Venice Film Festival reviews: Downsizing | Suburbicon | The Shape of Water | Nico, 1988

The 74th Venice Film Festival opened last week with Matt Damon shrinking to a few ­centimetres tall in Downsizing (****), Alexander Payne's meandering humanist fable about ­people opting for miniaturisation to help save the planet, and themselves. Payne touches on the ­satirical possibilities of his clever concept, but ­ultimately settles for touchy-feely. Enjoyable, if sometimes fuzzily focused.
Matt DamonMatt Damon
Matt Damon

Suburbicon (****), director/co-writer George Clooney and Grant ­Heslov’s reworking of an old Coen brothers screenplay, sees Matt Damon return as a family man whose life spirals violently out of control following a home invasion, while a racist mob tries to force out the town’s first black residents living next door. Post Charlottesville, this violent, confidently executed period noir chimes darkly with the times.

Guillermo Del Toro walks on the wild side in The Shape of Water (****), a bizarre inter-species love story starring a luminous, awards-worthy Sally Hawkins as a mute cleaner who falls for a creature dragged from the Amazon, and now in the hands of the US military.

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The year is 1962, but Del Toro is clearly talking about today’s divided America. He throws in social criticism, a silly ­musical number, gruesome violence, full frontal nudity and even some zoophilia, in what amounts to a mischievous adult fairy tale soaked in the Zeitgeist.

Nico, 1988 (***) brings the last years of former Velvet Underground star Nico to life through a transformative performance by the Danish actress/singer Trin Dyrholm. The film charts the once-beautiful German’s ongoing bid to escape the shadow of the Velvets and be regarded as an artist in her own right. She plays small gigs, attempts to reclaim her suicidal son, struggles with heroin, and heads towards her demise in Ibiza. Dyrholm’s spot-on recreation of Nico’s vocal style is impressive, as is the film’s avoidance of pop-biopic cliches.