View Post

Boys

Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

A made for TV drama about gay life in contemporary France directed by Christophe Charrier. The first part of the film concerns the youth and awakening of the hero Jonas (Felix Maritaud recently seen in BPM). His mum is the more involved of the two parents. His dad is slightly coarse and macho and, we presume, not impressed by the idea of having a gay son.

When Jonas – already a bit of a loner – goes to his new high school he is ready to just survive by resisting the homophobic bullies and keeping his head down. Into his world walks the larger-than-life Nathan (Tommy Lee Baik), whose flamboyance and devil may care attitude captures Jonas’ heart. The boys pair up and all seems fine for a while. Then one day, they try to get into the eponymous gay night club Boys and are turned away for being underage.

Unwisely they accept a lift from an older man who is hanging around outside the club. That ride turns sour and although Jonas escapes, Nathan is abducted. This catastrophic event traumatises Jonas who ends up as an adult on the bottle and eking out an existence as a hospital porter.

The film is told with two different actors playing the adolescent and adult Jonas in two different time periods. The action constantly cuts between the two.

The broken Jonas is not an easy character to like and his self-loathing is in danger of alienating us as much as it does the characters he interacts with. That said, it is a committed and convincing portrait by Maritaud. Lee Baik is also a breath of fresh air, but he doesn’t have long to shine. One of the best performances in the film is that of Nathan’s mother (Aure Atika) and she also has one of the best scenes in the film when she confronts the adult Jonas with his choices.

Beyond showing the shy romance of the teens, the film does not dare to explore the physical side of their love which again is a reasonable choice for the approach, but makes the film a bit bloodless and evasive.

 
View Post

Brittany Runs a Marathon: Audience Favourite

Snapped up at Sundance by Amazon for a whopping $14million, the Paul Downs Colaizzo written and directed crowdpleasing comedy gives ubiquitous performer Jillian Bell a juicy lead role, charting the transformation of an overweight young woman into a marathon runner.
View Post

Snapshots

Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Three generations of women convene at the lakeside residence of Rose Muller (Piper Laurie) to spend the weekend catching up. Rose’s daughter Patty (Brooke Adams), along with Patty’s daughter Allison (Emily Baldoni), both arrive to spend quality family time together. Allison is facing the breakdown of her marriage and her mother Patty attempts to hammer advice home. Fights escalate, long kept secrets and petty grudges come to the fore and across the weekend, the trio hammers out their issues.

The story then flashes back to 1960, to tell the story of a much younger Rose (Shannon Collis) and her torrid love affair with Louise Baxter (Emily Goss). Louise reinvigorated Rose and instilled her with a defiant sense of her own worth and of the possibilities that could await her as an independent woman in the world. This romantic relationship then informs events that unfold in the present day.

Director Melanie Mayron (an actor who started on Thirtysomething and is currently starring in TV’s Jane the Virgin) interprets the painfully rote script by Jan Miller Corran and Katherine Cortez in an utterly mechanical way. It’s a shame really, considering it was apparently inspired by a true story.

While the earnestness of the filmmakers’ intentions are front and center, it tips over into outright cringe-worthy cliché at many points. Structurally (and emotionally) it wants to be The Notebook meets Carol but it just feels bloodless and way too televisual in its pacing and cinematography.

Alternately, it can’t really succeed by leaning into any kind of Douglas Sirk-style melodrama because the dialogue is just so damn flat; it plays like a lifetime movie of the week in tone and feel. When a script is this leaden and by the numbers, a director’s vision could help, but little can be done to save it. The poor actors do their best (Days of Heaven & Invasion of the Body Snatchers star Brooke Adams clearly struggles with the clunkiest dialogue imaginable) but it’s ultimately just stilted and artificial.

 
View Post

Border

Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Tina (Eva Melander) is a Swedish border control officer with an almost preternatural ability to smell people’s emotional states, making her extremely effective at seeking out illicit carriers of contraband.

Her almost Neanderthal appearance (protruding teeth, heavy brow, bristled hair and thick set nose) and a lifetime of rejection and stares, makes her withdrawn and cautious of people’s intentions. She keeps to herself, living in a cabin in the woods where her only company is her feckless live-in boyfriend Roland (Jörgen Thorsson), who seems to love his show dogs more than her.  Her only other relationship is with her elderly father (Sten Ljunggren) who she visits often, though he suffers from dementia and struggles to remember her at times.

One day, while working at her border control station, Tina encounters Vore (Eero Milonoff) whose luggage she searches. Vore looks almost identical in appearance to Tina, same features, same teeth, though with a charismatic swagger and intensity that Tina struggles to shake off. Who is he? Where did he come from? Tina can’t ‘detect’ anything about Vore, he’s mysterious and intoxicating to her but she feels something dark and dangerous about him.

While in Vore’s presence, her sixth sense is inexplicably muted, and she’s forced to rely solely on her more ‘human’ frailties: her emotions. Driven to investigate her own murky past, and Vore’s, Tina begins to uncover disturbing revelations about Vore and her childhood and the unanswered questions begin to pile up.

Iranian-born, Denmark-based filmmaker Ali Abbasi has crafted one of the most singular and genre-defying films to come along the pike in a great while. Based on a short story by Let the Right One In author John Ajvide Lindqvist, Border (original title: Gräns) is a mind-bending melange of romance, Nordic dark noir and fantasy-horror. It’s almost social realist in its style yet interweaves moments of fantasy with a seamless ease.

Lindqvist co-wrote the script with Abbasi and Isabella Eklöf and it’s a filmic experience unlike anything in recent memory.

Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff’s performances are equal parts subtle nuance and searing, primeval intensity, delivered from under layers of prosthetic appliances. It’s in their characters that the film’s truly haunting edges are revealed and even then, it’s hard to isolate precisely what’s going on in its engine-room; to narrow-down precisely what buttons it’s pushing while you’re watching it. The sheer left-field sideswipe of letting several genres bleed into each other, it creates an unsettling, hypnotic and chilling experience that defies description and prediction. An absolute cracker.

 
View Post

Rafiki

Festival, Film Festival, Review Leave a Comment

Within the busy urban sprawl on the edges of Nairobi, Kenya (in an area known as ‘The Slopes’), Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) cruises on her skateboard through candy-coloured streets as children play on bikes, street-side cafés serve soda to local clientele and the bustling neighbourhood bristles with an energy of possibility, where anything could happen at any time.

A tomboy with no female friends, Kena whiles away her days playing soccer and cruising the streets with the affable Blacksta (Neville Masati) who sees Kena as ‘one of the boys’ and never seems to clock that she really isn’t into guys. Kena’s mother Mercy (Nini Wacera) is divorced from her father John (Jimmy Gathu), who is a shopkeeper in ‘The Slopes’ and is currently campaigning in upcoming local elections. Mercy is initially pleased by the fact that Kena has started spending time with Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), hoping that her tomboy daughter is positively affected by the exposure to the upper-class, day-glo dread-locked girl who also just happens to be the daughter of John’s election campaign rival.

Director Wanuri Kahiu and co-writer Jenna Bass adapted a short story by Ugandan author Monica Arac de Nyeko, and the film never shies away from depicting the rampant homophobia that’s endemic in Africa. So, the stakes are definitely high for the couple, though their relationship might just as well be enclosed in a bubble of giddy elation; while there’s a danger in their secret being discovered, we’re also swept up in their romance. It’s on this hinge that the film hangs, and the two co-leads are really effective and engaging.

The storytelling itself is fairly perfunctory but the message is vital and Kahiu’s artistic flourishes are vibrant and at times, visually fabulous, such as the Do The Right Thing inspired depictions of the colourful characters within ‘The Slopes’ as well as an almost bio-luminescent, black-light disco sequence.

Homosexuality is still a criminal offence in Kenya and accordingly, Rafiki was banned for its positive depiction of being gay, which is ultimately something that lends the film an added sense of glorious defiance, as it sticks its middle finger up at the government.