First They Killed My Father Screen 71 of 6 reviews

First They Killed My Father

2017

First They Killed My Father Poster
  • It's far and away her best work as a director: a rare film about a national tragedy told through the eyes and mind of a child, and as fine a war movie as has ever been made. Adapted by Jolie and co-writer Loung Ung from Ung's memoir about her family's experiences after the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, it stands apart from most work in this vein not just because of what it does so well, but because of what it refuses to do.

  • It would have been easy for Angelina Jolie’s adaptation of Cambodian genocide survivor Loung Ung’s 2000 memoir to go ruthlessly and repeatedly for the emotional jugular... But Loung’s book was itself a work of tight, no-nonsense prose; the facts it presented were devastating enough. And the film is similarly tough and unyielding; it unspools with admirable discipline and verve. This is Jolie’s most accomplished work yet.

  • Jolie is a filmmaker who best expresses psychology through escalating interactions between people and settings. Loung becomes majestic not in a state of static misery . . . , but when she has a problem to solve . . . Jolie isn’t yet an expressionist or a gifted dialectical dramatist, which is why First They Killed My Father’s early sequences, while competently staged, feel impersonal and rote, but she’s a blossoming poet of corporeal intellect.

  • On the evidence of her movies, Jolie has much more to say about herself than about anything else. And that’s OK! First They Killed My Father may be Jolie’s passion project; but By the Sea is, by some margin, the more passionate one. I’m torn on what that means for First They Killed My Father, which is more worthwhile to watch for what it’s about and more worthwhile to talk about because of who made it, than it is because of its merits.

  • The Khmer Rouge’s repressions and exactions are depicted fearsomely, but many of Jolie’s images are postcard-pretty, and their emotional range depends mainly upon the child actors’ tremulous and steadfast expressions. Loung’s perspective on her experiences is hardly evoked, but a late sequence of the children caught in crossfire between two armies conjures, briefly but powerfully, a sense of chaotic absurdity.

  • Can there be any doubt, within the simplified moral terms of cinema as conveniently conscionable entertainment, that Angelina Jolie’s Cambodian project constitutes an act of courage? Any doubts are flagged as cynicism, any detraction deemed insensitive. And yet, for a survival story of such magnitude as Loung Ung’s . . . , to leave one dazed but ultimately unmoved may be attributable less to one’s own dearth of compassion than the cinematic means by which such empathic routes are made available.

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