films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


The Power of the Dog

2021 / 126m - New Zealand
Drama, Western
The Power of the Dog poster

Jane Campion is a good director, but she needs better scripts. Somehow she always ends up with crude and thick sentiment, something she fiercely counters by focusing on mood. And she gets away with it, but only barely. The fact that The Power of the Dog is still a decent film, despite its many flaws, is all Campion, but it doesn't make for great cinema.

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Phil and George are two brothers who run a farm together. Phil is a true cowboy, George a distinguished gentleman who wants a more comfortable life. He finds that with Rose, a widow with a teenage boy. She comes to live with Phil and George, but Phil consider her an intruder and makes life hard on her.

There's quite a bit of non-verbal communication and the styling is impeccable (though very safe and predictable), which adds to the intrigue. The characters are cardboard though and some performances (Dunst, Cumberbatch) come off incredibly overdone and forced. The result is a decent drama, though would've been a lot better if the drama itself hadn't been so obvious and in-your-face.

In the Cut

2003 / 119m - USA
Mystery, Thriller
In the Cut poster

The Piano

1993 / 121m - New Zealand
Drama, Romance
The Piano poster

Quite a bit better than I had expected. I'm generally not a fan of costume dramas, but Campion's film benefits from stylish cinematography and a pleasant score to give this otherwise rather predictable drama/romance a little extra flair. That certainly made the difference for me.

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Ada is a mute who lives alone with her daughter, playing the piano is the one thing that brings joy to her life. She marries Stewart, who lives in New Zealand. After she moves there, Stewart sells her piano to George, angering his new wife and ultimately driving her into the arms of George.

Cinematographer Dryburgh did an amazing job capturing the raw beauty of New Zealand, without turning the film into a cheap vacation ad. The soundtrack goes well with the images, performances are solid, and the romance is decent, though not extremely captivating. A fine film.


1989 / 97m - Australia
Comedy, Drama
Sweetie poster

An early Campion. Not quite what I expected to see from her, but it was a happy surprise. Sweetie is a mix of quirky comedy and drama about a pretty dysfunctional family who try to make things work. It's certainly different from her more narrative/drama-based films, but it's not worse.

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Kay is a very introverted woman who has difficulties making connections with other people. When she meets Louis, she feels he is the one for her and manages to seduce him. Their lives are turned upside down when Kay's sister Dawn suddenly moves in with her and upsets the fickle balance in Kay's life.

Performances are solid, there are some dreamy scenes that stand out and Campion finds a lot of humor in things that aren't necessarily funny. It's a nice enough film, but as it pivots to drama in the second half, it became clearer with the minute that the characters weren't quite intriguing enough for me to carry a more serious film. Not a bad effort though, and definitely worth a watch.

Bright Star

2009 / 119m - Australia
Drama, Romance
Bright Star poster

I was relatively unfamiliar with the work of Jane Campion, Bright Star may not have been the best option to further delve into her oeuvre. It's a pretty basic costume drama, a familiar mix of drama and romance, not really the type of film that sits very well with me. She sticks neatly to genre conventions, so Bright Star didn't do much to change that.

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The film focuses on the romance between poet John Keats and girl next door Fanny. Fanny's mom isn't a big fan of the relationship and tries to separate the two, but their love runs deep. But then Keats becomes ill and it looks like their love really isn't meant to be. It's a typical sob story.

Campion's direction is unremarkable, the performances are decent but rather restrained and safe a few beautiful scenes outside, there really isn't much of note here. The romance really didn't do it for me, the drama didn't hit the right marks and more than once it felt too much like cheap sentiment. Not very good.