kinsey’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sometimes I reflect on why I made a Letterboxd account in the first place. The last thing I have ever wanted to become is a critic. I don't want to insult the work people spend years putting together, and I never want to hurt someone or judge them for the art they put out into the world. There is something for everyone and I don't want to put down an artist or the person who identifies with and loves said art. I hate it when I write negative reviews, especially when I criticise something like editing or acting or whatever, because a) what do I know? and b) who cares? It's not my place to judge. So I try to remember that the reason I made this account was to work on my writing, to justify my interpretations, and perhaps to make sense of something I didn't fully understand. I prefer to analyse rather than criticise. I'm honestly not sure why I'm writing this. I think I'm just trying to justify this incoming review. You probably don't care. But I do. I feel really bad when I hate something (especially when it was recommended to me).
But wow. I hated this.
I hated it for all the reasons I imagine it is beloved. It made me miserable. It made me frustrated. It made me so angry beyond explanation. The way the story is told feels akin to trying to claw your way out of a coffin. Everything I hate is represented in this movie - not technically, but emotionally. It's like all of my greatest fears in life were shoved into a nonsensical story and with each minute I just became more and more depressed. I feel like it took a year to get through this movie. Two hours really isn't that long and I'm not sure I would say the pacing is bad, but I was exhausted within half an hour and died a little more every time I saw how long was left.
I see why this is loved. I see why this was recommended to me. I think it has a lot of really impressive and admirable aspects, which is why I'm hesitant to even rate it. It's not a bad movie. But it made me miserable. Not sad. Not emotional. Not hurt. Miserable. Like when you're up really late and you're exhausted but for some reason, a reason you don't even believe is important, you have to stay awake a little longer and just slowly become more exhausted and more unhappy. I never, ever want to watch it again.
I'll briefly touch on what made me hate this so much, but again, I want to reiterate I understand why people love this and I understand how it can be seen as a masterpiece. This is just my personal reaction to it. Please don't see this as me criticising the film - it's just how it made me feel.
Let's start with a man whose daughter is taken away from him with no explanation or warning. That makes me angry. I know that was the point but I honestly struggle to even enjoy or appreciate when that happens in a movie, especially when it was at the beginning and only set the stage for the misery to come. The idea that a parent will never get to see their child grow up, will have to mail them presents that they may never receive, breaks me in a way that isn't satisfying. It's different to movies with beautiful, heartbreaking death scenes that leave me sobbing but emotionally content. It just makes me angry. It makes me want to claw at my chest until my heart is out and I'm no longer feeling those frustrations. And then, he never gets any sort of fulfilling reunion. It's just miserable and I hated it. I'm terrified of marrying someone who doesn't love me, of having a child who is taken from me. What makes it even worse was the total lack of communication - this wasn't like Marriage Story where we at least see the characters work through these issues together and on their own. We never saw them have a conversation, really, about what they both wanted and what was best for each other. Adele lied, said she loved him, then took the kid and never returned. She never explained why or even told him she intended to stay in Berlin. I know technically this movie isn't "real" and we don't actually know the conversations they may or may not have had, but based on what I saw, it felt unjustified and made me irrationally angry.
I was just expected to believe all these relationships happened without any buildup or explanation? No. That doesn't work for me. I need the development. I need the story. I don't like just being told what happened and only seeing it through the lens of a confused character who cannot separate fantasy from reality. It only makes it worse when the timeline is so confusing.
I found all the mentioning of bodily functions to get old really quickly, and the genitalia references to be awkward and confusing and badly delivered (especially that one scene where Sammy says he wants to become some sort of mythological creature - I've forgotten the kind). I have no problems at all with including these aspects of humanity in a film, but the way it was done here made me uncomfortable and confused. I was never sure what the point was and it just really took me out of the experience.
I wasn't a fan of the time jumps, although I do understand why they were necessary for the story. I feel like I missed so much, that everything rushed along and I wasn't a part of it. It made everything so confusing and so muddled that I just couldn't even begin to enjoy the film.
I hated that I never really knew what was real or wasn't. This was akin to the classic "it was all in his head the entire time!" twist people love to pull in mental hospital movies, and it's just something I personally dislike. I'm not sure why, I just do.
There is not one ounce of happiness in this movie. Not one moment of humour or excitement. It's miserable. Maybe I just watched this at the wrong time, but it left me exhausted and unfulfilled and extremely depressed.
Edit: Oh yeah. What was with the homophobic scenes between him and his daughter? That literally came out of nowhere for me and made absolutely no sense. It felt so out of place and borderline offensive.
I'm really sorry to my sc person, I'm really sorry to everyone who loves this movie, and I'm really sorry to the people involved. I do think it's a good movie. I think the performances are amazing and the set design is astounding and there's so much to love that it's arguably a masterpiece. But at the end of the day, what matters most is how the movie made me feel and how much enjoyment or satisfaction I got out of it, and this left me hollow and frustrated.