In Theaters Now

It’s been said that the worst tragedy any of us can experience is the loss of a child. How do we cope with such circumstances? How do we grieve? And how do we carry on? What it means to go through those experiences – from a variety of perspectives – is the focus of the Israeli comedy-drama, “One Week and a Day” (“Shavua ve Yom”) (web site, trailer), now playing in limited release in theaters specializing in foreign and independent cinema.

When a middle-aged couple (Shai Avivi, Jenya Dodina) loses their twenty-something son to illness, they struggle to cope with the meaning of the tragedy. But, with this being such unfamiliar territory, they’re not sure how to proceed, prompting them to try out a number of solutions, from the traditional, like sitting shiva, to the unconventional, including imbibing in their son’s leftover medical marijuana with a goofy neighbor (Tomer Kapon).

A middle-aged father (Shai Avivi, right) struggling with the loss of his twenty-something son explores various means to express his grief, including hanging with his goofy next-door neighbor (Tomer Kapon, left), in the Israeli comedy-drama, “One Week and a Day” (“Shavua ve Yom”), now playing in limited theatrical release. Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

This inventive attempt at capturing the feelings associated with grief (and the denial of it) showcases an array of mood swings, alternating from the ridiculous to the sublime, in its attempt to capture the range of emotions exhibited by grief-stricken souls struggling to deal with loss. It’s refreshing that the film is not afraid to experiment, resisting the temptation to fall back on formulaic responses. However, a few of those sequences go on a little too long, causing them to lose some of their effectiveness, a problem that would have been solved with some judicious editing. With that said, however, the film won the 2016 Cannes Film Festival Gan Foundation Distribution Support Award, as well as nominations for the Festival’s Golden Camera Award and Critics Week Grand Prize.

We never know how we’ll react to the passing of a loved one, but “One Week and a Day” shows us we have options, based on both laughs and tears. Most importantly, it lets us know that it’s okay to respond in the way that’s most meaningful to us, with reactions that enable us to give meaning to the lives of those we’ve lost. 

Lobbying for Change

What does it take to push for a just cause? As much as we might like to think to the contrary, it often takes more than just good intentions; it frequently requires a concerted effort, one that may include measures some of us would see as questionable, troubling or even manipulative. But, when it comes to achieving hoped-for outcomes in certain high-stakes issues, sometimes we may have to send a bulldog into the fight on our behalf. Such is the case in the gripping political drama, “Miss Sloane” (web site, trailer), available on DVD, Blu-ray disk and video on demand.

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the best at what she does. As a high-powered Washington lobbyist, she’s as good as it gets when it comes to securing the results sought by her clients, some of whom clearly place their own interests above those of the public. She walks a fine line between what’s legal and what’s not, but she scrupulously insists that everything she does is in accordance with the law.

High-powered Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) comes under scrutiny for her practices in the gripping political drama, “Miss Sloane.” Photo by Kerry Hayes © Europa Corp. – France 2 Cinema, courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Miss Sloane’s phenomenal success stems from her fanatical devotion to her work. She keeps a schedule that rarely includes sleep (she pops a barrage of pills to keep her going) and is almost entirely devoid of a personal life (except for occasional encounters with the best sex partner money can buy (Jake Lacy)). Meanwhile, because of her track record, Elizabeth’s boss, George Dupont (Sam Waterston), is favorably impressed with her work and increasingly steers big-name clients her way, challenges she readily accepts – that is, until he asks her to take on representation of the gun lobby, a proposal at which she draws the line.

Elizabeth’s uncharacteristically flippant response to the proposal dumbfounds everyone, especially George, who has been trying to acquire the gun lobby account for some time. He’s outraged at her reaction, throwing her future with the firm into question. But, given Elizabeth’s reputation, it’s not long before another offer comes her way from a competing lobbying firm, one headed by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), an organization willing to take on the gun lobby.

Successful Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain, right) confers with her boss, Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong, left), about strategy in the gripping political drama, “Miss Sloane.” Photo by Kerry Hayes © Europa Corp. – France 2 Cinema, courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Miss Sloane agrees to Rodolfo’s offer, but she’s adamant that she have free rein to carry out her plan as she sees fit, a proposal to which he agrees, albeit somewhat hesitantly. She also convinces most of her staff to follow her to the new organization, the lone hold-out being her protégé, Jane Molloy (Alison Pill). Elizabeth is disappointed by Jane’s decision, but she wastes no time getting on with her plans, which include a number of her prototypical unconventional measures.

As the lobbying campaign unfolds, however, Elizabeth finds herself in deeper water than she’s accustomed to. She’s well aware that, if she succeeds in making her case, it will be the biggest triumph of her career. But, if she fails, it could be the end of her days as a lobbyist. And so, to combat the most powerful forces she’s ever faced, she continually ups the ante, taking steps that stun her colleagues, such as trusted aide Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), as well as her boss and even herself.

Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain, right) schools her protégé, Jane Molloy (Alison Pill, left), in the ways of the system in director John Madden’s latest offering, “Miss Sloane,” available on DVD, Blu-ray disk and video on demand. Photo by Kerry Hayes © Europa Corp. – France 2 Cinema, courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

How far will she go? Can she cope with the mounting criticisms of her peers and the public? What’s more, can she survive the growing onslaught of accusations being directed at her, such as those raised by influential Congressman Ron Sperling (John Lithgow)? And is she even clear about why she’s doing what she’s doing – for the pursuit of a just cause or her own personal self-aggrandizement? In short, what does it all mean for her – and a public that’s to be seriously impacted by her efforts?

Those are questions that get answered as the story plays out, which is full of twists, turns and misdirections, many of which no one sees coming, even the spin mistress herself. It’s a thoroughly captivating story that grows progressively engaging the further you get into it, presenting the kind of edge-of-your-seat narrative that will keep you locked in place right up until the final credits roll.

High-powered Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain, right) places her faith in the support of her entrusted aide, Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, left), in “Miss Sloane.” Photo by Kerry Hayes © Europa Corp. – France 2 Cinema, courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Some have criticized the story as implausible and unrealistic, that no lobbying effort would ever collectively incorporate so many extreme measures and incidents as are included here. However, that’s not to say that the events and initiatives depicted in this story haven’t occurred individually in connection with separate issues. In that regard, then, they give us a frank look into what goes on behind the scenes in connection with high-profile lobbying efforts, what it takes to secure results and what that means for all of us who typically watch from the sidelines. Realizing that, it also shows us what we need to know about how these matters work – and what we might consider doing to help fix the system.

“Miss Sloane” received comparatively little fanfare when it was released last December. It somehow got lost in the shuffle of all the awards season releases, somewhat unusual for a film with a major distributor behind it. Still, director John Madden’s latest received fairly strong critical support, as well as a very well-deserved Golden Globe Award nomination for best lead actress in a drama, just one of many fine performances in the film.

Seeking to sway others of the merits of a cause requires convincing arguments, commitment and an unwavering passion. But how much is too much? “Miss Sloane” helps to shed light on that for us. Let’s just hope we’re all paying attention.

A complete review will appear in the near future by clicking here.

On the Radio This Week

Join host Frankie Picasso and me this Thursday, June 1, at 1 pm ET for the next Frankiesense & More radio show. We’ll speak with filmmaker Betsy Kalin about her latest work, “East LA Interchange” (web site, trailer), and discuss several current film releases. Tune in live or listen to the on-demand podcast for some lively movie talk!

For a complete review of “East LA Interchange,” click here.

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