I, Daniel Blake : A Film Review

Director, Ken Loach, Screenplay, Paul Laverty.  Cast. Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, Briana Shann, Kate Rutter, Sharon Percy, Kema Sikazwe. (English dialogue) Duration. 1hr 40mins. Camera (color), Robbie Ryan; editor, Jonathan Morris; music, George Fenton; production designers, Fergus Clegg, Linda Wilson; costume designer, Joanne Slater; sound (Dolby Digital), Ray Beckett; sound editor, Kevin Brazier; line producer, Eimhear McMahon; casting, Kahleen Crawford. Production. U.K.- (France-Belgium) A Le Pacte (in France) release of a Sixteen Films, Why Not Prods., Wild Bunch (Rebecca O’Brien), BFI, BBC Films, Les Films du Fleuve, France 2 Cinéma, Canal Plus, France Télévisions, Le Pacte, Cinéart, Ciné Plus, VOO and Be tv production. 


Side by side not taking sides

If you want to avoid a politcally charged piece based around the outrages perpetuated our name in Great Britain and Northern Ireand, on which this film has attempted in its narrow focus to show then I suggest you go to the bottom of the review and the conclusion instead of wading through the politics.  I find people’s perceptions of the politics intruiging and repulsive from the so-called support mechanism of handouts on legal advice and support through the class orientated Legal system – access to justice and the like pure fantasy and peripheral – other ‘agencies’ – charity wars where they are in High Streets ‘chugging’ being unpleasant in a face frame as you pass, to handing out supermarket disposals at food banks then you can get a bit distraught and ashamed.  So move on.

Moving on the story

This journey is a script opening eyes to actors then audiences.  Research needs dictate the timeline for this compressed schedules so the assembled team can come together very quickly, in three months after the get go, finances in place – France is the main arena to show it.  It opens in about 600 screens in France and about 100 in GB/NI.  This story is discovered in so many places it shocks producer Rebecca O’Brien and the outlet, outcome will come touch so many who no the story at some level. Loaches way of working is to shoot in sequence then give script pages say a few days in advance if some scenes need ‘discovery’ let down gently so the performance evolves more naturally.  So actors have the most explained scripted but are taken on a journey also.

Foreign fields in our country

In the early summer at the end of May the European Cinema community meeting once again in Cannes expressed their acclaim of this Ken Loach film.  It should be mentioned the screenplay delivered by Paul Laverty is exceptional and their combined skills, talent have created a very clear depiction of the atrocious Department for Work and Pensionsxorganised abuse of human rights and morality.  Here is a report in May announcing the Ken Loach acclaim action in Cannes.

Last week there was an article in The Guardian about how Labour candidates in the last elections were like “middle class Ryanair passengers,” trying to suppress their metropolitan squeamishness while canvassing in traditional Labour areas.

The voters on the doorsteps said of the politicians: “You’re all the same” – by which they meant: “You’re nothing like me”. 

On the same day, it was reported that Ken Loach, nearing his 80th birthday, had just won prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake, a film about life on benefits.

This is great news for the makers of this thoroughly decent but very straightforward portrait of the film maker, which looks back over his career, while showing him making that very film. 

Proper Society demands

I am finding this film very hard to review as having now seen it twice can attest to its fiercely upsetting and concerning depiction of Britain – the United Kingdom – that is shown to have a rejection by proxy of large sections of vulnerable and virtually starving people trammeled by Government punitive Social Security actions.  Based on the Public Health. act they distort and reject basic human right principles of social provision for those in need of welfare assistance and breach the rights to privacy as attested by the system shown for all its harmful effect in this film.  Seeing it twice produced the view – seeing it twice assured me it was in fact a work of fiction though it may well have been a documentary of validity and authenticity given its flawless careful handling of a large societal picture which is treated like a soiled limited section of the support system people believe – wrongly – is a safety net.  

The depraved reformers

A local spokesperson for these Social Security ‘Welfare Reforms’ Dr Eileen Evason, who has been an advisor over many years to the Social Services Committee, adding insult to injury over the period appeasing and making noises on/off about possibly unworkability, while failing to solve the problems put up by the Social Security Committee, grandly attests that ‘she’ has advised the First Minister and Deputy First Minister ‘she’ has copper fastened the bottom of the safety net in the latest measures of ‘Welfare Reform’ – which are a removal of further support and diminution of Social Security – in every sense of the word and are as much an insidious harmful assault on people disadvantaged in numerous ways accessing Welfare.  

Reforms are the further rejection of people’s rights and betrayal of the Welfare Society on which our whole ‘sovereign’ entitlement has affirmed through the Public Health Act. It is how our civility has been established.  I could cite several Laws which are breached, among them the provision of emergency and hardship funds which are ‘means tested’ in becoming a claimant.  Worse still is the treatment of Asylum seekers, Refugees and some Immigrants and their diminished rights of access to shelter and the means financially to live in a dignified and civilised way which basically all consider alienating and intensly degradng on purpose by design by the Home Office.  They maintain their dignity as a measure of contrast to those who subjugate them, the depraved reformers. The Attorney General fails to find fault here while he contests the liberty of cakes and rights for access to criminal files by victims and has expressed his views on gay marriage, abortion and sexual prostitution practices.  Human trafficking and Healthcare deficiencies along with long term mental health problems cramming prisons with TV licence evaders, avoiding the rackettering going in also in drugs, property scams and theft from trammeled owners is left to one side when it comes to enforcement of legalities.


The powerful in all generations beat down the populous in order to create a means to accumulate and amass, grow their fortunes.  Corporations now unleash the threat of ( now mostly seen off) suing Nations who transgress their Commercial practices by regulation – in contrast to other locations – as a means of finding lowest common denominator compliant States to carry out manufacturer and trade.  This is very much a part of the Political embrace, or the Corporations wrestling Governments into surrender by the throats into submission to their plans of work practices.  You may have noticed the floodgates having opened once Thathcher destroyed Manufacturing industries as the tooth nail and claws of overseas economic conditions took a nosedive and resurrected on a Conservative compliant employers agenda.  Followed by the breakneck catastrophic avoidance of needed market reforms when New Labour arose Phoenix like and adopted Neo-liberal economics which achieved what? Fairly evident. The Conservative backlash to the attempt at restructuring tax credits dealt with by the stop gap DWP minister Stephen Crabbe said there were to be no further cuts to Welfare.  What remains however are economic measures creating hardship not alleviating it as is the Conservativve way.  There remains no link to prices in terms of Benefits so any inflation will diminish their value.  The zero inflation likewise meant the adjustments needed were never going to reduce the vulnerability of very low ‘incomes’ never realistically matching survival needs as is clear from social deprivations the length and breadth of the islands.

Both Governments actually banned Ken Loach films which now find themselves on the right side of history.  Some elements (Wind that Shakes the Barley excluded as it was so naive in my view) relate to policies implemented in Northern Ireland which were volatile exposures of criminality of criminal proportions.  In NI film is pronounced ‘filim’ which also connects to the spooks Le Carre points to as finding legitimacy when the ‘sovereign cause’ was imperilled in the Northern Ireland troubles.  We have an o added to NI giving us the Northern Ireland Office and the begetters of many a violent consequence.  Ministers in Government/Assembly rather like the idea the truth is left concealed as to the real savage brutality of regimes acting out their power lust here. It suits their criminal acts and duplicity/double agent positions and hides their joint enterprise efforts of concealment.  The Blair contention he was responsible for healing the process is another myth.  George Mitchell if anyone, alongside wise counsel from Mary Robinson and others not up to their necks in corrupt dealings, stroke parties are the real authors along with the law abiding populous in creating peace.

Katie and Dan, Daisy and Dylan.
Mercy doesn’t come into it.  This film is harrowing and the awareness of both Ken Loach, in putting this account of a shifting period in our history, when the further effects of the 99% globally daily inflict greater influence and harm in the shaping of our society is coruscating and baleful.  It is like watching cities, generations, turned into enumerated sub-Orwellian dehumanised robots functioning to extract as much value from commodities goods and services as is mechanistic ally possible.  The machine age where those owning the power of process from land to building to healthcare extract more than they contribute along an economic symmetry, uniformity which is destroying the planet and its inhabitants.  More and more obvious by the passing years.

Katie, Dan, Dylan and Daisy come to the crest of a hill in a wide street shot, with Dylan acting up and playing on the relatively quiet suburban road.  I saw this as a pivotal point and it’s not a spoiler to be discussing it.  In ‘films’ about the making of this movie I have seen the set up being discussed as Loach and others converge to discuss and KL inevitably calls the shots!  This is where things look to be on the improve.  As you will have likely read the coming together of these people is through their treatment at the hands of the state.  ‘JobCentrePlus’ Newcastle.  After two years in a hostel in London after having lost a rented private flat (note here KL chooses the scenario to point up the lack of council, local authority built homes) through a minor complaint, they are doing separate things in the Job Centre and after another knock back Dan and most in the centre hear raised voices as a stressed Katie faces a knock back which will see her with no money for food or electricity.  Despite the condition, which has Daniel there in the first place, Dan intervenes ad sticks up for her in a scene which is being controlled by unreasonable overstretched staff.  They cannot be seen in their ‘role play’ to move one inch from the rules and agenda.  They are complicit and compliant nevertheless.  It does nothing to resolve the situation as the staff always control the situation by assertion.  By the passive aggressive violence of their inhuman interaction. Ca particularly abhorrent version of which is displayed your a thirty something floor manager whose bulk and belligerence is like a blank wall purposely.  In local offices it is just the same with blank walls and uniforms, badged floor staff acting like prison guards and traffic police.  Entirely designed as intimidatory and just as Latie and Dan find.  The children have to witness this humiliation also. Being so young they will have in futurectimesxstrong memories of this imprint of society they were brought up in.  

Dan cannot separate himself from this encounter given he is like them in the same sinking stinking boat.  Refugees in their own country.  Like anyone of any worth he helps and so Katie is given some hope and he sets about turning around the house she has been given.  It is barely habitable and lacks most things.  Beds, table and chairs excepted. The London policy of shifting out trouble families, single parents in their estimation a problem, all three have to detach themselves from their roots and go to Geordie land where they have no connections.  It is a form of cultural amputation loosing friends and family and all support. It might be regarded as like students, new job prospects – you move to a good job with arrangements for xyz prepared but here it is a complete nightmare and extremely low levels of support and even means to live and with few ‘possessions’ in tow or even storage.  It’s what middle class England voted/votes for and every aspect has implications undreamt of or excluded from the mind by the latest offer of the Sunday roast lunch at the supermarket.  Delivery can be arranged.  The carefully managed tiers of commercial life teased out into jumbo size excuses for lifestyle choices seen and tantalisingly mirrored back at expectations by the political manipulators governing.

  A town anywhere

The Foodbank

A minister recently reflected on Coffee shops – his observation continues into other places restaurants, shops, bars – that they install pews from disused and happy flappy churches who think nothing of ripping out the seats and bare bulbs, rusting grid lamp covers, galvanised mini buckets, boards as platters evoking a back to basics – unafraid of the distressed plate the sirloin steak sits on along both the rustic chips.  When Katie, Dan, Daisy and Dylan are at the crest f that hill they are heading to that phenonomen – the ‘Church’ led charity group – government authenticated – Foodbank.  There are a startling number in most major towns. Our four come to the ‘Church’ Foodbank and are greeted by an enormous queue of everyday folk standing chatting in orderly fashion. The experience inside is something which cuts to your core for many conflicting reasons.  Everyone is doing their best to alleviate the need for people to collect food to survive on top of their ‘income support’ IS ‘wages’ Workers support ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance’ JSA ‘Employment and support Allownce’ ESA and some on ‘Personal Independant Support Allowance’ PIPS. and each person has a Doctors, MPs, Social Security, Police, referral form stipulating they are likely to benefit from Food Aid.  Here in Belfast there is a Foodbank reached by four flights of stairs down a ammonia smelling lane way and with a lift (out of order?).  It is somewhere only the relatively fit and able can access , elderly and those unable to travel back and forth arriving what they get over long distances cannot avail of the meagre provisions.  There are very limited alternatives and despite this numerous deaths on the streets have occurred some not fifty yards away and destitution is hidden under trees and back lanes with an overhanging doorway or at the bac of arestiarant where the hot air comes through the vents.  In daytime in winter I have seen destitute backed up to a dry cleaners hot air discharge vent which is virtually as steam vent.  KL and PL could have continued to make numerous films on destitution and involving those of no status whatsoever who find themselves here but this should incinerate the lies of Poiticians on the relative wealth of this state’ should silence the complicit entrenched waged apologists – for creating a narrative – for having to enforce it – The Law Centre Northern Ireland is also in this category having played host to the doctrine and ignored all legal contexts of Human Rights in so doing.

Poverty of spirit

Acceptance of poverty is bound with having made sacrifice, poverty is nothing without some form of deprivation.  Imposed by others or oneself.  It is not a Christian renunciation – felt by some to to obtain an anti-worldly attitude – and it does not lead to the removal of social malaise but the opposite.  It is a pharisaical damaging concept for oneself.  It is especially clear in some religions as a belief in, confimation of the excecution of Gods will.  In addition to this how many could you name who hold this humility while themselves safe in the knowledge they shall not be impoverished.  The Church fulfills its aims while controlling the minds of the supplicants entreated in their role play.  Having wealth and holding it is primarily a function adopted in religions, nations and societies.  The use of wealth was intended in Gods world to create social fulfilment.  Be it the production of food, transport, education or health and caring it serves no purpose other than to create social purpose.  Manifestly detached from this is the vast accumulation of wealth which has neither function or form.  It is seen as a barrier against misfortune.  Calamity comes in many forms and natural disasters are common and reactions of an earth balancing its elemental fixed laws and structures disrupt many notions.  It has a randomness with which we consider the consequence of – act.

Humans relate to laws and instilled societal forms set in a familial almost fixed set of behaviour relying almost everyone ill defined and not of any real note or consequence.  It foresees a pattern and bonds.  In every moment expanding this is seen as obligatory.  Not so God will.  Telling the rich man if he wished to be perfect he should give to the poor is all that God willed.  So what might that  were made in the time of Constintine between the ruling establishment and the will of God – Christian values.  The progression though led to the diminution of those values and the application – routed in assumed power – hoarding and stifling distribution not based on supplying people’s legitimate means.  Social obligation is the key. Those keys are established through Marxism through Tolstoy, through continental mineral exploitation to create social and human fulfilment.  Where are we headed?

Conclusion #####5

We are thankful (once again) Paul Laverty for bringing forward a societal ill composed of State bureaucracy the malaise that is the UK Welfare system to a wide audience.  It opens on 21 October 2016 in 100 cinemas in The UK and 600 in France showing the depth of awareness films can have on societal issues. This is a compelling story of a man driven to the edge of his existence by bureaucracy and his life is shown with compassion and understanding by the filmmakers. He (Daniel) is joined in the aim to seek benefits by a young single parent, whose plight he finds when visiting the JobCentrePlus almost a confirmation of a conspiratorial system leaving people at the edge of their dignity and strength seeking the means to live a simple life and deal with their specific circumstances. Daniel is a figure summarising the breadth of the diminishing values and morality shrinking daily. With a condition denying him the health to work he is as a 59 year old required to apply for Benefits to sustain himself. He is advised by his GP and Consultant that he is unfit for work and applies for Employment and Support Allowance. Withstanding his Medical condition, confirmed by his physicians, he is compelled against his legal entitlement, to disclosing to a third party his health condition by statements in a q and a with a ‘Healthcare Professional’ (someone who has no responsibility for well being whatsoever and untrained in any medical analysis or part of any treatment plan) on the phone in a black void at the very beginning of the film.  It is a complete invasion of privacy by a third party and is itself a breach of Article 8 of The Human Rights Act,regarding privacy, going unrecognised by such as DWP, DSDNI, ATTORNEY GENERAL, DFC, LAW CENTRE NI, CAB, PATIENT AND CLIENT COUNCIL and the legislators in Parliament and an a priori defence for everyone in terms of its provision. 

It also is a breach of Client/Patient confidentiality as expressed in the General Medical Councils own codes (Hippocratic Oath) for confidentiality which the State by design subvert and disregard along with the apologists in a train behind them, the Citizens Advice Bureau, The Law Centre, the Social Affairs Committee, the Government Legal Services Department and The Attorney General for Northern Ireland who all refuse to acknowledge the a priori existence of these rights. So Daniel Blake represents the – again explained succinctly, more than my detailed account, – the sisyphean struggle – the task is endless and one of monumental endurance – eloquently described by Variety reviewer, OWEN GLEIBERMAN, on seeing it when it won the Palme d’Or. Wrote the following very insightful words in response – among others equally attesting the strength of the film – ” …it’s about something so much larger than bureaucratic cruelty (although it is very much about that). It captures a world — our world — in which the opportunity to thrive, or even just survive, is shrinking by the minute. With the right handling, the movie has a chance to connect with audiences as few Loach films ever have. It’s a work of scalding and moving relevance.”

When an outsider can see so clearly the desperation and degradation society is perpetuating it is a very clear warning.

Such is the picture of what plainly is a mirror of our divided, fractured, malfunctioning Government and Governance the case for a moral and just society is made all the more relevant and important by this films approach which is a dignified response to the perpetrators of the atrocious conditions they consider lawful and fair.  It is ruinous.
John Graham

20 October 2016

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 21 October until 3 November 2016 and at selected Cinemas up to 100 screens in the UK will be showing it while it starts on 600 screens in France who provided considerable backing.

American Honey : A Film Review

Director: Andrea Arnold. Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Arielle Holmes, McCaul Lombardi, Will Patton, Bruce Gregory, Crystal Ice, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Moseley, Chris Wright. Duration : 162 min. Cert. 15.

Directed, written by Andrea Arnold. Camera (colour), Robbie Ryan; editor, Joe Bini.

Cast. Sasha Lane, Riley Keough, Shia LaBeouf, McCaul Lombardi, Arielle Holmes, Crystal B. Ice, Verronikah Ezell, Chad McKenzie Cox, Garry Howell, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Raymond Coalson, Isaiah Stone, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Mosely, Christopher David Wright.


Walmart Art piece.

From an eyes connect moment the song – dance throb Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s 2011 track “We Found Love (in a hopeless place)” sounding out in a cavernous Mid-West American Walmart places you in a love story evolutionary curve.  At the risk of immediately setting off cliche ridden, conceptual freefall idiotic drama, Director Andrea Arnold nonchalantly wraps up this splendid no holds barred uplifting music as the gateway to the oncoming love story.  It is a very adept intro heralding, as those into Electronic dance music (as I am) a fair helping of more dynamism and makes us hopeful of a soundtrack not likely to overwhelm the main body the story and movie.  This is a road movie of colourful concepts and motivations.  Colour dynamic is quite possibly down to Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s loose and sharp eyed connection with the Director Andrea’s targets she focused in on.

The set up

Director Andrea Arnold has formulated a storyboard belonging in the long tradition of road movies set in North America. She combines an analytical view of the pressures, context of choices available – or not – to children entering the outside world with a group fixed upon adventure in a crowd.  Taking inspiration from an article on door to door sales of magazine subscriptions, notionally attached to University education the gang (of mainly non-actors) here are lead by a the uncompromising Krystal played by Riley Keough. She seems to be pitched as a savvy young attractive slim symbolic cheerleader of this generations American Dream.  She is fond of wearing USA regalia pitching up in a Stars and Stripes bikini as an identikit.  Alongside her is of on boyfriend Jake played by Shia LaBoeuf whose mall recruitment brings our principle Star played by a thoroughly immersive, knowing and alert Sasha Lane to the roster of workers.  Star brings an abusive childhood where we first meet her in the mall in charge of very young siblings who she eventually leaves behind with her dysfunctional, self obsessed guardians.

Star is the everywoman

She also brings to this film a normalcy which might be lacking in the remainder of the ad-hoc crew.  In a new A5 pound land notebook (essential gear) I’ve scribbled down, Missouri, West Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Nashville among the origins of the crew. Star is form Texas and now in middle America.  This is a film about the road trip as life. The discovery on the journey of – 1. Current state America. 2. Potential for dreams.  The soundtrack aforementioned kicks of the continued vibe, is part of the script in that it speaks much better at times than any interaction between the players might.  It conveys like many movies before it from … to music films on Kurt Cobain, Brian Wilson, Oasis, Amy Winehouse, the troubadour content of generations attaching themselves to various professors of Hamelin, spokespersons and pied pipers for their generation.  The dub and rap features alongside the Rhianna, Calvin Harris collaborative dance music pop with this generation also pursuing via. Lady Gaga, the Andy Warhol, Madonna trick artifice born into performance art after the fifties.  A Dadaesque sequencing of expressive youth.


Krystal’s US of A Methods (she is strikingly confident in her s/s bikini, her uniform and guard – a bit needy of identity?)

Here it happens in white mini bus with a attached low box closed trailer for their suitcases.  Krystal and Jake travel everywhere in their white open topped convertible. Krystal high fives and roll calls and sets strict rules – frequently broken – sex between crew happens often and the relationship between Jake and Krystal is open and this sets up a problem for Krystal.  Admonishment or keep the crew working and bringing in the money.  Advance to the goal – make money by lying connivance, shades of sexual favours in entrapment of punters? noises off, and a variety of areas are targeted. Very wealthy and authentic mid-America which is seldom depicted in this way.  The movement, road takes them into the huge heavily populated city of Kansas where a few Superman jokes are thrown in – a dog is in on the act.  Spot spotty.  Also the Motelsa re better stop overs.  Their is an arrangement of rooms booked by Kyrstal – “you’ve got to pay for all this shit.” – are usually three. Boy, Girl, Gender LGBT? and Krystals.  They keep to themselves except one encounter, with some black guys, musicians possibly, which had a nice vibe going is seldom repeated.  Krystal gets more tetchy and control freaky as the film dynamics appear as a team and the inherent sacrifices, places in the hierarchy evolve.  Some are along for the ride and adventure and do a days work and enjoy the side stuff such as a plentitude of weed.  How a certain companion doesn’t become an addict is anyone’s guess.


Love love, hate hate.

This is every generations hopes and dreams in a short dose.  It is also one of the songs of this generation and will be around for others as well I would think being a cultural staple.  Others including one chosen by a Christian beef trucker is a target song respected far and wide.  Talking of which the group splits up at each location in pairs and they go about their business and into this is felt some jeopardy creeps in because behind some doors lunatics live.  The first encounter the freshman team of Sky and Jake whose relationship is up close and central to the film is with a wealthy woman in charge of a no holds barred birthday sleepover at which the contrasts of American live’s infiltrate the statement projected by Director Andrea Arnold and it is a gloriously multi-faceted scene portraying greed avarice sexual tension polarity niavity and political bankruptcy.  It augers well for the forthcoming elections (not) with this diversity.

The central pairing and Krystal.

We only follow the one pairing. Who will win out in the chase for the dream? A conscious choice is made.  Firstly the Star/Jake/Krystal triangle is set up.  How will it unfold or erupt? What sacrifices are justified or made by each of them?  What are each of the three pursuing?  How do they see their future?  How do they relate to others?  How many roads can you travel before you find one that feels like you belong?  It is the question you could put out America and Americans as well as stopping of to discuss the effect on the world.  Director Andrea Arnold has an environmental message also as she explores this vast continent as a living organism.  Star’s name is an allusion to it, the road is a seldom seen view.  It is exploratory.  There is a core element of the crew going into an oil state where every hobo (one whose fortunes been made and didn’t want it after all?)  driver, worker, is possibly a millionaire and fortunes are made in 17 hour days with suburbs and families set up alongside.  Savvy Krystal points out their psychological profile acutely accurately as a piece of training advice of how to act and approach their target.  This happens, Krystals pep talk, advice, tactical nous, and notably a going into battle song which is as in war separates you from the projected enemy you are about to face and he are rip them off for as much as possible.

I spent an age trying to upload Director Andrea Arnold’s photo as a kind of insistence she is beautiful without the zany hair!  Her film on the other hand is zany chaotic beauty and a new testament to youth who need overcome previous generations greed and attempted ruination of this planet we all live on!

Conclusion ####4

It’s easy to say this film is overlong – as it is – at 2hrs 44mins – it is without question entirelybfeasible a condensed draft could have delivered in sharper detail the central themes, characterisations and left as many questions and answers as we needed to appreciate this contemporary take on a slice of American youth.  Director Andrea Arnold has seen it as an outsider and it’s generally been held as an honest and vivid colourful tapestry of choices faced by youth and of mid-American relentless pace and how it defines a country.  Jokes are made about the Kansas skyscrapers for example – whoa look at those huge buildings or something along those lines comes to mind –  because it fits the message, as a kind of alien invader, a time traveller looking out of a window at the cluster of buildings and wondering why and what they are for.  Indeed why does every enterprise have to have its own statement skyscraper and likewise which is your condominium?  How high up and isolated can you be.

The actual themes are for me delivered gently and as a free form of film making which you are asked or invited to take at whatever level and pace you see fit.  Nevertheless after seeing it the themes do weave together into a cohesive mural of realisation what it entailed.  It is as mentioned soundtracked with a more than mood setting environmental steer but a cohesive integrated part of the script.  An enlightened, heightened innovative way to work.  It is despite its scuzzy nests a very attractive beautifully, sensitively, modestly, evocative intelligent film and due to its length concentration may not be up to scratch making it viewable several times opening up new ‘vistas’ – a word lock arrived and that’s the best I can do!  It’s been a longish review! entirely well worth the admission ticket.  As for those kids born in America, some have grounds for asking for their admission money back. The three principals are extremely on their game with Sasha Lane never putting a foot wrong despite the emotionally complex parameters and Shia LaBoeuf becoming a very skilful actor portraying the serious, nerdy, sexual, moody, un-confident, confident niches this film puts him in. It augers well for him and hopefully further surprises are in store. ##News## just in !!! Shia LaBoeuf (30) and his longtime girlfriend and co-star in Nymphomaniac Mia Goth (22) born London, got married in Las Vegas in an Elvis themed wedding at the Viva Las Vegas just last week apparently. What can you say about Krystal, Riley Keough, consummate controlled, sublimely attractive and despite her forceful attitude she depicts the USA icon wannabe, stereotyped person at the head of the road drive.  Antlers, horns, cow bars all to the fore and she does it brilliantly and could easily be overlooked with the Stella performances of the other two which is not deserving.

John Graham

12 October 2016


On at QFT Belfast from Friday 14 to Thursday 27 October 2016 inc. and selected Cinemas.

Little Men : A Film Review


Little Men 

The listing

Directed by Ira Sachs and Co-written by Mauricio Zacharias and Ira Sachs. Duration … 1hr 25mins, Cert. PG. Country …United States, Language … English, Cast. Jennifer Ehle … Kathy Jardine, Paulina García … Leonor Calvelli, Talia Balsam … Audrey, Clare Foley … Sally, Greg Kinnear … Brian Jardine, Alfred Molina … Hernan, Andy Karl, Yolonda Ross, Michael Barbieri … Tony Calvelli, Theo Taplitz … Jake Jardine, Arthur J. Nascarella … Stu Gershman, Elia Monte-Brown … Bianca, Stella Schnabel, Melanie Mahanna … Customer, Mauricio Bustamante … Acting Teacher, Johnny Serret …Visitor at the Museum, Ching Valdes-Aran …Merlene, Kevin D. McGee … Audience member, Stan Carp …Sal Bartolini, Yolanda T. Ross, Teeka Duplessis … Eva, Madison Wright … Julia, Kellan McCann …Tony’s teammate and classmate, Bryan Webster …Park Ranger.


Previous form

The writers, Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, directed and co-wrote the hit Love Is Strange movie reaching a fairly wide audience and this is another New York-set tale that is as charming, insightful, clever, bittersweet and a compelling story well developed.


The basics

Jake (Theo Taplitz ) is a quiet, sensitive middle schooler with dreams of being an artist. He meets the affably brash Tony (Michael Barbieri) at his grandfather’s funeral, and the unlikely pair soon hit it off. The budding friendship is put at risk, however, when a rent dispute between Jake’s parents (Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle) and Tony’s mother (Paulina Garcia) threatens to become contentious. (QFT trailer)



Adulthood divides

There are authors, writers who give a twist and flavour to New York along the lines of, literally, Paul Auster and this urban observer Ira Sachs, whose partnership in writing this screenplay with Mauricio Zacharias, does similar things and produces another dialogue on relationships here honed in on sexual awakenings of youth rebelliousness and in altering states of self construct.  The principles at the heart of the narrative are the boys, 13 year olds who are instant neighbours.  Dealing with LGBT issues in most works, here Sachs allows the sexual to be less apparent and very, very understated via. natural discover alone though is contexurally present.  It avoids and will inform some parents in a similar situation (not in a property dogfight!) giving entry in a different way; there are many to choose from, to the subject of pre-adult teenagers sexuality.  It is so balanced here in the sensitivities needing care and enlightened reasoned, film formatting, of boyhood sexual urges.  Jake (Theo Taplitz ) whose parents move into the flat, apartment in Brooklyn, above the under priced rental shop accommodation.  The two teens are first timers at this acting business and adapt to the strangeness, quirksome, off main boulevard street story.  Streetwise Tony (Michael Barbieri) is a prospective painter, while Jake aspires to act.  Both have opposite personalities. Jake the introvert and Tony the extrovert.  Occasionally you may see some Midnight cowboy type undertones of New York LGBT variety.  The notion has crossed people’s minds before of the homoeroticism in that film.  The naive cowboy is in this construct then Jake.  Wise guys, streetwise folk exist on every street corner and the boulevard of dreams steams up neighbourhood vents and has done for decades.  I saw a bit of – in the prospective actor Tony – his spoof on being the Al Pacino of 2016 but back in the day!  He has a few tries at it for his and your amusement. So NY. So Hip.


Real Estate bites

Harsh as it is, here there is a conflict to test friendships.  The deceased grandfather was close to the Tony’s mother and therefore it is obvious they had an arrangement for her improving her life, probably explaining the minuscule rent.  Pauline Garcia, Leonor, the Chiliean actress seen previously in Gloria, has a hard enough life running a dress business and raising Tony.  Sentiments count for little and Brian under pressure from his sister Audrey who on my view gets a bit of a hard nosed deal being made to be a baddie, and conscious his own endeavours on the work front (Theatre acting and production) are parlous – he is immersed in an allegorical Russian play favoured by NY’s who don’t get GBS or Henric Ibsen – and the real driver work wise is Jennifer Ehle, a psychologist? who not only outperforms the under animated Brian – he doesn’t jack up emotion terribly well here, making me question is it deliberate, Greg Kinnear is playing a (under geared? directed that way?) misguided man whose relative security has in these real estate leveraged times become somewhat liaise-faire and it is a security he is ill equipped to adjust to – he gets easily into overbearing insensitive territory without a back up plan and without regard to those around him.  This playing has a man choker style, meaning the stereotype is white collar man whose traits are mysoginistic if unintentinal through self-awareness – the lack of it –  puritan based, conservative, while the Leonor independant character is a smoker impelled on a mediocre limited scene sullen contrive. She is seen most times in confrontational mode which can’t be great for an actor.  Her part certainly has moments, is gesture driven, but is wrested away by the surrounding cast and playing.  The boys themselves have a tendency to produce heavy tasting wine. Too explicit not implicit.  But they are young first time actors without fulsome direction and sterling work is still delivered.  The only tool in their kidultkit is communication and they use it to devastating effect.  Knowing its presence and absence is learnt unfortunately fast.  Reverting to the baby phase.  Lacking the intellectual argument.


Political stakes.

The Ira Sachs development is cleverly advancing. Mauricio Zacharias as collaborator also has a voice.  The NY set of observations on contemporary – noises off – think Gordon Ramsey kitchen assault on cultural background for the flaming burnt offering implicitly close always.  We are kept away from that but it lurks with very considered homage to the opposite – the glory of the place of a mix of nationalities pushed into mind ghettos by power play with property mainly – you don’t need to look to far to see ‘the ugly face of capitalism’and it seeks election very soon) and NY is in some kind of nasty meltdown and Ira knows it.  Insisting on conveying a near Naom Chomsky archetypal class in a glass. Red or white which do you prefer dining table politik, the worthiness is grafted on.  Chomsky is direct, this isn’t.


Perhaps, and the sexual flourishes in earlier movies which inevitably in each step have occurred, though a tad over developed, may move his art nearer the heartland of Auster, of David Mamet, if social power play is to be found – away from the George Clooney ‘captured in Tv mogul’ vogue, and more Glengarry Glen Ross. It way be a mission worth joining.  I saw all the plays of David Mamet put on at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloan Square, at least twice with Glengarry Glen Ross making it to the NT Cottesloe  The equivalent was a key of Mamets work, the urban kitchen sink drama, sexually energised, Chicago American sociological canvas contempories such as the revived Ken Loach has spectacularly delivered with soon to be released I’Daniel Blake.  I’ve seen it and it is devastatingly good. A Faustian, William Blake Canterbury Tale of 21 post 1066 revolutionary shift!  Brexit as a titbit to a reconstituted Adam Smith based, Francis Hutcheson, new Age of enlightenment.#. The stillness of filmic political narrative in the USA has reached a bit of a lull, post Michael Moore docufilm.  More innovative work is needed. Ira Sachs hasn’t reached there yet; he’s only aged fifty so many films ahead hopefully, with this very accomplished work an indicator but it seems tantalisingly close so perhaps excuses my going of on a tangent.

Conclusion. ### 3 1/2

This is not a stereotypical LGBT movie as others seem to place without having perhaps having seen it but a more considered withdrawn look at boyhood unfolds in a natural sort of way and while having obvious tones of a gay childhood entering adolescence it is not the be all and end all.  In fact many will be pleasantly surprised by its mature tones and the delicate way the adolescence is seen.  It is more figuratively about the boys being piggy in the middle as a parental battle over real estate values become not quite toxic but heated and ugly.  Ira Sachs has displayed again an ingenuity for sensitive relationship matters but it becomes slightly stuck in the adult sterotypes he creates.  The sister of Brian, Audrey, for example is seen as pushy, especially at a family gathering, but is in actual fact meant to be a joint benefactor of the bequeathed Brooklyn two storey building.  Neat in a civilised pre-modernity/21st century rapacious way with ‘neighbourhood’ meaning that.  Excellently atmospheric it gives the appearance of the set of values Ira Sachs is talking about or is in mourning for the diminishing returns real estate greed delivers.  This would be a very good film for parents meeting gay issues for the first time with their own children perhaps or to warn them you can’t always chose yor neighbours.  Leonar and Tony had no choice but out of the deal only one got any friendship. I liked this film quite a bit and will remember it’s story and allow it the further consideration it deserves by further viewing at some point.  It did lack the optical bite it harboured though.  This is a very decent film troubled in my mind not by any lack of integrity but the lack of character dynamics, being controlled and with limitations within the eloquent script.  It’s shades are cast to limiting effect.

I hope it is a good point to allow this team to enter the more complex waters of the themes of corporate and civic worlds indifferent to each others needs and have they, those worlds, personalities at all?  Lille men? Well I suppose as adolescents growing up fast teaches several important but fast life lessons.
John Graham

5 October 2016


On at QFT Belfast from 7 October to 13 October 2016 inc.
# a movement locally is gathering steam to employ some Francis Hutcheson philosophy into our hamstrung times. I’m only myself learning of this recent emergence courtesy of one know locally as the Rev. Mac.

His location is at Dunmurry Belfast which has long association with leaders of liberal and inclusive thinking – seen by many still to be abhorrent and – quite incorrectly – against their heritage and values.  A position favoured by the One per-cent to perpetuate divisive values.  All religions without exception have their destructive elements.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople : A Film Review                                     


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Director and Writer. Taika Waititi. Cast. Sam Neill … Hec, Julian Dennison … Ricky, Rima Te Wiata … Bella, Rachel House … Paula, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne … Kahu, Oscar Kightley … Andy, Stan Walker … Ron, Mike Minogue … Joe, Cohen Holloway … Hugh, Rhys Darby … Psycho Sam, Troy Kingi … TK, Taika Waititi … Minister, Hamish Parkinson … Gavin, Stu Giles … Sick Man, Lloyd Scott … Tourist, Selina Woulfe … Organ Player, Mabelle Dennison … Church Lady, Sonia Spyve … Court Lawyer, Timothy Herbert … Court Lawyer, Tuss … Tupac, Finn … Zag, John Campbell … John Campbell, Mihingarangi Forbes … Mihingarangi Forbes, Nadine Chalmers Ross … Nadine Chalmers Ross, Sam Wallace ..  Sam Wallace.

Preceding this review is one for the remarkable Iranian debut film Under the Shadow set in the midst of Tehran at the beginning of the 1980 to 1988 Iraq andIran war.  A brilliant non-archetypal horror film.  See the review as it casts off at QFT on the same dates and perhaps line up the two!


New Zealand on a quiet day

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a type of road (forest/bush) movie but isn’t.  It’s really a human interest story on the estrangement through foster care and youth struggling in a data ‘enriched’ world and the reversal back out of it to basic needs and desires.  Pared down but ‘enriched’ environment and people lessons are in abundance here.  Ricky says ‘You just said Bush!’ with Ricky the lynchpin who is at first potentially a thickset irritating troubled youngster whose attention seeking personality brings conflict by the bucketload. Except he doesn’t, isn’t, is endearing and infuriating as his potential is locked in a place not of his making – governship wise. His mind is alert but a jumble.  He has a ‘Walkman’ – the Director presumably kept this as some sort of tokenism to it having got a mention in the original inspiration, the book, see next segment..  Ricky performs a bit of hip hop which you would find hard to replicate.

Wild Pork and Watercress

The book Hunt For The Wilderpeople, is supposed to be based on, I haven’t read it or sought it out is Taika Waititi’s adaptation of Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress. He’s currently Directing the mega Thor in New Zealand where this book and film are obviously based, with, you will recall perhaps, Tom Hiddlestone and at one point watching on, Taylor Swift. He is no shrinking violet Mr Waititi as he performs an assault on the book which is no mean feat given it is a memorable national treasure for some of the mere 4.4 million residents and diaspora of New Zealand.  Surprising that, a population less than that of Ireland, and around the same as Greater Manchester or Lancashire?


He tears up the story and inserts huge blocks for comedic and to great effect; two characters for instance.  The Social worker whose business it is to be the one who inserts the straight and narrow into wayward kids life’s – the shock chick, bonkers Paula played for satire and laughs, (Rachel House) and her local cop friend and colleague (Oscar Kightley) whose farcical performance has you laughing (hopefully) as the story is then bound to deliver another bountiful twist. He actually has a brilliant part at an important element of the story which is redemptive for many. This is typical as description because it is the nature of this – and the book is followed though entirely off narrative with new bits (as I mentioned it became a bastardised version) in Chaptered segments 1 – 11 with a wind up epiphany which is also a saviour.  Each chapter is about five minutes of usually fairly gripping action, eye poppingly radiant of the natural beauty of New Zealand and even an animated bird appears. Also there is a sequence – some reviewer mentioned a pan – which is not landscape centered though the vastness and extent of the Wilderness (title clue there!) is delivered by several helicopters, strangely silent in some films, intensely loud in others! We have a share of each with the former more prevalent. The pan is of the characters, providing as a film needs, variations on attack to the viewers expectations.


The Performers and presentation.

Chapter driven we have, the normality of introduction which here I describe briefly also wishing not to be any kind of plot spoiler – so character introduction only. Waititi in this low budget movie was able to find the young teen actor Julian Dennison as his lead working on a commercial. In came New Zealand soap star Rima Te Wiata as Aunt Bella. The cast includes in a small but significant part, Flight Of The Concords Rhys Darby as the isolated bushman “Psycho Sam,” with finally in a stroke of good fortune Waititi sent a script to the approving New Zealand-raised Sam Neill to play Hec.

Our child-cookie monster social worker brings along to Bella and Hector to their outback forest/bush edge homestead.  All self sufficient theory – they are nonchalant killers of boar, deer, eels, you na,e it and this s kept true to the book with chapters in which the animals get a part to play – at least in short sharp animatronics style.  No animals were harmed etc.

The farcical and frontier mishaps, several of which in normal life would had been, end of show, build in mostly a hyper dense abundance of that other caharacter trees – the tracking shots through trees must have done the head in of several crew as canyons, well drops of ten feet or so stop them in their tracks.  Location manager gets applause for finding a locality which presumably catered for several variations which appear convincingly different on screen.  Rivers and even a high mountain lake with waterfall.  It is obvious to seasoned travels – I exclude myself – these treasures locations have long since been discovered and feature on many tourist and trip advisor bulletin of seen previously in a Cinema near you In Lord of the Rings.  Cue joke and yes there is one for you to key your ears pealed for!


Characterising foster care children.

This is an advertisement for foster care.  Ricky is a hard sell but he shines with character individual survivors instinct and is also one in need of some decent parenting.  Now Bella and Hec (Hector) simultaneously are to e applauded and castigated for giving from early on a gun.  His own rifle.  He gets a dog also.  A very helpful nurture beast who he is responsible for! Bella and Hec have one of their own and the meld is carried throughout with non-speaking parts, though Taika Waititi’s take is nothing is spared for a laugh.


Lord of Lordy

To be recognised maybe as a boy with a right to create his own life and set his own path so the normal rules go. Well all well and good but parenting involves supporting the boy and providing for his needs. Independence can come later but he is determined to make a break for it early. Looking at the cast list reveals the Director Taika Waititi plays the part of a Minister so we get the director spelling out the moral angle for us. Mabelle Dennison, Ricky’s real life Mum, plays a Church lady so we get the perspective of what a real Mum wants of her son. The Ministerial ‘Address’ is Taika Waititi’s take on religion – his confusion is real. The train of thought is not exactly mind blowing for you to follow. It is a beautiful as a stretched canvas of relationships primarily, cockamamie farcical escape from the boring sometimes hurtful everyday, Ricky is wise enough to realise this semi-wild life is next to his real desires if he could be allowed to pursue its discovery for himself. It is also imposing and beatific almost reverential and God like as paradise. Lost Lords, is that what their after?

Conclusion ####4

This 12a rated film has been given a rapturous acclaimed response by critics, most notably Mark Kermode of more local expansive recall.  It is an obvious bonding catalyst for fahter son and is immersive in emotionally solidity and depth through the superb delivery of the ‘natural’ actor Ricky who bides his time with thoughtful gaze at times, gives us his moves and does prat ful with no self concious holding back.  Alongside Bella whose warmth is instant, Paula whose splendour is full on Rosie Barr comedic, to her partner under the hood with Sam Neill pivotal as the hard soft man of the country who has his own story and the expression of sympathy, empathy, wisdom, sorrow, and most of al human grace are a long way from the blockbuster heroics good as they’ve been and also delivered. It may not fit the gold dust of Lord of the Rings as epic but it’s cast, crew and the overly confident but extremely talented and likeable Taika Waititi (but did he actually say ‘Take it away Selina’! I’ll have to see it again!) falls into few traps. Temerity is not a trait he holds and the Chapter Ten is to some extent over played routine as the form sometimes lapse into but thoroughly entertaining so badges all round if not Oscars.  Though maybe Sam should get one for the very, very real depiction of an empathetic character with limited choices (the character has little of life’s reward’s) to show.  They come across as a bounty.


John Graham

29 September 2016


On at QFT Belfast from Friday 29 October until 6 October 2016.


Also at selected Cinemas and on various formats and outlets.

Under the Shadow : A Film Review

Under the Shadow. Directed and written by  Babak Anvari. Cast. Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Arash Marandi, Aram Ghasemy, Soussan Farrokhnia, Behi Djanati Atai, Ray Haratian, Hamidreza Djavdan, Bijan Daneshmand. (Farsi dialogue) 1hr 24mins.

Stunning boundary pushing Cinema.

You may be like me and only look at the biography of a films genre only to indicate the sort of film you are likely to see and have an attitude which lowers its significance simply because you are after a good or bad review opinion. One you can discount and play with according to the ‘limitations’ the industry tends to categorise any film into. So this is one which I found delivering as a first sign of something special a bit of a Headstretch being – and it was seen at Sundance very much in the Horror category – put into the niche for which filmgoers are (not) seen as being in need of assistance. It might be a reason of categorisation for an award situation – at best.

The Headstretch is because this film is choreographed in a very satisfactory way and is nothing of a horror film from the outset and due to this confronts you somewhere near half-way with a sure stimulus of horror and peril in the traditional sense of fear psychodramatic cinema. Of that much later but first the beginning and first half is very important and necessary as a discourse on a nations fate in modern times. Attitudes to War, sense of political, cultural, sexual, professional, and not least religious oppression. Babak Anvari’s film as a mainstream first language Farsi debut is in the tradition of Iranian cinema up there on a world class level of superb film making and is in addition a ‘Horror’ movie shifting real perception of cinema and story telling.


The film begins over the titles with a caption of the timescale which is the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Iran Cultural Revolution. The Iranian Iraq war of 1980 to 1988 is the context which this setting within Tehran is a location driven synopsis. Scenes of stock news footage of bombing raids, film makers own stock of people fleeing carnage and bombardment at the street level and wasted buildings, injured and the dead in transit to hospital or static compress the entry to the score of context. From that we immediately are introduced to a Tehran University campus and Shideh (Narges Rashdi) in a brilliant feminine role, exploring her life as a woman in this war torn state of multiple oppressions entering the University to see if she can pass an interview for teen try which she is relying on to equip her to become a Doctor – a bitter confrontation later at home domestically with her husband, Iraj (Bobby Naderi) who himself is a practicing Hospital Doctor raises its ugly head as a depiction of male cultural and nonessential analysis of her station and status – they have a daughter, an only child of around eight who nearly in the later stages of the film nearly takes off as the star performer – Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), a startling performance in the end from a child dealing with the range of emotions horror drafts in, magnificently.

Educational restrictions.

The University encounter does not go well and in true place setting style a little (far from it) aside, within the interview room overlooking Tehran on any given groundhog day is deployed skilfully alongside the narrative of the interview. On return to her neighbourhood and past a checkpoint we are signalled into a set of unremitting and in true meaning of horrific circumstances to her relatively modest small rented apartment block within its own carefully culturally coiffured compound, with a screen tiled wall with a soft garden aspect and sturdy architecturally robust pedestrian gates with at the rear an automatic sliding metal gate separating them off from the outside immediate community. The landlord Mr Ebrahimi and self appointed caretaker Mr Bakar has proprietorial needs over locking these ‘aid metaphor’ gates as the tenants themselves form a block to the outside world of very defining content. They are from time to time all under lockdown. Lights go out Electricity of and a siren signals they need get to the ‘basement’ bottom floor garages for protection from bombing raids.


Home with Iraj

That sets up the environmental conditions so next the family circumstances. Her husband is as they both are in his thirties and their child is very lovingly cared for and integrations for all are limited. He is a decent Iranian with locked in syndrome let’s call it of a normal Iranian male – in the limited context of character development. Maybe an Iranian male will be so bold as to construct a movie from the male perspective of the scenarios found and not an extreme macho homoerotic even machismo male trying to unlock his inner God status! Back to that in hand so to speak, which has them separate for a time and leaving Shideh and Dorsa in their flat alone.  There are tell tale parts particularly a ‘mute’ young boy who’s staying in the house as a refugee nephew and co-habits the space between the domestic and paranormal as he interacts alone with Dorsa and has a disconcerting attitude Towards those around him as he reflects on his short violent past experiences.

The action ramps up from this point onward as the might and fright of a city under continuing seige as well as the urging so from Iraj for them to leave to his parents safer home out of the city is declined by this confronted woman.

I see the textile blanket/shrouds as a metaphor illusory of complex comfort zones which convey the sub-text of religiosity, dependency, in such claustrophobic worlds.  They are an illustration of the immensity of thought control and world view – the Metanoia, METANOIA, of containment and transformation via. a mechanism not on earth, nevertheless in a place which is contingent with belief in a creator. It may even explain for Westen audiences such concepts applied in general illustrative intuitive places such as I believe this film conveys.


Contrary views

Some reviewers of the bat have thought of this – and they are partially correct – as being ‘subversively incisive’ on Feminism. Only partially for reason in my mind of the horror element – and clever use of Iranian cultural referencing of a thing called Djinn, apparently referee ended in the Quran, shows the spiritual overarching of Religious and National identity so strongly and intensely developed and present here in this film as to make me construct a theory of the religion and it’s not alone as a religion in this – Rostecrutian, Judaism, Hindism, come equally to mind alongside less evenly Western forms of Religion, Scandinavian Trolls etc,. come to mind including elf dwelling! – which includes in its Dogma and Creedal construct the recognition of other species of spirits wholly present in this world and Universe and actually alongside and acting in relation to everything we do.

For the current world to be vastly and ‘universally’ troubled by mind states which include very dogmatic and fundamental expression of probity and conformity which is elevated to the place of destruction of opposing human forces and symbols in violent forms – Female oppression, Cinema, Books, Entertainment, Freedom of movement, Nationality, is a major part of the everyday – apart from our bread and circuses escapist counter-cultures (to religious intransigence and formative fixed religious persuasions) heaped upon us daily and sought as by products of identity construction


What is the paranormal – come back in the after life and advise or settle for hokum pokum definitions aside from deeper cinema derived meanings – this apart. Could it be for instance as this film conveys in part to me, a place for the human to reside and ‘aleviate’fears through hallucinatory mind imaginings which are extremely horrific and displacing in spontaneous mental reaction to an imperfect storm of a collection of events linked by the hemisphere of the brain assigned to formulating reality as seen through our CHEMICAL concepts which we form our senses in and which overlaps occur as basic normal FORMULA which only become startlingly disconcerting and UNREAL once they are deployed and become new visions, quite literally, all because the intensity of the circumstantial which here is so evident – from adjustment to loss – this happens on several levels, Shideh’s Mum some six months earlier, the death of a tenant, the loss of Dorsa’s doll, Kima, exulted exercise to Jane Fonda videos. Such is her need for self and demonstrates the energy to do what her ambitions hold.

Cultural controls

Iran and the family is so important a communal statement but it faces the rigidity of interracial, imposed religious practice, guilt ridden political supremacist formulaic governance, oppression of women in everyday life as norms that this film just build a very high tower of escalating horrific paranormal existence. It actually is seen in the mid to late part of the film as a disintegrating universe with all kinds of VFX assisted shuddering, sometimes close up shock inspiring camera effected shaking reality. I detected for instance when a bomb landed in close proximity the screen shook or was seen to frame shift as part of the film cinematography. Intensity builds and builds as events unfold and portray the paranormal events none of whic are to be revealed here. In sometimes Japanese stylised segments the real is uncompromisingly unreal and it would have been an even better cinema experience had I chosen a seat closer to the screen to remove the outside of the frame as much as possible. Sit as close as you discomfort zone allows!

Parallel worlds of Religious Reality and Thoelogy.

For someone who makes it their business in writing and reviewing, even everyday experience, I examine the way the spiritual aspect of all are placed in modern times with the very many interloping and religious bias politically present/absent with very strange results being thrown up by the many forms of media oriented devices we encounter, principally workings on everyday world we live in. Now this is found to have another niche and piece of art – Under the Shadow – is such a brilliant film of an Iranian background and outlet for a dialogue by new director . It’s inventions and strangeness present a highly provocative display of an intellect looking at – principally the Iranian, Tehran, exposure to War in 1980 to 1988. Feminism’s one cited objective of exploration. War intrinsically another but infinitely more tangible is the presence of fear in all dimensions of humanity. The poltergeist of child Dorsa is pivotal in this visceral miraculous oddity.

Conclusion ####4

Harrowing and a view of a world of the war between Iraq and Iran which became a brutal forerunner for more and Oder conflicts pursued with atrocicious effect by the Blair/Bush finish this warfare by warfare as never seen before on a completely manufactured basis.  The world continues to pay the price and directly affected nations have a mountain to climb to remove the human damage created.  This is a superb but brief home situated drama horror which as the account above explains enters territory of the questions of conflict culture and sense of self and identity it is very very impressive.

The achievement is notable as a multifaceted movie which only strangely and savagely effectively brings to the point of breakdown the situation constructed in the realm of the home and person.  It is worthy of many viewings as its pace accelearaetes in the second half as a spiral of visually affective frame shifting tableaux of what is going on and in fullsome strength of the ‘genre’ it places entry to the Cineworld under a dangerously formulaic genre. Can’t recommend highly enough.

John Graham

28 September 2016

On at selected Cinemas and available as a download on Netflix but see in an environment like Queens Film Theatre in a close up audio visually intense experience.  See you you get on with this roller coaster of personal paranormality.

On at QFT Belfast from Friday 30 September 2016 (this Friday) until And including Thursday 6 October 2016.

Containment : A Film Review


Just this past week the Hinckley Point, Somerset, Nuclear reactor was given the go-ahead on behalf of the United Kingdom population, by Theresa May, Prime Minister, following a false standoff with Chinese and French providers since her elevation internally by a group of her party seeing her fit to govern us, a new found ability to take decisions. This is a decision which should never have been made to be taken. With the daily occurrence advances in battery technology and solar power retention and storage from that huge object we know as the Sun, it is within a very short time very likely we will individually at our homes or collective of homes have our own power stations. Nano transformation of energy which allied to similar advances in motive power shall also have an effect of reducing carbon output. Berlin is now a zero carbon city for example so where are the British in this revolution?


Containment A Film made in 2015 by Directors, Peter Galston and Robb Moss. It is film documentary on Nuclear waste production and storage. The USA/Japan co-production brings forward the extent of Nuclear waste currently abroad in what is basically a state of deadly toxic limbo.

Getting to screen it.

Interested in bringing Containment to your community, conference, festival or campus? Share your details here at containmentmovie.com or email us (them!) at containment@filmsprout.org, and we’ll (they’ll!) be in touch right away!

The first frames show Fukishima and a woman walking alone seen by the cameraman/woman surveying the limbo state this empty city has become. It alone needs a containment scenario this film addresses elsewhere in the Art graphic animation discourse for a place in the USA. New Mexico. When did the first scenario arise?

It begins by pointing to the Cold war period after the second word war, when nuclear warheads were accumulated and agreements placed to disarm these weapons of destruction by putting them into vast radioactive ‘landfill’ sites comprising mainly a site in New Mexico whose irrational acceptance as a location for a nuclear waste dump defies logic. The terrain was chosen primarily because of its geological fingerprint. It was a location with a vast unique strata of salt which millennia had proven stable and a medium in which a frozen ‘time’ capsule could be maintained. It had the hallmarks of having the capacity of being an enevelope for storing the radioactive sludge. However the bunds and lagoons created on top of it were and still are reservoirs of storage for a hundred million gallons of toxic waste. This means of storage is but one part of the cycle which includes other non-associated methods which involve inward shipping of nuclear waste in vessels – carefully checked when transport protection is removed for leaks. Each vessel is thoroughly x-rayed for casing integrity. Watching the magic gieger-counter being waved by an operative circling each container begged the question had they replaced the batteries in it. From this part of the process it then went sub-strata via. a long passage of tunnels by vehicle to hopefully it’s final resting place and presumably back filled at some juncture. Other processes included pouring liquid nuclear waste via. robotic arms manually operated into glass containers. Giant Kindle jars of high tech composition presumably.

The only problem is they remain mostly in their last location since a shut-down after a freak accident when a material failure allowed leakage to occur from a container – it’s past x-Ray and scrutiny failing to identify ahead of time any possible flaws or defects – which in turn jeopardized operatives and future containment activities. The decision was to put the entire site under lockdown and begin a clean up operation estimated at the time to be in the region of $300 million dollars or was that billions? In any event nowhere on earth is capable of storing the material waste China America Middle Eastern and European countermoves have plans to accumulate never mind that already stockpiled and in state of transition limbo.

Deep concerns

The film is concerned with not only the accumulation as well as a key part the Fukushima meltdown catastrophe which we are shown in its raw elemental state as a no-go locality but with the figurative signaling beyond our times into periods frankly inconceivable, ten thousand years hence and multiplications thereof. The means of alerting ‘others’ unaware of the backstory our history are explored in real time exercise a of futurist projections. Cockamamie American pawn brokering is one way of describing it. Put it in as a trade and see if any idiot will buy it.

The film becomes cartoon depictions crudely fascinatingly naive ventures of our humanity expressed as a vent diagram and delineation of rogue versus alien versus well the ordinary Joe or Jane whose curiosity got the better of them. Pictorial semaphore signals as used by pirates might have easily substituted or maritime signals heralded by symmetry as unnatural presence of danger put in place by those previously occupying earth. Ie. Humans.

Other reviews.

How do you plan 10,000 years in advance? Containment asks whether we are adequately caring for future generations with current storage methods for radioactive waste. A visit to the nuclear ghost towns of Fukushima shows what will happen if we fail.

—Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian

Peter Galison and Robb Moss remind us of the lingering threat of radioactive waste. What to do with it? How can we warn people centuries in the future about the danger of waste disposal sites? With inventive animation and incisive reporting, Moss and Galison aren’t going to make it any easier to sleep at night.

—Peter Keough, The Boston Globe

The film…attempts to articulate the beautiful and complicated problem of how to render the future a part of the present. It offers glimpses of a future beyond our societal imagination…and goes beyond ordinary documentary filmmaking to bring forward this future image into the minds and sensibilities of its viewers. It is in attempting this communication with the audience beyond the here and now that the film has its greatest success.

—Zoe Jones, Spook Magazine

I admire Containment for its zealous questioning of a situation that is ignored, misunderstood, and obviously—thanks in part to this film—urgent. I’ve been thinking about 10,000 years from now ever since.

—Erin Trahan, WBUR’s The ARTery and The Independent Magazine

The way we tell stories about who we are, what we did and how we considered the consequences of our actions is moving and profound in Containment, told with investigative care, sadness, fury and poetry.

—Andrew Lattimer, heyuguys.com

Three titles making their world premieres at Full Frame garnered plenty of buzz…Containment, Peter Galison and Robb Moss’ latest documentary, also taps into another controversy magnet—nuclear power. The directing duo aren’t strangers to hot-button topics. Their 2008 Sundance hit Secrecy chronicled the massive efforts by the U.S. government to classify data from the general population. Containment, about the scientific, moral and philosophical problems that surround the disposition of nuclear waste, is sure to spark a national debate.

—Addie Morfoot, Variety

Alarmingly frank but refreshingly optimistic, Containment tells a great many inconvenient truths but its coda assures us that all is not lost. The future will come, but we will endure.

—Phil W. Bayles, oneroomwithaview.com

Where did I see it? – this list shows its progress.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace, Pittsburgh, PA — August 5, 2016

Pilgrim Legislative Advisory Coalition, Jones River Landing, Kingston, MA — August 20, 2016

CBK Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands — September 3–November 27, 2016

Virginia Tech Research Center, Arlington, VA — September 8, 2016

Case Western Reserve University, Physics Department Colloquium, Cleveland, OH — September 15, 2016

Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast, UK — September 17, 2016

Department of History, Brown University, Providence, RI — September 21, 2016

Willard Straight Theatre, Cornell Cinema, Ithaca, NY — September 27, 2016

Conclusion ###3

A loose three is attributed to this as the central theme of Containment is heavily here approached using an Art based form of narrative.  This in itself is a very lame element.  It practically philosophies about different advanced and abstract notions.  It focuses while doing this on the processes involved in capture storage and transportation to a location with interviews, protocols of public meetings and the personalities in ‘local’ politics making huge global impacting decisions.  Maybe the highest rank of Government was County Official.  No Presidential, No Congressman, No State Govenor is addressed.  Why not?  Didn’t want to speak? Unsuprisingly? So instead why not make cartoon versions of supposed dialogue and their answers to the Containment question so artistically examined?  Except the artistic endeavors are in my mind not even at the level of a third year student of Architecture whose grasp would no doubt evaluate the obvious pros-cons of symbolic gestural, linguistic, extra-terrestrial scenarios and much more as established throughout mainstream sci-fi non-fictional examinations and the plethora of commentary overloading the Internet from one campus to the Daily News in Singapore or Daily Comet in New York.

Point Blank Failings

I am afraid it lets the fundamental differences of responsibility being attributed to the decisions made in Nations which ignore this Containment issue.  The commentary is not validated while a ‘Nuclear’ Authority speaking as a Police(woman) whose role oversaw protocols and practices came nowhere close to the target.  A question of where possible ‘dangers’ – the plain direction of the conversation marked out terrorism as a principle if not top concern, – got lamely tossed back as ‘Couldn’t possibly answer/speculate!’ kind of moderation the film should not even allow as any direction of investigative informative journalism.
Take a look at the website for additional and valuable source material as the film is only part of a projected discourse and is a beginning – as far as ‘multiple locations’ arise by example through the stark reality of Fukishima.  Mr Nissan is interesting and in a semi-comatose state as his life is Groundhog Day – this is an insight in itself but only, only a miniscule part of what is required to be examined and dealt with by Governments and activists post UN interventions which are of a Human Disater reactive kind not fundamentally addressing ongoing Nuclear exploitation for Billions of dollars/yen/euros of Business.  It’s about the money stupid.
John Graham

21 September 2016


Captain Fantastic : A Film Review

Directed by Matt Ross.  USA. English. Duration 118mins. Cert. 15.

Produced by Monica Levinson, Jamie Patricof, Shivani Rawat, Lynette Howell Taylor. Written by Matt Ross.

Cast. Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash, George MacKay as Bodevan, (18 and eldest child) Samantha Isler as Kielyr, Annalise Basso as Vespyr, Nicholas Hamilton as Rellian, Shree Crooks as Zaja, Charlie Shotwell as Nai, Kathryn Hahn as Harper (Aunt), Trin Miller as Leslie (Mom), Steve Zahn as Dave (Uncle) Elijah Stevenson as Justin, Teddy Van Ee as Jackson, Erin Moriarty as Claire, Missi Pyle as Ellen, Frank Langella as Jack (Leslie’s father) Ann Dowd as Abigail (Leslie’s mother.)

Music by Alex Somers, Cinematography Stéphane Fontaine, Edited by Joseph Krings.

Unconventional hero figure
Viggo Mortensen gets first mention as the lead here simply because he dominates in presence and acting terms this canon of an an idealised future being trammeled by ‘our’ present concepts for living.  He has as his ammunition a brood of six young adults he is intent into shaping into extraordinary adults regardless of what is set in front of him.  I last remember Mortensen from the Patricia Highsmith adapted movie The Two Faces of January which took the familiar rogue elements of her stories and created a decent drama thriller.  It also needs mentioning as a veteran his first break was in the Amish thriller Witness, the unique folk-tome film with Harrison Ford, Kelly Maginnis. There is also (The History of Violence, Eastern Promise, Lord of the Rings – [Aragorn] – and The Road).

What a place to live.

Circumstances dictate Ben Cash played by Viggo Mortensen and the 6 kids, who are aged from six to eighteen, are away from Mom who shares the unconventional home-learning, wilderness approach to child rearing. It sets out with an overview of the massive, clear oxygen filling forest followed us dropping into the pin straight vertical pines and finding our protagonists, Swiss family Robinson on steroids, in a hunting mode all silent and unseen unlike their prey. Once mission achieved they perform the tasks of – a tad clichéd to begin – of utilising their prize and then they clean off in a river returning to the look of normal kids.  There are then campfire bonding, books come out, reading and story setting scenes giving us the ideas of hard learning, maintaining discipline and a wandering dialogue, discourse involving their interests of literature, music, science, spirit all openly discussed. Individual charactaturesxof the children are opened up – one of the middle children is a natural history fiend salvaging all kinds of cast off animal skulls and in a personalized tepee has his own museum developing.  They live in what are basically sheds with tepees on top in true rustic environmentally recycling style.  No bears come and visit them so they might have a off putting aroma unless the bears are in on the philosophy.  Viggo Mortensen has said he regards this role as one of the most complex emotionally he has encountered – a clear justifiable assessment – and the story just begins here around this campfire while we are given the circumstances they find themselves in presently which entail them planning to go on a road trip. After the process of democracy has chosen what to do they set out in Bens’s school bus come camper to the freeways to take them cross country to Washington, it would seem. On route they rub up against forms of authority, informative training excercise said not the fallback of most youngsters are implemented, and several comedic episodes enter.

A weapon chosen is Jesus – with the irony present – not a spoiler as we learn fairly soon of their rejection of organsised spiritual adherence – which they employ under strict parental control as a unit to deflect and dismiss interfering eyes.  It is the tactic in use with most American Evangalism hiding behind a contradictory juxtaposed strait jacket form of religion.  Take West Chigago presently where after a decade of gun crime receding but a remaining threat, the problems of social and racial division have once again spiked.  It is a recurring theme.  Even in East London on the day I seen this film a band of Black protesters came up with the idea of passive protest by crossing the Thames and chaining themselves together on Londons second airport runway at City Airport against the proposal to further intensify environmental degradation in the boroughs around the Airport with additional runways.  The premise being it was these areas that suffer most from the transport hubs enlargement as opposed to rural peripheral locations which could be developed except they are in ‘protected’ constiuencies.

So this is another change of direction given it is a family orientated, though 15 rated – possibly due to strong language, the realism of the hunting, his sans clothes in a brief encounter, and the campfire boldness of topics for his six to eighteen year old brood to confront.  Sexual politics and the other politics occupy this Pacific North-West raw isolated left-wing gang of survivors. From a base initially of Boulder, Colorado, they have moved on – (a place Maggie Thatcher – remember her, adored) and which I attribute to those slightly less ambitious migrants who declined to travel into the place known as California and sat it out near the mountains and freshest nature.  Now the hash state of America.  It never features; the family have long since moved on with Mom ditching a Law career to experiment or invest in burgeoning beliefs with Ben up on this coast and massive forest corner of the Americas.  North East was afflicted with tribalism and Pirates as a staple somewhere and George Washington convinced himself the mix was too ‘refined’ there – North East so began a Social contract of sorts with federalism, did it work out – Bush, Regean, Clinton, Obahma, and where is Donald Trump in this?  Ben on his missions I have just realised gets to play his Scottish bagpipes – a trick not yet mastered by the maternally Scottish Donald. Donald MacDonald?

Mortensens choice

The script deeply warmed to him and he has described it as one of the best he has read.  Civilisation is not his perception nor the writer Matt Ross’s but is that word people ascribe to our vulture, dog eat dog also trammeled world, especially present in America were people in some quarters find little time for their real life’s and down time while spinning someone else’s wheels.  Radical in concept it is immediately in the first few frames showing us the human is still master and the animal kingdom has its place.  Usually in front of a weapon, usually a knife (it avoids the controversy of the right to bear arms question by ignoring guns or possibly making the point through their absent of other means to kill – still only for the animal kingdom.)  Or on a campfire roasting spit envincing wild terrain living. Very Unscandinavian or is it?  As a New Yorker despite his ‘mis-placed’ Scandinavian image and name, he at fifty seven, has been able to make choices in a place were movies can accompany his creative other interests, art, poems, music.  He owns Perceval Press Publishing.  Celina Murphy of the Irish Daily Star Chic weekend magazine got to meet him in Dublins Westbury Hotel and not only did she turn out a great article she saw much depth and elements singular to Vitto as he ‘fits the story’ instead of the usual ‘not because I do something that’s on its own remarkable’ a nuance which includes the possibility of all elements coming together to create a wonder oust blend as they do here.  It is ‘family’ grow your own kids, keep fit, work with your environment. This is also accessible Comedy/Drama and finding it alongside Little Miss Sunshine in its vibe it brings the importance of the realm of ‘education’ to the fore.

Is the dreamer right?

Not only does the question lie with Captain Fantastic, it traverses the parameters, limits, preordained alliances within that most difficult of all jobs, raising children. This film is very taut and focused on this subject on account of the Director/Actor Matt Ross constructing – and all the ‘kidults’ are superb – alongside the stellar in performance if not widely accepted elsewhere – from Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, and British actor George McKay.  In other words they haven’t the profile deserved time after time.  Utterly a confrontational set of circumstances exist by way of the absence of mechanisms others; most of the western and increasingly eastern world, rely on to avoid them. It is thoroughly challenging and suggesting the education of children (which it is) being fundamental to they way the earth and people sustain existence as far into the future as realisable.  Curriculum, Curriculums are the nastiest things adults inflict on children and despite the advanced Scandinavian models, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark; Viggo Mortensen, though not in the role play as this is distinctly feral, and others may suggest as being excellent even excelling – the future itself needs more than simply this ‘social contract’ to manage things towards the future the earth spells out in reaction daily.

Pursuit of joy.

Happiness has a cause and a reaction. It is inevitably a political question. See the late, often LSE quoted, political theorist Ghiri Ionescu – my go to modern philosopher on The Pursuit of Happiness. I don’t quite know the implications by any stretch, but it is within the frame of the film and most people’s minds always.  Harmony is digression if learning is conflicting thoughts, projections.  This arc disapates hang ups on the familiar filmic route but nevertheless has itself tied to actions and consequences resulting in, as we share the journey which is a mission here, an ending or payoff which is full of contradictory expectations.  Skillfully crafted it indeed calls on the viewers own collective experiences growing up – after 15 (Cert.) your grown up yes? – as you may empathise with either one of the 6 exuberant, thoughtful, dynamic intellects of these ‘kidults’ who wipe the floor with their age group in practical, physical and mindfulness unwanted time.  So which one were you – slightly?  Which would you have liked to be or even befriend to help?  Comedy introduces plot comparisons with encounters of kids of their age, even a rite of passage nearly if flawed as its rushed preposterously in character but rushed. There is also an introduction to Metropolis (Washington) life.  The way other people live and they make acerbic comment, on overweight over indulgent – Ben describes them as involved in ‘frenzied shopping’.

On an Awayday; on the central mission, I would only spoil the plot by revealing to you, they have a kind of ‘Labor Day holiday’ dedicated to the writers Matt Ross’s hero who will be nameless although Esperanto was an interest of theirs along with related things.  Indeed words are essentiall y a device cleverly utilised in the story.  So interesting is given the low rating of being a non-word.  The hero likewise was and is of a similar stance.  Platos republic is a bit too far distant – along with Marxism and Moaist theory to be of permanent import, important reference points but ‘bad cheese’ new cultures arise, evolve – my view – as Ben is forever trying to penetrate the cerebral cortex of these juveniles ŵith his and absent Moms philosophy rather introspectively and self developmentally.  Both Ben and Lesley have the same ideals.  If only someone told them the Bill of Rights came from a malcontented genius called Thomas Paine, from Lewes, Sussex, whose own conflicts were crippling as these might sometimes seem availing towards.

Conclusion #### 4 1/2

This is an immensely challenging emotionally sharp film about that most difficult job in the world – many parents would say the most difficult they’ve tackled – the raising of their children. Unparalleled and individual as each child is they are at the mercy of their family beliefs and parental guidance however gathered. Cultural, imposed, with or without proper context or grounding.   This then is a complex conflict undertaken by the parents of the 6 siblings evenly gender divided, evenly age divided, and under the shared values system a capable set of ‘kidults’ as their consciousness is opened to the true nature of reality insofar as they are exposed to it by their guardians.  Viggo Mortensen for reasons that evolve from the introduction to the story takes the primary share of the tutelage but shared with their mother Trin Miller as Leslie Cash.  The entourage whose names are listed at the top could easily have individual essays eerie ten about given the fine form of the writing while the eldest, George MacKay as Bodevan has a blistering performance to match the intensity of Viggo Mortensens charismatic, fully charged characterisation of the ‘best father’ construct.  Also entitled to another these net is the other father, Frank Langella as Jack (Leslie’s father) Ann Dowd as Abigail (Leslie’s mother.) Their existence within a New Mexico gated community sets up the other extreme of experience for the children and their input is intensely convincing also in the rounding of the narrative.  This is a very rewarding watch and gives plenty of room to evaluate the times and fragilities of education, upbringing and faces challenges which arose in many people’s lives regardless of plans.  As John Lennon put it ‘Life is what happens when your making plans.’
John Graham

7 September 2016


On at QFT BELFAST from 9 September to 22 September 2016 and selected cinemas elsewhere.

Well worth a viewing.