Gypo Movie Review
Helen (Pauline McLynn) is a miserably frustrated 40-something housewife, coping with a brutally distant husband Paul (Paul McGann) and a truly awful daughter Kelly (Tamzin Dunstone), a young and foul-mouthed unwed mother who has turned Helen into her all-day babysitter. Helen's one attempt to carve out a bit of a life for herself by taking scupting classes is mocked by both husband and daughter.
One light in Helen's bleak life is her daughter's friend Tasha (Chloe Sirene), a sweet and poised Eastern European immigrant who happens to be part of a clan of Romany refugees (aka Gypsies or "Gypos") who live in a government-sanctioned trailer park in town. Faced with the hatred and discrimination of most of the townspeople, Tasha stays serene, and Helen admires her good manners, manners she maintains even in the face of Paul's outright loathing of her. If only Helen's own daughter could be this nice.
Helen wonders why her husband is never home and imagines what Tasha's life is like. We find out the surprising ways in which all these lives intersect when the same stretch of time is presented to us three different times, first through the eyes of Helen and then through the experiences of Paul and Tasha. Gimmicky though it may sound, the technique works perfectly here, giving us the chance to piece together the truth behind the silences and remember that even the most mundane lives are full of drama and secrets.
The movie picks up speed as Helen reaches out to Tasha's mother Irina (Rula Lenska, who trivia buffs will remember as the much-mocked star of a series of '70s-era shampoo commercials), helping her in small ways to make her life easier while simultaneoulsy pissing off her husband even more. When a threatening figure from Tasha and Irina's past shows up to cause trouble, the film literally races to its finish, and the rush is suspenseful.
The whole high-minded Dogme 95 filmmaking technique has often been ridiculed (my main complaint is that such films are almost always lit terribly; you can't see a thing), but Gypo puts the technique to great use. Give a small group of excellent actors a tightly wound story, give them the freedom to improvise and run around a bit, and then stay out of their way. The results can be powerful.
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