Film Review: The Father (2020)

Florian Zeller’s cinematic adaptation of his own play The Father is hauntingly effective, boasting two stunning performances from Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman

“Is there anybody there?”

You can usually expect to see most if not all of the nominated film in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. But even though Anthony Hopkins took the Oscar for Best Actor, The Father has taken its time to arrive on these shores, rather fortuitously as it turns out as it means that you can actually go to an actual cinema to see it should you desire!

Directed by Florian Zeller and co-written with Christopher Hampton from Zeller’s extraordinarily successful play, The Father is a brutally challenging watch although it might not seem so from the start. Hopkins plays Anthony, an 80-something man who has dementia whose daughter Anne (Colman) is moving to Paris and is getting a carer for him. Continue reading “Film Review: The Father (2020)”

Film Review: The Bike Thief (2020)

Alec Secareanu scorches in The Bike Thief, the moodily effective debut film from Matt Chambers

“No bike, no job. No job, no money. No money, no flat.”

Using Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 neorealist classic The Bicycle Thieves as a starting point, debut writer/director Matt Chambers really makes his mark with the slow-burning The Bike Thief. Anchored by a scorchingly good performance from God’s Own Country‘s Alec Secareanu, it lays bare just some of the realities of working class life in modern-day Britain and just how close to the edge it forces people to live.

Secareanu’s nameless rider is a Romanian father of two, living cheek by jowl with each other in a London tower block. Their physical closeness might be enforced but emotionally they’re tight too. So when his moped is nicked, the ride on which he delivers pizzas, takes his teenager to school and his wife to her cleaning jobs, the precarious balance of their lives is seriously threatened. Continue reading “Film Review: The Bike Thief (2020)”

Film Review: Cruella (2021)

Emma Stone and Emma Thompson have lots of fun in the entertaining Cruella, which is only just a little bit too long

“Darling, if I’m going to need to repeat myself a lot, this isn’t going to work out”

There’s something a little curious about a film that simultaneously wants to highlight one of cinema’s most iconic villains yet also neuter her most defining attributes. So we can rest assured that no dalmatians are harmed in the telling of this story (or presumably making of this movie) nor is there a cigarette holder to be seen. So what’s left for Cruella to do?

A fair amount as it turns out. Craig Gillespie’s film finds an origin tale for her in 1970s London (story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis), locating her at the vanguard of the nascent punk movement (or at least a Disneyfied version of it). It’s a nifty move that forefronts her creative endeavours, whilst adding to a notorious canon of fashion geniuses gone ‘woo-hoo’. Continue reading “Film Review: Cruella (2021)”

Film Review: Cordelia (2019)

Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Johnny Flynn lead psychological thriller Cordelia through its uneasy relationship with reality

“You’re tortured by guilt”

There’s a lot of double duty going on in Cordelia, with writers Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Adrian Shergold also taking on the roles of leading actor and director respectively. Not only that, Campbell-Hughes plays twin sisters Cordelia and Caroline in a quirkily, dark movie that lurks somewhere close to psychological horror. Rather randomly, it also marks the debut of Sally Hawkins as an executive producer. 

After a traumatic event some 12 years ago, Cordelia has retreated from the world. A RADA-trained actress, she has now scored a part in the company of a production of King Lear at the Donmar and so can no longer remain holed up in the basement flat she shares with her sister in London. Over the course of a weekend when Caroline is away, Cordelia’s dalliances with the outside world are shaped, for better or worse, by her growing connection with the handsome cellist who lives upstairs. Continue reading “Film Review: Cordelia (2019)”

Film Review: Kindred (2020)

Essentially a three-hander between Tamara Lawrance, Fiona Shaw and Jack Lowden, Kindred eschews the supernatural for the simply scary

“I’m not paranoid…”

There are horror cinematic references aplenty in Joe Marcantonio’s Kindred, inspiration drawn from some recognisable classics of the genre but the end result is something which speaks loudly, and effectively, with its own voice. The particular insidiousness of unvoiced racism, maternal mortality, the dangers of being near a horse…all are dealt with gradually impending doom.

Lawrance’s Charlotte has discovered she’s pregnant and she’s not sure how she feels about it, not least because she and hunksome partner Ben (a briefly seen Edward Holcroft) are intending to emigrate to Australia. Ben’s mother Margaret is not best pleased at the prospect of losing her first grandchild to another hemisphere and when Ben gets too close to that horse, sets in motion a nefarious plan to ensure it doesn’t happen. Continue reading “Film Review: Kindred (2020)”

Film Review: The Banishing (2020)

Not even the presence of John Heffernan and Jessica Brown Findlay can save The Banishing from its rather punishingly dull fate

“That poor, poor woman”

I did want to like The Banishing, starring as it does fave-around-these-parts John Heffernan and Jessica Brown Findlay in its cast. But Christopher Smith’s film reveals itself as a rather staid entry into the British horror canon, offering little to make it stand out on any creative level.

A haunted house would-be thriller set in the 1930s, it follows the travails of a young family who move into a creaking, creepy house in Essex as Heffernan’s Reverend Linus takes on a new parish. His wife Marianne (Brown Findlay) and daughter Adelaide soon find themselves hearing things that go bump in the night but the truth is something much more troubling is afoot. Continue reading “Film Review: The Banishing (2020)”

Film Review: Promising Young Woman (2020)

Carey Mulligan is in blisteringly good form leading Emerald Fennell’s debut film Promising Young Woman

“What are you doing?”

Emerald Fennell will forever be Call The Midwife’s Nurse Patsy for me but beyond her work as an actor (she’s an excellent Camilla in The Crown too), she’s also a writer and director too with credits from children’s literature to Series 2 of Killing Eve for which she was also the showrunner.  Promising Young Woman marks her feature debut as writer. director and producer and with a scorchingly good Carey Mulligan at the helm of her cast, its an accomplished first bow.

Mulligan plays Cassie, a 30 year old med school dropout who is working through some horrific trauma by spending her weekends acting passed-out drunk in bars, accepting the inevitable offers from men to take her home and then scaring the crap out of them when they inevitably initiate sexual assault by ‘snapping’ out of it and forcing a conversation about consent. When a chance encounter with a former classmate offers an irresistible opportunity for real revenge, she starts to plan… Continue reading “Film Review: Promising Young Woman (2020)”

Film Review: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

A pair of barnstorming performances from Laketh Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya keeps Judas and the Black Messiah a fascinating story to watch

“Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed”

There’s an interesting tension at the heart of Judas and the Black Messiah, as its two subjects tussle for attention in a film which tries to do them both justice. Not knowing any of the history behind this obviously affects my view but I was left wanting a deeper dive into one or the other of these striking characters.

Shaka King’s film is a biographical account of the betrayal of Fred Hampton by William O’Neal, the former the head of the Chicago-based chapters of the Black Panthers, the latter an FBI informant who has infiltrated the group at the behest of a determined handler. And in Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield hands, it is ferociously well acted. Continue reading “Film Review: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)”

Film Review: Ammonite (2020)

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan deliver committed performances in Francis Lee’s Ammonite but the film rarely excites

“You know you can always ask me for help”

Francis Lee follows up the exceptional God’s Own Country with another story about hard labour in LGBTQ+ lives, this time focusing on the first letter of the acronym. Ammonite follows the life of 18th century fossil hunter Mary Anning, a woman working hard in her chosen field but stifled by Victorian attitudes which resulted in her discoveries being shown without any credit being given to her in her lifetime.

Lee couples this narrative of historical misogyny with a love story of his own making, a speculative romance that sees a growing connection build with Charlotte Murchison. Their ‘meet-cute’ comes at the behest of Murchison’s husband, a geologist wanting to learn from Anning’s practices and when he opts to take a trip away which conveniently coincides with his wife falling into a depression, a period of convalesence under Mary’s care in Lyme Regis is prescribed. Continue reading “Film Review: Ammonite (2020)”

Film Review: Let Him Go (2020)

You won’t have seen Lesley Manville like this before… Let Him Go is a real trip for a Western

“You didn’t come here to eat my pork chops?”

Those who know me know I enjoy a little Kevin Costner but I probably wouldn’t have had a look at Let Him Go as neo-westerns aren’t necessarily my first port of call when it comes to films. But the presence of Lesley Manville in there meant that it had to happen and Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey is it one of the most inspired casting decisions ever. 

She plays Blanche Weboy, the matriarch of a menacing North Dakota family who rule their particular roost with real fear, who have recently welcomed a grandchild into their mix. Except the other set of grandparents George and Margaret (Costner and Diane Lane) didn’t know anything about it, their dead son’s wife having remarried and absconded with her abusive new partner. Continue reading “Film Review: Let Him Go (2020)”