Le Fidèle – Racer and the Jailbird (2017)

This is a strange one. I thought it had finished twice before it finally got there and found it a little all over the place in clarifying which strand of the narrative was important for plot and which was supposed to be exposition. And yet it was still very enjoyable.

I could hear some perplexed sighs as the end credits began, as it leaves the audience to work out for itself what might have happened at the end. But I don’t mind that.

Le Fidèle is directed by Michaël R. Roskam, who also directed Bullhead and The Drop, (both also featuring Matthias Schoenaerts), which will give you an idea of the general mood of the film. It’s therefore no surprise to discover that Schoenaerts’  character is very much ‘him’ – part Jacky from Bullhead, part Eric from The Drop – it’s right in his wheelhouse in other words, but he does it well.

This is the first time I’ve seen Adèle Exarchopoulos in anything since Blue is the Warmest Colour and I felt she was a little one dimensional. There is something about her face, attractive though it is, that seems to lack expression. Maybe it was the character that didn’t afford her the opportunity, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt (just).

There’s one scene, however, which was a real stand out and I’m dying to know if it was one shot. It certainly feels like it when you’re watching, as the camera circles vehicles and criminals, backwards and forwards, as they hijack a security van. If it isn’t one shot, then bravo to the editor. If it is, then wow.

Overall, an interesting idea which gets a little mixed up in the middle trying to sort itself out, ending intriguingly. But, Matthias Schoenaerts so all is well.



Stronger (2017)

Cards on the table – I was anticipating this was going to be a ‘trauma victim overcomes the odds to become a hero’ story, and the only reason I chose to see it was because Jake Gyllenhaal, whose films I don’t avoid.

The fact that this is a very different survivor story is not only refreshing, but it makes for really interesting viewing. Having sustained life-changing injuries in the crowd when bombs were detonated at the finish line of the Boston marathon, Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal) struggles with physical recovery, not dealing with PTSD symptoms, pressures from family, friends and the city to be a role model – and he simply isn’t ready. Apart from the trauma that he suffered, Jeff is one of those men who still has a lot of emotional growing up to do. He’s not obvious hero material, and this is what makes his situation, and his coming to terms with it, all the more interesting.

The performances are also crucial in truly elevating Stronger to something different. Tatiana Maslany as Jeff’s girlfriend and Miranda Richardson as his mother are completely believable as two very different characters clashing over how Jeff should be recovering.

But it is Jake Gyllenhaal himself who deserves huge rewards for his portrayal of Bauman. He should have not only been nominated but should have won for his role as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler, and this would be some consolation for that.

But Jake with brown eyes is very odd.


Mudbound (2017)

Absolutely no denying that this film, once it reached its climax, was emotional, brutal, devastating.

It did take a while to get there though. So many strands, lots of characters, all introduced to us at the very start, so that it felt like it took a long while to get going.

I’m not the biggest fan of voice-overs (film noir aside), and this film has made the choice to have multiple, from several different characters, which (for me) made it tricky to keep up with for the first hour.

And there’s a lot going on – so much, in fact, there are probably two films-worth of events, each of which would have been equally thought-provoking – whether it was the return of the young black character from the ‘freedoms’ of war to the land of the KKK, or the post-war camaraderie between two men from very different backgrounds, sharing a brotherhood in the horror of their overseas experiences.

Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell are very good in their roles, Carey Mulligan has a thankless task as long-suffering wife, and Jason Clarke looks more like Miles O’Brien every minute.

A lot to unpick.

Tigre (2017)

Viewed at TIFF ’17

A collection of women of different generations find themselves sharing space in a run-down house on the Argentine delta. The men around them (sons, boyfriends) appear to lack the strength of conviction and personality that the women possess – it makes for some really interesting scenes between the women, and a couple of rogue threads in the story featuring the younger men/boys which seemed to belong elsewhere.

Screening was followed by Q&A with directors Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra Guardiola.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Viewed at TIFF ’17

The man waiting in line for tickets next to me confided that he’d been told this is Yorgos Lanthimos’ darkest film. My immediate thought was that it would have to go some to live up to that statement. And to be honest, it’s not far off. It’s certainly as dark as Dogtooth, the film that brought him to wider attention.

Lanthimos builds worlds for his narratives in which the weirdest premise seems normal, and if you find yourself looking for explanations for the world instead of just being in it with the characters, then it’s a struggle to enjoy.

In the world of The Killing of a Sacred Deer , Colin Farrell resumes his collaboration with the director, this time as surgeon Steven Murphy, husband to Nicole Kidman and father of two. We also see him having sensitive, discreet conversations with a young man, whose role becomes clearer as the narrative progresses. As a result, Farrell finds himself in a position where he has to make a life-changing decision, which seems totally logical in the movie’s world – but which is utterly horrific in ours.

The dialogue is, with rare exception, delivered in a monotonous tone which will be familiar to audiences who saw The Lobster, so that even the most intimate conversations are matter-of-fact and merely transactional. This includes Farrell and Kidman’s sexual activities, and their daughter’s puberty, and results in the audience laughing both at the absurdity of the situation while at the same time cringing at the events unfolding.

This is the world of Yorgos Lanthimos – we can laugh heartily while still realising that something unbearable is about to happen. When the inevitable finale arrives, the mixture of laughter and gasping proves that he has got it right again.

The cast rises to the challenge perfectly, with Farrell and antagonist Barry Keoghan delivering the best performances.

Lanthimos fans will not be disappointed by his latest offering.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Yorgos Lanthimos, and actor Barry Keoghan.

Cocote (2017)

Viewed at TIFF ’17

Alberto has a job at a rich family’s mansion and is a man of few words. He returns to his rural home for a few days on learning of his father’s death.

Apart from the opening and closing scenes at the mansion (a static wide-shot of the swimming pool), the rest of the narrative plays out in Alberto’s village, and the contrast could not be greater.

But there are also divisions in the rural setting, which form the main focus of events. There is friction between traditional religion and Christianity, between what is expected of Alberto and what he expects of himself, between men and women, between what different people think is right and wrong.

It’s a fascinating, intense drama filmed with an almost documentary touch, and a couple of really good performances which carry the film to its unexpected (and yet also inevitable) conclusion.

The director, Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, was scheduled to give a Q&A after the screening, but was unable to be there due to being stranded in his home in the Dominican Republic following the hurricanes.



Another in the series of ‘On Location’, where I stumble across views from movies.

So yeah, Niagara Falls is a bit obvious, but I couldn’t resist … the scene in Superman II where Lois is starting to wonder whether … well, you know.

I’m with Clark on this one – it is impressive.


Richard Lester/Richard Donner


The Bad Batch (2017)

Not quite sure what I’ve watched. And not the follow-up from Ana Lily Amirpour that I was expecting.

But Jason Momoa is a fine sight to behold whatever he’s in. And he’s quite good in this too.

Not so sure about Suki Waterhouse.

Is Keanu now just filling in his time making creepy cameos in weird movies?

God’s Own Country (2017)

This feature debut from director Francis Lee is quite remarkable.

John (Josh O’Connor) is an angry young man for the 21st century – isolated, trapped, lacking in a means for self-expression.  Then Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) enters his life and forces him to rethink everything. Perhaps Gheorghe verges on manic pixie dream boy, but this I am prepared to forgive in an otherwise flawless film.

Gemma Jones and Ian Hart as John’s family are perfect, with Hart in particular capturing the loss of dignity and the fear which takes over when we become physically incapacitated. It’s all in his eyes.

O’Connor and Secareanu clearly spent a lot of time on farms before filming – to this city girl (albeit with farming forebears) the two certainly seem to know their way around a new-born lamb or the rear end of a cow. And Lee has captured the atmosphere of farmland in this part of Yorkshire – beautiful and brutal.

I was most impressed with O’Connor’s performance – John’s evolution from angry, lonely young man to where he ends up is beautifully nuanced, and heart-breaking.

Logan Lucky

Bring together Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig and it should be good – and it is!

Yes, it’s a heist in the vein of Ocean’s 11 (which Soderbergh slyly and deliberately acknowledges in the background) but this means that we know we are in safe hands as far as character and story are concerned, and it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the ride.

What I love about this type of Soderbergh film is the snippets that we’re fed throughout – we know that at some point they will be key in the plot, but we don’t know as much as some of the characters and so they just seem random. Until they are explained to us later on – such as why Daniel Craig’s character needs Gummi Bears. These instances are exquisite because it lets us know that the characters are more intelligent than they might immediately appear.

Genuinely funny, with characters we are totally rooting for, Logan Lucky appears (to my non-US eye at least) to be trying to say something about the heart of America – and I think this could have been explored even further, although perhaps this would have undermined the humour. There are injured army veterans, former college football players, child beauty pageants, Nascar, country music – almost to the point of being stereotypical. But there is the constant knowledge that Soderbergh has us laughing *with* our protagonists and not *at* them and so the balance is probably correct; there is more than likely another, very different, film lurking in here about economic poverty in 21st century USA but this isn’t the place for it.

So it’s funny, with some good performances (and the odd quirky ones), and definitely enjoyable.