Category Archives: On The Big Screen

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Sometimes Always Never – Review

Bill Nighy is such a brilliant actor, isn’t he? He has blessed our screens with some really good onscreen performances that are wild and varied. Towering as villains in fantasy romps such as Underworld to heart-wrenching in movies such as Pride, Bill Nighy is, and will continue to be, one of our most treasured actors.

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Directed by Carl Hunter, Sometimes Always Never is a wonderful off-beat black comedy that revolves around Alan – a word and Scrabble obsessed father whose eldest son went missing 19 years ago. When a body is found, his youngest son Peter, who feels constantly in the shadow of his older brother, is whisked away by his father to help identify the body. The series of events cause the two men to confront each other and a history of repressed emotions.

Sometimes Always Never takes a little while to get into its oddball cinematography and aesthetic. Framing this tale of heartache with the quirks of Scrabble and Alan’s red labelling machine, enhancing this movie in a Wes Anderson type fashion. Imbued with colours such as orange and greens, giving it a vintage sheen. The off-kilter look really hones in a special type of tone for the film – adding a rambunctious flare to the proceedings.

Wrapping his tongue around a Merseyside accent, Bill Nighy is phenomenal in this role. The actor is adept at subtly weaving an emotional arc into the embellishments of his character. Peter is a wistful character,who is stuck in his own ways and at ease in the games he plays, swindling folk out of their cash and airing his Scrabble standards. All this is a front as he tackles with almighty guilt that he may not have been the perfect Dad but he tries hard to understand his family to the best of his ability. It’s a delicate and utterly engaging performance by Nighy.

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Opposite him is the criminally underrated Sam Riley who depicts his second eldest son Peter with all the irritation of someone putting up with ghost of someone deemed better than he. Riley is perfect, reconciling his own emotions of loss with that of jealousy and envy – his prickliness affecting his wife and son also. Yet the final scenes between the pair are affectionate and soft, bringing closure to the two men who both richly deserve it in one sense or another.

Sometimes Always Never deals with second best characters earnestly trying to live full lives in the shadows of others. With Tim McInnery and Jenny Agutter as great supporting roles, the film is a small project with a lot of heart. An witty and emotive piece about fathers, sons, and Scrabble, Sometimes Always Never is a fantastic indie film to watch this weekend

Sometimes Always Never is out 14th June! 

Knife + Heart – Fragments Festival Review

Yann Gonzalez has been a prolific filmmaker who has a keen and obvious eye for visuals and provocative cinema. From directing You and the Night to producing the criminally underseen We Are the Flesh, his work has stirred and offended in equal measures.

Now he returns with his absolutely delightful, funny, and brilliantly trashy Knife + Heart.

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Directed by Yann Gonzalez and starring Vanessa Paradis (of this fame,) Knife + Heart revolves around a third-rate gay porn director Anne in Paris during the Summer of 1979. After her lover and editor Lois leaves her, Anne is dismayed and looks to shoot her most ambitious film yet, alongside extroverted yet trusted friend Archibald. However, when one of her actors is found brutally murdered, Anne is thrown into an investigation that turns her life upside-down!

Knife + Heart is both a stunning depiction of the unbridled sexual seventies and over-the-top thriller films of that period too. Reminiscent of movies such as Brian De Palma’s phenomenal Phantom of the Paradise and the crazed antics of El Topo, Knife + Heart is a dream-like fantasy. Drenching in pastel colours, Gonzalez presents this almost fantastical slasher film that dives deep into the gay porn scene and confident self-identity plagued by blood and darkness.

Paradis is a brilliant anti-heroine. She is a somewhat crazed and grief-stricken character who is deeply affected by the murders that happen around her but gives off this loud offish personality that bristles all those around her.  It is fantastic to watch Paradis tackle this brutish woman who is unabashed yet still sympathetic and sensitive to her surroundings. Anne is a fantastic character who utilises scenes around her into her gay porn film Homocidal (which, I wish existed as its own movie.

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Most of all, Knife + Heart is a sumptuous watch brings this dream-like nature into fruition. There is a lot of beauty within her – whether it is the sun-soaked Parisian countryside or the white clothed walls of the intense film. Filled with freed sexuality and an abundance of earnest characters, Gonzalez has honoured the period setting and embellished it with modern colours and filming. Giallo in some aspects, De Palma in others, and even venturing into the world of Mighty Boosh (with its utterly bizzare villain,) the movie delves into the excess of porn and horror and marries them in gorgeous package.

Whilst it may not find a terribly big audience, Gonzalez’ film will find a terribly committed one.

Knife + Heart is playing at Fragments Festival 
Buy Tickets Now. 

Searching Eva – Fragments Festival

The world has been birthed a new. Though there are pressures from the far right to curtail to a more puritan landscape, there is a somewhat freeing blow coming from liberation. More people are expressing their love and who they are with sheer confidence.

It is still a terrifying world – with brutality leering at every corner.

But now, more than ever, a new generation is standing proud of their identity and proclaiming loud on who they are. That’s somewhat the case in the gorgeous captured Searching Eva.

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Directed by Pia Hellenthal, Searching Eva is it’s very own beautifully filmed documentary. The movie revolves around Eva. At 25, she is a sex-worker, a drifter, a Berliner, a pet-owner, a lesbian, a Virgo, a housewife, a feminist, a model, and   Convey this new age of humanity who have grown in the age of the internet, Searching Eva looks to tackle the different threads of Eva that tie and dance together.

In Hellenthal’s film, the movie takes a fly-on-the-wall approach whilst also interviewing Eva in order to showcase exactly who she is and why her story matters in this vast new social climate.

Searching Eva certainly comes with its own sets of rules. The film’s titular subject is an intriguing soul who definitely underlines what it means to be a “millennial” in this landscape. Observing her behaviour and her own history, it becomes apparent that Eva is fluid in her sexuality, her identity, and also her lifestyle – spending her time taking drugs or having sex. In one scene, she utters “the patriarchy fucks me over every day, so I may as well get paid for it.” (I mean, you go girl.)

Eva herself is a beguiling watch and at times annoying – a point that the film plays into. She is vastly different from the norm that older generations have and though not all of her behaviour is permissible to all, she is still a confident young woman and fleshed out greatly in this documentary.

The framing is stunning. From pastel colours to intense reds, the movie utilises this pretty world that Eva lives in. It is incredibly lush.

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Searching Eva is an intriguing watch. It feels somewhat dismissive to mention that it may not appeal to everyone’s sensibilities. I mean, there never has been a truer sentiment here because the documentary flits through these gorgeously filmed landscapes, intimate stories, sexual moments, texts on screen, and more surreal moments that will tinge with the unexpected.

That being said, Searching Eva is a bold documentary about an equally vibrant subject. Gorgeously filmed and wonderfully excavated, this is certainly a titillating and phenomenal watch.

Much like it’s subject.

Searching Eva is part of Fragments Festival
Buy tickets now!

Red Cow – Fragments Festival Review

Sexuality and repression go hand in hand. There have been many movies that express how a religious upbringing could impact the mental-health and becoming of an LGBT youth. Even adults in films such as Disobedience struggle with sexual identity following strict religious views. It is perhaps a sad tale as old as time where many are repressed by their families and their puritan views.

This is explored in Red Cow.

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Directed by Tsivia Barkai Yacov, Red Cow is set in East Jerusalem and revolves around young Benny. Guided by her devout Dad who leads a group of Israeli extremists who are raising the sacred titular heifer which’ll bring forth a new age for Jews. Confined to prayer and study, Benny comes across the beautiful and mature Yael. The pair have an instant connection but in a world that sees them as secondary to men and families who are unable to accept love outside a man and woman marriage, there is a dark realisation that their love affair may not survive.

Yacov does wonders at capturing a natural energy of this film. Conveying the conflict within the main three, the director fleshes out the intense struggle of everyone involved whilst framing the film with a dusty yet striking landscape.

What’s more, Yacov tackles with great detail the blossoming sexuality between the young girls. Captured almost effortlessly by Avigayil Koevary (Benny) and Moran Rosenblatt (Yael) – two brilliant and upcoming Israeli actresses – the film is an intimate and satisfying depiction of life and love from repressed youth. That feeling of secrecy and forbidden lust is well-handled and utterly compelling. There is a beauty within this film, even though it is shrouded by the repression and Yacov gloriously encapsulates this with the help of the young leads.

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Gal Toren is equally riveting as Benny’s father Yehoshua. It’s easy to compartmentalise him as this antagonist – an extremist and a devout Jewish man, he falls into religious pitfalls as he struggles to cope with his daughter’s growth. Giving that he could’ve been. But in similar ways to how Alessandro Nivola’s Dovid in Disobedience is painted beyond that of a comic villain, so is Toren’s stunning depiction of Yehoshua. Here is a father who simply doesn’t understand and instead of acceptance – he turns away in conflict. However, Yacov and Toren work together with this story and flesh out the character greatly with his love for his daughter.

Red Cow is a stirring watch. It may tackle a familiar subject but it does so in a timely and satisfying way.

Red Cow is part of Fragments Film Festival
 Buy tickets now!

Alice T – Fragments Festival Review

They say that teenagers scare the living shit out of me…

That’s how the famous song goes – which is more of a rallying cry to adolescents and a mockery of adults who feel the sentiment. But as one gets older, with time frittering away whatever understanding an adult had over that hormonal stage of their lives, it’s easy to be somewhat fearful of the erratic and temperamental teens that populate our lives.

Especially when they are particularly thorny in nature. Yet, still, can we grow to understand them? That’s the aim of Alice T.

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Directed by Radu Muntean, Alice T revolves around the titular teenager who is impertinent at best. Adopted by her mother who seems nothing but disappointed in her, so Alice invents a fictitious life which blurs reality for herself too. When Alice discovers that she is pregnant, the friction between herself, her mothers, and her life at school.

The problem with Alice T is that it only gifts its eponymous character some real emotion towards the end. Any attempts to fall into a connection between mother and daughter skims instead of dives deep. It also makes Alice T more prickly than sympathetic. Maybe I am looking at the film from an adult perspective but it’s hard to find a common ground with someone who starts horrible and doesn’t learn much until the final act.

The film also hits a cardinal sin of mine (or something that I am really fed up with): There have been enough films about tearaway teens. This is the biggest problem. Alice is seemingly fearsome for no apparent reason. There’s the implications of being adoption are there in the air – even though her mother Boganda uses the fact to undermine herself and infer judgement from others – but Alice is never really fleshed out and given a rhyme for her actions more so than being a teen who just is awful. One wishes that there would be a film about a teenager who doesn’t do drugs or alcohol or has sex or kicks off. That would be boring, right?

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Not necessarily – it just seems with Alice T that these reasons aren’t there. The film struggles pairing the issues with the act and when mother and daughter wind up talking to one another, you wish it’d linger just a little longer to hit.

When the finale hits, your thankful that the film finally gives its lead character some depth and it slams into you hard (even if the closing scene does last a little longer than it should.) The film has terrific performances, particularly by Andra Guti, but it is a hard slog despit it’s good moments.

Alice T is a long slog but it has good moments.

Alice T plays as part of Fragments Festival tonight
Buy tickets now.

Teen Spirit – Fragments Festival Review

By Sandra Collingham

It is a tale as old as time. A young pop starlet dreams of fame and fortune with their singing and are soon thrust into the terrifying world. We’ve seen it over and over again in movies such as the recent Oscar winner A Star Is Born, and before that the 1976 A Star Is Born, and before that Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born, and finally the 1934 movie A Star Is Born.

Anyway, regardless, pop stardom and ingénue fame have sparked many outings on the big screen. Teen Spirit is a film hoping to twist the narrative into a more contemporary feel with Elle Fanning leading the way.

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Directed by Max Minghella (best known for his acting roles in movies such as Horns and 10 Years,) the film revolves around Violet, a shy Polish born British teenager who dreams of life beyond her small town. Wishing to pursue her passion of singing, relegated to wailing in pubs, Violet enters a singing contest with the help of an unlikely mentor. Soon she is thrust into the competition and the bright lights of the pop-world.

Set to an outrageously catchy soundtrack that ranges from Ellie Goulding to Sigrid, Teen Spirit is a vivid and energetic film that captures the ferocity of a pop-singing and being a teenager in equal measure. Shot by cinematographer Autumn Durald, famed for crafting music videos such as Janelle Monae and Haim, Teen Spirit has a definite look and feel that embellishes colour and crafts this modern vivid feel to the film. It’s a stunning watch that matches the confidence of Minghella’s direction and the catchiness of whatever tune is blasting out. It is somewhat of an addictive watch.

Elle Fanning perhaps acts her hardest and brushes off any naysayers she has about her acting talent. Here she imbues Violet with a vibrancy, a hopefulness and also has pipes to match. Fanning also gifts Violet a complexity that may not have been there in the initial script and whilst Violet may seem like a character without too much writing, Fanning gives her personality which triumphs here.

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The biggest problem with Teen Spirit is that it is desperately clichéd, presenting us with a story that has been told over and over again with only the flare to set it apart from the rest. This may make the film a predictable watch as well as a very shallow one too. The script and subsequent film somewhat wastes the character by never delving deeper than it should’ve done which is a great shame.

That being said, whatever surface level it skims, it does so gleefully – with all the talent of Elle Fanning and all excitement of the titular Teen Spirit.

Fragments Festival plays 7th – 15th June!