Paul Laverty

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The Angels' Share Review


Very Good
Oddly structured like a whisky tasting, this film cycles through moods from the first taste to the full flavour to the final kick. It's a bit under-developed, but the characters are lively, the settings enjoyable and the message important.

In Glasgow, Robbie (Brannigan) narrowly escapes a lengthy prison sentence and is assigned to community payback under the supervision of Harry (Henshaw). At the same time, Robbie's girlfriend (Reilly) is about to give birth to their son, forcing him to rethink his life as a street thug. After Harry introduces him to single-malt whisky, Robbie decides to further explore whisky-tasting with his fellow workers (Maitland, Ruane and Riggins). And after meeting whisky broker Thaddeus (Allam), he hatches an idea that might get them all out of trouble.

Continue reading: The Angels' Share Review

Even The Rain Review


Extraordinary
This ambitious film weaves three plot elements into an overall narrative about colonialism and greed. And it's rather startling how well it comes together, daring to set a historical story straight while revealing telling aspects of our world today.

Costa (Tosar) is producing a Spanish film that's shooting on location in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Writer-director Sebastian (Garcia Bernal) is insisting on raw authenticity to recount the story of Christopher Columbus' first encounter with Native Americans, and subsequent dealings between locals and the priests and conquistadores. For a lead role, he casts the indigenous Daniel (Aduviri), who spends his spare time campaigning against a British-American corporation that controls Bolivia's water, including poor people's right to collect rain water. And the brewing riot could disrupt the film's schedule.

Continue reading: Even The Rain Review

Route Irish Review


Good
After the relative whimsy of Looking for Eric, Loach is back in angry political mode for this gritty revenge thriller set around the war in Iraq. It starts out extremely well, but gets rather overwrought in the final act.

Fergus (Womack) is a hotheaded ex-SAS officer who can't come to terms with the death of his best friend Frankie (Bishop in flashbacks), who was working in Iraq for a private contractor. Determined to get to the truth of what happened on Route Irish, the road from Baghdad airport to the Green Zone, he teams up with Frankie's widow (Lowe) and gets in touch with his old pals in Iraq. And what he discovers is a conspiracy of torture and murder that private companies seem able to get away with.

Continue reading: Route Irish Review

The Wind That Shakes The Barley Review


Very Good
A large contention at last year's Cannes Film Festival was held over the Palme D'Or recipient, which had been handed to the Dardenne brothers for L'Enfant in 2005. Upsetting expected winners Volver, Babel, and Marie Antoinette at the 2006 Cannes fest, Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley ended up taking the prize. Stridently political in its telling of the birth of the IRA and its eventual separation into factions, Loach has been working towards this for most of his life. His films have always been political but they've been hidden under the guise of modern social workings. Here, for better or for worse, the politics are coaxed to the foreground and the story braves harsh waters to balance the politics and the humanity of its subject matter.

Loach casts the narrative birth of the IRA at the feet of two brothers: Damien and Teddy O'Donovan (Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney, respectively). Damien's passive-aggressive nature towards the Black and Tans (the British Army) quickly gets sucked into Teddy's volatile rage when he witnesses a beating at a train station, moments before he was to leave for med school. Through torture (nail-pulling that makes Syriana look like a Friday afternoon in the Hamptons), shootouts, and political ebb and flow, the IRA fights dirty for independence. When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed (giving Ireland Free State/Dominion status), the IRA splits into the Old IRA (Damien's boys) and the National Army (Teddy's Treaty-friendly pack).

Continue reading: The Wind That Shakes The Barley Review

Bread And Roses Review


Very Good
Not to be confused with Bread and Tulips, this oddly compelling look at illegal immigrant janitors who unionize in San Diego is far more interesting than its plot description. While Adrien Brody is engaging as the brash organizer and Pilar Padilla makes a wonderful impression as an immigrant organizee/love interest, the show is all but stolen by George Lopez's hilariously dead-on turn as the evil janitorial foreman.

My Name Is Joe Review


Bad
Okay, so your name is Joe. So what?

Joe turns out to be a recovering alcoholic, and in 28 Days fashion, winds his way to recovery, stopping only for a tepid romance with a lady friend. Then My Name is Joe turns gangsterish, before an abrupt and uninteresting ending -- which might have been redeemed if the film was remotely interesting anywhere along the way.

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A Fond Kiss Review


OK
Director Ken Loach (Sweet Sixteen) turns his magnifying glass of social consciousness toward an examination of romance amidst clashing cultures. Imagine My Big Fat Greek Wedding in which the ethnic family doesn't accept their daughter's non-Greek groom. Acceptance makes all the difference when non-acceptance means cultural separation, heartbreak, rigidity, and self-exclusion. Readjustment in multi-ethnic societies comes hard, as this love story dramatizes.

Young Pakistani student Tahara Khan (Shabana Bakhsh) sets off a campus melee with a fiery speech about her claim of individuality. This brings in her big brother Casim (Atta Yaqub) for a rescue from the milling crowd, helping her flee to safer quarters. They take refuge in the classroom of Irish, blond, sexy music teacher Roisin Hanlon (Eva Birthistle). Talk about contrived, but Loach likes to set up his boy-girl meets in an action context.

Continue reading: A Fond Kiss Review

11'09''01 - September 11 Review


Good
Simple premise: Eleven filmmakers each get 11 minutes to put their thoughts about September 11, 2001 into film. Documentaries about 9/11 have certainly been made to date -- I'd be surprised if less than a dozen had been released -- and this very format has even been done before too (see our review of Underground Zero).

What September 11 has that the other films don't is star power and international perspective. The 11 directors who submit work here represent a walk of fame of international cinema. Though I'm not familiar with the work of Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran) or Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina-Faso), to name a few, names like Penn, Lelouch, Iñárritu, Nair, and Loach represent some major names.

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Sweet Sixteen Review


Excellent
If the title suggests beautiful teenagers graduating from high school, fighting their hormones as they contemplate the opposite sex, and colorful parties to celebrate the special occasion, director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty are here to tell you that the picture is decidedly less lighthearted on the uncordial streets of Greenock, an economically struggling suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. Here, where mutual respect is an alien concept, the possibilities for a promising 15-year-old boy gives a whole darker cast to the term, "coming of age." And, the only thing here that's beautiful is the finely structured screenplay that traces the evolution of youthful criminality with tempered control and believability.

Fifteen year old Liam (Martin Compston) is a standout among his peers for his natural creativity and audacious leadership, as he graduates his money-making enterprises toward increasingly illegal and remunerative use. We meet him as he and his closest mate Pinball (William Ruane) sell cheap fags to the gentry on the street and in a local bar. But the result is slim pickings, and not nearly enough to realize his dreams of providing a fresh start for his mum Jean (Michelle Coulter) when she gets out of prison. While this appears the noble desire of a dutiful son, it will become clear that it's more the obsession of a boy too immature to put relationships in their proper perspective.

Continue reading: Sweet Sixteen Review

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Paul Laverty Movies

The Angels' Share Movie Review

The Angels' Share Movie Review

Oddly structured like a whisky tasting, this film cycles through moods from the first taste...

Even The Rain Movie Review

Even The Rain Movie Review

This ambitious film weaves three plot elements into an overall narrative about colonialism and greed....

Route Irish Movie Review

Route Irish Movie Review

After the relative whimsy of Looking for Eric, Loach is back in angry political mode...

The Wind That Shakes the Barley Movie Review

The Wind That Shakes the Barley Movie Review

A large contention at last year's Cannes Film Festival was held over the Palme D'Or...

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Sweet Sixteen Movie Review

Sweet Sixteen Movie Review

If the title suggests beautiful teenagers graduating from high school, fighting their hormones as they...

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