Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Twice Born vs. The Past, two films about family secrets unearthed upon returning to a country filled with memories.
PremiseTwice Born tells two stories: A single mother, Gemma (Penélope Cruz), brings her teenage son to Sarajevo, where the father he never met died in the Bosnian conflict. The film flits between the mother and son’s time in the city and flashbacks to 1984, when Gemma initially met her would-be husband, Diego (Emile Hirsch). In The Past, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris from Tehran so he and his wife, Marie (Bérénice Bejo), can officially divorce and Marie can marry her new boyfriend. Along the way, Ahmad discovers the secret that led to the strained relationship between Marie and their daughter, Lucie. We’re suckers for family secrets, however they appear, but The Past seems to rely less on hugely dramatic moments. Here’s to intimacy and quiet despair.Advantage: The Past
Cast Twice Born stars Oscar-winner Penelope Cruz, who hasn’t made nearly enough movies since she became a mother (we’re not counting The Counselor) and Emile Hirsch, who we think is devastatingly underrated. (Disagree? Watch Prince Avalanche and get back to us). The Past has its own female Oscar winner, Bérénice Bejo, who, from the trailer, is even better in a role in which she’s allowed to speak. Both movies give their talented female leads a lot of meat to work with, but only Twice Born gives us an unlikely (but appealing) on-screen couple. Advantage: Twice Born
ExpectationsBoth films have a lot to live up to: Twice Born is adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name by Margaret Mazzantini, and we know how tricky the book-to-movie transition can be. The Past is the follow up to writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s universally lauded A Separation (2011), which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and is considered by many to be one of the best movies of the past decade. The pressure is on for Mr. Farhadi. Advantage: The Past
TearjerkerThere are sure to be tears in any good family drama. The Past gives us a wrought mother-daughter relationship as well as the trauma of remarriage. That, however, is nothing compared to Twice Born. A doomed romance? Check. Single mother? Check. Untimely death? Check. Overlooked War? Check. Penelope Cruz looking over a vista? Check.Advantage: Twice Born
DirectorTwice Born is directed by Sergio Castellitto, who adapted a different Mazzanitini novel also starring Cruz (Don’t Move). It was excellent, and we love repeat-collaborators. It would be a near certain win against most other directors, but Asghar Farhadi is sure to be one of the all-time greats. Seriously, go see A Separation if you haven’t.Advantage: The Past
The VerdictHonestly, we want to see both of these films. Trailer Face-Off, however, is for figuring out which one film is more worth our time. Taking into account the genius of A Separation, the way in which the film can be both quiet and explosive, carefully constructed and brilliantly written, and superbly acted and unflinchingly honest, we simply can’t miss The Past.Winner: The Past
Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.