This Piece of Film Criticism Woke Me Up This Morning

Look, I had to wake up anyway. After snoozing my alarm a few too many times, I snatched my phone off the charger and started scrolling through Twitter. This is an unhealthy habit, scrolling through piles of hot takes on depressing news, I know, but some habits are tough to kick.

I can’t remember the tweet that led me to Bilge Ebiri’s Village Voice piece on Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. I don’t even know why I clicked on it. Cannes news can be a bit numbing from afar, with most articles that bubble up covering all the same festival buzz. (What got booed!? Who was chummy on the red carpet!? Almodóvar v. Smith because Netflix!) The piece even has a hallmark headline for the sort of piece I was in no mood to read: “The Best Film At Cannes Almost Didn’t Make It There On Time.”

But! I’m glad I clicked it, because reading the piece invigorated me. It reminded me that great criticism happens every day, and that I need to seek it out.

What’s so great about the article is that it is both criticism and journalism. It offers, expediently, a history of Cannes latecomer films, setting the stage for the premiere of Ramsay’s film. Ebiri then reviews the film in question on its own merits before weaving it into the context of this year’s festival, and then puts this year’s festival in a more macro context against all other Cannes. All in under 1200 words!

It’s criticism because it goes deep on the film. (“In Ramsay’s cinema, emotion is memory, and it feeds the present and the future.”) It’s journalism because it reports facts from the ground. (“We’d already heard, even before it all started, that Thierry Frémaux’s programming committee had viewed Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here in incomplete form but had still included it in competition because they saw ‘the potential of an artist, a poet, and an author.’ All fest long, there were rumors that Jonny Greenwood was still finishing his score, that the film was due to arrive right before the premiere. Would the screening even happen?”) And it’s just plain great because of descriptions like a “95-minute nervous breakdown of a movie.”

Last week I published a piece here about regaining my enthusiam to write. Reading great writing is a solid way to get motivated. Bilge Ebiri provided that shot in the arm for me today. He cut right through my own cynicism about the sameness of so many articles that cross my path.

And now I need to see that movie, too. Added to the list.