By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist February 4, 2014 at 1:18PM
“A Long Way Down”
Synopsis: Four suicidal strangers meet on a rooftop on New Year’s Eve, each with the intention of killing themselves. Instead they form a pact and an unlikely friendship.
Why It’s Anticipated: Okay, so this one could definitely go either way, and the initial trailer looks kinda cheesy, but historically, adaptations of Nick Hornby novels have often beaten the odds on delivering something better, and less sentimental than their high-concept loglines might suggest: we’re thinking “High Fidelity,” “About a Boy” and the British “Fever Pitch” in particular. The cast is appealing too, featuring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul and Rosamund Pike, and while French director Pascal Chaumeil is not particularly well known to us, and seems to have specialized in straight-up romantic comedies since graduated from French TV, we’re hopeful he’ll bring something of a valuable outsider’s eye to his English-language debut. We don’t expect this one will tax our brains too much, but as one of the more mainstream offerings the Berlinale has selected, it the has potential to be an amiable good time.
Synopsis: A young man sets off into a frozen wilderness with a journalist to try and find his mother who abandoned him long before. During the journey, the tragic story of that rift is gradually revealed in flashback.
Why It’s Anticipated: Peruvian director Claudia Llosa (one of four female directors featured in the main competition this year) comes to the Berlinale as a returning hero, having won the Golden Bear in 2009 for “The Milk Of Sorrow.” “Aloft” marks her English-language debut and she’s attracted a great cast in Cillian Murphy, Jennifer Connolly, Melanie Laurent and William Shimmell (who was such a great discovery in Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy”). Judging by the clip we debuted a few days ago, the film has the dramatic and emotional depth we’ve come to expect from Llosa, and also it simply looks gorgeous. We’ve been keeping an eye on Llosa’s development since her debut “Madeinusa” and this looks like it could be in that same vein of contemplative, restrained but beautiful filmmaking that has won us over so far.
Synopsis: A young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a bloody riot on the streets of 1970s Belfast. Disoriented, he embarks on an odyssey through hostile territory to get back to the base.
Why It’s Anticipated: The debut film from TV director Yann Demange would probably have caught our attention for its incendiary subject matter anyway: the Northern Irish “troubles” are a topic close to this (Irish) writer’s heart. But we’d be lying if we said that a great part of the reason this features so high on our radar is because we’re extremely eager to see some more from “Starred Up” breakout Jack O’Connell, who, with his extraordinary performance in David Mackenzie’s film, and a leading role in Angelina Jolie’s bestseller adaptation “Unbroken” coming up, seems to pretty much fit the mould of Next Big Thing. Also, our press notes tell us that the competition film actually becomes “an existentialist nocturne about hidden identities, creeping paranoia and those forced to take a stand.” And, dammit, we love ourselves a nocturne.
Synopsis: A biopic of the titular Latino-American workers' rights activist that follows Chavez’ crusade against the racism and exploitation endemic in the Mexican migrant worker community in California in the 1960s.
Why It’s Anticipated: Diego Luna, may be better known as an actor based on his breakout in “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and subsequent performances in everything from “Dirty Dancing 2” to “Elysium,” but we also caught, and were impressed by, his feature directorial debut, “Abel,” which came out in 2010. His sophomore outing sees him work with much grander ambition, but retain the social consciousness that marked his first film, while also recruiting a pretty fantastic cast, including Michael Pena in the lead, Rosario Dawson, John Malkovich, Gabriel Mann and America Ferrera. It’s a story we’re not as familiar with as we should be, and Luna had access to and the full cooperation and encouragement of Chavez’ family (he died in 1993), so we’re hopeful that this will be a rich and illuminating portrait of the charismatic labor leader.