Film Reviews by PD

Welcome to PD's film reviews page. PD has written 178 reviews and rated 278 films.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Matilda the Musical

Emma Thompson saves the day in sanitised version of Dahl

(Edit) 27/02/2023

There's some good moments in this adaptation of the now-famous musical, and includes a fabulous turn from Emma Thompson as the tyrannical Turnbull, but ultimately, as with the stage adaptation itself, it rather fails to do justice to the world as conceived by Road Dahl (something captured rather better in Danny DeVito’s 1998 live-action film adaptation). For by favouring a cleaner, more straightforward portrait of Matilda and highlighting its undeniably catchy and clever songs, this is at the expense of more complex reckonings with education, revolution, cruelty, and love, that you'd think are just waiting to be dusted off the page. Matthew Warchus holds close many elements from his stage creation, but this ends up being part of the problem (the great chocolate-eating scene for example is drowned in a mass of schoolchildren rotating in magenta-sequinned blazers, and at times it does feel you're watching the UK’s hottest new dance troupe on “Britain’s Got Talent.”). It’s also a shame that the obsession with television is totally ignored, and that the prospect of revolution is fully watered down, or, by contrast, reducing the parents to pantomime villains, which of course merely weakens the comedy. Meanwhile, Alisha Weir is all a bit too one-dimensional for me, for the real conflict Matilda’s qualities — talent, intelligence, emotional threshold — are subjected to is rather lost amongst all the song and dance routines.

And yet, and yet, enter stage right Emma Thompson. Underneath the fake nose and enormous pentagonal jawline, it’s a fully molecular metamorphosis that sings in ways every other part of the film pretty much falls short on. Thompson is fully convincing in displaying Trunchbull’s rage and resentment, reining in the pathetic comedy when fear takes priority, and cleverly sailing that thin line between comedy and horrific, outright abuse. The performance certainly saves the day, but ultimately this is a sanitised reproduction of the source material.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

The French Dispatch

Grand Budapest revisited

(Edit) 20/02/2023

Wes Anderson's latest is very much in the same mould of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' with its flights of imagination, exquisite visual flair and infectious sense of fun, and so if you liked that one you'll certainly enjoy this, although it never quite reaches the same heights. The very funny and darkly satirical first main sequence, 'The Concrete Masterpiece' is easily the best of the 'stories', involving an imprisoned sociopath-turned-artist and his muse, and featuring a wonderful Tilda Swinton who looks every the inch the part as art correspondent JKL Berensen, who narrates the story. The other sections are much less involving, but there's still much to enjoy, notably, in the final section, some gorgeous animated escape sequences in a bandes dessinées style reminiscent of Belgian cartoonist Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin, while also evoking classic New Yorker covers.

Whilst the film may seem like a series of vignettes lacking a central theme, every moment is graced by Anderson’s love for the written word and the oddball characters who dedicate their professional lives to it. There’s a wistful sense of time passing and a lovely ode to the pleasures of travel embedded in the material, along with an appreciation for the history of American foreign correspondents who bring their perceptive outsider gaze to other cultures. The mission of the magazine is summed up thus near the end of the film: “Maybe with good luck we’ll find what eluded us in the places we once called home.”

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Aftersun

Intimate and impressive father-child drama

(Edit) 20/02/2023

This wonderful, subtle and delicate piece involves a depressive young dad at a Turkish resort with his pre-teen daughter, and anyone like me who has had to grab time, and maximise that time, with their young children after being separated from their partner will easily identify with the emotions he is going through - I left the film totally overwhelmed. Charlotte Wells’ highly sensitive film shows that no amount of play time and fruity drinks can keep either the past or future at bay. Paul Mescal is pitch-perfect at communicating an anxious, uneasy flipside to his casual, laddish charm, but its the remarkable duet between Mescal and 11-year-old Frankie Corio that carries the film as father and daughter reveal new, vulnerable facets of themselves to each other over the course of a tacky package holiday. There’s an edge of sibling-like complicity to their relationship, with their shared oddball jokes, loose conversational comfort with each other, and mutual resistance to patriarchal tradition, and this lends an additional urgency to the trip; it’s a chance for both Calum and Sophie to prove themselves to each other, showing off their responsibilities and capabilities, respectively. Wells’ taut script tells us little of Calum's life outside the immediate present, but stray asides and moments of solitary rumination — a fretful cigarette on the balcony when he thinks his daughter is asleep, a longing fixation on a Persian rug at a local market — hint at his unhappiness beneath the surface. Meanwhile, the perceptive Sophie notices some of her dad’s mood shifts, but is distracted with growing pains of her own, with boys showing an interest in her for the first time. With both father and daughter privately facing their own fears of getting older, there’s a sense that they may never share this innocent, breezy ease with each other again (in one brief, simple scene, her insecurities seep out during a brave-faced karaoke rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” — a few minutes that appear to age her by three years). Whilst all this is going on, the director flashes both backwards (Calum's past) and forwards (Sophie's future) in time with some skill. 'Aftersun' is about trying to square the intimacy of being cared for as a child with the perspective that comes with being an adult. It’s about wanting to reach across time, and to meet a loved one in an impossible space where, for once, you’re both on the same level, and you can finally understand them for who they are — or who they were. Very impressive stuff indeed.

3 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Subtle and powerful abortion drama

(Edit) 13/02/2023

This very subtle but highly effective piece makes its point by avoiding any kind of melodrama or cliche often reverted to by these types of film, and is all the more powerful as a consequence. First-timer Sidney Flanigan as Autumn is so perfect in the role that it has the feel of a documentary, her defensive demeanour only slipping occasionally to show us the distress underneath, and it also successfully depicts the strength of female friendship (none of the male characters come off well, unsurprisingly). The title of the film comes from a key scene involving a set of responses Autumn is asked to choose from during a pre-abortion interview, over the course of which an intensely personal series of questions is gently posed to her which leads to her shield cracking and falling away completely. What’s left is a 17-year-old girl so inured to enduring in silence that she’s unable to respond to someone is actually taking an interest in her well-being, no matter how clinical that interest may be: 'Your partner has made you have sex when you didn’t want to — never, rarely, sometimes, always'. The camera holds on Flanigan’s face for a long, unbearable stretch in which she’s broken open by the act of being asked about herself and not just the pregnancy she has travelled across state lines to terminate. Impressive stuff.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Compelling viewing from Martin McDonagh - his best yet

(Edit) 06/02/2023

Great to see Martin McDonagh return to his playwriting roots after 'Three Billboards', definitely his best yet, and it's certainly one of the saddest films I've ever seen. Set in the early 1920s, as the Irish Civil War rages on the nation’s main island, 'Banshees' is about a friendship gone sour - a clear metaphor. The decision to re-unite the 'In Bruges' duo Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleason is inspired, with Farrell playing a dim but affable Pádraic, who tends to his livestock and spends time every day at the only pub in town, and Gleason as Colm, an older and morose character with a touch of the poet in him. Complementing them perfectly is Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s savvy sister, Siobhan, whose exasperation at her brother’s response to Colm’s extreme behaviour is thoroughly relatable; Siobhan also evokes the most sympathy as a woman who has clearly, desperately outgrown this remote corner of the planet.

Inevitably, things take a very dark turn, and the film unfolds in progressively more grim and sorrowful episodes (if punctuated by some dark humour en route), McDonagh revealing the pain and confusion at the heart of both men with considerable acumen. Colm sets about writing a folk tune he hopes will be sung long after he’s gone, an attempt to leave an impression on a world he feels he’s merely stumbling through inconsequentially, but the lengths to which he goes to do so suggests a far more serious malaise than anyone seems able to talk about. Pádraic, for his part, gradually gathers his daffy stupor and condenses it into anger. Maybe this is how wars begin, although one is left with the feeling that McDonagh wants to portray a more existential crisis of humanity than a simple allegory. McDonagh’s version of isolated Ireland may be a bit condescending, but it's balanced by a sensitivity, that tempers some of McDonagh’s folksy stereotyping. Tenderly scored by Carter Burwell and gorgeously shot by cinematographer Ben Davis, this is a film whose unhurried pace never drags. Compelling viewing.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Black Bear

Gripping tale of sexual politics and tyrannical directors

(Edit) 31/01/2023

This very watchable, clever piece trundles along in a fairly predictable fashion until a great twist transports us into what director Lawrence Michael Levine wants us to grapple with. The film-within-a-film genre needs careful handling, and here there's perhaps a lot over overcooked melodrama and under-developed ideas, but it's still compelling viewing, being both a serious portrayal of sexual politics and a provocative send-up of tyrannical directors, diva-ish actors and over-invested voyeurs, with a wonderfully gripping performance from start to finish from Aubrey Plaza.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

The World to Come

Subtly feminist historical tale

(Edit) 31/01/2023

Mona Fastvold’s historical, slow-burning tale, set in NY State 1850s, is arresting for the great chemistry between Katherine's Waterson's Abigail and Vanessa Kirby's Tallie, but the feminist undercurrent comes over loud and clear. Enclosed on all sides by place, opportunity and circumstance, Abigail's journal begins 1 January 1856 much like any other day: her softly spoken, stoical narration starts with a sullen start to the New Year: 'Ice in our bedroom for the first time all winter,' the harsh weather of a remote northerly wilderness echoing a loveless marriage fallen on hard times. The colour drained from the screen and their lives, an overwhelming grief is buried beneath the daily toil of working the farm and dutifully maintaining their household’s meagre existence. The arrival of new neighbours injects a change, and with a flash of eye contact, and visions of Tallie's flowing red hair against the snow, ignites the faintest glimmer of passion in Abigail, but living on a 'long lane that has no turning,' we sense that both women are heading in exclusively one direction with no possibility of betterment or excitement. What begins as polite companionship and understanding moves to greater tenderness and caring – with subtle gesture and glances suggesting much more. It could be that this longing has always been there even before they met, or it could be that the women are drawn to one another due to the cold detachment of Dyer and callous brutality of Finney, but either way the attraction felt seems to come more from one soul’s draw by another, the magnetism of a kindred spirit, although Fastvold’s direction perhaps doesn't do quite enough to fully develop and explore this union. As the seasons come and go, in conjunction with a relationship developing behind closed doors, husbands speak of their wives accomplishing 'responsibilities', 'expectations and duties,' leaving us to ask whether there is there nothing more to this frontier existence than domestic subservience and bearing children? It's a 'modern' question of course, but the film successfully transports us back in time, and it makes a good case for an imaginative leap forward into literal and metaphorical new territory. In Abigail’s longing to see beyond the high valley walls with the kind of scope of an atlas gifted to her by Tallie, the film envisages a future reality not yet visible over the horizon, but shown as the slightest glimmer of light. Quietly impressive, even if the script doesn't match the power of the feelings on display.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Funny Pages

Highly skilled and original comedy

(Edit) 23/01/2023

Owen Kline's very enjoyable debut film is filled with people who look like they stepped right out of the underground comix his teenage protagonist, Robert (the totally convincing Daniel Zolghadri), reveres. There's Miles, Robert’s mild-mannered best friend and a fellow aspiring comic-book artist who has a face like a moonscape of cystic acne, and frizzy, shoulder-length hair that frames him like a pair of old curtains; then there's Barry, an older man with whom Robert briefly shares an apartment, who has the crimson, permanently sweaty features of an old music-hall star who has somehow been transported to the 21st-century Trenton; and most importantly the highly volatile Wallace, the former Image Comics employee Robert hitches up to as a real professional despite Wallace’s protestations. Wallace is the most distinctive of all: superbly played by Matthew Maher, his ovoid head, combined with a constant look of suspicion, is a walking self-satire. With these absurd characters and various agonising situations, the film is often both very funny and beautifully excruciating.

There's an awful lot of underdeveloped ideas, but the basic theme is someone eager to cast off his upper-middle-class existence for the squalor and struggle he sees as essential to artistic legitimacy, and the visual divide between its main character and the people he surrounds himself with serves as a constant reminder of that contrast. The idea of authenticity that so grips him comes from the artists Robert studies, but also from his teacher, Mr. Katano, who opens the film exhorting his mentee to embrace subversion and to skip college, lest it ruin him. Katano clearly oversees a kind of misfit sanctuary in school and in his own home, though he crosses a line in a deliberately weird first scene and suffers the consequences. As with Holden Caulfield, Robert is a moody, troubled teenager channelling his general angst into going off on his own, declaring to the exasperation of his Princeton parents his intentions to drop out of school (although, crucially, he quickly runs back home to them when the going gets rough). Kline’s got a lot of talent, and a readiness to lean into the peevishness of Robert’s naïve rebellion without overdoing it, but while his affection for the oddballs he puts on screen feels genuine, you get the feeling that he regards them as good material rather than real people, and a very contrived, messy final act doesn't help. Nevertheless, a highly skilled and original piece overall, and the very last couple of minutes are very effective.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Decision to Leave

Femme-fatale thriller with lots to admire

(Edit) 17/01/2023

Park Chan-wook's latest involves overworked detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il - very good indeed as the perpetually on edge insomniac) who is—in true clichéd, noir form—married to his job more than to his actual wife, who lives in quiet, foggy Iso while Hae-Jun works weeks in Busan, where the crime and murder that sustains him runs rampant. His latest case involves the death of a mountain-climber which, though by all appearances an accident, quickly becomes suspicious owing to the behaviour of the mountaineer’s much younger Chinese wife, the femme-fatale Seo-rae (beautifully played by Tang Wei). However, Hae-jun’s further scrutiny of the woman becomes antithetical to his actual investigation as he slowly grows closer to her and from this point, it becomes clear that it's the complexities of their mutual attraction that will be at the forefront of the action rather than the various mysteries involving the murder cases (which are the least interesting part of the film). The director is largely successful at pulling us in to their self-destructive dynamic, partly via very astute cinemaphotography (pretty much every scene is very visually arresting indeed) and partly through a (generally) erudite script which (at least until the end) eschews melodrama and both conceals and reveals in equal measure; there's also a surprising amount of humour melded into the dark mix, which is very effectively done. On the other hand, the profound yearning between the characters and potential eroticism from that kind of unexecuted connection is so overt that the film occasionally over-reaches itself and you do get the impression that the director is trying rather too hard to manufacture a Hitchcock-style masterpiece. Meanwhile, the various plot twists become more and more implausible as the film goes on (well over two hours, and it felt like it) and the ending is perhaps the weakest part of the film precisely because of its intended tragic extravagance. All in all, however, lots to admire if you've the patience.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Compartment No. 6

Intriguing odd-couple drama

(Edit) 08/01/2023

This one's a very intriguing watch, one of those that's predicated on a meeting of extreme opposites under extreme circumstances, and whilst there's absolutely zero - chemistry between Finnish student Laura (Seidi Haarla - superb throughout), and coal miner Lyokha (Yuri Borisov, also excellent) we have enough to believe in their connection, and that is some testimony to the director. They make a great couple: plucked from different countries, walks of life and perspectives, their claustrophobic, forced-shared space encourages an improbable companionship. The plot's ridiculously contrived but the director is skilful enough to keep us convinced, whilst some of the best scenes take place outside the Compartment No 6 - a meeting between an old lady, Laura and Lyokha is easily the best in the entire film and makes it worth watching for this alone. Well worth a look.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

The Forgiven

White privilege moral fable

(Edit) 08/01/2023

This one's a thoroughly enjoyable watch, but once you've gone away and thought about it, it's also one of those that obviously overstates its case on the theme of 'toxicity of white privilege and wealth'. You can see what writer-director Jon Michael McDonagh is aiming at, but unfortunately his subtle-as-a-flying-mallet portrait of the western guests in Morocco is all too obvious, which of course merely dissipates the intended impact, as does the plot-twist ending, which is is all wrong and merely makes what went before less effective. Meanwhile, Ralph Fiennes' David's racism, misogyny and general prejudices are a good deal more convincing than his attempts at an Ivan Illyich - style redemption, so the film is weakened as a result, and when you add onto this a very awkward Jessica Chastain as David's wife Jo - whose reaction to a sudden death and a failed marriage remains beyond the scriptwriters - you get a very uneasy muddle. Overall, the deliberate contrast between the ugliness of privilege and the beauty of the film’s slick luxury aesthetic is frustratingly superficial and predictable, with the result that, as a moral fable, this piece offers little genuine critique, I'm afraid.

0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Moonage Daydream

Visually arresting and plenty for fans but short on insight

(Edit) 12/12/2022

For his feature documentary, Brett Morgen takes an impressionistic approach, exploring the Bowie persona as a composite creation, a chameleonic alien who shrugged off the enigma to engage with the world as himself only in the last two decades of his life.

Morgen’s multi-layered collage is visually arresting but I'm afraid there’s a huge gap between listening to the artist’s music and listening to him blather on about life, the universe and everything without actually saying much. Bowie was many things, but a great interview was not one of them, or at least based on the evidence of the clips sampled here. We get great footage of his glam-rock days of cultivating a mystique that extended from his androgynous look to his fashionable bisexuality, but his philosophical and spiritual wanderings, struggling to grasp the transience of existence merely lead to a conventional cul-de-sac conclusion that, yes, it all does matter after all, and a platitudinous commitment to embrace positivity. Bowie describes himself as a collector of personalities, but anyone encountering him for the first time in Morgen’s film might be forgiven for concluding that alongside the musical genius, he was a pretentious bore - an (unfair) reductive dismissal perhaps inadvertently furthered by Morgen’s very busy visual approach, randomly punctuating the film with bursts of acid-trip psychedelia, animation, colour washes and graphics, to the point where the film starts to seem more like an art installation (which admittedly makes for a visual fest that works well on the big screen). In addition to these, the constant barrages of film images — lifting from Kubrick, Eisenstein, Oshima, Buñuel, Bergman, Warhol, etc, with an odd special fondness for Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - say more about Morgen’s diligent rights clearance team than anything about Bowie. The net effect is a film which seems like unlimited archival access in search of a perspective - especially as it stretches past the two-hour mark; it's as if Morgan has dumped all the Bowie data from his hard drive onto the screen and is still figuring out how to organise it.

That’s not to say there aren’t rewards for Bowie fans, chief among them the extensive concert footage, going back as far as Ziggy Stardust appearances in the early ‘70s through the “Outside” and “Earthlings” tours of the mid-to-late ‘90s. Performance clips from the Berlin years are especially eye-catching, though it might have been stimulating to hear from people like Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. And Morgen neatly captures the amusing side of Bowie, notably in his time in Los Angeles - draped in the backseat of a car sporting dandified “Thin White Duke” elegance, he talks about putting himself in dangerous situations to see what it would do to his music. Since he hated L.A., he says, he thought going to live there for two years would be an interesting experiment, with “Cracked Actor” providing droll accompaniment to those observations; nodding to roots, he acknowledges that the US filled spaces in his imagination in a way that England couldn't. And there's much of interest in the late section, where Bowie talks about finally finding the spiritual and emotional freedom to explore a real romantic relationship, with Iman, his wife for the last 24 years of his life; and earlier when he discusses his half-brother Terry, an influential figure whose sophisticated taste broadened Bowie’s musical and cultural horizons. And the section on Bowie as John Merrick in The Elephant Man links up with how often solitude figured as a theme in Bowie’s lyrics, the haunting loneliness of that character provide us with welcome food for thought, as does the section on his paintings, but such reflective moments are all-too brief.

It’s to Morgen’s credit that he chooses not to re-tread ground amply covered elsewhere in conventional documentaries, but I'm afraid it's still short on original insight.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Living

Moving film if lacking the intensity of the original

(Edit) 09/12/2022

“What would you do if you had six months left to live?” asks the doctor who diagnoses the faceless bureaucrat with terminal cancer in Akira Kurosawa's 'Ikiru', raising profound questions about how we choose to spend the limited time we’re afforded. And Ikiru's lessons translate well to mid-century Britain, courtesy of Kazuo Ishiguro, who does the heavy lifting of adapting it to 1953 London for director Oliver Hermanus. Bill Nighy gives us an impressive, understated performance, as a result of which film is undeniably moving, if not to the same degree that Kurosawa achieved. This is partly because of a truly awful, intrusive cloying sentimental score throughout (the scenes in which the strings are put away and the Pinteresque silences speak louder than words are much more effective), and partly because of a rather weak supporting cast and subplot which mean that the full intensity of Mr Williams' situation is dissipated somewhat at times. You do get the feeling that the film is rather afraid to step out of the shadow of its predecessor, although it's also fair to say that if it has the result of getting to you watch Kurosawa's film again (or Tolstoy's novella on which Kurosawa's film was itself based), then that is an achievement in itself.

Hermanus and his production team are generally successful at re-creating postwar London, opening the film up and trying to match its locations to the grainy old footage of the city glimpsed in the retro-style opening credits. The costumes, the customs, the ever-so-proper way of speaking (or not speaking, as is often the case) are spot on (although no smoking - a key period detail inevitably omitted). And with their neatly tailored suits and matching bowler hats, the film neatly depicts how the paper pushers in Public Works have realised that any initiative merely endangers their jobs and so spend their days referring cases to other departments - some things never change! Most importantly, the film's central message of it being a shame to have died without ever having lived is universally applicable to any age, and this comes over loud and clear.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Beautiful and empty

(Edit) 06/12/2022

Lots to like here, particurlarly visually. Tilda Swinton is predictably compelling as 'narratologist' Alithea - her travelling the world giving lectures on the nature and uses of story throughout history and speaking of science’s 'replacement' of myth as humanity’s way of codifying knowledge is a good set up, and her performance just about convinces us through the roller-coaster ride that the film takes us over a fairly gruelling (I'm afraid) two hours or so.

It looks great and has great ambitions but sadly the script is not up to it, and borders on the trite at times; whilst there are some good moments when Swinton and her companion genie/gjinn (a distinctly subdued and at times really annoying Idris Elba) debate such ideas as free will vs. fate, being content with your lot vs. dreaming of something more, attempts at grace and profundity sadly usually fall flat (there's zero chemistry between the two, which I get is probably deliberate, but it grates all the same). Elba's stories, which take up a good deal of the film, involve a murderous prince, an intellectual woman vastly ahead of her time, and a scheming concubine, are engaging enough, but they merely lead us to an underdeveloped third act, into which director George Miller's attempts to bring contemporary politics are distinctly underwhelming, thus rather ruining what went before. There's lots of big-hearted intentions, but as often happens in films that attempts grand statements about love, this one ultimately can’t serve up a message as transporting (or coherent) as the design that houses it. Taken as a whole, I found it beautiful, and empty.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Anaïs in Love

Lively, warm-hearted drama embracing the mess of life

(Edit) 24/10/2022

This lively, warm-hearted drama introduces Anaïs, a character who is as magnetic and passionate as she is infuriating. Featuring a performance from Anaïs Demoustier that is equal parts energetic and blisteringly self-aware, the film is very endearing even if its resolution ultimately falters.

Anaïs is neurotic, impulsive, perpetually late, always running, although it's precisely because of this that it seems like everyone else is merely trying to catch up with her. Attempting to finish a thesis on 17th-century descriptions of passion that's about as late as her last few months of rent, Anaïs flings herself frantically from moment to moment, with the result that, shortly after an affair with with much older Daniel, she finds herself totally infatuated with his writer wife Emilie (very well played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). It's very hard for a viewer not to be drawn into her freewheeling charm - a great comic scene involving Anaïs' oversharing her life in quick-fire French as she shows some Korean tourists around her apartment that she is sub-letting (even though they don't speak a word of her native language) is Anaïs in a nutshell. It also helps that Demoustier's performance bounces between the overcorrecting self-confidence of someone still trying to shake off their late 20s and a childlike naïveté that's perhaps more of a defence mechanism rather than representative of underlying insecurity. 'I don't want to meet interesting people,' she says in response to her mother's career advice, 'I want to BE interesting'.

The first half of the film succeeds in drawing us in to Anaïs' world, but it truly finds its heart in the slower second half as Demoustier and Tedeschi's chemistry is spot-on as they convene on a writer's symposium that is being led by Emilie. Their relationship is clearly fuelled by a passion that Anaïs has been missing in her own life - one particular scene sees Anais one conversation with Emilie about a crush the latter had on her writing teacher when she was 14 years old, and with just a slight bow of the head, it's clear Anaïs sees herself in this 14-year-old version of Emilie and that she is both embarrassed and awestruck by this revelation.

Unfortunately, however, such revelations ultimately don't amount to much, for the director struggles to get us under Anaïs' skin, as it were, with the consequence that any growth she experiences during the film is rather lost, whilst the final scene's attempt at ambiguity seemed rather rushed and thus ultimately unconvincing to me. That all said, the film isn't afraid to embrace the mess — of life, of love, of being unsure in a world where indecisiveness is an inevitable result of the futile attempt to impose order on such bewildering chaos.

5 out of 5 members found this review helpful.
1234567891012