Thou Wast Mild and Lovely Screen 84 of 11 reviews

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely

2014

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely Poster
  • Decker makes intense, visionary films. Her two features, Butter on the Latch and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, are lyrical, but this is not a calm, contemplative, conventionally “poetic” cinema. Instead, it is full of disorientation and surprise — narrative, formal, stylistic. Every single element of film form seems to get a playful workout in her hands.

  • Sunlight has never looked so perversely beautiful as it does streaming through the gooey blood of a freshly decapitated frog, and even odd inserts like Traub hoisting up tools in a POV shot that sees her lift her skinny fists like antennas to heaven take on a sensual charge.

  • Decker's focus on the land extends even further to animals here than it does in [Butter on the Latch] — at one point, there's what appears to be a brief, wonderfully strange segment from the perspective of a cow — with Jeremiah relaying an old folktale in which a boy is told that every living person houses two dueling wolves: one good, the other evil. You'll be left wondering which force is stronger long after the credits have rolled.

  • Desire and claustrophobia lead to an erotic and shockingly terrifying turn. Decker leads the viewer down dead ends and misdirections so the actualization of the conclusion feels unexpected and devastating.

  • The film’s first third, which exhaustively establishes Akin and Sarah’s mutual desire in close, often redundant shot/reverse shot patterns, risks cheapening the glorious idiosyncrasies of Decker and Connor’s shared visual language... Still, the film has strong moments, particularly in the final act when the plot becomes as tightly wound as the red ribbon that Sarah is continually tying and unraveling.

  • Like most classic stories, this one is simple, but its realization is so surprising in its details, so original in its visual invention, as to make most other movies seem (at least temporarily) shot by the numbers... Working with her actors, Decker doesn’t seem to observe behavior but to invent it: the characters bring a glint of whimsy, a lilt of pain, and an undertone of seething erotic power to the seemingly most ordinary activities.

  • What we have is a filmmaker who seeks to disrupt the viewer’s ability to perceive, by rejecting conventions of plot-driven narrative, cinematography and continuity editing... Thou Wast Mild and Lovely relies more on a familiar premise of sexual temptation and retribution [than Butter on the Latch], though it layers this setup with colors and textures oozing with sensual affect. But overall, there’s still a sense of feeling one’s way through a film, both for the viewer and the maker.

  • Mild & Lovely is both a quieter and more violent film than Butter, but Decker shows more of a sense of humor here, even staging a couple of shots from the point-of-view of an escaped cow. And it’s a bit of a revelation to watch that mumblecore stalwart Swanberg completely stripped of any smugness in what turns out to be the kind of a muted and nuanced performance one might not have expected from him in his previous acting and directing efforts.

  • The film often suggests what might happen if Malick were to adapt Tennessee Williams, somehow gaining a sense of humor in the process. Sometimes effects are so over-emphasized that the portentous mood pops, just briefly, which serves to paradoxically strengthen the hold of the film's spell; the humor quietly affirms the audience's complicity with Decker without encouraging its superiority over the characters (a remarkable feat).

  • [It's] a familiar-feeling tale about a married summer farm laborer (Joe Swanberg, who has directed Ms. Decker in his own films) far from home and drawn to the playful, isolated daughter (Sophie Traub) of his boss (Robert Longstreet). The setup’s clichés grow harder to ignore, despite a welcome mischievous streak and some bucolic imagery.

  • There’s something frustrating about both of Decker’s films, as though she were mistaking a diffuse organization of sounds and images with experimentation, or structural meandering with a female-centered aesthetic... I'm not quite certain Decker has arrived as a filmmaker. But these are highly original films, and well worth checking out.

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