The idea of identity especially in the context of what love is defined as is an unusual quandary for some people depending what the end goal is. For the highly sensitive like Jeanne, the girl at the center of the would-be fable “Jumbo”, it becomes about the sheer act of feeling. The character is extremely introverted either because of any number of traits, though it is never defined, nor does it need to be. She is her own unique person and yet she does have a weirdness about her. That is not to be denied. Like “Ladybird” but a little more ethereal and off-the-rails, Jeanne falls in love with a piece of machinery. It may sound like a texture of body modification but the way it is done is both sweet and off-putting (as it is supposed to be). Some of the sequences that are extremely stylized involving white and oil are quite dynamic and daring even in a film as quiet as this. Some of the best interludes involve the dance and lights of two disparate creatures like a reverse “Close Encounters”. While it is inherently post-modern, the film does bring back some of those technologically-awed pieces from the 80s like a weird mixture of “Short Circuit” and “Starman” if you will. Ultimately the behavior and the conflict is born out of what society believes something needs to be. Beyond the Jumbo love interest, it is the push-and-pull of Jeanne’s mother (which is dictated by her own failed relationships and the idea of what love should be) that provides the tension in the film hile still being undeniably quirky. Noemlie Merlant (who plays Jeanne) has a delicateness about her almost like a French Emma Watson. She is light on her feet and yet with a weight of purpose while still being awkward. It is that offset beauty both inwardly and outwardly that brings the finality to its fruition. The idea of not of solution but acceptance whatever the reason might be.
By Tim Wassberg
The aspect of traditionalism versus the idea of modernism tends to intersect in an avalanche of escape in human behavior whether psychological or firmly physical. “The Old Ways” takes that to an extreme but creates an interesting discussion on empowerment within the guise of a matriarchal story. It is a two- tiered approach which is more apparent in the thought afterwards. Brigitte Canales plays Cristina who left home after a traumatic experience involving her mother. Her self loathing paired with ambition make for an interesting intersection when she comes back with firm goal in mind (which is not completely explained in her mindset). The set up itself is a little flimsy in terms of the explanation of the presence and its intrusion. The structure plays against tropes by leaning into them in order to disarm the viewer. Julie Vera and Sal Lopez gives great understated but effective performances. These are two older character actors that most of us have seen in countless Hollywood movies but almost in passing. It is great to see this arch for them. The crux comes back to the young adult women at the center which includes Cristina’s cousin Miranda. The ode to “The Tempest” is not lost in regards to the idea of balance even when all is lost. Canales plays the part a bit nonchalantly but that seems to be an acting or directing choice that works well at times while it hits off the mark at others. What really takes control is some practical effects near the end which give that true “Serpent & The Rainbow” feel. Partially shot in Puerto Rico, one gets a small sense of the place but again the use of practical effects especially in terms of mood give the film a bit of thrust. However, it never quite reaches escape velocity. Though it tries earnestly, the suspension of disbelief within the film never quite kicks in.
By Tim Wassberg