Blue, director Karina Holden’s urgent eco-doco, casts a wide net in its efforts to catalogue the crises facing the world’s oceans. Using a number of activists and scientists as our points of ingress, the film takes in the threat of overfishing, be it from huge commercial enterprises or subsistence communities; the devastating impact of plastic pollution on the the entire oceanic ecosystem; the coral-bleaching epidemic brought about by rising water temperatures, and more. The film hits you with striking, harrowing images over and over again: drowned seals tangled in abandoned fishing nets, a hermit crab using a plastic cap as a shell, the skull of a sea turtle half-buried on a northern Australian beach, the graceless carcasses of huge sharks lined up at a South East Asian fish market. It is undeniably affecting stuff.
But it’s also quite obviously calculated to evince an emotional response, and you may find yourself in the odd position of being entirely sympatico with Blue‘s aims and themes, but at odds with the way it communicates them. For all that the film uses scientists and experts as spokespeople, it is very much a polemical, dealing in broad strokes and emotive language to drive its point home, and only lightly touching on concrete facts and figures. We get a lot of portentous long shots of doomed sea life, and just as much ponderous voice-over pontificating on the ills of the modern world. It gets tiresome.
But your mileage may vary. Blue is, at base, a rallying cry, designed to get the viewer riled up enough to actually take action; veteran oceanographer Valerie Taylor (still diving at 82, bless) adamantly states that one person can make a difference, and the film is capped with a list of resources and organisations for those willing to heed the call – good stuff. But still, one can’t shake the feeling of being talked down to. At its best, Blue is a beautifully shot and earnest look at the largely invisible apocalypse affecting the marine world – but it’s awfully condescending in the telling.
Four young adults embark on a road trip from LA to San Francisco. there’s Kane (Kane Senes), an Australian filmmaker; his girlfriend Hannah (Hannah Barlow), an actress struggling for her big break; her brother Connor (Connor Barlow), a ballet dancer heading for an audition in San Francisco, and Katherine, a friend who has been crashing on Kane and Hannah’s couch and is starting to wear out her welcome. Kane plans to propose to Hannah when the moment is right, but underlying tensions and unresolved issues between the four might make that impossible.
A semi-autobiographical film shot on a shoe-string budget over the course of seven days, For Now is light on plot but functions well as a “hang-out” movie. It’s mumblecore through and through, adopting the improvisational, unscripted style of the Duplass brothers and Joe Swanberg, with everyone playing analogues of themselves and processing their real world anxieties and interpersonal conflicts for the camera. Whether that’s pretentious is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s worth remembering that these are members of a generation that have grown up in the panopticon of social media – performative behaviour arises naturally out of that environment.
It helps that they’re, by and large, fun to be around – there’s an easy amiability to the proceedings as the quartet cruise through some stunning NoCal landscapes, getting blissfully stoned and doing what millennials do. The comedy is incidental and banter-based, and the whole thing hangs together remarkably well, given that it’s a gestalt of single takes and on-the-fly moments.
It does drag a bit in places – the advantage of a script is that a scene can get to its actual point with economy, and there are times when we have to slog through the improv to reach the crux of the moment. Similarly, there are a couple of points when the drama is a bit beyond the actors’ capabilities in that exact moment, and perhaps an extra take or two would have nailed it. These are hardly deal-breakers, though.
A handcrafted film possessed of easy charm, For Now is definitely worth a look.
With the 1976 Aussie classic, Storm Boy, set to screen in a brand new print at The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival, we take a look back at the creation and legacy of this country’s most beloved family film.