While cinematic blockbusters tickle the eyes, this film dazzles the soul. This is a remarkably evocative drama that gets deep under the skin, challenging us to see ourselves in a rather outrageous situation that shifts from quietly disturbing drama to unsettling freakiness. It's strikingly written, directed and performed to get into our heads and stay there like few movies do.
The story is set in 1969 in a girls' school located in the lush English countryside, where 16-year-old Lydia (Maisie Williams) and her best pal Abbie (newcomer Florence Pugh) are members of the Alternative School Orchestra. They're also inseparable, carving their undying love into a tree trunk. But once Lydia has sex with a boy, their relationship begins to shift. And when Abbie faints in class, it seems to become contagious. Suddenly girls are collapsing all around the school, much to the consternation of the headmistress (Monica Dolan) and her stern deputy (Greta Scacchi). As the hysteria spreads, Lydia gets increasingly confused by the occult beliefs of her older brother (Joe Cole) and the agoraphobic behaviour of their mother (Maxine Peake). But what she really misses is her childhood connection with Abbie.
Writer-director Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life) lets this play out like a deranged fairy tale in which Lydia's voyage to self-discovery is both wondrous and terrible at the same time. In its vivid exploration of feminine adolescence, the film echoes such classics as Picnic at Hanging Rock or Heavenly Creatures, by way of David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg (whose son Luc is one of the producers here). And the bold, knowing themes are echoed in gorgeously artful cinematography by the great Agnes Godard plus a stunner of a soundtrack by Tracey Thorn. Amid this sumptuous atmosphere, Morley weaves an enigmatic story packed with mystery, revelations and yes, burgeoning sexuality. But even more than this, the film taps in to the earth-mother power girls discover as they emerge into womanhood.
Continue reading: The Falling Review
With their third present-day Tolstoy adaptation, filmmaker Rose and actor Huston continue to skilfully explore timeless issues with an urgent, modern style of storytelling that feels almost documentary. Based Master and Man, this film shifts a bit jarringly from a social comedy into a dark thriller. And its themes are less personally resonant than either Ivansxtc or The Kreutzer Sonata.
This time Huston plays Basil, a Los Angeles businessman struggling with very bad debts. To make some quick cash, he abandons his family on the day after Christmas, flying to Denver to buy up some foreclosed houses and make a quick profit. Once there he teams up with chauffeur Nick (Jacobs), who drives him from house to house, eventually heading up into secluded bedroom communities in the Rockies. But after hanging out in a bar for the afternoon, they get lost on an isolated road as darkness falls. And when they get stuck in the snow, their thoughts turn to survival.
With two characters on distinct sides of the 1/99 percent divide, the film is strikingly relevant today. Especially since both men are in such precarious positions and yet still have such disdain for each other. Boris continually mocks Nick for being unfamiliar with his own new car, while Nick never even tries to conceal his contempt for Basil's callous privilege. Both Huston and Jacobs make the most of this, throwing barbed wit into their ongoing conversation while also clearly trying to find some common ground. So the moments of genuine friendship are surprisingly warm.
Continue reading: Boxing Day Review
Eva (Swinton) is a shell of her former self, living in isolation as the target of anger from an entire community. She clearly blames herself for an act of violence unleashed by her 15-year-old son Kevin (Miller), and misses her husband (Reilly) and daughter (Gerasimovich). But as she finds a job and starts to put her life together, the memories won't stop swirling in her mind. Does she even deserve to have survived such a horrific event? Can she ever make peace with the grieving, enraged people around her?
Continue reading: We Need To Talk About Kevin Review
Born in a rugby-mad Welsh mining town, Howard Marks (Ifans) knew he didn't fit in and proved it by getting into Oxford against the odds. There he immediately falls into the early-1960s brainy/druggy crowd, dealing marijuana but never anything harder. Despite efforts to go straight, he continually returns to trafficking, arguing that it's not a crime to break an immoral law. But his associations with a notorious IRA terrorist (Thewlis) and a rule-bending Indian businessman (Djalili) attract the attentions of a tenacious American agent (Tosar).
Continue reading: Mr Nice Review
The story's been around for 400 years. Othello (Lawrence Fishburne) is a Moorish general in the Italian army, and he is the victim of constant prejudice. Desdemona (Irene Jacob) is his Italian lover, and when the pair secretly marry, Othello finds himself the victim of a fiendish plot by his servant Iago (Kenneth Branagh). Iago's motives are also magnified by the presence of young Cassio (Nathaniel Parker), who serves as Othello's right-hand man despite Iago's longer term of service.
Continue reading: Othello Review
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