June 28th, 2012 / posted by paularath

Summer movies. Sometimes they seem synonymous with flash, dash, weaponry, wantonness and so-called super-heroes. Drawing from comic books and fairy tales, with nary a nod to reality, they offer up larger than life characters in the guise and costumes of heroes. Just not my cup of tea. Give me a movie with a real life hero. Please?

I recently had the pleasure of seeing movies with some compelling real life people, and at least one hero.

Photo courtesy IMDB.com

Last night (oh how I love Netflix) I watched “In Darkness.” It’s based on the true story of a real life hero named Leopold Socha. An anti-Seminitic Polish sewer inspector, Socha hid a band of Jews in the sewers of the Nazi-occupied city of Lvov, Poland, for 14 months. Virtually the entire film takes place in the sewers so, as you can imagine, it is very dark, literally and figuratively. There are several children living in the sewers who treat rats as pets and entertain themselves and the adults with songs and stories. Although their lives are precarious, dark and consistently dangerous, this little underground community becomes a unified sort of tribe.

Socha is an unlikely hero. He demands money from the Jews in return for providing them with water, food and other necessities. Yet his actions are often those of a true hero, putting the needs of others ahead of his own safety. Director Agnieszka Holland treats the subject in a rather matter-of-fact manner. There’s precious little moaning, complaining or flexing of muscles. It’s a quiet, though desperate, existence in those scary sewers.

Socha’s character is beautifully developed as the film moves forward. He struggles with many decisions relating to loyalty, patriotism, religion and humanity.

“In Darkness” was nominated for an Oscar as best foreign film. It didn’t win but it does deserve to be seen – and experienced.

Playing in theatres now is “Safety Not Guaranteed.” This smart, funny, quirky film won Derek Connolly an award for screen writing at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

It’s  about an unlikely but affable hero, Kenneth, aptly played by Mark Duplass, who believes he has conquered time travel. A reporter and two interns from Seattle magazine pursue him – and his claim to be a time traveler –  as a story.

The magazine team, left to right: Aubrey Plaza, Karan Soni and Jake Johnson

It’s a real roller coaster ride of belief and non-belief and choosing or not choosing to suspend belief. It’s also about love of various kinds, from purely carnal to utterly obsessive to nearly celestial. There’s a lot of importance placed on loyalty as there was in “In Darkness.” (Loyalty is a huge for me so I always appreciate it in the movies.)

Is Kenneth a hero or a fake or a total nut case? You decide.

And, hey, please let us know what you think.

– Paula Rath

Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass share some great on-screen chemistry. My son, Duncan, has a huge crush on Aubrey.

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