A film for the mystery connoisseur

Nothing pulls at me like a good mystery.

You can easily catch me binge watching “Criminal Minds,” googling the facts behind the latest “Dateline NBC” or staying up all night reading the latest thriller, which is why I’m looking forward to the last film in our fall film series, The Unknown Girl.

The Belgian-French drama follows Jenny (Adele Haenel), a young doctor who leaves the clinic door unanswered, only to find out that the African woman found dead shortly after was the one ringing the bell. Driven by guilt and redemption, Jenny sets out to find out who the woman is and see to it that she is not forgotten.

Are you not intrigued? I sure hope so, because, in my humble, suspense-loving opinion, The Unknown Girl possesses at least three characteristics that make for a quality mystery.

It’s attention-grabbing. Great thrillers make it impossible to walk away right from the get-go. Fellow bookworms, it’s those books that invoke a high page-turning pace and healthy dose of obsession to know what happens next. In this case, the Dardenne brothers keep at their gripping undercurrents, begging audience members to go along on Jenny’s journey to find out who this woman is, what happened to her and why she was ringing the clinic’s bell in the first place.

There’s a stellar plot twist. I’m bothered when I figure things out early on and there are no “OMG!” moments. Please, throw me for a loop; give me a dose of humility when I think I know what comes next. Sure, we don’t know the plot twist in this film yet, but the preview alone begs for one. You have a doctor who, moments before the bell rings, tells her intern that “a doctor has to control his emotions,” and yet, days later, she’s making house calls, wondering into places she’d never dreamed of before, her emotions deeply driving her quest for the truth. That’s a solid start in my plot twist requirements.

You forget Adèle Haenel is acting. She’s too busy seeing the world as Jenny would.

You get a sense of purpose and closure. Not just as the viewer-turned investigator, but you want to see the characters reach a closing point. At the heart of this film is a dilemma for even the most dedicated do-gooder – at what point do you pull back to keep yourself from falling too deep? You see Jenny take on different hats to give this girl a voice, consumed by the thought she is to blame. You can only hope to see a closure to that. Plus, you’ll see the directors’ belief in humanity’s freedom to choose to do good, even as outside pressures say otherwise.

Ultimately, I want to be part of a mystery that stays with me even after it’s long done. Something that pulls at my heart and mind, which is something we hope to give you with all the Knick films we show. Something I’m confident The Unknown Girl has to offer.

The Unknown Girl is showing on Monday – Saturday, Nov. 6-11 at 7:30 p.m. Check out the trailer.

Tickets are $7 for regular admission and $6 for senior citizens, Hope College faculty/staff and children. Tickets will be sold at the door but are also available in advance at the Events and Conferences Office located downtown in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center (100 E. Eighth St.). The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at (616) 395-7890.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located downtown Holland at 86 E. Eighth St.

Odille Parker
Hope College Events and Conferences Manager

Things to Come Redefines a Mid-Life Crisis

Upon first reading the summary for Things to Come, I had a sense of predictability.

Here we have Nathalie, a high-school philosophy teacher who seems to have all her ducks in a row. She has a job she’s passionate about, a happy marriage of 25 years, and two wonderful children who are growing up and fleeing the nest. Even if I stopped right there, your guess on what was coming next would be pretty accurate.

“I thought you’d love me forever,” says Nathalie, ruefully to her husband. “What an idiot.”

You guessed it – Nathalie’s world is thrown for a loop when her husband announces he is leaving her for another woman. I was rolling my eyes at this point. Hello! I’ve seen this plot before. Then, when director Mia Hansen-Love introduces Fabien, one of Nathalie’s favorite former students, my Hollywood-trained mind thought we had the entire movie figured out.

Think again.

As Amanda mentioned, the films we show at the Knickerbocker are not the mainstream, predictable movies many of us are used to. Foreign films, like Things to Come, don’t follow any kind of cookie cutter plot – they do their own thing, keeping viewers engaged with original content and story lines.

So no, we don’t see Nathalie meltdown, pursing a relationship with a younger man who reminds her of herself in her younger years. Instead, we see a woman of intellectual and emotional substance find new freedoms and understanding in her new life circumstances.

Honestly, how could you not appreciate Hansen-Love’s fresh perspective in this kind of crisis? Plus, the divorce isn’t the only turbulence in Nathalie’s life, but she faces each with grace and strength, concluding, “I am lucky to be fulfilled intellectually.” I truly value a character that is not unraveled when the things she assumed were certain are broken, but rather, remains rooted in her ideals and self-confidence.

Isabelle Huppert as Nathalie, with Roman Kolinka as Fabien.

There’s also something to be said about the teasingly-romantic, yet strictly platonic nature of Fabien and Nathalie’s relationship. I blame my Hollywood- accustomed mind once again for the half second where I hoped a romantic bond would develop between the two. Thankfully, I came to my senses and appreciated Fabien’s role in Nathalie’s new journey. It’s a friendship from one intellectual to another. More importantly, it’s a glimpse backwards for Nathalie, and a realization that she did not compromise her youthful ideas so much as matured into new ones.

Mia Hansen-Love redefines mid-life crisis in Things to Come. Nathalie remains rooted as a woman of mind and heart, avoiding the chance to slip back into her youthful ways and moving forward not by refilling the things that are void, but by understanding this new phase as another chance to live freely and confidently.

This French drama is lighthearted, thoughtful and surprising in a new way. Check out the official trailer and learn more about it on our press release.

The film is showing at 7:30pm from March 27-April 1.

Odille Parker
Event and Conference Manager

#GirlPower in The Eagle Huntress

My dad and me. He flew back from Singapore just to be there for “one of his proudest moments.”

Growing up with a dad who supported and encouraged every (reasonable) goal of mine, I completely relate to the bond between Aisholpan and her father. Much like my dad, Aisholpan’s father, Nurgaiv, believes in the power of hard work and determination – you  bet on yourself and you make it happen, knowing that he’ll always be in your corner.

This is especially true if you’re looking to be an eagle huntress…in a father-son-dominated tradition…the first in twelve generations, actually. Then you know he’s got his gear on and ready to do whatever it takes to help you succeed.

I’m obviously rallying hard behind The Eagle Huntress. Sure, the father-daughter duo angle tugs at my heart, but honestly, it’s the kind of story anyone can relate to.

Plus, could we pick a better film for Women’s History Month?!

Here we have a 13-year-old Aisholpan, facing off against 70 of the greatest Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia, riding deep into the mountains and enduring below-freezing temperatures and rigid landscapes to prove she’s a true eagle huntress. All the while, we’re celebrating the many amazing women throughout history and their contributions to society. (Cue applause).

Aisholpan and her father, Nurgaiv.

It’s easy to focus on the big names associated with this month, which is totally fine, because women like Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton and Rosa Parks deserve the praise for their push for change and their ultimate achievements. However, I don’t think you need to have your own Wikipedia page to be celebrated. Every girl and woman with the drive to change the status quo, however big or small, is a heroine to me.

And Aisholpan is one of those girls. She may not go down in the history books, but in her little piece of the world, she’s doing something pretty great. I’d compare Aisholpan’s efforts to a woman looking to play for an NFL team – it’s a male dominated field, the idea would be vehemently rejected by traditionalists and it would be an uphill battle. But who says a woman with the right skills and a healthy dose of determination couldn’t get there?  Let’s not forget Sarah Thomas, the first full-time NFL official #babysteps. Most wouldn’t define either woman’s feat as monumental, but yet, their paths pave the potential for major change.

Each eagle can only have one master, so you’ll see Aisholpan capture and train her own.

So to me, March is for celebrating any woman that put in the hard work to reach their goals, and The Eagle Huntress is a perfect way for us to do so here at the Knick. Granted, more went into choosing this film than the fact that it coincides with Women’s History Month, like Simon Nibblet’s out-of-this-world cinematography, but honestly, we’re also all about that #girlpower.

The optimist in me believes you’ll be inspired by Aisholpan’s story. Maybe you’ll be like Nurgaiv and my dad and continue to push your daughter (or son for that matter) to really go after their dreams. Or maybe, there’s an Aisholpan inside of you waiting to take off. No matter your story, I think there’s something we can all take away from Aisholpan’s ambition to make her dream come alive.

Come see The Eagle Huntress from March 13 – 18 at 7:30 p.m. Watch the official movie trailer and learn more about the film on our press release.

Odille Parker
Event and Conference Manager

Our Must-Watch Christmas Movies

We can’t begin the holiday season without the defining question of your Christmas spirit – “When is it acceptable to begin playing Christmas music, before or after Thanksgiving?” I’m sure there’s been a debate or two around the dinner table, but I’m here to tell you that there is a more important question you should be asking to really gauge the Christmas cheer:

“When is it acceptable to start watching Christmas movies?”

It's worth noting that It's A Wonderful Life received the most votes.
Thankfully, It’s A Wonderful Life received the most votes. I have hope for us. 

And if you really want to know more about the person, you ask them for their all-time favorite Christmas movie, which is exactly what I set out to do in our office. What better way to get to know my co-workers? Plus, if we’re going to be choosing films for you to enjoy at the Knickerbocker Theatre, then we should be equipped to recommend some holiday classics as well. Right?

First thing I found out: no one can pick just one favorite. That’s fair.

However, most of us can agree on a few you should definitely be watching this holiday season.

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) is a must. The heartwarming classic has become a Christmas tradition in many households, and can you blame them? Capra said it was the greatest film he ever made, the greatest film anyone ever made, and it was also James Stewart’s favorite of all his feature films. It gets at the heart of Christmas, as a frustrated George Bailey learns from an angel just how wonderful life is. It will leave you smiling every time you hear a bell ring.

"Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind." - Kris Kringle
“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”    -Kris Kringle

Still loving on the classics, we’re all about Miracle on 34th Street. I’m talking Edmund Gwenn’s timeless Santa Claus in the 1947 original, but if I’m being honest, a couple of us won’t let a year go by without watching the 1994 version as well (it’s the ‘90s children loving on our decade’s childhood star). You can’t help but be in the Christmas spirit after watching this, and mostly, you’ll be wondering why you ever stopped believing in Santa Claus in the first place .

You’ll find some kind of comedy in just about every holiday film, but our office is goofy and fun, so we also have some suggestions for an extra dose of laughter. Will Ferrell’s Buddy will teach you about the food groups that matter in Elf (2003), while Bill Murray’s Scrooged (1988) will give you a perfect balance of touching moments and off-beat humor with the modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Will Ferrell isn't your ordinary elf!
Will Ferrell isn’t your ordinary elf!

And just about everyone agrees that you cannot go without National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). It’s a classic of its own – it’s everything Christmas shouldn’t be, but simultaneously, it’s so much of what you can relate to during a time when family get-togethers become a constant.

Matchmaker Santa is my current Hallmark favorite.
Matchmaker Santa is my current Hallmark favorite, because Santa always knows best.

Forget binge watching Netflix shows during the holidays. It’s all about the Hallmark holiday movie specials here. Even if over-the-top, predictable rom-coms aren’t your thing, you must dedicate one day (preferably an entire weekend) to the channel. It’s your typical boy meets girl, girl falls in love, boy and girl live happily ever after storyline, except in a Christmas setting, making it 100% better. Ignore the mediocre acting, I’m not praising cinematic value here, and go for it – you’ll have all the Christmas feel goods in no time.

Finally, we have Joyeux Noël (2005). We are the Knickerbocker Theatre blog after all, so there has to be a foreign film recommendation. This 2005 film features the true story of the World War I Christmas truce, an unofficial agreement on the Western Front where soldiers on opposing sides stopped fighting and came together to celebrate Christmas of 1914. It’s both sweet and sad, but ultimately, it tugs at the heart of what this time of year is all about.

Honorable mentions include White Christmas (1954), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Love Actually (2003), but really, you can’t go wrong with any of them to get in the spirit.

White Christmas is truly a classic.
White Christmas truly is a classic.

These are our favorites, but we want to know yours! What are your must-watch Christmas films?

-Odille Parker