QFF Day 1: Isolation

Since so many of us are now confined to our homes, unable to work or at least working in an entirely different way, and unsure of what the future holds, it seemed a good idea to watch and talk about some excellent cinema that this newfound time can allow some of us to watch and appreciate. Each day, our staff will compile a lineup of five films centered around a common theme and write a bit about each. Watch along with us and discuss them with us here on the site and on Twitter! As we’re all in self-quarantine, isolation seemed to be a fitting theme for our first day. Explore the loneliness you feel with all of these films but most importantly, have fun and enjoy! [Henry Baime]

The Martian

I’ve loved The Martian since I first saw it back in 2015, and in fact earlier than that since I’d read the book and enjoyed it, and I even went so far as to include it on my Best of the Decade list, but as I sat watching it today, separated from the world around me, ripped from London and the people I cared about and the work I was doing, I sympathise with Mark Watney’s plight in a whole new way. The sort of premise of this film with the hero being forced to use nothing but their wits to survive against all odds is very appealing to me on some level in most every movie it’s been shown in, but it’s when the whole world joins in his mission that it really takes hold for me. Seeing the entire world unite towards a common goal is a beautiful thing that I wish we could see right now. Even as the film explores Mark’s psychological state as he navigates through impossible situations and it packs quite an emotional punch, The Martian always manages to remain one of the most fun films out there, and it is truly one of my favorites. [Henry Baime]

Available on FX Now; $3.99 to rent on VOD


WALL-E

Pixar’s story of a little robot in a dying world gives the human reality of loneliness a new face. The titular trash robot of WALL-E finds love eventually, with a much newer cleaning droid out in space, but before he is content with his life. He rolls around on treads to make bricks of waste on his barren planet, stopping occasionally when he finds an object of interest. The life of a robot is repetitive, but he finds more and more within the mountains of castoffs.

At night, WALL-E becomes fascinated by humans. He sees their presence in an old television screen, an Old Hollywood fantasy dancing down steps lit by twinkling lights. Just like us, the little robot lives through the movies. His twirling dance through lights that look like stars happens in literal starlight, hand in hand with EVE, who is newer, speaker, a symbol of a new humanity so dependent on technology they can no longer stand. It is in this moment that humanity’s creation has become it, here the machines we have built become more human than us. When the space city touches down in the end to a world that is now home to the smallest sparks of life, it is less lonely, but it is no less lonely for WALL-E than when he was surrounded by only lazy, drifting humans than it was for him to be alone with an image of a bygone era. [Sarah]

Available on Disney+; $3.99 to rent on VOD


Cast Away

Cast Away is a weird movie to watch right now. Both a tragic exploration of what isolation does to a man as well as a riveting showcase of the human spirit’s willingness to survive, Robert Zemeckis’ epic takes on a few more prescient meanings in our current situation, especially the heartbreaking ending of the film. We don’t know what our lives will look like when “normalcy” returns, and while there’s a more communal pausing of society than the one-man expedition Chuck Noland goes on, it’s not hard to imagine fears of the world and our loved ones changing and growing in our absence. Like almost all of Zemeckis’ films, Cast Away loses a bit of its luster on rewatch, but there’s undeniable power both in its premise and central performance. Coupling that with Tom Hanks’ real life quarantine due to testing positively for the Coronavirus recently, a few too many pieces of the puzzle add up. Cast Away is about as hopeful a film like this can be, and I do respect it greatly for diving head-first into the madness and terror that come from isolation, but while our current isolation is nowhere near as dire, and we have tons of conveniences that offer reprieve, it remains unsettling seeing a man lose himself to nothing but hope and grit, and starting to see ourselves in that man. [Davey Peppers]

Available on MAX GO; $3.99 to rent on VOD


Room

I have pretty conflicting feelings on Room. I think Larson’s work is incredible, and the first half is infinitely unsettling as you slowly unravel the situation that Ma and Jack face. However, director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue want to have the film both ways, attempting to explore the weight of the situation that they exist in while also exploring the crisis that they both face after escaping it. It probably should have stuck with one or the other, as the two halves of the story don’t mesh well together when simply split down the middle.

The first half is when the film is at its strongest, with Ma struggling to come up with a plan for escape while tending to Jack. The choice to tell most of the story from Jack’s point of view is also a better option in the first half of the story than the second, where I would be much more intrigued by Ma’s clashing emotions after being reunited with her family. It does manage to tell a story of isolation on multiple fronts successfully, but I still wish that the second half went for a switch in protagonist along with the switch in setting. [Jen]

Available on Netflix and Kanopy; $3.99 to rent on VOD


Moon

Duncan Jones’s modern science fiction classic challenges what was once a very basic notion for the genre. Where Roddenberry once told of a space age where human conflict was near extinct in Star Trek all those years ago, Moon is not so optimistic about human advancement. Sam Rockwell (in his best performance) plays the sole worker on a lunar mining facility, sending fuel back to Earth for the company that employs him. He is alone save for his GERTY, an emoji-faced AI/robot with the voice of Kevin Spacey. As Sam discovers his doppelganger, the two Sams begin to question the real motives of their employers.

What makes the film work is Rockwell’s dual performance, the two Sams sporting different attitudes and quirks. The film spearheads the exploitation of the working class, something that American society has only theoretically moved past as it is today. It’s a depressing portrait of a future under capitalism where such cruelty, even on such an isolated level, is only seen as a part of the plan. There is a spark of hope for the two Sams by the end, but it’s a surprisingly bleak story of loneliness and cruelty. [Jen]

Available on Netflix; $3.99 to rent on VOD


Quarantine Film Fest

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