The love affair between socialite and popular author Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) and literary icon Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki).
Vita & Virginia is one of those films I chose to watch for two reasons and neither of them was because I thought I’d really enjoy the film. Those two reasons were one; it had an actor I liked a lot in it (in this case, Gemma Arterton) and two; it’s directed by a woman so can count towards my 52 Films by Women challenge. I didn’t go into Vita & Virginia thinking I’d hate it (and I didn’t) but equally, it wasn’t a story I was particularly interested in.
Based upon their real letters Vita & Virginia tells the story of how these two women met and became entangled in each other’s lives. There are many times where the letters are just read out by the actresses and the camera lingers on the face of the recipient as they register the words. This was an interesting way to show how they kept in touch and felt about one another to begin with, but the repetition soon got old.
It’s unfortunate that while the two leads do a decent job with what they’re given, it’s their relationships with their husbands that is far more touching and interesting than their forbidden love affair. Arterton and Debicki don’t have great chemistry whereas the support and care both Harold Nicolson (Rupert Penry-Jones) and Leonard Woolf (Peter Ferdinando) show their respected wives feels more real. Both couple’s marriages are unconventional in different ways and it’s a shame that’s what interested me more than what was happening between the titular characters.
The cast is good, it’s just how the film is put together (and a sometimes-dry script) that lets them down. How Vita & Virginia is edited feels weird. Some scenes or moments are cut too short so any intended emotional impact is lost while others meander or build to something that never happens. It makes this one hour and 50 minutes film often feel a lot longer than that. The music is also a bit strange at times, with almost techno, dance music playing during a party. It kind of feels it was going for the Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette anachronistic vibe of clashing the historical and the modern but as it wasn’t consistent in Vita & Virginia, it’s just more jarring and feels out of place.
Overall, while the cast does what they can with what they’re given, the lack of chemistry between the leads and its slow-pace makes Vita & Virginia feel far longer and duller than what it probably was. 2/5.
Newly appointed scriptwriter for propaganda films at the Ministry of Information, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) joins the cast and crew of a major production aimed to bring “authenticity with optimism” to the public while the Blitz rages on.
Their Finest was a surprise in the best possible way. It’s funny, touching and doesn’t go for clichés like I thought it would. It’s got some brilliant performances, Gemma Arterton is fabulous and Bill Nighy (who plays veteran actor Ambrose Hilliard) is wonderful, watching their relationship grow was lovely to watch.
Their Finest is a film about filmmaking and stories. It’s always nice to put the people who make and write films front and centre and seeing how Catrin and Buckley (Sam Claflin) write a film together, working around obstacles like terrible actors and changes in location was great. While those who know next to nothing about filmmaking will not get lost watching it, the small attention to detail when it comes to filmmaking in the 1940’s is delightful.
There’s always the threat of the Blitz hanging over the characters but they still find the best in a bad situation and it is that good old example of British resolve. Their Finest is also quite a feminist film, Catrin and Phyl (Rachael Stirling) are only getting the chances they have because young men are off fighting but they get to show they are good at what they do and deserve the recognition. Also it features a perfect example of my favourite theme; media being able to inspire those who don’t usually see themselves in media.
Their Finest is a wonderful film that balances comedic romance with period drama. I feel this is pretty much a perfect example of the term “crowd pleaser”. 4/5.
Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) works in a bathtub factory in a small town and just wants to fit in – though hearing his pets talk to him doesn’t really help him much. He becomes interested in his colleague Fiona (Gemma Arterton) but his interest takes a deadly turn and his life spirals out of control as he struggles to deal with the consequences of his actions. His dog Bosco tries to be the voice of reason while his cat Mr. Whiskers encourages Jerry to do evil deeds.
The Voices is a tough film to talk about as it doesn’t really fit any typical genres, it’s a dark comedy but it’s also a horror film and it deals with mental illness too and its tone shifts from one aspect to another within a blink of an eye. Some people will hate that, some will love it – I was one of the later. It’s also a hard film to talk about as it’s hard not to go into spoiler territory – if anything it’s best going into The Voices knowing as little as possible.
Ryan Reynolds is brilliant as Jerry as he manages to balance his dark side with his earnestly wanting to be good. He manages to make a guy who is a killer somewhat sympathetic, which is definitely a weird thing to feel when watching a film about a murderer. I think this is one of Reynold’s best performances to date (I haven’t seen Buried) and it’s something that definitely shows his range.
The Voices also stars Anna Kendrick as Lisa, one of Jerry’s work colleagues who fancies him and she’s incredibly sweet and naïve. Her scenes with Arterton and Reynolds are great and really all three off the main cast bounce off each other really well but this is Reynolds movie.
I can’t not talk about Mr. Whiskers and Bosco – they are both incredibly funny and in the case of Mr. Whiskers enjoys to swear a lot. Their interactions with Jerry are some of the highpoints of the film.
The Voices is funny, dark, weird and stylised. Some will love it, others will hate it. The allusions to mental illness and schizophrenia may rub some people the wrong way but I think it was handled pretty well. The sudden shifts in tone were sometimes jarring but did add to the overall feel of the film. 5/5.
I’ve put the trailer in my review because that’s what I normally do but I’d really recommend not watching it as it does give some surprises away.