Eye For Film >> Movies >> Opus Of An Angel (2017) Film Review
Opus Of An Angel
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
A troubled man who has given up on life. A blind girl lost all alone in Los Angeles. A chance meeting that will turn the man's life around. Ali Zamani's drama may sound like something you've seen before, and there are echoes of It's A Wonderful Life throughout, but its verité style and naturalistic performances give it a very different character.
It's sugary, to be sure. The music is the biggest problem here, telling viewers what to feel instead of letting them explore for themselves, and it becomes especially heavy-handed towards the end, when Zamani also lets rip with a few visual clichés, but this is hardly an uncommon problem in films of this type. There's also some serious over-egging of the moral themes, reducing their impact. Zamani needs to trust his audience more. This aside, however, the story evolves in a refreshingly straightforward way and provides a very different experience of the well know city which, though incidental to the plot, is the most compelling aspect of the film.
Also impressive is Kaylynn Kubeldis as young Maria. Being blind herself, she doesn't have to waste time thinking about how to portray that aspect of her character and can instead focus on fleshing her out in much more interesting ways. Whilst there's an obvious danger here of this being just another story about a magical marginalised person saving a middle class white guy, Kubeldis seizes the reins and makes her character the central figure for most of the time that she's onscreen. Confident and forthright about her support needs, giving clear instructions rather than begging to be rescued, Maria ably dispenses with stereotypes; we fear for her only in the ways that we might fear for any other child, and she accepts no nonsense from her uptight companion.
He is Stephen (William McNamara), a doctor wrestling with a difficult past and thinking seriously about ending his life. Meeting Maria after she has become separated from her school tour group delays any such action as he feels duty-bound to help her get home, and after an unsuccessful attempt to call her mother he learns that she'll be out for several hours (why he doesn't call the school is unclear). As a result, he lets Maria tag along whilst he runs errands, also taking time out to entertain her with a visit to the Braille section of the local library and a trip to the park to feed the ducks. This awakens old memories, revealed in flashback, which explain something of his mental state but also suggest the possibility of finding joy in life once again.
Shot close up on crowded streets, often with a handheld camera, Opus Of An Angel perfectly captures the atmosphere of a busy urban space. It takes a certain confidence to get around in all this chaos and that's something Stephen needs to relearn, his superficial certainty about his role there repeatedly challenged by the circumstances in which he finds himself, whilst Maria comes across as a much more organic part of the city itself. There's some really good work here so it's a shame that parts of the film are so overbearing. Kubeldis marks herself out as a real talent, and one we might hope to see more of.Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2020