Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Movie Review : Henry (2011)


I don't give much attention to the Academy Awards anymore. When I do and prepare for the big night by viewing the nominated film, I often end up foaming-at-the-mouth-and-throwing-the-remote angry, because the winners are almost never the best movies. I didn't any of the feature length nominees this year, but I felt an almost patriotic duty to watch the shorts because Montreal-based director Yan England is nominated for his short film HENRY. England used to play goofy sidekick Einstein in sprawling epic for french-canadian teenagers WATATATOW. Knowing one of my childhood throwbacks made it to the big leagues fills me with unexplainable pride, so I went to a viewing of the nominated shorts for 2013 and sat through the twenty-one minutes of HENRY.

It's the story of an elderly man (Gérard Poirier), stricken with Alzheimer's Disease (or senile dementia, it's never mentioned). The film happens from his point of view, from within the dark world he's trapped inside. Henry is looking for his wife Maria (Louise Laprade), with whom he's supposed to play at an important concert, but his wife has disappeared and strangers keep him held up in a cold and frightening place. Henry successfully breaks out, but he's caught up by several memories and become confused. He remains strong, fired up by the memory of his wife and won't let go until he finds her.

Movies featuring elders are an easy target for melodrama. Most directors would be satisfied to strike the fear of God into their audiences and make them appreciate every bit of life they have left to live. Yan England has a lot more ambition than that. Through his choice of point of view, he explains the reality of actually having the disease and being preyed upon by your memories before seeing them evaporate before your very eyes. Henry mixed reality and memories who are dear or intense to him, leaving him confused about what the people living in this other world (ours) have to do with him. HENRY is a movie that understands the difference between empathy and melodrama AND it has a pretty good knack for storytelling too.

HENRY is beautiful and magnificently crafted by Yan England. Its beauty is mostly found within the frame, where several timelines of Henry's past and present exist alongside. Of all the five nominees, it is the most detail-oriented, has the best art direction and has the most visceral impact on the viewer. HENRY is a short film that embraces the power of its medium to the fullest. It's fearless and has no use for conventional film structures. It has the staying power of a full-length feature. Don't be surprised to see Yan England wielding an Oscar by Sunday night. But then again, it's not always the best film that wins. Either way, take twenty minutes to watch HENRY. It'll get under your skin.

FOUR STARS

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