Saturday, 26 October 2013

Leaving (Partir) - Film Review

leaving film, partir, kristen scott thomas, sergi lopez, film reviewStarring: Kristen Scott Thomas, Sergi Lopez, Yvan Attal


French with English subtitles


Suzanne (Scott Thomas), a middle-class housewife, finds herself drawn to builder Ivan (Lopez). Soon sparking into an intense love affair, Suzanne struggles to extricate herself from the life she shares with her husband and children.


The affair is explored as a maddening rush of lust and love between Suzanne and Ivan. Their scenes are a collage, cut between shots of ecstatic lovemaking and tender moments of the couple playing family with Ivan's young, estranged daughter.

In what is a slight departure from the usual offering of motive on the woman's part, - i.e. the bored, neglected housewife who's seduced by the exciting inticement of a man whom lavishes her with the attention and much needed affirmation she craves -  'Leaving' depicts the affair as sparked by an almost chemical reaction between Suzanne and Ivan.

First the relationship is built on the platonic foundations of teamwork, when Ivan is hired as builder for the outhouse to Suzanne's physiotherapy business. Mutual dependence is acknowledged and appreciated, soon developing into an intense, almost unbearable passion for each other. There are of course the comparison shots highlighting the ever widening chasm between Suzanne and her husband, and the unrivaled intimacy with Ivan.

Kristen Scott-Thomas gives a raw and visceral performance. Her expressions and movements are those of a woman long out of touch with the instinct of romantic love. The awe and shock at the intensity of her own feelings is palpable and allows for a detraction from Suzanne as a target of antipathy. This doesn't necessarily equate with sympathy or justification for her unfaithfulness and at times Suzanne is rather candid with regards to her infidelity. Her astonishment at the pull she feels towards Ivan is compelling and a matter of intrigue rather than admonishment for the audience.

Leaving (Partir) is an open and raw portrayal of infidelity as a vehicle of self-discovery and reaffirmation. The performances are frank and infused with the intensity of pure, unbridled emotion.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Prisoners (2013) - Film Review

Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall and Paul Dano.


When the young daughters of close friends and neighbours Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) disappear one Thanksgiving day, suspicions immediately point towards resident, Alex Jones, who is taken and then released for lack of evidence. Assigned to the case is Detective Loki, who finds himself at odds with the aggrieved Keller, who takes Jones hostage in a desperate bid to save his child.

prisoners film, hugh jackman, paul dano, film reviewThoughts:
Prisoners dutifully ticks off the 'missing child' checklist so ubiquitous in such films:
the close knit family, check, obligatory sleepy town, check, an ever growing stock of suspects, each increasingly more creepier than the last, check, check and check. 

Don't however make the mistake of dismissing Prisoners as another cliché-ridden drama. It takes these devices and scatters them appropriately throughout. Always as a means of driving the story forward, instead of clumsy attempts to keep the audience in constant guesswork as to the true suspect's identity. 

Most appreciated is the fact that Prisoners plays on the audience's ignorance, but chooses not to exploit it with gaping plot holes. Nothing is unexplained, but instead neatly slots together in what can at times feel like a slightly labyrinth-ian style plot (Hint: I use with the word labyrinth for good reason...) Prisoners did have me curled up in anticipated fear, and definitely had me with hand over mouth as it lures the audience into unbelievable turns of plot (A word of warning - those with a nervous disposition towards snakes should watch with caution!)

prisoners film, hugh jackman, jake gyllenhall
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in an understated performance as the acerbic Detective Loki. Altogether not the most likeable or affable of men, though a glad departure from the worn out stock character of 'tortured' detective. (Think deep rooted alcoholism and aggression issues). Although a murkier childhood is alluded to, Prisoners decides to eschew from developing this further. Thankfully so - again any personal demons calling his professional integrity into question are sidestepped in favour of a more straightforward characterisation.

Paul Dano is suitably creepy as the prime suspect in no one's eye but Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover, the aggrieved father of one of the missing girls. Police efforts are soon concentrated elsewhere due to Dano's regressed mental state, though Keller is convinced otherwise. He implements his own brand of justice in hopes to extract a confession that will lead him to his child. Dano plays up the part with simpering, childlike mannerisms, with hints of a sinister streak lurking menacingly in the shadows of his apparently fragile psyche. Jackman is a strong screen presence, though I felt as though the role wasn't particularly challenging in any great sense.

Prisoners is a smart thriller, that respects its audience enough to avoid clichéd conventions of the 'missing child' genre.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Uwantme2killhim? - Film Review

Starring: Jamie Blackley, Toby Regbo, Jaime Winstone and Joanna Froggart.

uwantme2killhim, toby regbo, jamie blackley, film reviewSynopsis:

Schoolboy Mark is arrested for stabbing fellow pupil John. A bright, popular student who shows promise on the football pitch, the question posed from the start is why? Remaining tight lipped as to his motives, DI Sarah Clayton delves into Mark's online life in a bid to put the case to bed.

Having developed a romantic relationship with a girl [Rachel] online, Mark is drawn into her world of domestic violence and stories of witness protection. The in hiding Rachel soon urges Mark to look after her bullied brother John - his classmate - in fear that she will soon no longer be around to protect him. What ensues is a series of increasingly alarming tales from the chat rooms, prompting acts of grief and revenge in a twisted story of false identity and manipulation.


Based on true events - the original article can be found here - set in the early 00's, with our now smug benefit of hindsight it's an unbelievable story. With our present knowledge of online 'stranger danger', and the consequent safeguards, I watched uwantme2killhim? with increasing incredulity.

Mark is naïve and gullible to a destructive extent. Absorbing every last word from the computer screen, he first becomes infatuated with Rachel, a girl he never physically meets, who unknown to Mark, coincidentally has a brother in his class. He readily accepts her pleas to befriend the meek and mild John, who then teeters on the edge of a slightly desperate attachment to Mark.

uwantme2killhim, film review, toby regbo, jamie blackley
The story veers into exaggerated territory - suicide, the criminal underworld, correspondence with MI5 and suspected terrorist plots. Again, all the more bizarre when regarded in light that this is in based on true events.

Blackley and Regbo are well cast in the roles of Mark and John. Blackley possesses a strong sense of self assuredness, played well against the character's gullible nature. 

Uwantme2killhim? plants the seeds of this almost fatal character flaw in an early scene, where Mark boasts of needing a single novel idea to get rich quick - the details he asserts are not important - it's the idea that matters. Thus we have our source of audience exasperation - Mark, for all his confidence and mild arrogance, is extraordinarily naïve.

 Details and credibility are blithely pushed aside in favour of taking the world at face value. 

 Regbo shines as the pallid John, ridiculed and bullied at school, with the vulnerability and fragility of a little boy lost. Visibly shrinking away from his tormentors as much as he exhibits attempts to impress the starkly opposite Mark. Regbo carefully crafts his performance to teeter between pathos and eerie desperation to please and be accepted, with later more sinister undertones, perfectly executed with machiavellian-esque eyes of glee.
Together Blackley and Regbo complement each other brilliantly, forging an almost brotherly affection at odds with the adage of familiarity breeding contempt. 

Uwantme2killhim? is a slow burner, though works surely towards what's a very twisted conclusion. It's not too hard to spot what's coming, and the latter stages of the film clearly dot about a few choice clues to guide us there.
uwantme2killhim, film review, toby regbo, jamie blackley

  Uwantme2killhim? is a worrying account of the power of the internet blurring the lines of reality and morality. Online our reality is whatever we want it to be. Uwantme2killhim? impresses on the unnerving ramifications of when this reality creeps into the offline world, with devastating effects.