Blogcritics Review: Love in “The Village”

:: As posted to Blogcritics.com.

The Village, the new film by M Night Shyamalan, is a bit of a mess. One review I read tagged it as an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. I found the film ultimately disappointing. However, the performances by the cast members are uniformly superb, including Brendan Gleeson (who like Brian Cox, appears to be in every second film these days), despite having very little to do in the film. Leading the way are, ostensibly, the two leads: Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard, daugher of Opie/Richie Cunningham.

There is one scene with these two actors that deserves special mention, however, and I wish to describe it here. Therefore, if you haven’t seen the film, please note the following as a spoiler.

——- SPOILER ——-


In the movie, Howard plays Ivy Walker, the blind daughter of Edward Walker, one of the village’s leaders, played by William Hurt. Phoenix plays Lucius Hunt, the quiet and unassuming son of Alice Hunt (Sigourney Weaver). Early on, Ivy’s sister, Kitty (Judy Greer), confesses to Lucius that she loves him, and asks if he would marry her. He declines, reducing her, predictably, to tears and prolonged sadness. What we sense quickly, however, is that he loves Ivy.

After the village is terrorized by Those Who Live In The Woods, Ivy wakes in the middle of the night to find Lucius sitting alone on the front porch of her house. She walks outside and sits with him, and they talk. She asks why he is there, and he tells her that he is there to protect her and her family from the creatures. The conversation continues, but turns suddenly when she asks him, and I paraphrase, “Will you dance with me at our wedding?” Having never confessed his love for her, she can nonetheless sense it to the core of her being. The words finally pour out of him, almost uncontrollably, and he tells her how deeply he cares for her. Before they embrace, overcome by her joy and exhilaration, she looks at him (she can see his colour) and is visibly shaking with emotion. It is one of the best written and best acted love scenes I have watched in a very, very long time. It doesn’t redeem the movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a gem of a moment, and I was very moved by the presentation.

Howard, with her soft features and delivery, has lost any anonymity she had before this picture, and is destined for greater glory. Her obvious acting chops should deter anyone from accusing her of using her father’s lifelong career in the tv and movie industries as a stepping stone into the business herself – granted, I’m sure it wasn’t a deterent, either. Phoenix continues to deliver solid performances with each of his movies.

As for the film, the ending is incredibly absurd, with Shyamalan revealing one of the twists at least 30-40 minute before the final, critical sequence in the movie. The character in question, Ivy, is left to believe she is in danger, but the audience knows this isn’t the case, and the tension evaporates.

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