excellent supernatural horror film setting, with plenty of sinister cherubic statues, appropriately foggy woods, and dark corners for apparitions to leap out of. Desmond gives us a concept that has all sorts of fascinating connotations; using music as a conduit to other realms. It makes sense if you understand how a really great musician is transported when in the midst of playing, and transports us along with them. There is power in that, a kind of power that sadly goes largely unexplored here.

Tingley, best known for TV series Hemlock Grove and Once Upon a Time, isn’t given a whole lot to work with. Rose is at various turns arrogant, cold, obsessive and vulnerable. She’s not really a damsel in distress, but she’s not really a terribly strong woman either. When we first meet her, she is informed of her father’s death and has a reaction that is guaranteed to be the very opposite of endearing. To make matters worse, Tingley gives us a rather stiff performance, making me theorize that she was uncomfortable with the role. That’s just conjecture, of course.

This is one of the great Rutger Hauer’s final performances and it is a brief one; he mostly appears in brief snatches – pointing to the woods, glimpsed in mirrors and around corners, and has no dialogue other than during a vintage interview. It really is rather a waste because he has more presence than anyone else in the film. I wish the filmmakers had utilized him better.

A film about music needs a good score and fortunately this film has one. Composer Alexis Mangaud makes a suitably creepy tone but also makes the music lovely for the most part – some of it is atonal and dissonant but by the film’s end it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the music, even if you’re not a classical music aficionado.

The film suffers from some rookie mistakes; an over-reliance on jump scares, plot points that lead nowhere, and generally unlikable characters who have little depth to them. Still, there’s enough here to make this a fairly solid horror opus perfect for rainy nights, autumn afternoons as the sun is dying in the sky, or just to creep you out when you’re alone in the house. Sometimes, that’s all a movie really needs to be.

REASONS TO SEE: A truly fascinating idea.
REASONS TO AVOID: Tingley gives a fairly stiff performance.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some unsettling adult themes, gruesome images, terror, profanity, and violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is Desmond’s feature film debut; it is also the second-to-last film from the late Rutger Hauer to see the light of day (there’s one more coming out later this year).
BEYOND THE THEATERS: AppleTV, Fandango Now, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/9/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 67% positive reviews: Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Rosemary’s Baby
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Papillon (2018)

New Releases for the Week of January 10, 2020


1917

(Universal) George Mackay, Dean Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, Pip Carter. Directed by Sam Mendes

Two young British soldiers during the height of the First World War are given a nearly-impossible task; in a race against time, they must cross enemy territory to deliver a message to a battalion of soldiers who are walking into a trap – one of them the brother of one of the messengers. This won the Best Dramatic Movie at last weekend’s Golden Globes and is almost certain to be a major contender for the upcoming Oscars.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: War
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence, some disturbing images, and language)

Chhapaak

(Rising Star) Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey, Madhurjeet Sarghi, Ankit Bisht. The story of a woman in India who had acid hurled into her face, causing irreparable damage. Her refusal to accept an indifferent legal and medical system proved to be an inspiration to women all over India.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Cinemark Universal Citywalk
Rating: NR

Just Mercy

(Warner Brothers) Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson. A young lawyer just out of Harvard takes on a case in Alabama of an African-American man wrongly accused of a murder – and convicted of it, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. The lawyer refuses to give up however and continues to defend his client despite an array of political power against him. Foxx’s name has come up in discussion for the Best Supporting Actor nominations.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Legal Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content including some racial epithets)

Like a Boss

(Paramount) Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Coolidge. Two best friends who have built a cosmetics company from the ground up find themselves in over their heads financially. A buyout from a legendary industry maven seems to be the solution, but it’s only the beginning of their problems.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for language crude sexual material, and drug use)

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior

(Viva) Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Kajol, Sharad Kelkar. The story of a legendary 17th century Marantha warrior who fought for his king and his people and led them to a dazzling victory at Kondana Fort, leaving behind a legacy that illuminated the Indian imagination for centuries.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks
Rating: NR

Underwater

(20th Century Fox) Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick. A group of underwater researchers find themselves facing a dire situation when an underwater earthquake devastates their facility and in their quest to reach safety they find themselves being stalked by something from their worst nightmares.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

3Pol Trobol
Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo
The Corrupted
Darbar
Reality Queen!
Sarileru Neekewaru
Three Christs

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

3Pol Trobol
Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo
Darbar
Dawn
Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike DeGruy
Inherit the Viper
Sarileru Neekewaru
The Sonata
The Song of Names
Three Christs

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

3Pol Trobol
Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo
Because of Sam
Darbar
Sarileru Neekewaru

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo
Darbar
Sarileru Neekewaru

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

1917
Just Mercy
Like a Boss
The Sonata
Underwater

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Dunedin International Film Festival, Dunedin FL
Miami Jewish Film Festival, Aventura FL
Sunshine City Film Festival, St. Petersburg FL