Sunday, 20 April 2014

Once (2007) - Film Review

once film poster, once film review, glen hansard, once film
Starring: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová


An affable Dublin street busker/hoover repairman (Glenn Hansard) catches the attention of a young Czech migrant. Drawn in by the raffish charm of his music, the girl (Markéta Irglová) encourages him to take his talent seriously. Still lovesick over his ex-girlfriend and she conflicted over her absentee husband, the pair embark on a mutual labour of love, recording the street buskers songs with a view to success.


Once is a charming, low budget film (approx. €130,000) told with heart. With a down to earth, fly on the wall style, it reads like a documentary of two people who help recognise the potential in one another. A simple story, the charm lies in its two protagonists - unnamed but so understated and likeable. There is obviously a tender connection between the pair but Once refrains from following the clichéd route of inevitable romance. Instead the film leaves us with the enduring message that some people are right for us at certain times in our lives, to help us move on - a helping hand along the way to where we're going.

Once has an almost impoverished feel to it, set to the rain dashed cobbled high streets of Dublin, the bare, rudimentary flat of Irglová's character and filled with humorous pathos characters such as a down on his luck(!) mugger, Once has an unmistakably rakish charm. With original pieces sung by the two leads, the soundtrack brilliantly follows their time together, charting their creative collaboration.
(Songs including "When Your Mind's Made Up" and "Falling Slowly" are reminiscent of the now defunct collaboration of Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan).

With its down to earth authenticity, Once is a return to the simplicity of storytelling, quietly celebrating the joys of music, gritty determination & friendship.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Breathe In (2013) - Film Review

breathe in, film review, felicity jones, guy pearceStarring: Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce

Synopsis: When the poised and reserved English exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones) moves in with her American hosts, the Reynolds family, for a term abroad, she finds herself warily drawn to  rakish patriarch Keith. A music teacher and occasional cellist for the Manhattan Symphony Orchestra, Keith silently pines for his former days of creative and musical glory.
The pair maintain a mutual distance from one another that's both reticent and cautious - until Sophie reveals herself as a musical virtuoso - a brilliant pianist who calls to Keith in a way his present life can't.
Breathe In has a languid fragility to it, atmospheric for the use of natural mood lighting and devoid of over-dramatisation. Much like Drake Doremus's previous Sundance offering Like Crazy (also starring Jones), the film is intimate, with authentic performances from the cast who rely on improvisation than any solid script. Whereas the conversations are not always so free flowing, even stilted at times, it lends a dramatic 'realness' to the story that's refreshing in comparison to more eloquent cinematic dialogue.

felicity jones, breathe in film, film reviewFelicity Jones' character is very reminiscent of that which she played in Like Crazy (I didn't actually know both films were from the same director till after watching Breathe In, having seen Like Crazy the previous year!), with Sophie carrying an air of aloofness that's both endearing to the character of Keith and the audience. I wouldn't say there's much to differentiate Jones' performances in both films but it's clear that Doremus is monopolising on her talents for understated drama.

One of the opening scenes plays with foreshadowing, depicting the close knit Reynolds in their quaint, rustic home playing a game of Jenga, hinting at the collapse of the family - strong at first but with weak foundations. Perhaps an obvious motif, but one that certainly sets up the story in one clear image. In fact with the film centered around music, it's only fitting that the story seems to follow the trajectory of a typical classical piece. Starting languidly, once the pull between Sophie and Keith begins to grow stronger and it's apparent there is a spark between them, the drama heightens and builds to its climatic crescendo.

For the characters, everything is pushed underneath. Keith lives out pockets of former glory as his time subbing for the symphony orchestra in between what his wife Megan (Amy Ryan) regards as his 'real' vocation - teaching. Derivatively referring to his passion as a 'hobby', a sense of inertia is at play within the family. Content with stability, it's ironic that Megan is the one to bring Sophie into their home - the quiet storm that soon creates tension between all family members.

guy pearce, breathe in film, film review
The burgeoning relationship between Keith and Sophie is less passionately charged than the usual films of this ilk. The tension is there but less palpable and heightened than it could lend itself to be. Likewise, the character of Sophie is watered down - an enigma, but a pale version - she's almost hapless in a very unfortunate way. Lending herself unintentionally to teenage gossip, we see a vulnerable side to her. Comparing this with scenes where she is more in control - i.e. playing the piano defiantly or else reveling in the hold she has on Keith - it's difficult to say what Breathe In intends for her to be. Obviously an outsider, preferring to read Jane Austen at pool parties than mingle with her peers, Sophie is the quintessential 'complicated' female protagonist - a pale, more muted version of the manic pixie dream girl.

With the added bonus of Dustin O'Halloran's ethereal and atmospheric score infusing Breathe In with a moody and fragile ambiance, this is an understated and raw offering from Doremus.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Goodbye First Love (2011) - Film Review

goodbye first love, un amour de jeunesse, film review, lola cretonStarring: Lola Creton and Sebastian Urzendowsky

Synopsis: Set in early 00s Paris, Goodbye First Love (Un amour de jeunesse) chronicles the 8 year long on and off again relationship of Camille and Sullivan, spanning their late teenage years to the onset of young adulthood. The film is a tender and intimate look at the dynamics between the couple, with Camille both petulant and needy in her lovesick state and deeply resentful of Sullivan when he announces plans to travel abroad. Heartbroken for what she perceives as abandonment, Goodbye First Love follows Camille and Sullivan as they discover who they are, together and apart.


Goodbye First Love is much more Camille's story than Sullivan's. Once Sullivan leaves for his travels, much of the film is committed to the paths Camille follows in her attempt to forget and grow without him. Taking on a hotch potch of jobs without any real meaning or connection, we follow Camille as she trains to become an air hostess, her time as a tacky club rep and finally her settling to a career in architecture. Seemingly the lost soul of the story for wandering aimlessly from one vocation to the next, it is Camille who is very much her own driving force.

Whilst Sullivan is in South America in his self proclaimed state of self-discovery, Camille does the same in the very milieu Sullivan found so cloying. Here is the bittersweet realisation that ironically, for all his aloofness and detachment, it is Sullivan who doesn't know what he wants. However it seems Camille is always looking for Sullivan. Whereas she asserts her independence and identity away from their relationship, his impending returns are marked by an almost physical regression. Whilst sporting a suitably Parisian, gamine cropped hair style during their time apart, Camille's hair grows back to its rakishly longer style, hinting at the juvenility of first love. Alone she is stronger and less reliant on the affection of another. The cropped hair signifies the shedding of her former self - the one interminably tied to Sullivan.

goodbye first love, un amour de jeunesse, film review, lola creton  Lola Creton wears melancholy with an exacting, Parisian-esque manner. Needy and attached, the rest of the world including her mother and father in their loveless marriage and even the aloof Sullivan, are benign in comparison. With this the film captures the all too familiar teenage angst of young love, but without vanity and with just enough self indulgence to let us empathise with the characters. Whereas we can appreciate Sullivan's need for exploration and his aloofness at Camille's capricious nature and impetuous moods, we also sympathise with her resentment at his detachment.

Set to the backdrop of bohemian Paris, with its artsy apartments or else idllyic countryside locations, with a gorgeous soundtrack including the languorous 'The River' by Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling, Goodbye First Love has a delicate feel to it, hard to grasp and articulate - perhaps a bit like the tenuous bond between Camille and Sullivan.