drama

REVIEW: About Time (2013)

When Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21, his father (Bill Nighy) tells him the family secret – all men in their family can travel back in time. Tim learns that changing events in his life isn’t as easy as you might think, especially when he uses it to find love.

About Time is a charming and funny romantic drama. It blends together the science-fiction of time travel with all the best stuff about love and family. While it is funny, About Time is also incredibly sincere – it’s definitely the kind of film you should embrace wholeheartedly and leave any cynicism you may have behind.

When Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) things go awry when he uses his time travel skills. Slowly he begins to realise that changes to his past have consequences and it can be tough keeping track of it all. The way the relationship between Tim and Mary develops is really sweet. There is the potential for it to be a bit creepy, what with Tim learning more about Mary each time he might time travel but to her it’s a first encounter, but the chemistry between Gleeson and McAdams and a heartfelt script makes it Tim’s awkwardness more endearing than sinister.

While the main focus of Tim’s story is about his romance with Mary, About Time is also about family. Tim adores his sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), their relationship is just the best and he always tries to help her, with and without time travel, though it doesn’t always work out. And then there’s Tim and his dad – these two have one of the most touching, and realistic, father-son relationship I’ve seen in a while.

There are some issues with About Time. It’s perhaps a little long with the middle dragging slightly and some may find it too sentimental, but all in all it’s a beautiful film. About Time is funny and romantic and shows off all the highs and lows of what life truly is. Yes, Tim may have time travel to help him out now and again, but it’s much better to take the time to experience life in that moment. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House is a saga with the legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which is about an inheritance dispute, at its centre. There are many characters and subplots in Bleak House, but the heroine of the story is Esther Summerson, a young woman who is taken under guardianship of John Jarndyce, and who’s connections become a focal point of the story.

Bleak House has two narrators, Esther Summerson and an unnamed omniscient narrator. To begin with, their stories seem to run parallel to each other and there’s not much that connects the two of them but as the story progresses the narratives merge and characters from both perspectives interact with one another.

I think listening to the audiobook is what got me through Bleak House, if I’d been reading the physical book I would’ve given up on it. The audiobook of Bleak House I listened to was narrated by Hugh Dickson and I think he did a fantastic job at making each of the many many characters sound different and, more often than not, memorable. This made the story and its many sub-plots and characters easier to follow. Also, I think the more humorous moments or dialogue were easier to understand when listening to it, compared to reading it, because the language was easier to comprehend

Bleak House is a dense story with is subplots and characters, but it also has an interesting mystery and is sometimes funny too. There’s so much going on in Bleak House it’s hard to give a summary of it or go into all the characters – I will talk a bit about Esther Summerson though. Esther grew up unloved, so she is very self-deprecating and grateful for every little thing. Even though she grew up in an unloving home, she’s someone with a big heart and a lot of love to give. Her relationship with Ada, another of John Jarndyce’s wards, is lovely as they support one another and quickly form a solid connection.

I’m happy I’ve finally read Bleak House, it’s been sitting on my shelf for nearly five years, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It’s a story with a legal battle, with romance, with family drama and it’s a detective story too. It’s so many things and it’s a commentary on the poor in London and the tough and potentially hopeless situations they are in. 3/5.

REVIEW: The Tale (2018)

After her mother (Ellen Burstyn) discovers a story she wrote when she was thirteen, Jennifer (Laura Dern) tries to re-examine her first sexual relationship, the people involved and what truly happened that summer.

The Tale is based on writer and director Jennifer Fox’s own experiences and based on the story she wrote as the teenager. This makes this story all the more compelling and heartbreaking as it’s a sexual abuse survivor, telling her story in her own words as she tries to come to terms with what happened to her.

This is not just a story about abuse, but a story about memory. Jennifer can remember her riding teacher Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki) and her coach Bill (Jason Ritter) so vividly but has difficulty picturing herself in those memories and remembering how she felt and what she knew. As she reconnects with people who spent the summer with her at the riding school, Jennifer begins to realise that some of her memories don’t match up with other people’s recollections.

The Tale is told with two narratives running parallel to one another; Jennifer as an adult, suddenly having to confront her past, and Jenny as a child (Isabelle Nélisse) living the experiences Jennifer is now recalling. Both Nélisse and Dern give powerful performances. Nélisse is brilliant as she slowly becomes less naïve about the world but still believing that what she’s experiencing is a relationship and that Mrs. G and Bill really love her. Dern is phenomenal as she perfectly captures the anguish as she revisits her past and now she’s older she can start to put into context what she experienced. The scenes where young and present-day Jennifer are in the same space helps show the haziness of memory as between the two of these points of view they try to find the truth of what happened.

The Tale handles the sensitive subject matter with grace and care. It’s a tough film to watch as it doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable and sexual content. However, it’s powerful to see an independent and strong-willed woman reassess the trauma she experienced and decide what to do with that information. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Terminal (2004)

When there’s a military coup in his home country while he’s flying to America, Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is forced to take up temporary residence in JFK’s terminal building as he is not allowed to set foot on American soil.

The Terminal is a really sweet heart-warming film that grows on you as the story progresses. It’s tough to see Viktor struggle because he has a limited grasp of English and doesn’t understand what customers agent Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) is telling him about his country. When Viktor sees the news for the first time your heart-breaks for him and it continues to break for him as he struggles to survive in the terminal building with no money and no food.

Over time Viktor begins to make friends with various airport staff including Enrique (Diego Luna) who works in catering, baggage handler Mulroy (Chi McBride) and cleaner Gupta (Kumar Pallana). How his friendship, and English skills, grow over the course of the film is lovely. Because Viktor is such a fixture in the terminal building, pretty much everyone who works there, in the shops, in the food court and in security, get to know him.

An unlikely friendship, and even romance, blossoms between Viktor and air stewardess Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). There’s some crossed-wires as Amelia doesn’t understand that he actually lives in the airport, even though he never really lies to her.

Viktor’s story is like that of the American Dream – or at least what the American dream should be. He always displays a kindness and compassion towards others and in turn receives help and respect and brings out the best in those he encounters.

The Terminal may not be considered one of director Steven Spielberg’s best or most memorable films, but it’s a lovely film about people, relationships and doing what you believe is right. It’s film that balances comedy and drama very well and it’s just a wonderful film. 4/5.

REVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Seven months after the murder of her daughter, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) challenges the local authorities, who have not caught the culprit, by promoting the injustice on three billboards on the road to her hometown.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is from writer and director Martin McDonagh. This is the man behind In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, so if you have seen them, you’ll now at least a little of what to expect from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – which is black comedy, drama and violence.

Frances McDormand is brilliant as the vengeful and hurting Mildred. She’s a woman in pain who wants justice and is not afraid to cause pain and distress in order to get it. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is trying to be understanding with what Mildred is going through, and does his best to explain that there just isn’t the evidence to catch her daughters killer, while struggling with his own demons and an unruly police force. Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is a racist and violent cop and is no way a good guy and the film doesn’t paint him like one. He’s the main antagonist of this story, hurting anyone close to Mildred in order to get to her.

That’s the thing about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, none of the characters are particularly likeable and all of them are very angry and mean. While you understand Mildred’s frustration it doesn’t mean she’s doing the right thing, and while Dixon does evolve as a person, he’s never completely changed or “good”, he’s still the disgusting and dangerous person he always was, just changed slightly.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is funny but it’s also super dark – the script manages to balance these two elements really well. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is tough to watch at times, remembering a scene at a dentist still makes me shudder, but the incredible performances pull you into the story and gives you a memorable film. 5/5.

REVIEW: Denial (2016)

Acclaimed historian Deborah E. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) must battle to prove the historical truth of the Holocaust when renowned denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) sues her for libel.

Denial is an engaging courtroom drama that respects the history it is debating. While it gives Irving the space to put across his views, it never says those views are right or fair. The film frames Lipstadt and her team of lawyers as the speakers of truth and rightly so.

The scenes set at Auschwitz concentration camp are very respectable. The actors’ reactions to the environment they’re in is visceral and nothing is over-played in these scenes. The shorts of the hundreds and thousands of suitcases and other belongings of the Jews who were there is haunting, and the film doesn’t flinch away from the cold, harsh truth of the place and its history.

The courtroom scenes are tense as Irving and Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), Lipstadt’s lawyer, verbally spar over points of racism, anti-Semitism and what is fact and fiction. It’s touching how this case becomes so much to all of the defence team, Rampton can be blunt in his questions when investigation Auschwitz but it’s only so he can be best prepared.

There’s a few scenes between Lipstadt and a holocaust survivor (Harriet Walter) that are touching but almost feel like they are there to hammer home the point of getting some form of justice or closure for the victims and survivors, when it’s not really needed thanks to Weisz’s performance. Lipstadt is a Jew and that emotional connection can be found through her, and she acts as a voice for those who suffered.

Denial is a gripping true story. It’s a tough watch at times but great performances by all involved makes you root for those fighting for the truth in a very clever and complicated way, while Spall plays a man who you can’t quite believe is a real person, who apparently truly believed what he did. 4/5.

REVIEW: Molly’s Game (2017)

The true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a self-made woman who ran the most exclusive high-stakes poker games in America, attended by film stars, musicians, businessmen, and unbeknownst to her, the mob, and the subsequent court case when she becomes an FBI target.

Molly’s Game is a fast-paced film, with rapid quick-cut editing and a voiceover from Bloom throughout. This voiceover adds details such as she was thinking and, when it comes to the poker games, explains some of the slang terms for hands and cards. While the film does offer these moments of explanation, there’s a lot to take in and it might have been easier to follow, and perhaps that bit more enjoyable, if you have more of an understanding of poker. It’s still an engaging film though, there’s just a lot of information being giving to you almost constantly through the voiceover.

The script is razor sharp, which is unsurprising really as it’s penned by Aaron Sorkin (writer of The West Wing, The Social Network and many other shows and films). The dialogue is funny and lively, and the scenes jump between the present and Bloom’s court room battle, and her rise and fall in the world of poker.

Jessica Chastain gives another stellar performance here. She’s commands every scene she’s in and outshines just about any other actor she’s on screen with. Idris Elba plays Charlie Jaffey, Bloom’s lawyer, and their verbal sparring matches as they slowly begin to understand one another are electric.

Molly’s Game is an entertaining film, albeit perhaps a bit overlong, with great performances, some laughs and high-drama. 4/5.