An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some very deep topics without flinching. It's essentially an impassioned plea to snap out of the way people in the West have been sleepwalking into consumerism and complacency. Viewers who believe that things are just fine will probably be troubled (or angered) by this movie, but those willing to think and have their beliefs challenged will find it entertaining and invigorating.
It opens in the American northwest, where Ben (Viggo Mortensen) is raising his six kids in the middle of a forest, teaching them to use their minds and bodies to think and survive. His wife is ill in hospital, and when she dies the kids insist on attending her funeral, even though her parents (Frank Langella and Ann Dowd) ask Ben not to come. So they pile into the family bus and head across country, stopping to visit Ben's sister and brother-in-law (Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn). This encounter and others along the road demonstrate just how far advanced Ben's children are, although they're not terribly well equipped to interact with general society. Eldest son Bodevan (George MacKay) has been accepted into all of the top universities, but hasn't a clue how to talk to a girl. And middle son Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton) is beginning to question the Bohemian lifestyle.
This is a fascinating exploration of a group of children whose upbringing has given them razor-sharp minds, leading them to political beliefs that are far outside the mainstream. The unsubtle connection is that the majority of the public are manipulated by corporate interests that put money ahead of everything else. Actor-turned-filmmaker Matt Ross smartly explores this theme from every angle, which makes the film easy to engage with. And it helps that the driving force of the plot is the emotional desire to say goodbye to a wife and mother.
Continue reading: Captain Fantastic Review
After Pride, young British actor George MacKay returns to a much smaller scale of filmmaking for this dark, moody English drama. It may be somewhat gloomy and intense, but it gets under the skin because filmmaker Duane Hopkins (Better Things) remains so tightly focused on MacKay's character, offering a complex portrait of a young man pushed to desperation. Some earthy humour would have helped make it more resonant, as well as perhaps a lighter touch with some of the bigger plot points, but this is thoughtful and provocative filmmaking.
MacKay plays Tim, a young guy barely out of his teens and struggling to care for his surly teen sister Helen (Lara Peake). Their parents are long gone, and older brother Greg (Benjamin Dilloway) is in prison. So with the bills overdue and his girlfriend (Charlotte Spencer) expecting a baby, Tim sees little alternative but to follow Greg's lead into petty crime. But his boss is pushing him into increasingly dangerous situations, and as he tries to keep up with everything, Tim is ignoring the signs that something is seriously wrong with his health.
The title is the clue here, and Hopkins deploys a variety of visual touches to tell the story from within Tim's limited perspective. This includes lots of extreme close-ups, frantic hand-held action, slow-motion camerawork and a sound mix that's often out-of-sync with the images. Combined with a mournful musical score, this creates a strikingly powerful atmosphere. Yes, it's all rather bleak, but things are livened up by lyrical flashbacks and conversations that seem cut off in the middle, demanding that we work out the scene ourselves because that's exactly how Tim experiences it.
Continue reading: Bypass Review
Based on a true story, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama is such a joy to watch that it wears our faces out with all the smiling, laughing, crying and cheering. Skilfully written and directed, and sharply well played by an ace cast, this is a story that can't help but get under the skin. Its twists and turns are genuinely jaw-dropping, and the character interaction sparks with all kinds of issues that feel hugely resonant, even though the events depicted took place 30 years ago. In other words, this is a strong candidate for film of the year.
It's set in 1984 London, where 20-year-old Joe (George MacKay) sneaks out of his parents' home to attend the gay pride festivities. When he meets a group of lesbian and gay activists (including Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott and Dominic West), he feels like he has found his own place in the world. Their cause is to aid striking miners, because they understand how it feels to be abused by the police and oppressed by their own government. But of course Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners finds it difficult to get a group to accept their assistance. Eventually, they discover a group of strike supporters in the small Welsh village of Dulais who are willing to partner with them, so they travel to Wales to meet them (including Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Jessica Gunning), sparking a major culture clash.
Cleverly, the script allows each character in the story to take his or her own personal journey, and the variety of plot-threads weave together beautifully to be powerfully involving. This also allows the filmmakers to explore a wide range of issues in both communities. The gays are facing family rejection, public harassment and the dawn of the Aids epidemic, while the miners are grappling with deep-seated prejudices while watching their lives eviscerated by Thatcher's systematic plan to crush the unions. All of this gives the cast a lot of meat to chew on, and yet the film's brightly anarchic pacing and energetic period touches keep it from ever feeling preachy.
Continue reading: Pride Review
Remarkably bleak for a teen movie, this drama keeps us gripped as it throws its characters into an odyssey that's seriously harrowing. Gifted filmmaker Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and a fine young cast make sure that we feel every punch of emotion along the way. And the premise itself gets our minds spinning in unusual directions.
Set in the present day, violent uprisings are growing in Europe as 16-year-old Daisy (Ronan) heads from New York to Britain to spend the summer with her Aunt Penn (Chancellor) on a farm in rural Wales. A sullen loner, she tries to avoid her three chirpy cousins: the quiet genius Eddie (MacKay) is her age, while the more adventurous Isaac (Holland) is 14 and the younger Piper (Bird) is clingy and annoying. Then while Penn is away on business, the violence spreads to the UK, which descends into martial law. The cousins are divided and sent into care. But they promise to meet back at the farm, which is going to be an epic journey for Daisy and Piper if they can escape from their new home.
The story is told from Daisy's perspective, complete with glimpses into her troubled thoughts, dreams and nightmares. We're never sure why she is so deeply fearful of everything around her, but Ronan brings out her fragile mental state beautifully, then takes us along as Daisy is pushed to the limits and must find the inner strength to go forward. As a result, the other characters remain less-defined, although MacKay and Holland bring layers of interest to Eddie and Isaac. As Daisy's companion, Bird is much more present on-screen, and we're as irritated by her as Daisy is.
Continue reading: How I Live Now Review
The story of teen lovers separated by nuclear war is "too dark" for US viewers.
We've been teased by trailers, posters, promo shots and Bat For Lashes soundtrack songs for some months but now it's time to ratchet up the excitement for new Kevin Macdonald movie How I Live Now one last time before it's UK release in just two days (4th October).
Saoirse Ronan Plays Daisy, A Teenager Visiting From New York.
One glance of the trailer and it's immediately apparent that this isn't your average teen romance but what the trailer doesn't accurately convey is how dark the movie becomes. A jangly indie soundtrack, a moody American Saorsie Ronan rocking up in the English countryside, some teens smooching in a barn; the trailer barely skims the surface of the war-torn desolation the sun-streaked meadows dissolve into.
Saoirse Ronan stars in 'How I Live Now', a gripping adaptation of the prize winning novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff. Despite being defined as a children's or young adult's book, the adaptation portrays the horrific and damaging effect war causes on human relationships and the effect it has on an individual, captivating a much wider demographic.
What starts out as a romanticised coming-of-age, feel good film between two lovers takes a dramatic turn when war breaks out in a remote country village in England where lead character Daisy is visiting. Her recently found love with Edmond is unexpectedly tested when they are forced to part. The couple love is put to the test as they are unsure if they will ever be reunited.
The film stars Saoirse (The Lovely Bones, Hanna) as Daisy and George MacKay (Defiance, Peter Pan) as Edmond and is directed by Academy Award winning Director: Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, One Day in September).
Continue: How I Live Now Trailer
The filmmakers tell this World War I story beautifully, but they never quite bring it to life as a proper movie. By taking a gently simplistic approach, it never feels like anything new as it deals with the usual topics of battlefield camaraderie, lost innocence and families torn apart by war.
It's set in early 1900s rural Devon, as the Peaceful family's idyllic life comes to an abrupt end when Dad dies. Now Hazel (Peake) and her three sons, Tommo, Charlie and simple-minded Joe (MacKay, O'Connell and Summercorn), must struggle to find enough work to survive. And when the war breaks out, Tommo lies about his age to go off to fight, partly because the girl he loves, Molly (Roach), turns out to be in love with Charlie. So out of guilt, Charlie joins him in the trenches. Which makes both Molly and Hazel worry if either of them will return home.
Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse), the film is packed with serious themes that contrast life on a Devon farm with the horrors of battle. The story is framed with scenes of Tommo in a military prison cell, and we have to wait until the end to find out what that's all about, which kind of waters down the impact of the harrowing scenes that come next. This is probably because everything that happens in the meantime reiterates the fact that fate goes where it will, and both good and bad people die in wartime.
Continue reading: Private Peaceful Review
Viv (Driver) is an unorthodox drama teacher at a Swansea school, where she encourages her students to express themselves. But this causes problems when Davey (Barnard) keeps getting knocked back by his crush Stella (Branch), Kenny (Evans) hangs out with a band of skinhead thugs, Jake (MacKay) starts seeing this sister (Nixon) of his best pal (Byard), and Evan (Harries) realises he doesn't like girls. As their class production, a rock-infused version of The Tempest, approaches, everyone will need to take a stand. And it could get rather messy.
Continue reading: Hunky Dory Review
An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...
Devoted father Ben (Viggo Mortensen) has been raising his six children in the forests of...
After Pride, young British actor George MacKay returns to a much smaller scale of filmmaking...
Based on a true story, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama is such a joy to watch that...
During the UK miners strike between 1984 and 1985, working families are in desperate need...
Warm and likeable but rather thin, this gentle British comedy spins a tangled farce around...
Remarkably bleak for a teen movie, this drama keeps us gripped as it throws its...
Saoirse Ronan stars in 'How I Live Now', a gripping adaptation of the prize winning...
The filmmakers tell this World War I story beautifully, but they never quite bring it...
With a lively recreation of 1970s South Wales, this relatively standard nostalgic teen drama holds...
Watch the trailer for The Boys Are Back Based on Simon Carr's novel, The Boys...