Film Reviews by PD

Welcome to PD's film reviews page. PD has written 179 reviews and rated 279 films.

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.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

The Lost King

Disappointing

(Edit) 14/10/2022

As someone with an interest in Richard III, and one who followed the car park discovery with great interest, I felt I had to see this despite the lukewarm reviews it got in the press. Unfortunately, the reviews were right and this terribly slight piece does neither Richard nor grave-hunter Philippa Langley any justice at all. The film doesn’t ever find its tone, always ricocheting between attempts at the solemn and the downright sentimental (a horribly intrusive portentous score doesn't help). Whatever historical interest it might have had is subsumed in a trite soap-opera involving Langley's relationship with her husband (a really irritating Steve Coogan) and two sons (also unbearable - you want to chuck them in the river). And whilst the battle between Langley and the academics at Leicester University (who, this says, tried to steal all the glory for themselves) is quite a potentially interesting subject, reducing the latter to little more than pantomime villains means that, whatever the truth of it, it's very hard to take seriously, particularly given an annoying tendency to gender stereotype throughout. Meanwhile, the conceit of having Richard himself appear at various turns might have worked, but sadly the writers simply don't have the skill or inclination to make him much more than a brooding presence, and his get up is so cheap it looks straight out of one of those 'Horrible histories' things. Sally Hawkins does quite a lot with a painfully thin script, playing Philippa as prickly and stubborn but also someone who is somehow in search of herself, but on the whole it's very disappointing indeed, I'm afraid.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Bergman Island

Subtle narrative of life and art

(Edit) 03/10/2022

Mia Hansen-Løve’s eighth feature is at once a love-letter to the Swedish master director and a delicate study of the complexities of relationships, the creative process, and the ways that one invariably influences the other. Meanwhile, the island, as the film captures it, has become a kind of Ingmar Bergman theme park, replete with bus tours, lectures, a preservation foundation, and a general vibe of the place as a national treasure and tourist attraction.

It concerns filmmaker Chris (Vicky Krieps) and husband Tony (Tim Roth) who arrive on Fårö – nicknamed ‘Bergman Island’ for the director’s long-time residency there – as a writing retreat. The couple, amicable and affectionate with each other, branch off to do their own things. Chris is working on her screenplay while Tony hosts a directing masterclass and a screening of one of his films at the Bergman Centre. The film’s early sequences are a relaxed first act, the relaxed tone never threatening to tip over into disharmony despite the tensions between the couple - Chris’ discovery of Tony’s notebook, for example, full of fetishised sketches of women, is a discovery that is neither resolved nor repressed. However, it’s in the second act, where Bergman Island moves into a film-within-a-film drawn from Chris’ draft script, that Hansen-Løve shifts into the overtly psychological, and untended desires rise to the surface, specifically, a student with whom Chris has made a connection appearing as a minor character, while the fictional Amy (a very good Mia Wasikowska), and first love Joseph briefly rekindle an old romance under the noses of their current partners.

It's possibly too subtle and a bit too earnest overall, and all the things such a film might portray as issues between Chris and Tony — artistic rivalry, adulterous leanings, his arrogance, her withdrawal - are hinted at and then all-too quickly passed over. However, Hansen-Løve deliberately resists the Swedish director’s darkness, and there's plenty to admire en route - for example in a scene where Bergman's treatment of women in real life is pointed out as significantly less than admirable, or, by contrast, when a smug male student who declares his disdain of Bergman to a wearied Amy is given short shrift, suggesting that admiration of a text needn’t presuppose approval of the author. Ultimately, Hansen-Løve suggests that life may well imitate art but one needn’t define the other, and there's a final last-act twist which is very effective. Well worth a look for those with patience.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

The Road Dance

Much to admire but ultimately falls flat

(Edit) 22/09/2022

There's much to admire in Richie Adams’ atmospheric period drama set in the Outer Hebrides - the nattering of local gossip, the roar of the ocean, and the village band’s music flow in the Scottish breeze from one frame to the next - but I'm afraid ultimately this adaptation of John MacKay’s novel of the same name falls flat in its attempt to portray oppression in a patriarchal society.

Hermione Corfield is very good indeed as young protagonist Kirsty, and both the production design and costumes are flawless, but the script is hellbent on a heavy-handed plot hinging on a key moment, after which the film defaults to cliché period drama tropes, with the result that the all the avenues for sensitivity which have been carefully established are then quickly abandoned. Kirsty is given some great lines: “Is every sin the same then? Are they all equal?” she asks towards the end, a bite behind her words as she comes to terms with the true horror of her situation, but any serious examination of her predicament is lost in some of the most in-your-face melodramatic character writing you'll see on screen, and the end-tying last fifteen minutes can't be taken seriously at all. Watchable enough, but for me it ends up being a disappointment.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

The Quiet Girl

Quietly beautiful

(Edit) 21/09/2022

This delicate and unsurprisingly quiet debut piece from Colm Bairéad follows Cáit, a shy, sad schoolgirl in an unhappy family, sent away to spend the summer with her mother’s cousin. There, she’s shown a simple, uncomplicated tenderness, gradually forging a family of the kind she’s clearly never experienced before - Carrie Crowley as Eibhlín in particular giving a low-key but totally convincing portrayal of someone transformed by the newcomer, whilst Catherine Clinch as Cáit gives a mature, understated yet powerful performance well beyond her years, her face betraying anxieties she doesn’t yet fully understand at every turn.

The dialogue almost entirely consists in a gentle and lyrical Irish - tellingly, the few English speakers in the film are characters Cáit fears or struggles to trust, such as her belligerent, emotionally inert father - and though the attention is focused on its central figure, the film is full of people unable to express themselves, inner turmoil in different forms. Cáit’s parents are sad and unfulfilled; Cáit herself struggles to make friends; and her foster parents, though much more open and loving, have a grief-filled history they are not fully sharing: it takes acts of mutual care and affection for any lines of communication to open. There's also a vinegary tang of black comedy and cynicism provided by neighbour Úna (a brief but terrific turn from Joan Sheehy) who looks after Cáit one afternoon and brutally tells the girl all about what her foster parents aren’t telling her - we suspect of course that Eibhlín wanted Úna to shoulder the awful burden of revealing this.

The sedate camerawork never leaves Cáit’s vantage point, and the naturalistic cinematography appropriately finds a comfort in stillness, as does the minimalist score. There's a little too much sentiment occasionally, and the filmmaker is perhaps guilty of manipulating our emotions at times, but overall it's a lovely, tender piece giving us a child's perspective on our fallen world. Sometimes, the film ponders, it’s better not to say anything at all. “She says as much as she needs to say,” Cáit’s adoptive father says of her. “May there be many like her.”

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Official Competition

Enjoyable and original film industry satire

(Edit) 16/09/2022

This satirical piece from Argentine duo Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn is clearly directed at film-festival goers and those involved in the film industry as it traces the fractious pre-production process of an art-house film being made for cynical commercial purposes, effectively puncturing the egos and pretensions of the privileged artist class via strong performances from Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.

The film opens with some of its most savage jabs as we survey the joyless aftermath of an 80th birthday bash for billionaire business mogul Humberto Suárez (José Luis Gómez), a freeze-dried husk of a man suddenly concerned that he hasn’t left the world anything of lasting consequence. What can he throw money at that will shore up his legacy, he asks? After pondering a bridge built in his name, he settles instead (of course) on funding a film. Suárez neither knows nor cares for cinema, of course, and naturally hasn’t even read the novel on which the film is based — a turgid-sounding family saga about warring brothers. All that matters is that it’s important and acclaimed, and accordingly hires eccentric Palme d’Or-winning filmmaker Lola Cuevas (Cruz), giving her carte blanche over casting the leads, so long as they are “the best.” She in turn hires two well-known actors: Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas), a dim heartthrob and one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez), a highly regarded stage actor from the world of radical theatre, believing their differences will lend the film interesting tension. It's a good premise for the ensuing comedy, for the animosity between Felix and Ivan is immediate, further stoked by the increasingly absurd exercises to which she subjects them. “I suffer a lot through my films,” Lola admits, and she expects the same of her collaborators - this sadomasochistic streak unites the men in a mutual loathing of their director, never more viciously than when, in a wonderful scene, she binds them to their seats and makes them watch as she passes their various acting trophies through a metal shredder. Cruz is obviously having a great time sending up the ivory-tower vanities and mannerisms of the prodigious auteurs she’s worked with over the years, though importantly she doesn’t render Lola a complete cartoon: there’s a human sincerity to her esoteric artistic aspirations, even in such trying and compromised circumstances, that is oddly sympathetic through it all. The two male leads, meanwhile, are neatly united in self-parody.

There's quite a few weaknesses. Inevitably, a lot of the jokes are pretty predictable and so fall a bit flat, whilst the pace doesn't seem quite right and you get that awkward feeling of too many stand-alone scenes rather clumsily tied together. Meanwhile, an awful lot is crammed into the last 15 minutes after a rather improbable plot twist. Nevertheless, on the whole an enjoyable, original piece with many good moments en route.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Benedetta

Vacuous nonsense

(Edit) 06/09/2022

Oh dear. This could have been a serious indictment of religion, or even a workable black comedy, but ends up, sadly, being vacuous nonsense. The plot, such as it is, hinges on a Virgin Mary wooden figurine repurposed into a sex toy, which tells you everything you need to know.

Inspired apparently by Judith Brown’s “Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy,” Verhoeven spins the (potentially intriguing) tale of Benedetta, a 17th-century nun in the plague-ravaged Tuscan city of Pescia, who seems to have a divine gift and suffers from disturbing visions. But unfortunately it all ends up in a 'frustrated lesbian-meets-madness' mess - in one vision, for example, she sees a crucified Jesus telling her to “Take off your clothes,” and if you don’t know whether to laugh or just look away, you’re not alone.

Virginie Efira as Benedetta is pretty one-dimensional throughout, with absolutely zero chemistry between her and Daphne Patakia (perhaps they were laughing too much to care), whilst Charlotte Rampling as mother superior gets full marks for attempting to give the film more gravitas than it deserves (and has some good lines: “No miracle occurs in bed, believe me,” she says). A local church dignitary sees in the apparently blessed nun an opportunity to rise up the chain of command and make Pescia a magnet for pilgrims like Assisi, but this and other any potentially interesting leads, such as a brave nun refusing to go along with all the mind games, are quickly dissipated, and we're left with the (rather disturbing) feeling that Verhoeven isn't in slightest bit interested in history, or the truth of this person. Meanwhile, the male voyeuristic eye is all-too dominant and not a little exploitative - the film wants to have a go at religious hypocrisy (fair enough) but for me all it reveals is the filmmaker’s: how for example does it help his mission exposing a corrupt system to show a horrific torture scene with a stripped-naked nun? There are perhaps some important themes raised amongst it all — “Who decides what is God’s will?” is one lingering question —but to find it you have to slice away all the tasteless excesses that are presumably intended to push buttons, like a 5-year-old testing her parents’ patience. And it takes a particular kind of chutzpah in 2021 for a man (and only a man could do this) to make a film purporting to champion female liberation in a rigid male hierarchy via exclusive female nudity and same-sex dry humping. The only blessing here, I'm afraid, is when it’s over. Such a pity.

0 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Luzzu

Quietly impressive neo-realism

(Edit) 24/08/2022

Writer-director Alex Camilleri’s debut feature focuses on the plight of Jesmark, a young Maltese fisherman — wonderfully played by an actual Maltese fisherman — whose longstanding family trade is upended by a bureaucracy making it increasingly hard to earn a living. Naturalistic and perhaps a bit too obvious in parts, the film is generally a moving tale of real-world strife — a sort of low-key take on Visconti’s neorealist La Terra Trema, with officials, regulations and giant trawlers rapidly destroying seafaring practices that have existed for generations. The director is perhaps guilty of stacking the deck a bit too highly against Jesmark (a potential health problem with his baby son and an intrusive mother-in-law seem to me particularly unnecessary) but the film nevertheless convincingly portrays a ruthless world in which a morally intact, hardworking young man is strongly encouraged to give up his soul to feed his family.

Jesmark Scicluna, making his debut along with the rest of the cast, provides a stoical presence that commands attention, although he is unsurprisingly less surefooted during the film’s overtly dramatic moments, especially those involving his partner Denise and her family, and it's notable throughout that there is absolutely no sharing with them (on screen at any rate) his dilemma whether to continue fishing or to sell-out. However, when the moment of decision arrives, a sequence involving a montage of the boats' unblinking eyes packs quite an emotional punch.

The central theme is the depiction of an embattled community - the choice to cast non-professional actors in the key roles brings an additional layer of authenticity: the grizzled fishermen clearly know their way around not only the boats but also the history and mythology which surrounds them - but it's also unexpectedly far-reaching, being also an exploration of masculinity in crisis, of the attrition of traditions by the forces of progress and of the agonies and uncertainties of new parenthood. And in the process the film produces a vision of Malta that’s far from the postcard-friendly vistas seen in most other films to reveal an island shaken by global economics. Quietly impressive.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Memoria

Extraordinary, meditative piece

(Edit) 17/08/2022

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's extraordinary film concerns a banging noise heard by a Scottish orchidologist (the wonderful Tilda Swinton) in the depths of Colombia, and much of the film concerns the ramifications of this apparent mental affliction. I read somewhere that the disturbing sound — which echoes over and over again during the course of the film — was inspired by something that Weerasethakul himself experienced, thereby recalling the tinnitus and other tropical maladies that Pedro Almodóvar revealed in “Pain & Glory.” But here the director turns these loud, impossible-to-anticipate aural bursts into tiny attacks, thus interrupting an otherwise largely Zen-like piece - one wonderful scene involving Jessica in a restaurant with her sister and sister's husband is particularly well-done.

Weerasethakul’s films coax images out of the darker corners of the subconscious, but do so very subtly indeed, leaving audiences to mull over their mysteries to the sounds of insects and rustling leaves. Rather than limiting himself to what can be explained by science or logic, the director embraces the so-called supernatural: spells and spirits, invisible threats and animals that seem to possess a kind of menacing power only partway understood by humans (like the dog Jessica observes wandering a public square in an especially eerie sequence). During the deliberately unhurried film's first hour and a half or so, Jessica could be a kind of 21st-century Mr. Hulot, saying little as she ambles about a surreal modern Medellín. Whilst investigating orchid-threatening fungi in the university library, Jessica meets a professor who invites her in to examine a 6,000-year-old human skeleton; at the academic’s prompting, she hesitantly stretches out a finger and probes the hole bored in the ancient skull. To citizens of the future, “modern medicine” may well seem as primitive.

There's a faintly comic section as Jessica consults a doctor, but her instincts lead her to visit one of her husband’s former students, Hernan, who works in a recording studio. It’s a sign of the film’s unhurried sense of time that, during the course of a wonderful protracted scene, Jessica tries to describe the banging as Hernan pulls samples from a library of sound effects to help re-create what she’s been hearing. Hernan then takes it upon himself to compose a piece of music that incorporates the noise, but Weerasethakul cleverly withholds the melody from us, making it one of many things that may only exist in Jessica’s head. But even the young man’s existence might be in question, as Hernan is nowhere to be found when she returns to the studio some days later. Jessica then decides to hit the road, leaving the city with its aural soup of blaring car alarms and police sirens for the untamed Amazon. The noises follow her, and so does Hernan - or maybe he’s been out there waiting for her all along, for Jessica meets a friendly local fish scaler with the same name. This last section is even slower and entirely plotless, but undoubtedly the most compelling, with the couple's connection explored very delicately, as Hernan No. 2 claims to remember everything: “That’s why I never watch movies or television,” he says. It could be that Jessica here serves as the director’s stand-in: a filmmaker questioning the power and limitations of his own medium - cinema can document things for posterity, but there’s so much it cannot capture — and when Weerasethakul finally reveals the source of the noise, the explanation is even harder to believe.

The sounds Jessica hears are for me a wake-up call of sorts, forcing her to engage with those dimensions of the world humans are ill-equipped to explain: what lives on when someone dies, and the way places serve as a kind of fossil imprint of everything they’ve witnessed - the closing shots suggesting memory extending beyond humanity. Amazing work.

1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Benediction

Ambitious piece but fails to do justice to Sassoon

(Edit) 15/08/2022

Terence Davies' ambitious piece centres on the life of the celebrated poet Sigfried Sassoon, played (in his younger years) by Jack Lowden. Lowden gives us a pretty convincing performance, but the problem for me lies in the overall format and the script. Davies spends a good deal of the film for example focusing on how Sassoon's time serving in the military during World War One shaped the rest of his life by editing black and white archival footage of the conflict (along with lengthy extracts from the poetry) - and whilst this certainly allows the film to break free of the expectations of the 'biopic' genre, for me only means that the film ends up between two stools - being neither a traditional period piece nor a indepth artistic study of Sassoon's soul.

The war hospital scenes in Scotland where Sassoon gets 'treated' and where he meets Wilfred Owen suffer by comparison with Gillies McKinnon's 1997 piece 'Regeneration', and the exploration of Sassoon’s love affairs in the ’20s and ’30s with such luminaries as actor and musical composer Ivor Novello, Ivor’s ex, Glen Byam Shaw, and Stephen Tenant is all a bit predictable and stilted. Lengthy musical interludes try the patience at times, and the screenplay often fails to do justice to the roll-call of famous people name-dropped by the shovelful. We then are fast-forwarded to the ’60s, where an obviously more bitter Sassoon (played by Peter Capaldi) broods over the pieces of his life. Davies plays quite a lot with the history here, insinuating that Sassoon was unhappy in these later years because he married a woman and is looking for salvation by converting to Catholicism, but key details are missing, and despite Capaldi’s fine work, it’s a crucial aspect of the film that doesn’t seem to resonate with the rest of the narrative.

The film strongly suggests that Sassoon’s “shadow gay life” before his marriage is a respite from the horrific memories of the Great War (evident in his prose), but it falters by simply trying to document so much of his story, which appears difficult to accomplish in even a 2 hour and 17-minute runtime (and it felt longer, I'm afraid). Despite Davis’ thoughtful direction, too much of the script is ultimately too Merchant-Ivory light for what is clearly striving to be a definitive portrait of an exceptional talent, and means that the intended emotional climax falls rather flat, sadly. Frustrating viewing, ultimately.

6 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Happening

Powerful, moral abortion drama

(Edit) 09/08/2022

Audrey Diwan’s film centres on protagonist Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), who discovers that she’s pregnant following a summer fling (cleverly not depicted). It's certainly a hard watch at times, but wins us over by taking a clear moral stance on its central subject of abortion and remaining deeply attuned to Anne’s psychological and emotional state. It is 1963, when even assisting someone to find an abortionist could lead to jail time, and set at a conservative university in the southwest of France, where the prospect of going to school as a single mother is unthinkable - 'Happening' has a profound understanding of the moral and emotional mechanics that are, often surreptitiously, at work in this environment. The mostly puritanical girls in Anne’s dorm who bully her for being, in their minds, a girl of loose morals are predictably judgemental, but it is the reactions from her friends, classmates, and general practitioner that, while being generally more compassionate, are even more devastating to Anne; there’s an overwhelming aura of fear and apprehension that pervades every conversation about the topic.

Vartolomei, with her steely gaze and implacable demeanour, is never short of compelling, convincingly conveying the young woman’s tenacious nature and resounding inner strength, but also her underlying tenderness and sense of unease beneath this tough exterior as Anne’s situation becomes more tenuous. Diwan’s fly-on-the-wall direction, echoed by a ultra-tight cinematography and naturalistic lighting and sound, draws us into the suffocating immediacy of every passing day. Diwan has noted that she was inspired by the films of Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, and there is a similar sense of liberal social realism here - we are sharing Anne’s experiences, rather than watching them from a distance, Diwan marking each subsequent week of Anne’s pregnancy with intertitles, which contribute to a rising tension as an uncertain point of no return quickly approaches. The intensity of this suspense is surpassed only by Anne’s alienation, not only from everyone around her, but also from her ever-changing body. But while the desperate measures that Anne takes are increasingly harrowing, the film avoids total despair by also focusing on the small, informal network of people who eventually come to Anne’s help, and succeeds in highlighting the overpowering stranglehold that then-current abortion laws had on the consciousness of even compassionate, liberal-minded students. But this is not a history lesson - for the film by association manages the more difficult task of speaking to our current moment, where some women are increasingly facing hurdles to abortion access, without being didactic or preachy. Strong stuff.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Drive My Car

Powerful, meditative tale of grief and healing

(Edit) 26/07/2022

Based on a 40-page short story by Haruki Murakami, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s enigmatic film is very slow and meditative, contemplating a huge range of ideas, thoughts and feelings - notably grief, betrayal and the nature of creativity. Its 3-hour running time will undoubtedly put many off, but for me it is a beautiful film that rewards our attention. At the film's heart is protagonist Yûsuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a successful theatre director-actor famed for working on experimental, multilingual productions of classic plays (he is about to embark on Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, long sections of which are woven into the film very well indeed) and his increasing involvement with his driver, Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura), who becomes a sounding-board for the actor’s inner turmoil. Yûsuke’s car — his favoured red Saab —becomes a kind of confessional box on wheels as actor and chauffeur begin to bond, revealing their pains in small increments; an unlikely couple finding common ground.

Both Nishijima and Miura deliver beautifully modulated portraits of melancholy: Nishijima unlocks Yusuke via minute variations in expression and delivery, and no less superb is Miura, whose tense, gaze-dodging demeanour unfurls and relaxes once behind the wheel - as their characters bend and bond, her melancholy comes to shape and steer the film as much as his. The sense of mutual sadness is subtly underlined by the car's dull drone, the director enlivening his restrained aesthetic with not a few very sophisticated touches - Yûsuke and Misaki’s hands, each holding cigarettes, stretched out of the Saab’s open sunroof as it speeds through the night for example is quite wonderful. Powerful filmmaking.

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 Worst Person in the World

Watchable and engaging

(Edit) 18/07/2022

This highly enjoyable piece stars Renate Reinsve as 30-year old Julie, who has a smile that could light up whole cities. Though the character is something of an millenial archetype, Reinsve is very good at conveying her character's forcefulness and frustration; believably rendering Julie clever enough to become anything she wants, but also naive enough to feel blindsided by the realisation that she’ll eventually have to choose what that will be.

The film's a bit soap-opera/netflix light and frothy at times, but it's so vibrant that you can't take your eyes off it for a second, with touches of vintage Woody Allen: the film is never more fun than when Julie is second-guessing herself and/or trying to keep time from slipping through her fingers. There's good chemistry with Anders Danielsen Lie as Askel, a 44-year-old cartoonist whose underground success frees her to work in a bookstore while she waits for inspiration to strike. Julie begins to write, and her pieces enjoy moderate viral success; none more so than “Oral Sex in the Age of #MeToo,” which represents one of the rare moments when the film meaningfully grapples with how vastly the internet broadened the opportunity to flirt with new jobs and fuck perfect strangers. The film also contends with time in other, more elemental ways: the fragmented nature of its literary structure allows us to feel the years slipping through Julie’s fingers, while the close-up focus of its best chapters puts isolated moments under a microscope to see how certain nights can echo for a lifetime. One such night begins with Julie spontaneously waltzing into a random party, where she meets goofy barista Eivind played by Herbert Nordrum (the chemistry is much less good, unfortunately). How intimate can they get without cheating? It’s a dangerous game for someone with such an unrequited desire for the unknown. Later, in a wonderful sequence that should resonate with anyone who’s ever asked themselves “what if?,” time itself comes to a complete standstill across the whole of Oslo as Julie runs across the city from one man to the other - this is the ever-relatable fantasy at the heart of this film: choice without consequence. By contrast, a breathtakingly-good break up scene shows us the consequences.

The ending is all a bit too neat and tidy, with Julie's artistic development left to the imagination throughout, but a slower and distinctly moving third act is somewhat deeper (a great short scene involving Askel in a heated exchange during a radio interview is really good), and engages with some moral questions from the existential morass of its circumstances and though we, as with Julie, are unprepared for this, it has the effect of leaving us on a thoughtful, meditative note. Two hours well spent.

2 out of 4 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Wildfire

Strong psychological drama

(Edit) 08/07/2022

Cathy Brady's psychological drama centres on the unspoken connection between sisters Kelly (Nika McGuigan) and Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone), who share a mutual trauma. The context is a fractious, post-Brexit Ireland, but while the film at first establishes a political framework with a blistering montage of current events in the UK, it shifts into a more personal tale about women shouldering psychic damage, and who come together to reckon with the past. Whilst there's a tad too much melodrama on show as the film proceeds, Brady’s feature debut is generally a powerful portrait of women on fire, unsure of where to go in the wake of rippling tragedy. And the film itself becomes all the more tragic once, by the closing credits, it’s revealed star McGuigan, who gives a distinctly chilling and complex performance, died from cancer while the film was in post-production in 2019.

The events of the film are set in motion by the return of Kelly to the quiet Northern border town from which she abandoned her sister more than a year ago. Kelly, arriving in customs like a wounded animal, appears as a feral vagabond who’s lived quite a life on the road, and can’t readjust to the life she knew before. When she shows up at Lauren’s doorstep, she’s like someone plopped into a foreign country who can’t speak the language. Lauren, meanwhile, who holds a menial job at a robotic Amazon-type warehouse nearby (the scenes here are very good indeed), has an understandably complicated reaction to Kelly’s arrival. It’s revealed that Kelly and Lauren both have a close relationship to mental illness, as their mother was deeply unwell in their upbringing, often perched on the edge of suicide and unable to cope with the demands of domesticity and motherhood, and it's that bristly attitude toward decorum and expectation has been passed on to Kelly and Lauren.

The film veers off into various implausible directions, and the political themes introduced are a tad unsubtle, but the strange dynamic between Kelly and Lauren remains convincing - a striking scene in a bar finds the women manically dancing, in animalistic synchrony, indifferent to the eyes and ears of the tiresome locals. McGuigan’s performance is loaded with contradictions, often in the space of a single scene, and it’s very absorbing stuff, whilst Noone proves an apt accomplice to Kelly’s rage, making Lauren into a broken woman who also wields power over her sister. Kelly and Lauren might not find redemption, but these two need each other, in their own strange way - although how other people handle this is anyone's guess (I felt a bit sorry for those well-meaning people around them, notably Lauren’s perplexed partner Sean). Strong stuff.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

Write your review

100 characters remaining
4000 characters remaining

See our review guidelines and terms.

Licorice Pizza

Plenty to like but increasingly wearing

(Edit) 04/07/2022

There's plenty to like in this bewildering, highly original film, but the basic problem for me is the distinct lack of chemistry between Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Alana Kane (Alana Haim), which for me means that the sections where they're at each others' throats are a lot more convincing than any romantic connection. They're very good on their own terms - Hoffman's Gary is a successful child actor, who has wielded his limited “fame” with confidence far beyond his years, and he’s got a lot of alpha energy from having to navigate the egos of aging Hollywood stars and a revolving door of casting agents. It’s in this space that he declares to his younger brother, on the same day as meeting her, that he’s going to marry Alana someday - it's not a little creepy, but I guess that's the point. Alana meanwhile is the youngest daughter of a restrictive ex-Israeli soldier; there’s a seething anger just below the surface of all her interactions, impatient with her lot in life and the straight paths she’s uninterested in taking to achieve her goals of wealth and attention. Gary is the road not taken, the one that she knows she shouldn’t pursue but one she flagrantly does, putting her toe in, and then taking it out, for the entire length of the film.

As the two aggressively flirt and make one another jealous, Gary envelops Alana into his scattershot existence, first as his adult chaperone on his press tour trip to New York City, and then in a series of opportunistic business ventures in the Valley. Be it ahead of the trend — waterbeds, acting gigs, pinball houses, you name it — when Gary puts his eye on it, he’s immediately successful at it. Their seemingly random ventures (which apparently are all based on the real exploits of former child actor Gary Goetzman) carry Gary, Alana, and a small posse of young enablers across a summer in the Valley running breathlessly from one scheme to the next. In all the crisscrossing, Anderson does capture the time, 1973, remarkably well (I was there too, so I know), with faces shot au natural and close up so every imperfection is captured, bringing an delightfully incongruous sense of realism to all the surrealism on show. From Sean Penn and Tom Waits’ aging Hollywood alpha males setting up impromptu motorcycle jumps on a golf course to a bizarre evening with Bradley Cooper’s over-sexed Jon Peter’s buying a waterbed, you never quite know what's going to happen next.

But for me it all gets to be too much about halfway (it's long, and it felt like it). Gary and Alana's teasing and baiting, hurting then almost ferally defending one another goes from intriguing and hilarious to predictable and wearing - for while Alana does occasionally vocally question the weirdness of her spending so much time with a boy like Gary, the film isn’t interested in seeing either of them develop - in fact, Anderson seems most interested in just watching them repel and attract each other ad nauseum as they navigate their way amongst a never-ending line-up of truly awful people. You can see what Anderson is trying to do - get us to root for a messed-up dynamic because it’s so skilfully framed like a Hollywood ending, but for me I was ultimately rather glad to be released.

4 out of 4 members found this review helpful.
1234567891012