This Week In Trailers: Voyagers, Sophie Jones, For Heaven's Sake, Shiva Baby

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they're seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week, we take true crime a little less seriously, remember what it was like to be 16, wait longingly for our lover, get force-fed more dystopian, young adult nonsense from the guy who gave us Divergent, and work through some issues at a shiva.

Sophie Jones

Director Jessie Barr's debut looks devastating.

Inspired by true experiences of grief, girlhood, and growing up, Jessie Barr's directorial debut SOPHIE JONES provides a stirring portrait of a sixteen year old. Stunned by the untimely death of her mother and struggling with the myriad challenges of teendom, Sophie (played with striking immediacy by the director's cousin Jessica Barr) tries everything she can to feel something again, while holding herself together, in this sensitive, acutely realized, and utterly relatable coming-of-age story.

The cinematic portrayal of youth can be a mixed bag. You can get some who see the wacky, hijinks-laden experiences of teens as an excuse for all-out anarchy (i.e. Superbad), but you can also get the other side of that spectrum. No frills, no wackiness, just a rough-around-the-edges portrayal of youth. It lays itself bare as a narrative that burns slow but burns white-hot with emotion.

For Heaven's Sake

True crime, but not.

FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE blends comedy and crime documentary formats for a unique take on uncovering the truth. The series will follow the search for Harold Heaven, who mysteriously disappeared from his remote cabin in Ontario, Canada, in the winter of 1934. Local police searched the nearby woods and dredged the adjacent lake, but Harold was never found nor heard from again. The case was unceremoniously closed as a likely suicide. 85 years later, his great-great-nephew, Mike, attempts to solve this coldest of cold cases, with the help of his extended family and true-crime-obsessed best friend, Jackson.

It helps that some of the minds behind American Vandal put this together. What Vandal got right was how it treated its subject matter; it was seriously off-the-wall while never breaking character. Here, that also seems to apply with impressive effect. The trailer balances straight-up seriousness with just the ever so slight bit of cheekiness. It's an endearing pitch all the while giving you these visual, in-the-moment breadcrumbs about this mystery. It makes this feel as real as anything you would expect if this were a real adventure. Sold.

The Human Voice

The latest trailer for director Pedro Almodovar's 30-minute short film leads off with a snippet from /Film's own Hoai-Tran Bui's review of the movie.

A woman watches time passing next to the suitcases of her ex-lover (who is supposed to come pick them up, but never arrives) and a restless dog who doesn't understand that his master has abandoned him.

Say what you will about the dramatic flourishes that almost seem too ostentatious in this trailer, but I'm in love. The initial use of color, pacing, and music to create a sense of quietude is brilliant. There's nothing that would indicate what is coming next. When the storm does arrive, the images crescendo against one another, everything in these scenes gets frenetic, and it creates a fantastic balance to what came before. Whatever is brewing here, I'm thrilled to see what it can accomplish in 30 minutes' time.

Shiva Baby

Director Emma Seligman is keeping things in the family.

A near college graduate, Danielle, gets paid by her sugar daddy and rushes to meet her neurotic parents at a family shiva. Upon arrival, she is accosted by various estranged relatives about her appearance and lack of post-grad plans, while her confident ex-girlfriend, Maya, is applauded by everyone for getting into law school. Danielle's day takes an unexpected turn when her sugar daddy, Max, arrives at the shiva with his accomplished wife, Kim, and crying baby. As the day unfolds, Danielle struggles to keep up different versions of herself, fend off pressures from her family and confront her insecurities without completely losing it.

Based on her 2018 short of the same name, Seligman extends what was an eight-minute idea into a 77-minute feature. There's an intimacy that helps ground this into a world that feels very immediate and comedically claustrophobic. There aren't grand set pieces anywhere to be seen, nor is there anything else to hide behind. It's exhilarating and panic-inducing at the same time. By the end, I just want to get out but that's exactly the point. Wonderful.

Voyagers

Director Neil Burger has an absolute mind scrambler of a dud on his hands.

With the future of the human race at stake, a group of young men and women, bred for intelligence and obedience, embark on an expedition to colonize a distant planet. But when they uncover disturbing secrets about the mission, they defy their training and begin to explore their most primitive natures. As life on the ship descends into chaos, they're consumed by fear, lust, and the insatiable hunger for power.

I genuinely don't know who or what we're supposed to care about in this movie. It feels a little YA at heart, and Burger should know as he gave us the cinematic adaptation of Divergent. But even then, I'm not sure we're on stable narrative ground. The heavy use of cut scenes that involve animals fighting with one another, carnivores eating their kill, a snake striking the camera (?) while youths indulge their libidos is a lot of dumb. I'm not sure what I should be getting for this movie other than a sudden desire for the sweet release of death by being sucked out of this spaceship.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week: