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The Shapiro Report

Arm Chair Cinema: THE BEST FILMS OF 2014

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#shapiroreport, #moviereview, #livingthings




Jerry Dean Roberts

February 15, 2015

Arm Chair Cinema: THE BEST FILMS OF 2014

10. Living Things
Eric Shapiro’s tiny independent treasure is one of those great unheralded experiences that critics happen upon in a pile of DVD screeners. It’s one of those films that you’ve never heard of, but you urge people to see it despite the fact that they probably won’t. This one came inside the mailer of a more high-profile film that I didn’t care for. Tucked away in a white envelope I’d never heard of it, or the director, or any of the actors, but the simplicity of its idea was breathtaking. Running just over an hour, the movie is an exhausting experience with no car chases, no gun battles and no cacophony. It is constructed entirely out of words and contains only two actors, seated at a dinner table debating each other. They are at opposite ends of the political and social spectrum and find themselves in a heated ethical debate that gets more and more heated and we are engrossed at every single minute. We meet Rhona, a pretty 29 year-old woman who prides herself on her left-wing mindset. Her demeanor seems ruled by new age philosophy and vegan logic. She is preparing dinner for her boyfriend and his father. The boyfriend’s father arrives early. He is Leo, a veteran who is a conservative and a devoted meat eater. Their conversation begins on tenter hooks and steamrolls into a debate about ethics, plants, meat, war and anything else that they can throw at each other. Their argument is heated and never forced. Words fly like bullets and each combatant is ready with an intellectual response. Debate becomes argument. Arguments turn to a confessional and the two find themselves laying all their ill feelings for each other on the table. They argue over animal cruelty, climate change, health, morality, and spirituality. Rhona is an idealist whose point of view comes from books and education. Leo is more practical, he’s a man who has seen the real world on the battlefield and off. When it is over you are exhausted. Shapiro opens the doors of intellectual debate and lets the issues fly.

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