Andrew Garfield, Mahershala Ali, Ruth Negga, and five others received their first-ever acting nominations for 2017. While these actors are new to the Academy Awards, you may recognize them from their earlier work.
Anthology films are tricky to pull off. They usually consist of three or more stories all interconnected by another outside story or storyteller, thus making it crucial for the writing of each one to be compelling and interesting. That's partially the case for `A Touch of Murder,' an unusual anthology suspense movie from Canada. The acting is strong and the directing by David Wellington is mostly good, but it isn't always compelling. Particularly what is not compelling is the surround story that links the inner stories. Two men are selling some salvaged items to a junk dealer. One of the men happens to be psychic, and he can see past events associated with whatever he touches. When he touches some of the objects they sell, he sees one of the stories. This surround story is a great idea, but never does Wellington bother to develop the characters involved, not even when the movie is about ready to end. It's used only to introduce each story.
**Some spoilers in this paragraph, but nothing major** Now the stories themselves fare much better. The first one is about a smooth-talking vacuum salesman that sells a poor women a vacuum so he can get a commission and a trip to Atlantic City from his company. The woman's grandson comes by the office the next day to ask the salesman to take the vacuum back because his grandmother can't afford it. Instead of doing so the following day, the salesman talks the old woman into keeping it. She dies later that day, and the grandson suspects the salesman had something to do with it and breaks into his home to confront him. This was my least favorite tale because I couldn't make much sense out of the story when it drew to a close. The actor playing the salesman sure did one heck of a good job, though, so he made up for the confusion. The second story involves an interrogation of a teenager by the police following his cop-father's death in a bathtub. There's something funny about the way the father died that makes the police suspicious, so they ask the son questions about the events leading up to the day of the accident, and how the father slowly lost his sanity following the death of his own mother. This is where Wellington really impressed me wit his directing skills, jumping perfectly from the interrogation room to the flashbacks. The third story involves two buddies spending the evening playing board games. One of them is having marital problems and suspects that his wife is seeing another man. He jokingly suggests his friend is the other man, but the joke soon becomes a serious possibility. When his suspicion looms, the man tries to force his buddy to admit to the adultery with strange dare games that turn ugly as the night progresses. This tale isn't directed as well as the other two, but the story and the actors are good.
I at first wasn't sure what to make of this movie, but then I realized that the surround story, which is completely underdeveloped, isn't that important to the stories themselves, which are good. I think that if the surround story had been more in depth, this would have been a seriously wonderful experience. Still, it remains a good experience regardless and this movie is worth seeking out if you are in the mood for an anthology. Zantara's score: 6 out of 10.
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