With a gentle current of comedy, this relaxed British drama finds some cleverly involving ways of approaching the concept of grief, specifically how various people need to deal with their inner pain in their own ways. It's a strikingly observant film that's also thoroughly engaging thanks to a terrific cast of actors who are given the space to develop their characters in organic ways we can easily identify with.
As a young boy, Nathan (Edward Baker-Close) folds into himself when his father (Martin McCann) is killed in a car crash. His optimistic mother Julie (Sally Hawkins) doesn't quite know how to deal with either his natural mathematical ability or his autistic inability to relate to people, but she does the best she can. And it's when he hits his teen years (now Asa Butterfield) that he begins to open up to his bristly tutor Humphreys (Rafe Spall), who encourages Nathan to travel to Taiwan to train with the British team for the International Mathematical Olympiad. In Taipei, Nathan has even more challenges as he learns to work with both the team coach Richard (Eddie Marsan) and his local study partner Mei (Jo Yang). And as Nathan begins to understand who he is, Julie also discovers that maybe she can cope after all.
Director Morgan Matthews and screenwriter James Graham have a remarkably light touch with the plot, allowing events to unfold naturally while never pushing the sentiment. They also thankfully figure out an inventive way to make a movie packed with mathematical formulae that actually feel meaningful to even the most maths-phobic member of the audience. Impressively, this lets the film get into Nathan's perspective to reveal how he sees the world and interacts with the people around him. And Butterfield plays the role with raw honesty that completely wins us over.
Continue reading: X + Y Review
Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is different. He has an amazing way with numbers - something which will one day lead him to huge success. But for now, Nathan is unable to talk to anyone other than his father, but after he is tragically killed in a car accident, Nathan feels alone. Fast forward a few years, Nathan can relate to no one and spends all his time working on maths equations. With help from his tutor, the lovable Humphreys (Rafe Spall) and his mother Julie (Sally Hawkins), Nathan gets into the prestigious International Mathematics Olympiad and takes a trip to Taiwan to train and hone his abilities. With a steadily growing relationship with Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), a fellow contestant, Nathan could be ready to learn to love.
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Despite a strong sense of the characters and the setting, this film struggles to engage viewers with its downbeat story about how tough life is. Even though the performances are powerful enough to hold the attention, the film feels like it drifts aimlessly along, never coming into focus in a meaningful way. And since everything is right on the surface, there isn't much subtext to help the events resonate with the audience.
In the God's Pocket neighbourhood in 1980s Philadelphia, everyone knows everything about each others' lives. Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) works as a driver delivering meat, but spends just as much time planning small-time scams with his pal Arthur (John Turturro). Then his life is thrown out of balance when his hothead stepson Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) dies in what is suspiciously described as a workplace accident. Mickey's wife Jeanie (Christina Hendricks) struggles to cope with her son's death, so Mickey is easily pressured by the local mortician (Eddie Marsan) into buying a funeral he can't afford. To make some extra cash, he plans a heist with Arthur and their careless pal Sal (Domenick Lombardozzi), which predictably goes awry. Meanwhile, a famed local journalist (Richard Jenkins) starts looking into Leon's death.
It's not like the film is low on plot: there are plenty of story strands to push each character further into their own personal desperation. And the tightly knit setting provides an intriguing counterpoint as everyone's dirty laundry is aired for all to see, which pushes their true emotions even further underground. This lets the actors deliver riveting performances, even as they're all beaten down to mere husks of humanity. In one of his final roles, Hoffman is terrific as a guy for whom everything goes relentlessly wrong. Hendricks is pretty wrenching as the rather drippy Jeanie, whose interaction with Jenkins is both warm and depressing. Thankfully, Turturro and Marsan provide a spark of energy, as does Joyce Van Patten in a scene-stealing role as Arthur's gun-crazy aunt.
Continue reading: God's Pocket Review
God's Pocket seems to be an ordinary working class neighbourhood at face value; full of people with ordinary jobs and ordinary families. However, a dark undertone begins to show when Mickey Scarpato's insane stepson Leon dies following a so-called accident at a construction site. Mickey wants people to believe he slipped and fell to his death (not that anybody cares that the town is short of a man like Leon), but Leon's mother Jeanie is desperate to know what really happened. While Mickey tries to comfort his wife, Jeanie is approached by a shameless reporter named Richard Shellburn who is also investigating any mystery behind the death. All Mickey wants is the body in the ground and a large debt of his to be repaid - but it looks like his life is about to get a whole lot more complicated.
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Eddie Marsan and Brooke Smith - howtime's RAY DONOVAN screening and panel discussion at the Television Academy on Monday, April 28th - North Hollywood, California, United States - Tuesday 29th April 2014
As another full-on Irvine Welsh adaptation Trainspotting did in 1996, this bracingly original movie puts a new filmmaker on the map. Not only is this a loud blast of both style and substance, but it refuses to water down its subject matter, taking us through a shockingly profane story in a way that's both visually inventive and emotionally resonant.
This is the story of Bruce (McAvoy), an Edinburgh detective who's determined to beat his colleagues to a promotion. He's also a relentless womaniser, sexist, racist and drug addict. And he'll do anything to get ahead, hiding the sordid details of his private life from his boss (Sessions) while undermining the other cops at any chance while pretending to be their friends. In quick succession, he gets young Ray (Bell) addicted to cocaine, flirts continually with Amanda (Poots), has a fling with the kinky wife (Dickie) of fellow officer Gus (Lewis), torments Peter (Elliott) about his sexuality, and takes Bladesey (Marsan) on a sex-tourism holiday while making obscene calls to his needy wife (Henderson). All of this happens while Bruce leads the investigation into a grisly murder.
McAvoy dives so far into this role that we barely recognise him in there. Bruce is so amoral that we are taken aback by each degrading moment. And yet McAvoy somehow manages to hold our sympathy due to the film's blackly hilarious tone and a startling undercurrent of real emotion. Even though he's a monster, we see his boyish fragility, especially in surreal sequences involving his therapist (Broadbent), which merge with his fantasies, hallucinations and nightmares.
Continue reading: Filth Review