Belfast Film Festival Shorts 2018 : Film Review

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Belfast Film Festival Short Film Review

Belfast Film Festival Short Film programme at Queens Film Theatre for 2018 proved packed with gems and new thoroughly well packaged cinema which met a full audience over the day’s viewing.  Formulaic work was absent and refreshing alteration on story telling made for a complex mix of seeing as believing.  Initially the programme came with strong family stories.  The type where misunderstanding prevails and a reveal is the twist in the tail.  Each found a way to deny you the obvious answer but produce a strong alternative for you to wrestle with.  On the delivery of further films the depth and scope altered significantly covering some animation, some narrative tales, some films based on true stories and several versions of horror and surreal boundaries of belief.  A venture into science fiction and two short stories materialised as ectoplasmic excursions which rattled the nerves over a range of ages.  For local interest there was plenty.  The tropes of political history were examined with varied results.

In the order they appeared I have written a short opinion on how they appealed to me and offer some criticisms purely in the sense no one will really get to write on much of these and I chance a few thoughts in helping to progress talking or reviewing the hopes as they reach us.  How to? is not my approach but as with most reviews I take it from a personal viewpoint in how it struck my senses and where it accorded with my thinking or changed it.  The pleasure was to see the advancement and this raft of films shows there to be plenty of talent in every aspect of film making with in this case most of the British Isles covered.  An excursion to the Czech Republic also produced one of the most distinctive professional pieces in assured wonder.

In the sequence shown

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11th     B/W

Director : Naomi Waring

Arrivals at George Best City Airport and an ex paramilitary, Fisher,  turns up and goes on the homeward taxi drive to his mothers house. Stella McCusker is alone in a loyalist estate watching over a vacuum with concerns careworn in her eyes. In black and white this film gives a profile to the estates and hinterland loyalism is in. It’s bonfire season and with sharp edits and close ups anguish and hard looks coil around the close knit community.

A young boy on a bike exchanged barbs and inquiring probes and he pushes the story on to position the incomer as on a limited pass to his own post terrorism territory. The young actor and older man form the core of the encounter with this eve of twelfth of July run in. It makes you think his prospects are much better than the protagonist who returns to the place after the ‘troubles’ though that is tentative.

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The voices in the local working drinking club pitches a strong rendition karaoke style of ‘Penny arcade’ with floor singers welcome to the up and coming club contest. Shades of ‘Benidorm’ timewarp entertainment witnessed. References to the past Troubles are through pictures on the wall and insignia. The talk is of the day to day and in order to speak to his daughter who is at the club, a meeting of sorts is contrived. The past is inferred as family breakdown and the conciliation is sought by the incomer to redress his past. With the pace and lively approach including the stirring of tribal ritual as a backdrop and the pleasant homely feel of the exchanges and people in the community it is a well conceived though under developed piece of drama. The resolution is flat and it sits without a full exposure of the tensions which do exist and none of the everyday working life of the estate is seen to any degree. The playing and story itself is where any value is traced and the trademark acting is first class.

4* A serious attempt at conceptualising current dynamics and the pitfalls and reconciliation at a family level in our broken local world.

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Sparrow

Siblings Cara and Nathan are on different paths and Cara’s return from University is the theme of the welcoming return. For Nathan he is a live at home attendant on an alcoholic mother.  He is lamenting the hullabaloo over the simple terms of the homecoming and while loving the fact his young sister has achieved something he compares it with his one stalled hopes and career as a music teacher by being to the boil his anguish as this reunion prompts all the wrong emotions. The whirlpool of the welcoming party is seen through the eyes of a Nathan principally and his actions. He sulks alone and then the central comparisons take shape with acerbic doubt fired general differences which are mostly based on their different perspectives. The tally of right and wrong is grey territory with each having good reasons to be at the point they find themselves.

Like a lot of the films of this season it concerns itself with reconciliation of relationships spoilt by the past with a pressing question of who is right and is anyone to be faulted. For a short film it is ambitious to come up with any real solid answers and it does leave much undisclosed and unexamined. While it puts forward a very good trajectory of story easy to make some connections to it relies on the excellent cast to bring out its overhanging sadness. The script is initially laboured but the sciences between the two principles are very heartfelt and extremely convincing. In every home a dilemma if not a heartache. The difficult part of the drinking mother is played with unabashed fluidity and convincingly by the mother who is somewhat exploited in her stereotypical role with no really shocking or unexpected lines.

4* Fractured beginnings and endings with no winners. Has very good moments and universal themes.

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Lost memories

Director : Eamonn Murphy.  Cast : Emmet Kelly, Aoife King, John Kavanagh, Nicole Poletti

Here is a road trip with a difference. It is of a place where many have found themselves in with a seriously ill close relative advancing to confront your emotions and family relationships with love bearing down as the core central part of life visited darkly and in the very present reality of someone’s passing. Seán is an artist seen initially dropping of a canvas to a central Dublin Gallery and with flashback and scenes of celebratory exhibition modes traced there is an exchange of timescales where Seán is seen making the choice to deliver the piece to the Gallery as opposed to staying behind and being with his mother who is dying slowly. His own selfishness or neglect is called into question by himself and the trio of phone calls which come into his journey on the new highways of Ireland’s opening up of its meaning and separateness is all too familiar and an easy route or so it seems, to take. The journey is the central part.  The conflicts each phone call takes feeds the emotions. First there is his Dad calling, then his Sister, then his girlfriend.  Each pulls out a different framing of his love and indeed his notion of himself and where he is at in this new contextualised place.  Cleverly the struggle of being his own self is examined and is carried very well by the actor who we see responding to tiny and implicit alterations and nuances as he drives.  The burden is manifest in the darkness of nighttime driving and of the tracing out of the road in this Ireland of shallow and solid opportunity. “I’ve been very mean to you, I wish I was better to you.” Comes out of very many circumstances and lives. The mixed vibe is very good and industrially complex in not allowing a standard reaction to be held. I found the road scenes very immersive whereas the other open, ‘standard’ shots were not on the same level and dulled the effect.

4* Very good dynamic and lifting the spirit while demolishing it in an emotional excursion full of tension and original knife edge touch on familaier reality.

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Listen

In the workings of a family of three there is an unspoken tension and it is not discernible to the audience of the mother who in her domestic day to day converses with a young daughter on the stories she comes across in school. The couple are late twenties and the girl around seven, eight.

The Gaelic Children of Lir and fantasy is an enjoyable framework for the educational needs as are other myths and stories of the ancient world. The appearance of the father is somewhat as a hectic perhaps civil servant with his bran flakes and tea/ coffee a hurried morning routine. The women of the household have a natural bond over the wordplay and story telling which is a feature of the day ahead. Of learning and the things and moral tales those educational paths bring. However the edgy troubled state of the husband is without explanation or even a cause the audience see and the woman does not. In a few short minutes. The film is only ten minutes long the suspense and it is nothing solid or an unnecessary flight of extreme probability but a thoughtful relevant and progressive denouement.

4* The Woman need not worry as the outcome or resolution of unexplained, behaviours, unkown series of occurrences is set to put her mind at rest as indeed it will yours – depending on your silo! or lack.

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Peel

Director: Annika Cassidy, Writer: Annika Cassidy. Cast: Lauryn Canny, Ally Ni Chiarain, Seana O’Hanlon.

On a rainy day without rain umbrellas for effect are raised as two young teenage girls walk home from school. Implied (according to one younger viewers I spoke with) is a gay relationship perhaps going to emerge as the storyline.  What happens in the first minute or two is the pair splitting up and after affectionate exchange of words one disappears to an apparent home of warmth and welcome where the other goes home to the detached and isolation of a leafy Dublin suburb to be greeted by a dilemma and house with a lack of paternal love or security. This is a film which gives a sharp shocking heartfelt thump to the emotions given the actors play out the scenario in a effective way. With its range however I thought the science choices and handling could have been much tighter and less frippery or less overdark fixed framing would have made it a very solid piece.  The last scene in fact is with the young girl at a sink peeling the spuds for dinner. That is a reckoning for the title. It is a Vermeer type shot and if the whole of the film was of this closing quality with its observance and unspoken undercurrent it would have blown you away.

3* I thought the story was worth the telling but was distracted by the – in my mind anyway other views are less troubled perhaps – motion and scenes juxtapositions but possibly I was missing something in what was after all a very straight forward story of two separate experiences for the two girls though the First was not and may not have been as good as implied either as it was not dealt with in ‘mirroring’ the differences.

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Guard

Director : Jonathan Harden, Writer :  Bronagh Taggart,

Getting Katie to drop her guard outside the ring will be Kieran’s toughest battle yet the story goes. Funding notes – The film boasts an award-winning team, including BAFTA winner Michael Lennox, who was nominated for an Oscar for his short film Boogaloo and Graham in 2015. Lennox will produce, while multiple Emmy-award winner Robert Sterne credited with finding lead actors for hits such as Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall will cast the short. Former The Voice contestant Leah McFall will provide music.

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The Belfast of sporting opportunity is cleverly and brilliantly projected in this story of a girl boxer training on the lone path to find her spine and core self in the way sport challenges do and asks questions of the mind and body.  The girl Katie comes across the Westlink in Belfast on the footbridge running after coming from the derelict GAA stadium she has been pounding up and down the terraces of.  Good hand held shots and a continuation of her situation is opened.  Her father is at home and his return is ‘on probation’. He keeps at arms length or further away as he disassembles his narrative with his daughter. Bronagh’s Husband director Jonathan Harden is assured and with the stories unusual broad reaching quality.  Bronagh Taggart never drops her guard in the playing of this character.  Bronagh Taggart who has appeared in The Fall and has also a part in the film on Conor Magregor coming up, is this story’s writer and she conveys a cogent, very strong statement of a girl approaching her circumstances by trying to test herself, possibly to the limit.  Her portrait and portrayal is brilliant.

Positioning herself in the frame centrally and not speaking any words save six over the whole of the 13 mins. With the speedy trajectory she offers an eagle stare and fixed presence of being in the world, wanting to perfect something imperfect and damaged.  The damage she carries and conveys obviously setts her apart from her father. No spoilers here then.  Not estranged but pragmatic and demanding Katie wants to train hard and her fathers skills are not declined in training in the backyard of their shared home. It is a home with bad memories and both live on its fringes avoiding talk of the past. Katie and her father make a pact and the local club St Joseph’s is enrolled to allow her to spar and ringwork. The boxing club manager is our own version of Ray Winstone’s trainer style (Jawbone a boxing film) Ian McElhinney.  When punch comes to shove or fist comes to face and guard this film is intensely sharp and on the money. It gives as food as any film of its kind and is sharp witted while being totally plausible. The Commonwealth games now wound up are a mirror of the tenacity and intensity seen in this one of depiction of one girls pathway.

5* It ticks most of the boxes for me in that it is an absorbing forceful unapologetic disconcerting take on complex family troubles and making amends though in the drama a hovering unexplained poison exists which in a wider concept might provide further and added riches. A very well constructed smart story and brilliantly delivered.

Update on Commonwealth boxers! Both Michaela Walsh and Carly McCaul failed by the narrowest of margins and contested decision in the camp, obtaining a Silver Medal for their skills against top class opposition with determination and proper attitude speaking volumes as sportspersons of character.

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Murirglheilt

Director : Tara Hegarty, Writer : Tara Hegarty, Cast : Gary Crossan, Naomi Cooke, Rachel Walker. Music :  Karen and Jolene McLaughlin.

The fables of the sea are many and for a Lough Neagh eel catcher he failing to remember or keep the letter of superstition fully on board has the misfortune to rock his own boat. This involves the discovery of myth and legend immersed in the deep waters even so far from the Sargasso sea bring all kinds of crazy ideas to met up with him. Mindful as he is of the woes that might befall him he fails to comprehend the circular nature d the female of the species once he has troubled or mistreated their magic mysteries and powers of persuasion in ladies from the sea.

An explanation does nor exist in this fable of a C. Andersson fable (Agnete og Havmanden) it has within possibilities as origin. Those children of the sea free also. In the ballad, a merman woos Agnete to leave her children behind and come and live with him in the sea.  She does so and has several children by him.  But one day she hears the ringing of church bells and with the merman’s permission returns to land to visit the church. In some versions, the images of saints in the church turn away from Agnete when she enters. She meets her mother, telling her about her new aquatic life. In most variants, she then abandons the merman and stays with her previous family. In some versions from all regions, however, she returns to the sea.

The filming is difficult in the confines of a boat and only a few missteps or choices were found distracting. The costume design was very effective as were the aquatic skills of the cast. It dwelt a bit on the confrontations and comic played out the joke a bit labouredly. The underwater photography was a stand out.

3* With wet sails and a fable to follow the eels of Lough Neagh do not need any help in escaping the thorns of this vessel. The boatman is a mere transient in the hands of the women and is put to his penance with other worlds anticipated. The sea is wider and more expansive and I yearned for a more gripping tale along the lines of the one mentioned which Ibsen put into a stage play.

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Must do is a Good Master

Director : Gerard McKenzie.  gerardmckenzie.com

Do not let the title distract you. It means, what has to be done, has to be done. It comes from a saying often spoken to the director as a child by his father. What ever it takes, it takes or words to that effect. It will not provide you with a necessary truth or pathway here straightforwardly as this is a tale of grim telling. In the mode of a road movie this is a beautifully tight little short film with power and very lucid cinematic tension and fear woven in. When the broad road of the Czech countryside is first seen – the film begins with a wide frame shot showing you the environment in the best tradition of a short film introduction, then to the road vertically as a hitch hiker asks the driver who is Irish for a lift. It turns out the man taking the lift is a contrarian who is irritable and he makes his poverty known in an oblique way which is not his best course of action. He also in a dialogue sharply constructed and edited let’s us warm to the driver who is going out of his way – not in the literal sense – on this remote wood lined snowy winter route between towns for a fellow traveler. The crafting of a story is around the Irishman’s unconnected existence to this place. The question immediately is the reverse logic of immigration. While Ireland is populated from Donegal to Wexford with East Europeans this Irishman has gone in the opposite direction and drives his comfortable car into the tundra of a Czech winterscape.

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Whatever his object is – and there is a hanging dreadful end to consider by the last frame we are left to behold the title. In closing also we notice he is a conversant comment Czech speaker which added seven further to the burden of ???

5* We have here a beautifully professionally created terror of a film which is in its absurdity surreal as well as brutally confronting. It is shot with a clean air depiction of different lives lived for reasons kept hidden but as paths cross the lives are taken intertwined and interlocking. Nothing further should be said until you see it. And the thing is seeing films – Must do – otherwise your none the wiser.

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Marky’s bad week.

Director: Daniel Holmwood, Writer: Daniel Holmwood. Cast : Caoilfhionn Dunne, Neal Harrison, Darren Smith. Daniel Condon associate producer, Daniel Holmwood  co-producer, Paul Rowland producer, Liz Wilson executive producer. Cinematography by Stephen C. Walsh, Film Editing by Daniel Holmwood.

The volume is turned up on the life of a canal side drug addict who in a bright sun filled day is settling into his habit to start the day on the wrong (right) vibe. The colour is turned up to ten and is almost off the dial with the costume department furnishing this hard worn disheveled man, Marky, Martin and Marty – his moniker is disputed – possibly given the worst yellow ribbed jumper someone has cast off for Christmas – several Christmases ago.  It’s summer in the city of Dublin and Brendan Behans bro’s words warn of the jail down the road which (the keys go jingle jangle ok!) madam freedom is a hard road. For Marky it’s not helped by having a female acquaintance whose on moral guidelines appear to have slipped down onto the towpath and both are at each other’s level.

Spaghetti western music ups the ante with the visions of rattling saloon doors and you talk in’ to m scenarios as noise’s off. No one except Oscar Wilde and Behan would have doubted Marky’s predicament. Behind was a user and Oscar was a star gazer. Marky has had a bad week and he is in need of his fix of the smoking kind. The resin is lost however and this sets of a bad trail of events and comic relief is harshly sent to us for our entertainment. On occasion there have been exploitative films on these lines but here there is something different. There is a Wldiean pathos and beauty about this one. It puts on the towpath a curve to life outside – our own – hopefully few are in this discomfort – and unpatronsngly gives a heft and a push of hope in desperation ion as an antidote to the fate of Marky. A recent aside from someone to me on the subject of drugs was an observance “They seem to be the happier for it” is well wide and no comfort either.

4* A four square film with candor and carefully handled despair. It was provocative and well constructed and evidence of the state of our society in unseen parts. The coloration and musical elements served to produce a sunny vista for despairing scenario which itself realized its objectives of keeping us locked into believing the story and having a connection with the characters it showed.

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A Tell Tail Heart

The Tell-Tale Heart

Director: Patrick Ketch.

In an opening which was missed it is possible my perception of it was falsely formed. So by way of introduction I give you the story synopsis upon which it is based. Without giving away the narrative, this is a bleak and dark story of intense psychotic verve.

The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” is generally assumed to be male. However, some critics have suggested a woman may be narrating; no pronouns are used to clarify one way or the other. The story starts in medias res. The story opens with a conversation already in progress between the narrator and another person who is not identified in any way. It has been speculated that the narrator is confessing to a prison warden, a judge, a reporter, a doctor or (anachronistically) a psychiatrist. In any case, the narrator explains himself in great detail. What follows is a study of terror but, more specifically, the memory of terror, as the narrator is relating events from the past. The first word of the story, “True!”, is an admission of his guilt, as well as an assurance of reliability.[6] This introduction also serves to gain the reader’s attention. Every word contributes to the purpose of moving the story forward, exemplifying Poe’s theories about the writing of short stories.

Here we have a man loosing his mind while caring for an elderly man whose health continues to deteriorate.

In medias res there is explanation which the visual prompts display. I enter the story in the middle in all respects. So something Homeric might emerge and it almost does. For literature to shed its narrative visually it is possible this story might have been the most difficult the film creator could have taken on. Tell-tale things are often natural paths followed. There is an unnatural path taken here in that the perpetrator of the central element of a past act in the course of being executed is taken in parenthesis. How could such a thing have happened is the quest of the story yet the film offers only small snippets on this observance. Why is question and only a backstory of some consequence would enable the reader to be satisfied of having grasped the scope. 2 to 3 hours sleep is taken by the old man whose illnesses are House confining and his attendant is fixed on his own measure of care. It ends in grave sufferance for all concerned and the outsider looking in – two Garda are silent at the story end – are even less informative.

4* A brave attempt at visually representing a complex and perplexing; in its own reasoning, of the story The Tell-Tell Heart by Edgar Alan Poe. It is a very static film and therefore depends on but sometimes misses with the inferences derived from the facial examinations. In its mid section it is something of a slow unconvincing ‘act’ of betrayal. It gives up without a fight in some respects. Decent effort which may reveal more.

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Casual

2017/Ireland (11 min 58 sec)
Co-Directors: Aoife Nic Ardghail and Kate Dolan

Notes.  Maura, an aspiring poet, has been dumped in a voice mail. It was only a casual thing, but she’s still stuck with those grim feelings that come with rejection: self loathing, anger, resentment and an insatiable hunger for chocolate mousse. And bacon. And wine. To get out of this funk, she decides to take control.
Her mate thinks she’s a dope, but Maura’s sure she’ll win the guy over.

The event of a text dumping annoys and perplexes Maura whose ideas of a relationship in its short life, may not be the thing worth dwelling on never mind putting the rejection into poetry.  On the other hand poetry can compensate for blemishes and failure is made the more resolved.  Another idea is food craving and food combining added to the mix.  For food combinations this is a recipe for pathos and held indifference.  Maura carries an urge but her friend Emily, whose relationship with the male is in a space not fully defined, on FaceTime is a friend with other matters on her mind.  One perhaps with her own longing for the unseen male.  Probably best if she didn’t listen or text or read poetry we can agree.  On the chances of this fine beautiful soul getting a relationship dependent on more than a few words of poetry are huge and unseen by her or her friend. It will come down to the wishing well and a meeting at the bandstand.

Toe to toe or the bench position of looking out to the same horizon without looking in each other’s eyes. The latter is selected as she sits to make the encounter bring out a new reward. Whether it is a song or dance or a love on a rocky path there is much to be discovered. We see the combined mind games and thoughts of love accumulate while we look to find an alternative she has overlooked. Opportunities exist but Maura is intent on her lost feelings or abandonment getting a result which she deserves. It is a wonder which way it falls. The playfulness of this dilemma is dealt with irony and aplomb by a series of filmic adventures delivering a pleasant comedy of mini rom com proportions. A girl never reveals except to a few close friends over a drink after a bust up maybe what the bloke was like as she lists the pros and cons. Good sex bad sex good cook bad cook and numerous details too ugly to mention and the fact few resolve her situation and what comes up in the next relationship is all that matters. This is an age of ‘perpetual’ innocence is betrayed by the fact those men questions which I would have loved some feminine insight to were absent.

3* Playful and entertaining it didn’t get the rub of the green – after all I’m an old cynic – it had its uplifting moments and ponderous ones but it though it lacked perhaps a bigger lesson on the male side of the equation. His character was one dimensional but it claimed no victims in its passing.

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Transit

Co – Directors : Kathleen Bridget Murphy & Louis Tornero-Moffitt

Early morning and the road again. This is a tired factory worker returning home from a night shift and he encounters an obstacle on the road which he only just avoids.  We see the uncommunicative but alive obstacle and the nearly trashed VW Golf, (brand placement everywhere these days) and he gives a bit of a ranting telling off to this semi inanimate obstacle. It is unmoved by his guide to staying in one piece and he takes the said obstacle off road and in his car to a destination yet to be found. The incident is stacked up with questions surrounding its principal parts inanimate or otherwise. The journey is a difficult one and it’s conclusion is precise and thoughtful and maybe just plausible in the scheme of things. Nothing really struck me as a dynamic of sufficient thrust and core bristling interest to warrant this good and well produced and carefully filmed piece. The script was on the ball and was full of believable reaction but in its completeness I thought it lacked a crucial identity and presence in forming a proof of purpose.

3* A creative and satisfying narrow road trip with a subtle difference was entertaining enough but failed in view of the work that surrounded it to stand out as a lone wolf signaling difference and originality. It was a chiller first, a mystery secondly, a conundrum thirdly and finally a concluding drama. It was a decent piece of work.

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Monkeys in the Garden

Director: Marie Clare Cushinan, Writer: Marie Clare Cushinan
Cast : Sophia Adli, Susie Kelly, Maeve Smyth.

In the initial set up you can tell were this is going. Elderly Mummy is suffering dementia and is at the last looking glass of her view of the world. Weirdness comes with the territory as does compassion and dilemma. Beautifully choreographed to show the different sides and perfectly acted to show the believable shape of things it took any watcher into the perhaps unknown bewilderment facing those around dementia and served a very good drama in its telling. It was set in a local semi detached suburban house with an extensive garden. Ordinarily it would be a very nice place to spend those last years and it was up to a point. It shaped as a narrative in which the woman was blessed with two caring daughters, Keira and Amy, whose own lives are very engaged and active. One is the principal carer and is strained in managing the day to day with her at odds with the reality she habits as seen by the mother. Unreal things as the title gives you the trajectory; it’s so helpful sometimes when a short film puts in place an absurdity to look out for and it perhaps enhanced our enjoyment if that’s not to facile a word, to focus on the participants and the navigations they make around a persons confusing, emotional instability all to do with changes in the brain and not the character. Some staid and tiny set pieces were a bit rigid but the whole was a very good piece and it had an excellent cast who dealt with their own balancing act of love and tolerance in showing real concern across the ultimate kinship and family needs. There was a real sympathy felt for all those in that place, that raw family alteration. The garden is another player with beautiful apple blossom interwoven to the trauma of the interior worlds.

4* This was a piece which gave more than its gentle aura initially promised. It covered in depth and with a caring insight the necessity for tolerance and patience when a family member becomes different from the person you grew up with. While change and no going back – although there are a range of indicators progress could be soon made in respect of illness such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis, agents of disease in the nervous system which have so many debilitating and seemingly irreversible effects. The film stands out as a very good educational piece for people unaccustomed as I was to the Monkeys in the Garden which is a metaphor in itself for the estrangement nature places us in. We are several steps removed now from the Garden of Eden. I write this on the day it is reported four orangutan’s collaborated in escaping from a medical facility. Someone therefore may well have been witness to new occupants in their garden.

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Burglars

Director : Phillip Lewis, Writers : Richard Kearney and Phillip Lewis.

The key to this short film is not believing all you see as it turns out.  It starts of with a drive in – leaving the car keys in and bold as brass use of the long driveway – then a balaclaved daytime saunter through a luscious well kept garden to a period house and rear conservatory.  No garden today then! In the audacity of the film maker putting the thought these burglars know what their doing – they have their own key – it sets up questions you flick through – workmen copying them in clay or making a quick replica somehow etc etc and you are a dope on rope. As I say all things are not as they seem and is anyone in the house? Will they get their comeuppance swiftly and violently?

The expectations are out there and grabbing you in.  For the two boyos their audacity is to be completed dumbfounded.  The results are a mixture of comedy, tragedy, misplaced hope and a divisive turning point.  The sometimes misplaced simplicity and from a film angle occasional untidy piecemeal passages of script are unconvincing and required better treatment or a less obvious and less wordy might have driven it harder and more frenetically to the ultimate fallout.

3* I am being a bit ruthless here but I honestly was not taken or carried along with this particular piece of lunacy.  Even with its salutary lesson or moral message it lacked a dynamic to match the acting and locational advantages.  Good entertainment but not that memorable.

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Leap of faith

Leap of Faith is written by Dave Thorpe, directed by Mark Smyth and produced by Jonny Farrelly for PIO Media.

The new rejuvenated apartment saturated domestic scene in Dublin is a far cry from the unplanned City from the sixties onward. The prosperity brought about by creating a sovereign state as a tax haven resulted in boom and the despair of bust is recognised by having a plan in absentia for Forty years down the road has freshness and renewal concocted now jam and biscuits tomorrow. The impossible burden of debt accumulated, written off for the Banks is sitting obstinately on the edges of the working world. Superman is needed to enter the mix. So the story provides an escapist adventure in the splendor of a pair of youthful optimistic singletons those realities don’t visit. While on her top floor balcony one day across the communal architecturally clean courtyard she sees in an adjacent block a young man exercising and taking it very seriously to the limits and she is engrossed in his routine. It turns out all is not as it seems. An incident is witnessed which changes her outlook entirely and she is more than intrigued but compelled to find out what is going on. By following him and shadowing him some things become clearer. The spooky and surreal is visited while the obvious is not followed. The shape shifters and decievers are in the building and normality is put to the side as found nonsense everyone else behaves in accordance with.

3* From the outset I found the discomfort of this vision of the Dublin altering unappealing like Seoul without the soul was and taken to a place where reality does not fit in only allowed and the film became one lacking substance while simultaneously carrying all the models of the genre competently and with fluidity. Cinematically a very good piece of photography neatly rounded and sufficiently different to keep its edge however blunt or sharp it was from time to time, was vaguely entertaining. Some folk like this escapist genre for its examples of otherness. It never reached into the zone of Blade Runner nor harvested or borrowed from another trope but relied too much on intended ordinariness to go just above the surface of believable narrative. Simple Japanese films (Taiwan/South Korea are also fine sources of inspirational work) have a gauge of this sort off to a tee and are the main point of reference I would use. The filmmakers could be served by looking into the similarities they seek to harvest or convey as they have sufficient talent, skills and dexterity to robustly shape an idea to succeed somewhere along the line. Disappointed viewer here. No religion, no guru, no faith.

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Coranna

Director Steve Wood, Producers Steve Woods – Cel’ Division.

Chester racecourse at the time of the famine is the improbable destination for George Moore’s (beneficiary of land due to The Napoleonic battle of that name) racehorse Coranna. The Moore family were the owners of a large tract of Antrim land in perpetuity.  They made good use of it and it’s inhabitants.  The one element this story fancifully takes for a story is probably less interesting than the actual facts. The jockey on a Coranna was one Francis (Frank) whose far from indifferent persona as played on intbhis animation was torridly fierce and a huge success. Born into the family of The Duke of Richmond’s family in 1817 he became a formidable horseman with tenacity and bright eyed sharpness. None of this appear in this laconic tale. The young man thrown up in the saddle of a brilliant mare to win the Chester Oaks in 1846 was far from the depicted boy in a mans job. Conceit or lack or research may have made this famine tale more palatable but in it as with Irish rejection still of large holdings by current British landowners in this province it actually galls. The Chifney brothers were as the extracts from the Sporting Life Book on Frank Butler are testified to in the accompanying extracts the opponents and in the writing it too lacks proper regard of the circumstances. There is no way a moderate filly would finish second in the Oaks ((Epsom) as it was the oldest most valuable contest on the turf alongside its brother The Derby. It would have to have been a very bad year. The animation is repedatative and loose while conveying something of an attractive story if your wanting to underpin regardless of fact the lack of ponying up of the British state to feed the itinerant famine plagued Irish. It’s obscenity is tenuously touched upon.  The famine I saw seen as basically an aside without the horror conveyed other than the screenshot I’ve shown (my title). The story effects a bluster and cod English mocking approach which is simplified beyond fathoming.

2* I was interested initially in how the exposing of a families attempt at saving their skins by duping a young jockey and the fallout fro all concerned might take me. The shallow end is where it went despite the very good rendering painstakingly shoring up (an unwalled) Chester racecourse. I once sat on a horse the day before, training on the sand of Strangford and he went to race and win at the tight bowl of the town walled Chester Racecourse a valuable handicap the day after. To capture the real buzz and effort of the achievement was no in and out venture. Even the lovely Dee is not noted.

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Echoes

Directed by: John Carlin, Written by: Aaron Gray and Paul Skillen.  Cast : Katie Goldfinch, Antony Achaempong, Nigel O’Neill.

A disclaimer for film school aficionados is given, I dislike the genre of most Sci Fi outreach portals cinema of no particular sense or form. Those seeing Silent Running, I grew up in a generation spell bound by it (namesake local band were not bad either!) or 2001 A Space Odyssey will be curling up in perplexed bewildered angst given the paucity of the story here. It was presumably put together with strong endeavour. The filmic quality, cinematography, is very assured as are some of the leaner dialogue passages but it is very static predicable and unsharpened in lots of elements. Set mainly and primarily in a cage of a dystopian altered enigmatic film genre inspired container on a transit loco (foley is brutal reminder) and two male – security as a name check – so they still don’t d The bogey room of vessels with in transit bodies is appallingly trite. There are problems in finding a new angle which are not addressed here. A story without robust and conspicuous conflict and endangerment is not one the confused Echoes appears to me in creative juices. What Echoes are we looking at, what drama is unfolding, what is the mission really in aid of. The time signatures put in text, in the frame, sometimes almost missed because of their duration and the changing background serve only to indicate the time it will take to come to some sort of conclusion.

3* it is a very attractively filmed and polished VFX rendered film all the way through and actress, Katie Goldfinch as Gouldine to hold the premise together is the saviour of the film and its uninteresting fodder commonplace fodder.  Amidst the dry ice and ball of confusion which probably fell out of the doughnut of a story. Somewhere related to Planet of the Doughnuts? was the injection of the younger couple as the tedious grew with apathic Monet after moment. Some have called this the best Sci-Fi short film of 2018.The. It lacks any intensity or shock value and originality rests with its integral internalised viewpoint. A big disappointment and along the lines of the reviewed Leap of faith above, (horror) I would suggest a similar rethinking tales place. Simple Japanese films (Taiwan/South Korea are also fine sources of inspirational work) have a gauge of this sort off to a tee and are the main point of reference I would use. The filmmakers could be served by looking into the similarities they seek to harvest or convey as they have sufficient talent, skills and dexterity to robustly shape an idea to succeed somewhere along the line. Disappointed viewer here. No religion, no guru, no faith.

See Katie Goldfinch in Animus for a better shot of a film.

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The Wedding Speech

Turning a tragic story into something of a comedy is a false move to begin with. This film will be in the provinces record of loss of life in circumstances other than the troubles is stretching good taste. Maybe it has been one way the joint writers – a short story version s credited to Isabelle Broom – has of dealing with very personal loss and tragedy it certainly is. The premise aside I was not greatly enamoured either with the stain and strained efforts excellently made all the more obvious by the grimacing ‘principal boy’ virtually continually coiled like a small Chris Eccleston, in fending off the moment he would have to greet instead of rehearse The Wedding Speech which was to be non-standard.

Perfectly sound in its filming and evenness of dialogue and following the ludicrous concept it managed to weave through on dialogue and characterization something meaningful.

3* A relatively safe short but made difficult because of the nearness particularly in this community of the central subject and is immediacy or reveal which may horror some in less strong positions to encounter this core life consequence. I was left wishing I had locked out of it rather that take it through such was it’s I’ll regard at least in my own mind remarkably not to be made mockery or comedy of.

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Unforgotten

Cast : Mel Tuck, Director: Alexander Wilson Flynn
Writer: Alexander Wilson Flynn, Cast: Mel Tuck, Alex Kilner, Justin Turnbull, Joyce and Jaqueline Robbins.

The far off Canadian province of British Columbia is where this is set.  It was formerly once occupied by Indians whose land down to Washington was wrested from them by force of arms destroy for communities once having several dialects, languages, and freedoms which heck, Trudeau and Trump don’t actually relate to. This is a revenge film. At the old folks home setting is in black comedy gainful nuancing, having a couple of grey haired young old lady twins at peace and mirrors of the age on inactive promise, the scene is built for a story with added value throughout.  Its balance of intrigue and intention is nevertheless built without tension. However it sets the scene for some bizarre outcome it seems.  The direction it will take is held in uncertainty.  There is a picture of tranquility with an old man watching the summer pass him by and as he surveys the pleasant outlook across a table next the main window looking into the car park we are given several red herrings.  No food jokes here.  The roominess and comfort is beyond question and the staff pleasant and unhurriedly carrying out this pace of daily routine.  A car pulls up and a young family disembarks. There is fateful twist to this peaceful environment.  A new male patient arrives and is shown to his new abode which is a delight and airy. He looks a bit like the Hundred Year Old Man and I wonder if he’s to get up immediately his belongings are packed away and escape through this new window on life. I could tell you more but that’s not the point. What happens is entirely plausible and very dark indeed with a universal theme and as I say it is a revenge black dark drama of no quivering or disjointed misplaced weight.

4* This film carries its subject very well and extremely professionally.  Engaging from the outset it carries on keeping you thinking and in its conclusion shocks beyond any measure of expectation at least as I found it to appear and reveal its darkness. Excellent dramatic short film and very cleverly observed in the gentle persuasive making.

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The Music Room

Director: Mick Gordon, Writer: Eugene O’Hare, Cast:: Isaac Heslip, Patrick O’Kane, Aislín McGuckin, Terry Keely as older Ben. The Ulster Orchestra. Production Kevin Jackson & Chris Parr, Cinematography by Ryan Kernaghan, Film Editing by Brian Philip Davis, Production Design by John Leslie, Costume Design by Diana Ennis, Makeup Department Sarah Blair assistant makeup artist. Duration: 14mins

Sebastian Bach, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Johan Pachabel perhaps even Sergey Prokofiev, and Dmitriy Shostakovich all would be grist to the baton of the 10 year old Ben, who puts up with a lonely home life having an irritable father who is not pleased with his sons choice of hobby or obsession which is taken to a level he himself was not expecting. After a good spell in the TV drama My mother and other Strangers, Mr Heslip is in command of his acting. With the very accomplished Theatre Director  and now by Mike Gordon this is the outstanding work seen at this festival in my view.

From a home which is full of modern advantages, his life within it is claustrophobic and to this he puts a solution into practice in the expanse of the music room he makes his attic retreat. The school he attends has a music teacher whose guidance and soft persuasion allows his passion to grow and evolve. The sublime understated love and well placed tutelage of Stella McCusker the very leafy surrounds of his school, puts this combination totally into the great onward tracking of the actual flashback and dreamlike smooth passage of story telling at its best. The comfort is also in the music which is performed with – a cinema elevates the receiving – of an outstanding stirring set of combined pieces to many to relay here. A little divertissement with a fellow pupil raised a laugh of musical criticism. You will be blown away I hope by the audacious ‘orchestration’ of the piece and the play of the baton skilled Mr Ben in action and his command of the music source which I will say little more of given the splendid and fantastic delivery it brings to the viewer, listener. Thoroughly rounded and extremely well filmed and edited giving a smoothness which belies its undercut complexity to deliver a many layered opus.

5* A very well rewarding piece in the viewing and full of brilliant playing and with twists and core intense delivery for such a short film. A perfect little masterpiece for all involved and will be seen in the near future on wider screenings and wider audiences.

Simon Rattle is old news Ben is the new kid on the block. Thoroughly enjoyable. Finis coronat opus.

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Safe Haven

Safe Haven’ features actors Bronagh Taggert (The Fall), Brenda McNeill, Luke Walford, and Sid Ralph. Produced by Margaret McGoldrick and Chris Patterson, and written by Spence Wright

This turns out to be a well conceived short horror pice wth fright and a child’s peril adding to the mix when he is left alone. His mother is called away from their Belfast flat on receiving a phone call from a person she is a carer to and despite it being her day off and she has to attend to their things she puts herself out to respond and therein lies the danger for young Zoran left behind. A volcanic ash cloud has enveloped the whole province and Belfast is under an umbrella of darkening skies. The television is the initial bringer of bad news on the Ash cloud and the views of twenty four hour news delivery on a lessening scale the impact. All is not as it would normally seem with much more to this than the grounding of airplanes and reduction in utility delivery, communications and movement.

 

 

The mother is played by Bronagh Taggart whose Guard is reviewed earlier.  She is a very talented actor this time slipping into the role of an East European single parent with pathos depth and energy in which she delivers the arch of the dilemma and the peril element as an underestimation. There is a clear mother’s affection.  Another character who enters is an elderly neighbour whose take on his name, Zoran, for Belfast woman is an aside and showing detail is paid to fill every local treatment in this well written story. It plays like any other European country would be proud to give exposure to. It is up with any comparable fear and horror of its kind in the field heavily populated by poor fudge. In the telling the young boy becomes the focus and his acting is well caught and unhesitatingly gripping for such a young lad. There is an ectoplasmic overtone which is not overworked and the close up attention is gripping when the story bites.

4* An excellent drama which is full of tension and altering perceptions as it approaches its conclusions. Bronagh Taggart excels in giving it a heft and gravitas which in lesser hands would have lessened the high resolution impact of this doom laden story. To my mind too much is told in the explanation of the film in the programme so avoid the notes they gave!

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The Date

Sinead and Brian, played by Charlene McKenna and Rory Fleck-Byrne. Director : Selina Cartmell,  produced by Claore Gormley for Parallel Films. Writer : Liz Quinn with a layering of Owen Roe, Camille O’Sullivan and Donnacha Crowley. Plus the band “Darktown”.

In a misty evening with the sun having gone down on Bray the Dublin Bay lights fringe the town as a young woman enters the neon fashioned Ballroom of romance known as The Bray Head in a normal life. Life here is in suspension with her entering a spot singer holding his vintage microphone doing an awesome job of the blues set which will permeate and wet the appetite for loves fling. The bar is empty and a lonesome lady sits like a fixed mannequin (Camille O’Sullivan) while a few bar flys talk next the slot machines at the end of the bar.

‘If I can’t smoke it, I don’t want to know’.  What film of its kind doesn’t have a lasting line.  A bad one.  The young girl sidles up to the bar and is given a cocktail an awaits her date. For the date not to be first is a step back and the film is paced in this negative turning back of time. Rather than the alternative route of the evening racing forward into the unknown, deliberately there is time taken here to ponder. The encounter is friendly and a match is made in a place on the edge of need. Both are wanting this to be the return or frontier of golden promises. What is told by this simple tale is fairly bluesy in its fragile tenuous existence.  The players both in the band and on the floor of romance are very clearly on their game. Only slight awkward moments arise occasionally when they seem to momentarily run out of ideas where to take it.

4* A very good feel of a film with great music (Darktown) and steady as she goes easy acting makes this a very decent short with no great expectations with the foi pace indicating you are not going to be in for a rollercoaster.  Sit back and enjoy.  The word I used is very appropriate it comes to mind again. The piece is a frontier imagining of loves promise ahead taken at an easy pace.

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Kubrick by Candlelight

Shot in Tullamore, County Offaly by David O’Reilly, Cast, Darragh O’Toole (Red Rock, South), Amy Hughes (Dad’s Army, Vikings) and Phelim Drew (My Left Foot, Angela’s Ashes) crew DOP Stil Williams (Convenience, Gone Too Far) and producer Vinnie Jassal (Fast & Furious Six, Kingsman). Brian Cox as The Narrator.

A short film on a much loved historical excursion by Stanley Kubrick. Like Stone in your Pockets did the business of theatrical musing around a film being made this is a romantic costume drama Barry Lyndon (rereleased last year) mixed into the Seventies and ‘73 in Ireland to be precise.  A posh portrayal of a young Kubrick is a bit Brass Eye in its presence.  Also the young extras are sent into a world of absurdity even for seventies rhetoric.  Given that the scene set is once again a very good delivery of the genus loci of the set at this time.  In an Ireland at the edge of extinguishing itself the last thing you want to see are British redcoats in your border town of anywhere else with garrisons all over Ireland put to the back of British legacy this serves as a stark reminder of the undercurrents still in 2018 not lost on us. A third director is blonde, something about Mary, out of your league and beautiful, just as the stereo type black haired and ravishingly attractive Irish girl would be the counterpart the decorative elements and irony is laid on thickly and very comically though not in the unmatchable Graham Linehan irony of Father Ted or Black Books and IT. The crowd pleasing of making a film is even for Barry Lyndon with Kubrick perhaps spotting the irony of the historical context in the period he is returning to the soil soiled there is a fabulous multi-layering of the mindfulness played in rich tonal and an embracing realism of contrasts in the story. It has comic candle capers and beyond the pale politics in Offaly pleasurably recalled.

 

 

4* A very rewarding and thought provoking piece if only for the preposterous fixed repetitiveness of our own history being juxtaposed and shown in a very flavoursome visual treatment. It only ran for a short time but it could promise expansion into area# which we would have similar anxieties towards. I liked it the more I thought about it afterwards which in itself tells you something assured was working in the telling of it as it unfolded.

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Soil Engineers

Directed and Written by Dominic Curran

Of the worlds fauna Darwin we are told favour the most productive and elemental to be the worm. This is the worm turning the soil of purgative dynamism recycling the organic of life we depend on. In a time when there is a massive depletion in insect life putting our kingdom at risk the keys to the locker room who transform the earth are busy as this film endeavors to trace. It unlocks only tentatively the story and there is one in there. In the Lough fisherman’s eyes these worms are only bait to allow him to catch fish. Every time he returns for more to the same sort of location he is drawn into thinking, as we are about the life of the worm.  It is something of a ponderous tale and the word (not worm) in the notes preceding the film showing which is used is Sisyphean – the meaning of which – a son of Aeolus and ruler of Corinth, noted for his trickery: he was punished in Tartarus by being compelled to roll a stone to the top of a slope, the stone always escaping him near the top and rolling down again. Has its own methodology in comparison to the fisherman’s tale.

3*  While it was an interesting film taking a viewpoint and extrapolating a curveball on it I thought it was visually static and only occasionally of sufficient vitality to continue going with the story. It was of course original and it had its moments without doubt.

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Recruited

The film was produced by Elaine Forde from The Playhouse, directed by Declan Keeney from Island Hill Productions, filmed by Chis Byrne from Pillarpix Media, and features a whole host of local acting talent.
The film was funded by the Department of Justice through the Policing and Community Safety Partnership Assets Recovery Community Scheme, BBC Children In Need, The Department of Foreign Affairs and a private donation through The Ireland Funds. The Playhouse is core funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Derry City & Strabane District Council and the Community Relations Council.

Sometimes films are carefully constructed to draw out a proskomide prophetic preachy script to follow.  The writing of Colin Bateman here takes a set of standards conditioned to within not an inch of their lives, with young paramilitaries and immediate family in stereotypes suffered for ages by the Northern Ireland public that we are sick to death of all them.  Here they are though one dimensioned and so institutionalised are the parameters, no references to Dublin, the East European criminality or the middle class small pond wheeler dealing linked with various mafia types in their twisted property dealings, embracing Portuguese and Spanish money floats. No instead of the who, why, what and where of a good streak of journalistic  drama we get the street criminal hiding behind a car with his mate, his tearful mum, his journey across town, the Bolshevik drama queen, if only doorstepped and ecclesiastical on rendition about you wasters think you run the place.

Friars Bush graveyard gets a visit from the Derry crew for famine input? and we get a drama of flashback and staunchly anally receptive security messengers foresaking film originality for something like a TV pre Christmas Don’t drink and Drive warning. Very tedious and fun the ball.

2* They threw the works at this one.  So much for Justice a quantity of worthy flag wavers stuck up their logo of support in credits flowing out afterwards. Technically proficient, sharply edited and with ongoing action and excellent characterisations by the principal players it was intact from beginning to end. The only problem was the condescending viewpoint it placed the apparent protagonists and audience it imagined would wish to be receptive of it goes into the millions of pound of funds sent to cure this ill.

Peace processes aside and outside looking in.  Absolutely dreadful but well acted. Friars Bush graveyard awakened too.

Within a few yards of the funeral was a wall where in 1847 or thereabouts, (Black ‘47 is the Season opener) 2,000 people whose names where not recorded were cremated alongside the burials of the – recorded in a tablet next to the entrance lodge – and never once recognised. My how times have changed. It even had a **** drone aerial view introduced for extra flavour!

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The Hidden People

Director Ronan Corrigan, Writer Callum Dziedzic

In the calibration of photographic history comes the Cootingley Fairies. Someone has happened upon this Yorkshire phenomenon in setting it to a contemporary setting which seeks to extrapolate a continuance of familial resonance. By taking as a central character a boy whose own happening upon this phenomenon brings out some pubescent lodgings and predicaments. While he is scolded by others familiar with this ‘nonsense’ this boy has wider thoughts of its living form. Out of the nest he is in a precocial state and is reliant only on his own senses.

3*  The tensions between brothers is played out effectively around the story it centres on. While it is visually entertaining and maintains its interest I found it lacking in that special hard to find electricity a subject such as this might light upon. A decent but unmoving piece.

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The Gift

‘The Gift’ comes with the simple tagline “A gift can be a blessing…or a CURSE!”. Writer/director Murat Akser is a filmmaker based in Belfast but born in Istanbul, Turkey.  Murat is currently developing his first feature film and teaching film production at Ulster University..

Much misunderstanding exists around ritual and religion.  Myths and superstition is often a particular disturbance deflecting from spiritual gain or guidance. The reward for adherancece is often extremely negative and even life threatening. So the story here venture to flake us into a foreign fantasy. The early appearance of the retiree ‘Your Highness’ Roma Tomelty is a gift to begin with. She is bedecked in barbles, scarf and rings when she evokes and conjures up a spell for a wedding couple and sets their future life on a steady force which must for its sanction appear to be compliant with the inherent culture. The inherent culture includes symbolic knives and imagery to be taken none too literally.

Telling this story is only the half of it. Enter the NI security forces as a SWAT team and then entered an idiotic in accurate cop interview pressing a claim to a verve it fails to present. Mr Stuart Graham of recent things such as Line of Duty is brow beaten into regurgitating hateful demeaning words and puts into plat a NI trope of Racial hatred.  Well done there then.  Only the absurdity and misreads, perhaps my doing also, were of any genuine value to me.  I was out of sorts with the lack of core substance and even believable characters ntent to sway me. Not forthcoming.  If a political message were invested in this it is dealt with in a narrow and purple way.  Well documented and common images of swat operations are universal and here it is a case of not moving on.  The treatment is too overplayed and the focus of the intention of placing traditional misunderstanding at the heart of this is lost or diminished.

3* Great to see the lovely Roma once more in a fashionably exotic if over the top role. She delivered it in a lovely, very great dramatic soft timbre. The remaining content was unable to keep up.

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Good Girls

Good Girls, written and directed by Niamh McKeown and produced by Jack Cowhig, is about Pinkman’s finest student and head girl, Bonnie, who takes us on a tour of her school as she tries to round up the school captains in time for the school photo.

Made by students at Edinburgh Napier University as their final year project, the film has been praised for its visual style, cinematography, set design and direction, with the judges commenting that it was like “St Trinian’s meets Wes Anderson”. The spiel not my words! Or view!  The Kubrick film was superior in many respects but still failed to be my no. 1!

St Trinians and modern finishing school for posh girls is an area where knickers, bare thigh flesh and unabashed girl attitudes are often fashioned into a hedonistic trial of the state of the nation. From the primordial to the eloquence of educated civility is a step not to be taken at the gallop. Henrittas and Georgina’s are inescaple and top of the pile is a Scots head girl with attitude, Bonnie. She is on the case of further publicity to enable the floundering school to survive. A Green Wing type is cast, thrown to the dogs as headmistress and in order to fulfill this the wonderful school architecture becomes a backdrop for rounding up the needed party for a group photo. From tennis course to gym to libraries to corridors to courtyards they are sought. The voyerism of St T’s is in the ante as is the fruity language and interplay of frustration Association in a closed community of learning. Very Theresa May I thought.

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3* This film packs a good wallop but covers with nods very often to similar comedy set in the boarding schools of England something staid and worn. Albeit never attempting to become the Girls School version of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange it just came and went. The woman from the former constituency of Merton has no connection to the film. I would not tarnish it with her madness. Bombs – where do we keep them girls? Oh in the Chemistry lab. Good oh.! Put her in a strait jacket until she wise’s up please.

E463EC67-91DC-4168-91BA-EF29F0D04C26Calling Home

Director and writer Megan K. Fox Cast. Natalia Kostrzewa and Aaron Taylor.

In the setting of contemporary London this is a story of a young Polish girl hoping to pursue a design course to become a fashion designer. There is a vibrancy to begin with which is quickly arrested by the notion she may not have chosen the best boyfriend who is controlling jealous and a prat. They drink and carouse with the boyfriend seeming to want to impress his friends rather than commit to a loving relationship. Dorothy is played by Natalia Kostrzewa and Aaron Taylor unfortunate to be cast as the abusive boyfriend.

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Dorota moves to London with dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but her path is altered by an abusive relationship. Despairingly this becomes a story which is indicative of the plight of a woman whose fortune alters drastically and she is left in a very dangerous situation without a home or money. One third of homeless women are victims of domestic abuse. The film brilliantly portrays how homelessness, sadly, could be a possibility for anyone as Megan Fox points out. She builds the tension and predicament compellingly with Natalia Kostrzewa creating the part brilliantly and believably she imparts the terror of this dreadful situation. It als has been compared with the American film of last year The Florida Project as it shows the vulnerability of homelessness and the various ways it materialises.

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‘Calling Home’ is an impactful short film about domestic violence and female homelessness. The film was made with the support of leading homeless organisations including Inside Housing, Shelter and Women’s Aid. With its inspiration in part coming from documenting homelessness and it coming 50 years after Cathy Come Home by Ken Loach this film achieved the award to commemorate that anniversary last year in the Reel Homes Competition organised by Inside Housing a Homeless organisation.

It can be supported on this link where it can be viewed also.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/calling-home-festival-fees-film#/

By supporting the film you will aid its entry to further Film Festivals and also extend its outreach. Soha Housing also support it.

4*  Film can show our society as we may have not experienced it and this film shows how homelessness is pervasive and the lack of housing or proper social mechanisms to deal with sudden problems is shown to be very harrowing.  It is more than that of course but the film highlights and does it in a very dramatic way just one pathway to extreme hardship.  It is well shot and there is an outstanding performance from Natalia Kostrzewa.

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The Overcoat

Director Patrick Myles. Cast Jason Watkins, Tim Key, Vicki Pepperdine, Alex Macqueen and Dominic Coleman.

I loved this story when I first read it years ago and have sen a few stage versions, one of a very high standard at the Hammersmith Theatre late ‘80’s. This is a variable feast of filmic playful black comedy which is slightly less than the sum of the story despite the huge efforts of this costly high end production. The sense one is meant to feel is Kafkaesque or with the satirical heft of a Terry Gilliam film. Not exactly 12 Monkeys or Messing with Don Quixote but this one is tilting at windmills with the ever daft Jason Watkins. This is a fairytale telling and adaption which follows a well worn path. There is a 1926 version of over 1hr and several shorts and an animated version short last year. The story is revamped not a Orwellian/Dickensian working office and the withdrawn and isolated man, (Jason Watkins) of the story is consumed by his lack of esteem and is forced into acquiring a new overcoat to show the world his worth. He is then toiled with acquiring the funds to buy the best he can possibly afford and this is beset with many threads of woven dramatic pathos and philosophical nuance as well as salutary lessons which the original story in effect delivers in spades. Ownership is not without its trials. The Nell Gwynn Tavern gets a look in along with Zadok the Priest.

4* This is a very decent effort but given the revamped version I would have hoped for more of the originals darkness and gravitas. It comes across a little to lightly unfortunately given the dynamism of the exuberant casting acting overlayering the effect rather than pulling back. Cillian Murphy does the voice over to the animated version and it is good fun comparing the others as this is a favourite story and fable not to be missed or mislaid.

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Young blood

Director: Rian Lennon. Cast: Helena Bereen, Niall Cusack, Aimee McGoldrick

Ever bold and horrific in finding new ways to disturb us the Northern Ireland director Rian Lennon comes up with a dark and gruesome tale of Lazarus type rejuvenation and older folk trying desperately to hold on to any life they still have. Earlier short work include student Devour winning film The Dick of similar small room but widely removed ilk. By giving them the tools of Methuselah an elderly couple, in becoming the authors of their revival, the writer provides, creates a scenario involving a small living room, a couple whose life is etched and close up and crazed with a captive believed to be the answer to their prayers. There is a medical basis to their ideas and like Kith Richards they surround complete blood transfusion employed in Privacy to inject some much needed vigour. Consuming the vial of renewal can come in many forms and these two veterans of the Northern Ireland acting scene give it all too a horrific edge and don’t disappoint in their madness.

3* A grim and overthe top renewal of a story of impeccable implausibility which is the trope of certain filmmakers. The more dubious and contrived the better. Unfortunately I give these a miss and with the dimwork confined to shock and awe with facial expression s very important in the telling of a conspicuously predicated Line to follow it takes the breath away, not. It leaks out after a while to pale desperation in conclusion. One or two end up dead bad.

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A Break in the Clouds

Director: Tristan Heanue, Writer: Tristan Heanue

Cast: Gemma-Leah Devereux as Sarah, Marie Ruane as Natalie, Tristan Heanue as Jack, Linda Bhreathnac as Ally.

In the beginning there was a child. It was found in Connemara. We will call the child First born.

This is a thought provoking film of depth and formidable weight in a contemporary telling of the way families have in most locations; there are happily some exceptions I’m sure, become fractured. The modern pressures of a simple homelife are a struggle and loneliness along with post natal depression are foremost in this story. Compellingly insular despite the vast beautiful scenery. It cannot be called a backdrop as the sky is huge and land vast on the Atlantic seaboard. The place is stunning and the hopes of many generations have yet to come to terms with the society that they inhabit. Even down through many previous generations the demands are immense. No less so here though contemporarily communications are better there is still distance between family units who might previously been relied upon to assist child rearing but are now apart. This is the dilemma and the heart of the story to my mind. It is accompanied by the problems of identifying quickly and adequately responding to the problem arising. Tristan Heanue who I spoke to after the screening was not giving much away in responding to my take on it which was to that immediate effect. I might have caught him off guard as this is s very profound piece.

An interview I’ve subsequently read tells the origin of it partially.

Tristan Heanue Plays the father and is not afraid to have him show his inability to cope or communicate his feelings. He covers the ground in very perceptible darkness and vulnerability himself with much

It came from a few different places. A few friends of mine had babies in quick succession and I saw first hand the different types of strain that it had on them. It just stuck with me and I wanted to tell a story that showed what the pressures were like for both sides during this time. I guess it was me also putting myself in their position and wondering how I would cope with it. The same http://gearr.scannain.com interview told of the significance of that location. Under the Direction of Paddy Slattery it took on new meaning.

It was surprisingly very enjoyable. Mainly because I was blessed with an absolutely amazing cast & crew who worked so hard and made it all happen. I also had one of the best cinematographers in the country shooting it, Narayan Van Maele. He was a dream to work with. We spent a day down in Connemara planning all our shots and also left things loose enough that we could change stuff up on the day if we felt it needed something different. When you surround yourself with very talented people it really does make your job a lot easier.

Also in conversation his film Today could not be overlooked. Made by them in 2015 it was in the same setting of Derryinver/Letterfrack/Tullycross region of Co. Galway and featured John Connors and Lalor Roddy. It is a film I won’t forget.

5* It is an inspiring film given it is made with the thrust and knowhow of being in touch with a particular take on humanity in its writing and ease of communication through the direct medium of film. It is of a young couple at a point of crisis and thereby figuring out and responding to the messages the film opens up, partakes of and delivers in quantities seldom found in film brief or otherwise. I hope it will reach a lot of people and provide some comfort and degree of information for parents old and new in such an important time of their lives.

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Bless me Father

Director and writer Paul Martin Horan, Cast: Francis Magee, Phelim Drew, Glynis Casson.

At the end of the day the truth will out or will it? As time moves on a man is preparing for his leaving the earth’s parish and decides he needs to fess up to his past misdeeds. Some of them might do with placing low down the scale of levity but others may cause great problems in their revealing. It is confession time and box no. 1 in the local House of God is calling. As for the third character she is perhaps the face of rectitude.

For the Priest the confession he is about to hear is to affect him deeply. He is faced with a dilemma. There is no violent crime confessed nevertheless it is a life changing thing he will hear. Where does the duty lie with the person hearing the confession and is he to give absolution to Michael who is now lifted of this burden which he has carried for years.

It goes to the heart of life in a small rural Irish community and its strength lies in the deliverance it brings to the people who are lost and nor solely under the protection of their maker. They have their own to contend with without the Catholic hierarchy deciding what’s right or wrong for them.

4* A much tighter film you could hardly construct. Set in the Church of the confession box it focuses in on the Donfeesion box itself with a close camera angle fixed on both sides playing out this dialogue between parishioner and Priest. It is a delight to watch and is essential Irish while universally full of primary primordial life aspects unfolding as the years go on.

A lot of these films are available online to view and I hope you get to see a few and support the filmmakers whose time and effort is on the screen as created.

I disagreed with the Grand Jury!

For a film to be totally on score and brilliantly entertaining there is no doubt and it got the no.1 vote was The Music Room.

If I can nominate in a parallel position against the rules of having another to be up there it is as follows.

My favourite film of them all was Guard which was a local copiewpoint with many aspects and a valued insightful piece of provocative film making

Leaving the damage central to the arch the unspoken and unknown event was itself disturbing along with the craft of Bronagh Taggart whose film story this was to put across.

A Break in the Clouds and Callng Home were both excellent broad scoping films which are exceptional and well worth seeing.

John Graham

26 April 2018

Belfast

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J’Oscar’s 2017 : Film Review Awards

J’Oscar’s    A glass half full?

Here’s the envelope. Thanks. Oh this is exciting and after last year no mistakes, right? Oh it can’t be – didn’t it star, well he was under a white sheet most of the time, but surely you can’t give it to this movie. Didn’t he get embroiled in some sleaze about behaviour onset? OK, there’s no mistake.

The J’Oscar for Best Picture of 2017

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……. goes to A Ghost Story

Through clenched fingers up to my face and I Place at No. 1 of all the films I saw throughout 2017 the remarkable A Ghost Story.  As a Film is greater than the individuals and one should not destroy a films validity I discard malice felt towards an actor whose case has boot been publicly aired from a decision on the meet of a film. While some and those privately hurt by any actions that may have taken place will have their own reasons to denounce such a position it is to be balanced alongside,

 

1. Where it known, would the man have been given the part?

2. Does the entire cast and crew making this astonishing film have to be dismissed along with the actor making their achievements null?

3. Should film producers not have a role in calling out misdemeanours and passing on details to authorities outside the businesses instead of muck slinging inside it which becomes friable as a result when newspapers and other media get to speak of it?

Creating such a remarkable film David Lowery does not deserve to be snubbed in recognising the immense quality of the whole ensemble including Rooney Mara and the editing sound and cinematography contributions.  Blazingly brilliant film.

Perpetuity in a singularity 

A Ghost Story is a film about perpetuity and the ever moving wonderous world we inhabit and has a touch of heaven about it.  Surreality is dictionalised yet the reality is with us as we pause in watching this film to consider the outcomes we have been apart of and how the future will happen regardless of our presence.  The Ghost is us looking in on the immovable constant moving on.

Other awards go to ………

Mary Queen of Scots was a Platform for two brilliant performances from actresses, Ireland’s Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Australia’s Margot Robbie as Elizabeth the First. With them both having accomplished great roles and performances in respectively I,Tonya and Ladybird the closesness to Best Actress must be a sharp call. They are also challenged by Meryl Streep who many are in awe of despite the performance in The Post being lauded largely because it creates a large canvas and she as a fine actress has the skills of ‘pause and reflect’ timing which is allowed here due perhaps to the eras pace not the rush through a more contemporary part would have pushed upon us. So the Oscar goes to – see below!

The I,Tonya story is an excruciating piece of drama for lovers of fair play and points to the winner at all costs mentality pervading many sports. From dodgy injections in footballers to dampen pain before a very crucial match, to the Olympic level drug and substance abuse to the on road ‘replacement therapies cyclists partake in to get to the head of the pack, the story rarely is covered by cinema. No one loves a cheat and the scenarios are usually not pretty. The last time I liken an athletes grime story and reinstatement was the brilliant Matthew Maconaghy in The Dallas Buyers Club which was an epic and underated dramatic off road, road movie. The endurance and counterpunches of Margot Robbie whose immersion was instantly believably in my mind skated off with the Best Actress Award.

The J list

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Extras

Hogh flying films such a short Killing of a Sacrificial Deer and Insyriated will last long in the memory and of course are worth seeing several times.

The Farthest was a remarkable documentary worth mentioning and revisiting.

Notable hypes include Dunkirk and Real Actresses Don’t die in Liverpool.  Along with the over rated – exceptional though of the mark In his choices of going off on his own reading of the man is Gary Oldman. Darkest Hour.  The films Shape of Water and Ladybird rank highly but not notably and it is only through the gifted direction and playing of Saiorse Ronan does Ladybird achieve the distinction of a near miss director award.  That went to a someone whose films are gaining the storytelling and visual connection with audiences. (Jordan Peele – Get Out)

Much more can and will be written about this turn around year for Film making. Jennifer Lawrence is off on Exec. Producing the #metoo as a series. It will unearth and keep the profiling of the film industry high but not unfortunately with the added distinction of keeping belief in a fictional portrayal as a means of entering an issue or providing very important insight on aspects of humanity. Most is seen in the minutiae of drama in the big picture and The Florida Project was a sensitive other form of insight which is near the top in terms of films I rated this past year. It and other stranger ones.

John Graham

28 February 2018

Belfast

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Bad day for the Cut : A Film Review

Bad day for the Cut

Directed by Chris Baugh. Written by Chris Baugh and Brendan Mullin.

Nigel O’Neill as Donal O’Neill, Susan Lynch as Frankie Pierce, Józef Pawlowski as Bartosz, Stuart Graham as Trevor Ballantine, David Pearse as Gavigan, Anna Próchniak as Kaja, Stella McCusker as Florence, Ian McElhinney as Eamon, Brian Milligan as Jerome, Shashi Rami as Vivian Lalor Roddy as Leo McMahon, Ryan McParland as Ossie, Andrew Porter as Damien.
Production Katy Jackson and Brendan Mullin, Music by James Everett, Cinematography by Ryan Kernaghan, Film Editing by Brian Philip Davis. Six Mile Hill Productions. Cert. 18. Duration 1hr 39mins.

Before I start I update the blog as I’ve discussed s covered the meaning of the title but not its allusion to the Film itself other than a lot of people get cut down.  Apparently it’s an Agricultural colloquialism – I’m sure it’s not confined to Tyrone, or Antrim – and it is when the conditions are foul or the forecast is foul for the necessary cutting of crops and harvesting.  I hope the Sundays Harvest Service (29/10/17) All Souls Church goes peaceful and s uneventful. Today (Sat.) the preparations are going well inside, decorating ever nook and cranny.  That is Entrance, window cills, corners, pillars, pulpit and Choir pews. Looking forward to it.

Debut promise
The Chris Baugh debut feature Bad day for the Cut is a modern Irish revenge thriller with a broad scoping and complex plot driven along by the dark secrets of different family histories in this troubled province.  At times it becomes a trail of bodies and sets off after a flashback, more later, with a farmer living the quiet life with his mother in an Co. Antrim farm.  Scenes of domestic rustic rural harmony  prevail with the caring son Donal (Donal O’Neill) eager to ensure his frail mother is not neglected and this is seen initially as a caring need and relationship.  Donal is fond of shooting rabbits for a stew and his country and western music, which is not a rarity here and he listens while he fixes old cars or does work on anything that takes his fancy , away from the tedium of routine farm work.  Into his existence comes another star of the film a neglected Transit as a payment for work on an old banger which he turns into his boys shed over a period of time.


Open Country

Donal’s world becomes forever turned upside down when he catches the wrong end of an act of violence one night at his own home.  An absentee from the film are the Police except for the presence of two Detectives (back view only) as a result of this disruptive and gruesome act of violence at the farm.  This is quite probably due to it being entirely filmed here in Northern Ireland were the risks of reprisal are clear sadly and it may be why ‘impersonation’ was not an option.  From then on in the violent frenzy that happens they are not to be seen. Filmically too is a stoic political call by the Director/Writers on the Scandinavian noir of clever troubled detectives not being a Northern Ireland familiarity.  (Shallow thought!)  Crime fiction is a local speciality (look up No Alibi’s independent bookshop) and like this film it is seldom a reflection of more destructive truth no matter where the written word takes you.

Donal is completely at a loss to explain why this atrocity has happened until he himself becomes a target of violence. Then the wheel turns and it is his turn to act. From small beginnings Donal is now the avenger/revenger and the genre becomes a wide expanse of multi-cultural links forming a jigsaw puzzle no one has completed image of and it is this we are drawn into.  The Latin word, synonym, for incredulous is Aporetic.  From the word Aporia which is thrust into and occupies much of Northern Ireland rhetoric.  The film could have appropriated that name.  A local artist, Gail Ritchie has a forthcoming show at Platform Arts Belfast on external War memoria which will co-incide with all kinds of Remembrance. This film is about not knowing the full story as people never do.

Aporia : a difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for and against it.

For empathy and good versus evil there is no actual clear station of rectitude or resolution.  Once Donal is in his revenge mode he looses any rationality or credibility.  One feature of the film poster is its likeness to the Spaghetti Western standards, Django, Fistful of Dollars or the one with a Belfast connection – A Town called Bastard starring Robert Shaw of (some connection!) to these parts. This genre approach is a virtual context and allusion which is narrowly made.  Comparisons of inner city hoods can be found in the Dublin centric Cardboard Gangsters reviewed here earlier.  (Put the film name in the white box top right to obtain the post likewise other notable films)

While it is true the chronic violent riddled town/city certainly Belfast and Northern Ireland has been, with its tragic magnitude of violence and as it still has hurt as an undercurrent to the everyday, the post traumatic shock has embedded in many citizens whether directly affected or not. Hence the medical bill.  Other cities are subjected to variations of the lack of moral discipline and the film tries to reflect here in Belfast the story of families affected by their tragic misfortune and wrong choices theirs or others.   I happened to be re-reading a chapter or two of the 2000 book, Northern Protestants – An Unsettled People by Susan McKay which documents district by district across the province the interrelation of acts of destruction and their impact and legacy left of very similar disregard for life.  The untenable becomes tenable and the ‘new normal’ (media speak), goes further as past lives causal projection is cyclical which is seen as one of the most forceful effects of this film.  Unforgiving and God forsaken is the message to be taken in deploring all acts of violence and the meaningless outcomes they accumulate. The ‘actors’ of violence perpetuate the hurt creating new grave passages.


Currency

New times have arrived and racketeering and the gangster riddled combatants work the undercurrent of a superficial peace.  Memories and family stories are woven in a weave no one has a complete picture of.  Aporia.  An unlikely mobster is a family woman.  Susan Lynch plays her femme fatale best inhabiting the part brilliantly, her face expressing rage, inner strengths, bitterness and she conveys potent sexual latency as a jewel among thorns.  As a highly driven woman her role is large in the film as she is intent on achieving her objectives regardless of the cost but with a motherly hand towards her own daughter in contrast to her own past.  So two vengeful people are the at the centre of the story and the opposites create a battle of wills.  Let the contest begin or as Northern Ireland has it continue.

Without a male partner she runs a prostitution racket with her stock and trade initiating in a bodies count, a ruthless and violent streak of heavy malevolent business as she tries to remain in control.  There is no indication for the largesse of wealth, – ‘the drive’ is Belfasts go to hidey hole, – she has become used to as she brings up a single child, 5 year old daughter whose exposure to the everyday business is mostly obscured though Mother does let her mouth loose with words and temper tantrums no child should be witness to.  The script realises it but it is ‘accomplished’ in one or two scenes.
The lead male character and co-driver of the film is the large stocky farmer we know called Donal O’Neill, played grittily and with determined off the scale rage, a man in his fifties whose part in the machinations or outcomes of the ‘troubles’ is miraculously innocent and of little affect.  How he has avoided the obvious is not clear.  His mother Florence is portrayed by Stella McCusker, whose part requires a completely convincing woman carrying as many women in the country do, a burden of grief and remorseful tears locked up and unseen while secrets are held. Stella McCusker carries it off superbly in a sensitive subtle nuanced way, with her reservoir of theatre and film expertise, the convincing portrayal of a woman with memories, secrets, worried but still in charge of her own world courting for us nevertheless a source of intrigue. Acting as a shield to others, her offspring, her peace is disrupted as the past unravels.

The film opens with to revenge taken on a man in palliative care with a breathing mask filling his lungs with oxygen while he is in the last stages of life. Lalor Roddy is the man. With his usual prime attendance to his craft he opens the film in an interesting short introduction which turns out to be a flashback.



Sunny skies

From there the action returns to the present and a Northern Ireland picturesque and getting along nicely with the entrails of back office culture jobs and telephone call centres in the very heart of Belfast City.  New tech and science STEM is a sole captivator of nuanced 21c life.  Sidelines are the artistic interpretations. Game of Thrones being only a symbolic us of this Ulster theatre in a vaguely conjectural transportive escape.  Capers and criminality is a parallel world real and unreal.  Life in redressing the postcard image is on message. Any murky past is not for outward consumption. An archive of injustices and the undealt with past is locked up in memories along with state and terrorists files never to see new light. Property is lush and shows signs of prosperity as the braces are attached to pull up the ragged trousered philanthropist cloth of the Linen City in true entrepreneurial Ulster style.

The past traffic of ingenuity which was and still holds up, is scotched by the economic equator we live on. New commerce a roguery is the diet we enter. The other villainy is the stock and trade of impure violence.
The vision in the film is of the fictional underworld in a confined and largely inaccurate form.  It is a fiction based on contemporary instinct.  No telling of the real story would be sufficient as access to understanding. These strands are separated and contingent on whose version of events you believe.

The truth would be completely scary and would in many cases lead to greater unconstrained levels of revenge violence – excepting the likehood generations are unlikely to form into self-destructive groups – except the no-hopers hanging on to the coat-tails of handed down myth as a means to lever power and accentuate their projected legacy of ill read history and infect new generations with their appalling virus.


Whether the film is embraced as a depiction of a society continuing to be incapable of dealing with its past and truth hidden harbouring realities of unspeakable betrayal and insurgence is questionable.  Outside the Island the narrative will come across as a unnerving catastrophic revenge movie full of provocative instinctive shades of red mist exploding causing more cyclical damage and as an action piled up body count it puts it on the same shelf as revenge thrillers of equal intensity – it will be interesting to hear how the Chinese subtitled version went down. It is already out of the blocks as it premiered at The Egyptian Theatre at the Sundance Festival last year and Edinburgh Film Festival and was locally was the closing film of the Belfast Film Festival of this year.

Because it is adult cinema and particularly a local community based narrative with a fictional web making connections to many people’s lives and understanding of the legacy in their lifetimes, it is to be toured across Northern Ireland in venues chosen to bring out a wider audience than the ‘Moviehouse’ screens across the province.  The tour dates are below.  As a film of universal cinematic value it also is intentionally provocative and any tool in the box – lead character Donal is a man whose ingenuity is seen as someone who reaches more than metaphorically for what’s handy, ‘that ‘ill do the job!’ – which makes people deal with their own past and the get on the path to resolving differences of blockchain theory’s in their heads. New light and fresh dilemmas are surmountable only if the past is recalled with truth and remorseful probity.

Dark light

Polish actor Józef Pawlowski as Bartosz, Anna Próchniak as Kaja, carry the new international phenomenon of a transitory youth into Belfast and Ireland.  Neither have a desire to remain here and one of them has stronger reasons than the other to get out.  By scoping out the story the writers bring a reality of immigrants settling in a cove of their own narrowness through concern of not belonging and integration torturous and complex with the backdrop of sectarianism on acting on their will.  Existinence is survival to be built on.  The tailoring of other characters, chiefly the hoods is deftly cast. Florences younger brother Eamon (Ian McElhinney) is a townie who keeps himself away from trouble and leaves it in the past. Stuart Graham playing Trevor Ballantine who is the no.2 to Frankie likes to be suited and clean shaven.   He gives off an air of being on the precipice of incompetence while unaware of were he is and what his motivations are. Why he chose the work is pure guesswork and he is always one step behind the curve. Frankie on the other hand is a woman who is compelled to joining the action as her edifice crumbles. Bartosz and Kaja are in this drama up to their necks and centrally Józef Pawlowski excels working alongside this mad bunch out on the edge of their acting chops and getting into it with as much nuance as his eyes can convey. A learning experience for all no doubt.


Conclusion ####4
Like a narrow gauge railway traveling too fast this is a train of thrilling revenge souring and escalating beyond redemption and for practically all on its journey the lurching and weaving slow down and wrong turns add up as the film careers out of control down into some soon to be discovered abyss.  Then there will be silence. There will be liberty.  There will be peace.  Not on these terms the cast say.  We need a result to suit our knowledge and our grief is the premise.  We do it for the sake of everyone gone before and to follow. By being completely deranged ejjits high on the adrenaline rush of survivors instinct they boil the stew of violence into a deathly conclusion.  The deliverance is summoning up lots of sage parables while partly glamorising the affects by not making it dark enough.  They skip the bloodied heads, the unrecognizable body parts (I conject for the possible scenes the viewer may or may not see!) and it draws back to gain audience retention yet is still Cert. 18. A badge of dishonour?  It becomes a shade predictable and no character really is seen as someone to empathise with save the foreign ‘visitors’.  Those need foreign audiences.

Be warned it’s mad and at times bloody and totally bonkers.  It has a feel of a step back to following in the aftermath of spaghetti westerns trying to find a new field. The field is Belfast/Templepatrick with the North Coast of Ireland thrown in for chutzpah. Slightly demented but truthfully entertaining as a misguide to the violence around us.
John Graham

20 October 2017

Belfast.
The 8:30 pm screening on Tues 24 Oct at QFT will be introduced by writer/producer Brendan Mullin and writer/director Chris Baugh.  After a run at Queen’s Film Theatre (20 – 26 Oct) the tour calls at:

The Picture House (Ballyclare) 28 Oct
Portrush Film Theatre 9 Nov

Subterranean Film Club (Omagh) 10 Nov

Dungannon Film Club 15 Nov

Fermanagh Film Club 15 Nov

Newcastle Community Cinema 18 Nov

Foyle Film Festival (L/Derry) 23 Nov

Tí Scannán (Mullaghbawn) 1 Dec

Some events will also feature Q and A session with Chris and Brendan (tbc) so audiences will get to hear the (literally) gory details of the process of making the film and taking it to the big screen.

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The reality predicted in around the late 1960’s by Guy Debord never took on the self-radicalization of people as combatants for nations but it has tangible companionship as his fellow traveler Raoul Vaneigem accounts in The Revolution of Everyday Life.  It is a form of prophecy as is the intended alteration of history which combatants always see as their revolutionary act in their age.  The violence continuing on a scoping out of spectacle for themselves.  We are not just talking about the phenomenon of  ‘Mad Men‘ and spin but the vestigages of memory remployed as almost regal revelatory mindful discovery.

Inauthenticity is a right of man … Take a 35-year-old man. Each morning he takes his car, drives to the office, pushes papers, has lunch in town, plays pool, pushes more papers, leaves work, has a couple of drinks, goes home, greets his wife, kisses his children, eats his steak in front of the TV, goes to bed, makes love, and falls asleep. Who reduces a man’s life to this pathetic sequence of cliches? A journalist? A cop? A market researcher? A socialist-realist author? Not at all. He does it himself, breaking his day down into a series of poses chosen more or less unconsciously from the range of dominant stereotypes.”

Daphne : A Film Review

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Daphne

Directed by Peter Mackie Burns, Produced by Valentina Brazzini, Tristan Goligher
Written by Nico Mensinga. Cast Emily Beecham – Daphne, Geraldine James – Rita, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor – Joe, Nathaniel Martello-White – David, Osy Ikhile – Tom, Sinead Matthews – Billy, Ryan McParland – Jay, additional cast, Ritu Arya – Rachid,  Richard Banks – Cigarette Thief, Gary John Clarke – Homeless Sandwich Guy,  Maurisa Selene Coleman – Friend,  Karina Fernandez – Beth,  Erica Guyatt – Cashier, Timothy Innes – Jimbo, Rania Kurdi – Sofia,  Amra Mallassi -Benny, Stuart McQuarrie – Adam.

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Daphne rules
There are a few Cinema Daphnes about. Nearly as many as the parts Domhall Gleeson inhabits in the film roster presently.  Playing opposite his A.A. Milne and the mother of (Goodbye) Christopher Robin is wife Daphne, the similarly multifarious Margot Robbie. The narrative here is of a single woman, Daphne aged 31, a local in London. Played by Emily Beecham, Daphne’s experience of life is given new perspective as a result of being a witness to an act of brutality.

Her life as a Chef in a busy, no bookings needed restaurant, run by Joe played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor – whose on the spot as a boss and as an irascible potential lover – is a vibrant one on the move with some night life and her scary attitude to sex (but precautions taken!) require her almost daily reading of modern philosophy as self analysis (Slavoj Zizek) in the afterglow of her habits.  The staff are usually knackered but in a response to this modernity of capitalist driven London and servile work on limited rewards they share dope.  It is recreational and supposedly non-threatening to them. We never get to know the backstory or delve into the present story of anyone in particular other than Daphne.  Centrally it is about the demise and nihilistic life taken.

Storyboard

I am therefore I watch. So onward.  It shapes up as being about the people’s present lives and getting along with things. The ‘and then?’ question asked by the novice Ida in the film of that name is studiously evoked in my reading.  Daphne is in some ways in an enviable position, on a career path to become a Sous Chef and up to the challenge with her admired taste buds. She is living alone in a nice house next to the contrasting crowded housing of the borough she lives in.  No mention of money worries is made except for a friend we meet a few times who ends up in a single bed apartment with another girl which is not a platonic relationship.

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Personally alive

This and other scenes point up the contrasts of her life to others and are neat asides of observance throughout never making us sure of whether we are going to like her character or not.  Situations of her either alone at home or with a random pick up are glimpses into someone finding a lack in home existence.  The relative safety and comfort of home is disrupted only her Mum played by the superb Geraldine James who is very alive but holding on with a life threatening disease and her use of mindfulness, Buddhism, is not a reality shared by Daphne.  Daphne is annoyed and at the same time loving towards her quixotic, mindful(ness) de-stressing mother. Anyone else she can deal with in her own home but solitude does not help her once the nightmare intrudes.  It is quite early on when the trauma occurs and it is then a case of where the story will take us.

Altered state

Daphne is slow to realise the effect of a changing shape to what was a life of vitality amidst work colleagues. Having assembled what she was aiming towards in her working life – service to not only customers but society it melts. Joe of the acerbic, Irish cutting driving general steering a loose lively crew is no longer meaningful along with everything else. Daphne begins to act oddly. Any certitudes have been dislodged. Her noisy colourful life was with tools forever lifted to help others happiness and the event which is central to the story has taken its toll.

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Contrasts appear.  Instead of likening her food which she excels in (taste buds only mildly acknowledged as effected by other dubious ingestitaions – drugs) her foodie happiness disintegrates and even eating is a chore.
Now the alternative to the wild exuberance of going out and enjoying herself and meeting her mothers psychological and familial needs are washed up.  The choice turns unappeasingly to alcohol and she eschews her mothers zen like world of adulthood in which she has created a daughter she loves, cherishes and hopes will share her idiosyncratic ways in some way but not cloyingly.  Anxiety, anger and bewilderment come to the fore. The signals she gives are clearly exposed. Daphne needs to express her feelings and several times she is partially allowed to which is where some of the more consequential parts of the story give reward.

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Hope

Part of the problem is her mental enclosure of the harm it has done to her. From a place where having the gift of making delicious meals to enjoy, the embodiment and thrill of sexual pleasures on the outside without to many commitments, produced sufficient temporary joy and escape. Attempts at reading philosophy before and after becomes a drastic recalibration from where she had some fix on or connection before but now she is unable to process or distinguish using whatever is available what things are important and what is fleeting and irreconcilable. It is because she won’t share with anyone the truth behind it or seek help. There is hope however as this itself dawns on her.

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Portents

For a writer to place a dilemma of a young woman’s world being confronted with an act which is random and futile might be difficult to have an audience adhere to. Writer Nico Mensinga and Director Peter Mackie Burns – whose first feature this is – do achieve this through small steps by putting Daphne through the mill. They take her unravelling as a component we connect with and partially empathise with her state. Here is one of the saving graces of the film. Given what script she has to work with – a misfire scene in a kitchen comes to mind as one of a few flaws – Emily Beecham is brilliantly on message and though there are no soliloquies or toxicity – the underscoring of her post traumatic state is not sufficiently persuasive script wise in my view – she offers a parallel imaginative world akin to a Jane Austen or Daphne de Maurier innocent heroine.  There is also a ‘rom’ drama there with the characters Joe – exhaling his love by giving Daphne a bye ball on several counts – a signal unseen – and David (Nathaniel Martello-White) the nightclub doorman Daphne meets persists with his eventful pursuit.

Making it work

Remedies are choices found in life as simple methods producing blocking out mechanisms and we follow the path wondering what effect it would have on whoever found themselves in that place.  Order is not a right.  Change alteration comes with every interaction.  The writing is sharp as is the direction but the former is not exploratory.  At times we see from overhead and long shots Daphne going about the street life busy and quiet in equal measure and recognise her isolation is conveyed.  Gently hope is given and certain reconciliations are brought out as possible routes to improvement.

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As a personality driven film taking persuasively, by excellent acting and direction, the trauma of small events which are not of themselves harmful to her but have a bearing and effect, demanding she process them, is broad reaching and very effectively delivered. Events before and after haunt her giving contrast as an indication of how she is dealing with her embattled mind. Essential focus is brought to Daphne in the Met. Police sponsored professional therapist Adam (Stuart McQuarrie) is brought through as an enabler. It is effectively called upon in the film as a dimension of contemporary experience though it is not always used and lesser mortals may not be up to facing a therapist in a comfortable home with a clinical environment more probable in boroughs where victims are created every five minutes.

Recovery

When she takes on board a therapy session only to find herself challenging the therapists lack of literary taste. One particular trait she throws irrationally at them – I saw another mor alarming one – behind her was among other books a Hillary Mantell volume. Only a demented soul requiring defective history of a form they aquaint with would give HM house room.

Daphne who has fallen into the abyss of a world of hate and harm when the brutal act is witnessed also meets a family, the family of Benny (Amra Mallassi) affected by the event. The family of the actual physical victim are themselves victims. There is another shore and marooned she becomes mentally fraught and things begin unravelling. Her first choice is alcohol. Bewildered, any meaning sought becomes unreliable. The values of friends are brought into disturbing clarity. The effect is completely unsettling and charged. So there is choice on the table and she has to select from a varied menu which challenges her unknowing unencoutered mental emotional tastebuds.

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Footer

Oh, and of Goodbye Christopher Robin, think Post War Mental Trauma, pastoral recovery, genial acting, stepping stones, pooh sticks, intelligent children, estrangement and manipulation of others. The accent is on the embattled duties of parenting in a publicly enhanced living environment where strange priorities take over and wrong choices are made. Another version of nurturing but I will not be embarking on a spiel about ‘Mother’.

Conclusion ###+3+

A promising debut feature. As the story is delivered it manages small notes of drama though some of these are underplayed.  Often, as Daphne becomes something of a reclusive, not able to communicate her troubles and moving on from very halting starts, in relationships and with work, it relies on your transposition of her state of mind.  On levels Daphne picks up on the chemistry of her attractions but shows she is unable to accommodate it in her mind.  The reclusive element presenting after the event is outdoors ‘external’ and not only within her home.  Mentally something has to give.  Disaster or release. This dynamic is the crux of the film’s premise. By only providing through talking aloud dialogue in a few scenes any illustration is partial and lacking gravity.

From the outset (if you’ve not read the above where I have not divulged my conclusion) I have to admit this film was not very engaging.  It only had one particular theme.  The central characters altering state of mind. Although it was a strongly acted piece with a significant beautifully focused Emma Beecham performance, it lacked sufficient insight.  Beyond the external scenes of depression and anxiety it is not cinematically expressed – to do it is very difficult and performance requires some devices to work with.  It requires subtlety, distinctive nods and pointers and not one liners indicating the ‘act’ which was used occasionally and a bit ineptly to show it had residency in Daphne’s mind.  What occurred to me was the question of how would you achieve the more connecting messages cinematically and I thought it is often the use of surreal devices and flashback with viewpoints taken as first person in those elements and thrown out as a vision of what Daphne is experiencing.  This duality of perspective was missing and it is consequently narrowing for this film to tell its story.

Daphne’s grinding spirit is her emotional world.  Emily Beecham is able to express and accomplish it with her reading of the character lifting it up, otherwise it might have been buried in emptiness.  Desires are satiated in her form of lifestyle and she shows these and projects a feisty willingness (making the Scottish connection more acute – the English bottling things up premise?! eschewed the question?!)  Dealing with her mothers pain and rightful need to connect properly with her ‘wild’ spirited daughter is a welcome relationship which Geraldine James does inhabit brilliantly.

On this I think the release – the actual knowledge of her mothers fragile existence and her coping mechanisms – happens to come inward to Daphne.  Here it delivers within the film’s narrative.  As a form of reference – her mothers illness – she uses it as a claim to reality.  Instead of rejecting the troublesome and loosing her ‘thread’ she is converted to owning her anxieties and then seeking opinion and help.  From no-one being around to help except Joe – (Chefs Issues?) Rita, Mum is the obvious ingredient missing as her confidante.  So resolution will it happen?  You will find out if you see this shortish, 1hr 28min. contemporary psychological treatise.  A lot depends on your own experience in filling in the gaps.

 

John Graham

5 October 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from : 06 October 2017 until 12 October 2017

 

 

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