New year! New movies! In January, a handful of relationship dramas — with the emphasis on drama — are available for streaming.
Only the Animals
Available January 4, “Only the Animals” is a terrific puzzle of a film that revolves around the death of bisexual woman Evelyne Ducat (Valerie Bruni Tedeschi). Director Dominik Moll, who adapted Colin Niel’s novel, recounts what happened through various strangers’ perspectives. The narrative spine of the film involves Marion (Nadia Tereszkiewicz), Evelyne’s younger lover, who tracks Evelyne down after a tryst, hoping to prolong their relationship. Marion also figures in a storyline involving Michel (Denis Ménochet), who is chatting online with a woman named Amandine — who “looks” like Marion — but is, in fact, Armand (Guy Roger “Bibisse” N’Drin), a young man in Abidjan. The characters, all of whom long for affection, may misinterpret things, but viewers will be satisfied; each episode provides information that allows viewers to understand the characters’ behavior more clearly as the disparate storylines lock into place.
The Man with the Answers
“The Man with the Answers,” available January 11, is writer/director Stelios Kammitsis’ sweet and gentle road movie. Victoras (Vasilis Magouliotis), a Greek ex-diving champion, meets Mathias (Anton Weil), a German student, on a ferry. The two men chat (in English) and slowly bond when Victoras reluctantly agrees to give Mathias a ride. Mathias encourages Victoras to get out of his comfort zone and take the scenic route. He also asks Victoras questions about his life to learn more about him. He soon discovers that Victoras is traveling to visit his mother, whom he has not seen in several years. The pair’s adventures include a dip in a lake, an encounter with a cop, and even attending a wedding together. While the guys do not discuss their sexuality, they do kiss and cuddle one night when they share a bed. The bromance that develops between these handsome strangers is charming, if slight, but most viewers will want to spend more time with these attractive men.
Bringing Him Back
Available January 18, “Bringing Him Back” (aka “Mía and Moi”) is an involving Spanish debut feature by writer/director Borja de la Vega. The drama is set almost entirely at a country estate, where Mía (Bruna Cusí) welcomes her younger brother Moi (Ricardo Gómez) and his affable boyfriend, Biel (Eneko Sagardoy), who may be bisexual. The siblings are coping with the death of their mother, and Moi is near-catatonic. Mía and Biel make efforts to improve Moi’s mood by taking him skinny-dipping at a local beach, and Biel tries to express some physical affection, but Moi resists. This delicate situation gets worse when Mía’s wounded ex-boyfriend Mikel (Joe Manjón) arrives to stir things up. Mikel both attracts and repels the others, causing trouble, but he may be sparking change. “Bringing Him Back” shifts gears in its last act, to magnify how close the protective bond is between Mía and Moi, and de la Vega coaxes fine turns from Gómez and Cusí. But this tricky chamber drama is best when it allows the seductive Manjón to behave badly.
The Last Thing Mary Saw
“The Last Thing Mary Saw” (January 20) is a stylish, slow-burn thriller set in Southold, New York, 1843, that addresses issues of good and evil, along with much talk about God and the devil. Mary (Stefanie Scott) has “sinful” affection for Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman), the family maid. Mary’s parents want her behavior “corrected,” but the young lovers bribe Theodore (PJ Sosko), a guard, to let them spend time alone together. While Mary suggests they run away, Eleanor has a more devious plan — one that has deadly consequences. The film, which is visually striking with candlelit scenes, builds drama as power shifts between the characters — especially when an intruder (Rory Culkin) enters the picture. The is plenty of death and bloodletting in one memorable sequence, but “The Last Thing Mary Saw” is neither gory nor horrific, despite some supernatural elements. Its biggest scares are how religion is used to repress same-sex desire and punish these young women in love.
Baja Come Down
“Baja Come Down,” available January 25, is a lyrical, low-fi drama about Hannah (Caitlin Michael Riley) and Charlie (Michelle Ortiz), a couple that once knew happier times. They take a spur of the minute road trip to Mexico, with Hannah’s cat Lou in tow, to decide if they should stay together. Not much happens once the young women arrive South of the Border. They go camping and make love. They eat and talk. They fight and Hannah gets sick. Lou, not unexpectedly, goes missing. The various episodes prompt both young women to reevaluate their priorities and relationship. While Caitlin Michael Riley is a bit flat as the mopey Hannah, who develops a better perspective on things, Michelle Ortiz has some real energy, and “Baja Come Down” is best when it shows her point of view. Director Anderson Matthew features some nice compositions and superimposed images, as well as some keen observations on relationships, but the pacing is at times deadly.