Milwaukee Film Festival 2017: The Midwife, White Sun, Jasper Jones

As the Milwaukee Film Festival wound to a close, I reflected on some of the great experiences I had this year versus my first outing in 2016. I took advantage of a lot more and ran around like crazy. But it felt worth it, and I am thankful to have gotten the chance. So starting off with a few screeners to warm me up, I prepared for the end of the film fest with a mixture of excitement, relief, and a bit of sadness.



Source: Curzon Artificial Eye

Life can be funny sometimes as we experience joyful and painful memories. So when an old mistress of Claire Breton’s (Catherine Frot) departed father comes back into the picture, Claire’s life takes an interesting turn. In Martin Provost’s The Midwife Béatrice Sobolewski (Catherine Devenue) has been diagnosed with cancer and is afraid about dying. Alone and without many friends, Béatrice seeks out Claire after disappearing from her life for nearly 30 years. Appalled that this woman shows back up in her life, Claire attempts to push her away with limited success. But when facing the end of her career as a talented midwife and seeing her son Simon (Quentin Dolmaire) finding a girlfriend and settling down, Claire tries to reconnect with the free-spirited Béatrice to make up for lost time and fill a long-established emptiness that she has felt.

Provost’s narrative is hardly new territory in depicting a first reluctant, then joyful union of polar opposites. Even the roles are familiar. Claire is the straitlaced professional who loves her job and doesn’t deviate much from her life’s established routines. She’s also dealing with the pain of past loss and a slight estrangement from her son. Béatrice, on the other hand, is the free spirt who loves to shop, drink lots of wine, and have a good time in general, even finding joy amidst her own, much more physical pain. The film also does a good job establishing just who they are as separate people, which makes it a more charmingly funny representation of female friendship when they do get together. Like the best of friends, they occasionally get on each other’s nerves, but they also laugh, cry, and argue together throughout the many situations they find themselves in that serve to strengthen their bond. The dialogue and connection between them is spectacular, and the supporting characters also do a decent job of enhancing their personalities, even if their roles aren’t particularly memorable. The film’s pacing can be a bit detached when it’s switching between Claire’s job and other scenes, but overall The Midwife is charming example of how beautiful life is with a friend by your side, no matter how different or crazy they can be.

RATING: 8/10




After a long journey, coming home is one of the best feelings in the world. But in White Sun, one man’s return home sparks a troubling rift over politics and tradition. Directed by Deepak Rauniyar, this story begins with the death of a village chief in a remote Nepali community. Being deeply religious and traditional, the elderly men in the village cannot move the man outside of the front door of the house in which he passed away, fearing that his spirit will become corrupted and not having the manpower to lift him out of the home. The village chief’s son Chandra (Dayahang Rai), however, makes a return to the village for the first time in years after hearing of his father’s passing to move the body outside through an upstairs window and participate in the funeral. But after fighting for communism in the Maoist party as part of the Nepalese Civil War and accompanied by street orphan Badri (Amrit Pariyar), who people mistake as his son, Chandra has to fight to reintegrate within the strict traditions of the unwelcoming community and move beyond his painful past with his ex-wife Durga (Asha Maya Magrati).

White Sun is ripe with emotion, conflict, and tension. By having a character return a community that he fought against in war, there is a great deal of stress and instability. Not only does Chandra reject many of the principles and politics the villagers follow, he also denies his own village name and tells people to call him by his party name, “Agni.” There is enough anti-Maoist sentiment in the village to consider Chandra a traitor and there are constant confrontations between him and the villagers. Chandra also has to deal with the family that he left. He still has feelings for Durga, and there are some major issues between them both, as Durga has been caring for her daughter Pooja (Sumi Malla) alone. However, Pooja is not hostile towards Chandra and looks up to him as a father. Among his struggles in the village and the pain of separation, Pooja’s affection and acceptance is the only light in Chandra’s situation, and this connection brings more depth to his character and background.

With so many engaging elements, a few dead spots, and some unexplained social traditions and differences, this film may put viewers off at times. But it gives us a deep, raw, and passionate account of the war that some people fight daily, even after peace is declared.

RATING: 8.5/10


After watching these films, I was ecstatic because I was finally going back to the Avalon for my last feature. Much like how Proximo felt upon his return to the Coliseum in Gladiator, I had a fervent zeal to come back here, mainly because of this next film. The movie’s premise immediately caught my attention when I first planned for the fest, and I knew that it was one that I absolutely wanted to see. Now, leaning back under the starry skies of the Avalon’s theater, I finally got my chance.



Based on the 2009 novel by Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones follows protagonist Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller), a simple kid who lives in the sleepy rural town of Corrigan in Western Australia. He’s a 14-year-old bookworm who loves to write stories, read detective novels, and argue with his best friend Jeffrey Lu (Kevin Long) about whether Batman or Superman is cooler. One night, Charlie hears a knock on the window of his room to discover frazzled teen Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath) begging for his help. A mixed-race outcast and resident troublemaker of Corrigan, Jones believes that Charlie is special and leads him to a private glade on the outskirts of the town to share a dark secret. Soon discovering a dead girl hanging from a tree, Charlie immediately begins to suspect that this is Jasper’s doing. However, Jones explains that he found the girl like this and believes that the murderer Mad Jack Lionel (Hugo Weaving) is behind this incident. As the pair cuts the girl down and hides her body in a nearby pond, Jasper leaves Charlie to investigate the murder and find out what happened.

From the beginning, the film’s production quality is top-notch. Shots are well-purposed, vibrant, and colorful. The simple setting of Corrigan also exhibits a lot of character and a warm atmosphere. But much like similar neo-noir tales, there are dark undercurrents to this seemingly wholesome small town. Racism, dark family secrets, and shady dealings abound, providing a fitting background of menace and suspicion for Charlie’s investigation. The teen actors also do a great job in their roles and provide a brilliant crime drama everyone will be able to connect with. Levi Miller and Aaron McGrath’s duo is especially solid, with the kind of chemistry great partnerships are made of. The budding romance between Charlie and Eliza Wishart (Angourie Rice), the sister of the deceased girl, also feels purposeful to the story, rather than tacked on or vapid. And while Weaving’s Mad Jack doesn’t have a prominent role, his presence and character advance the story and strengthens the town’s personality and characters, especially Jasper. The film’s narrative is also cohesive and fluid, which is no small feat with all the subplots.

In the end, Jasper Jones achieves something even more difficult: being a faithful representation of its source material and an amazing tale that captures the passion of solving life’s mysteries.

RATING: 9.5/10

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.