New Review- Dreamcatcher

dreamcatchers_brenda-with-girl-on-leftFrom Kim Longinotto, who is arguably one of the most vital filmmakers in the documentary genre, comes Dreamcatcher. The film is a beautiful, unashamed document of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis’ of the modern world – the continued purchasing of human beings, including millions of little girls, for sex.

Prostitution is a subject that is regularly explored through cinema, but never has it been examined in such a daring, compassionate and unapologetic way. The focus is on former prostitute Brenda Myers-Powell. Myers-Powell runs Dreamcatcher, a project that aids vulnerable women who are either current or former prostitutes, or are at risk of entering that world. The help she provides varies from handing out condoms, to campaigning for the rights of incarcerated prostitutes, to being a mother-figure to those who so desperately need it. She is a modern day heroine, full of whit, but with a sturdy, calming presence.

We follow Myers-Powell through her endeavours, as she expertly manages a wide range of increasingly desperate situations; situations that are, as becomes apparent, part of her day-to-day existence. Nobody can really be prepared for the harsh reality that comes crashing down when it becomes clear that in a classroom of ‘at risk’ girls that she is working with, every single one of them has dealt with physical or sexual abuse, neglect and exposure to hard drug use from their caregivers. Every single one. In one classroom, in one part of one country – it makes the scale of the problem impossible to comprehend.

Longinotto is an expert in humanising people. Her unfathomable ability to delve in to the heart of each of her subjects, without judgment or agenda, is astonishing. This includes a reformed pimp, who now works with Myers-Powell to try and shed light on the psyche of the men who are part of this world. The inclusion of his voice is a brave, but essential move from Longinotto. The film isn’t about blame, it’s about understanding.

Myers-Powell’s incredible ability for compassion is enhanced through the film. Longinotto’s exploration of her as a woman, rather than as a former prostitute, is one of the films’ greatest achievements. Perhaps the only shred of genuine pleasure that can be gained from the film, which deals with such a horrific subject, is via Longinotto’s observation of Myers-Powell choosing which wig she is going to wear for work one day. As she frets and fusses, declaring how her choice of hair is a reflection of how she feels that day, we see her at her most empowered. Her femininity is hers to have, it does not belong to anybody else.

When you consider the subject matter, and indeed when you hear some of the painful stories that are told by the subjects – many of whom are very young girls – it’s hard to comprehend there being even an iota of hope for anyone in the situation. In fact, Longinotto is careful not to present the piece as a tale of triumph, nor as a bleak presentation of a hideous epidemic. In reflection, there is no overriding feeling of positivity – how can there be when what is presented is only the tiniest insight in to the smallest cross-section of a world-wide issue that is far beyond anybody’s control?

If there is one, absolutely glaringly obvious fact that the film illuminates unashamedly, is that every single one of our subjects does not want to be in the situation they are in. Even Myers-Powell, who throughout the film comes across as a stoic, proud, powerful women, mourns her past. She feels crippling guilt at the thought of the women that she pulled in to this world, and for her children who undoubtedly suffered as a result of her time as a sex worker. This film is a vital antidote to every titillating, romanticised study of prostitution in Hollywood; this is real, this is how it really is. What Longinotto has achieved cannot, and must not be underestimated.

For Hey U Guys

Posted in New Review | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Review- Hinterland


HinterlandNominated for the Jury Prize at Indie Film Festival Raindance, Hinterland is first time director Harry Macqueen’s contribution to the British indie scene; a gentle, lilting film, that in parts is let down by it’s over-long scenes with not quite enough drama to maintain the viewer’s attention.

Harvey (Macqueen) and Lola (musician Lori Campbell) are childhood friends, reuniting after a long time apart. Lola has travelled the world, whilst Harvey has barely moved on- seemingly waiting, in part, for Lola’s return. They drive to a quaint cottage that Harvey’s parents own, and quickly fall in to reminiscing about their childhood. It’s platonic, although subtle hints and suggestive glances between the two suggest the possibility of something more.

The film’s greatest misgiving is that it never quite gets to the heart of what it is trying to achieve. The obvious differences in their character – Harvey the quiet, sensible type and Lola the exploring, spontaneous dreamer, are exciting because there is a natural conflict – how can two people, so similar in their early youth, and yet so different today, maintain their friendship? Is it only a friendship that they are after? Has too much changed? The truth, it seems, is interesting enough to ponder, but the conclusion reached is too subtle and unexplored to justify the run time.

In a further attempt to highlight the distance between them, Macqueen includes long scenes of near silence as the characters make their journey in to hills and back in time. But there isn’t enough going on in the first place to endure them, and the even the natural beauty surrounding them isn’t enough to maintain interest.
For a debut feature though, Hinterland is impressive. The chemistry between Harvey and Lola that morphs as the story progresses is natural and recognisable – there’s a genuine fondness and absorbing familiarity despite the awkwardness of spending so long apart. It is the interaction between the two of them that just about saves the film from feeling flat.

The photography is also outstanding, as the wild Welsh hillside that Harvey and Lola visited as youngsters is comforting and beautiful. The two are isolated, which forces them to push through their initial awkwardness, and relax in to their fondly remembered roles. It’s a shame that the film doesn’t quite achieve its aims, but it’s worth seeing; there’s certainly an exciting new talent in Harry Macqueen as a director- one can only hope that his next creation packs a slightly stronger punch.


Reviewed for Hey U Guys 

Posted in New Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Review: We Still Kill The Old Way


It’s very easy to see a title like ‘We Still Kill the Old Way’ and immediately feel prickly. It’s understandable that one may assume that it’s just going to be another example of the repeatedly churned out gangster flick destined for the supermarket bargain bin, but that just means that, for those more cynical viewers, the film is going to be something of a very pleasant surprise.
The film has a simple enough premise- a group of no good hoodie-wearing thugs attack and kill a pensioner. Unfortunately for them, the pensioner was a retired gangster, and his ageing cohorts want revenge, and will go to any lengths to get it.
What makes the film stand out amongst others of its genre is that it writer Dougie Brimson, along with director Sacha Bennett, have made a conscious effort to address the obvious changes in the gangster genre. If the gangster genre is anti-establishment and meant to be used as a social commentary, which traditionally it has, then there’s been very little to come out of British cinema in recent years; which is strange given the political climate, so it is exhilarating to see a film that finally does just that.
The two gangs- the youths and the pensioners, could almost come from two different films. The youths are of the Kidulthood, Ill Manors ilk (with some of the same cast) and the old boys could have been plucked from the Italian Job, Villain, or even the later Guy Ritchie numbers, and it’s this clash of ideals that serves the narrative. The older gang still believe in respect- being courteous and well dressed, whilst the youths run around causing havoc. However, this isn’t a case of ‘look at the youth today, the country is going down the pan’, it’s more of an observation of the two generations failure to communicate; and that is an essential issue that surrounds modern day Britain. Both sides are the bad guys, or the good guys depending on how you look at it. Both are anti-establishment, and have a common enemy in the police.
The film is, as ever, not without its problems. The cinematography is botched, with some attempts to be stylish that just come across as amateur, and the casting of the youths don’t do anything to dispel the myths that all teenagers from poor backgrounds fail in stringing a sentence together. There is however a perfect piece of casting in Danni Dyer, daughter of Danny, who seems to have taken the torch with ease and will undoubtedly be a staple in other films of a similar genre.
With a long run of films of this genre being genuinely awful, it’s refreshing to see something new and exciting that brings promise to the gangster flick. It’s a lot of fun, and whilst it’s totally corrupt morally, isn’t that what gangster films are meant to be anyway?

Review for HeyUGuys


Posted in New Review | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A Bloody Great Film- Herostratus

HersostratusThink of ‘60s British Cinema and you probably think of Alfie, Blow Up, Bond. You probably don’t think of Don Levy’s only feature Herostratus, and neither did I, until now. The film was awarded money from the BFI Experimental Film Fund, and is a hidden gem amongst the stylish exciting cinema that was beginning to emerge in the ‘60s.

Set in swinging London and loosely based on the Greek tale, Herostratus tells the story of Max, a young, disillusioned poet who decides to hire a marketing company to publicise his own suicide. Played by the relative unknown Michael Gothard, the film is a dark commentary on the greedy, selfish, image obsessed culture of the time (and indeed of any time), where literally anything can be bought for a price. Max’s narcissism and naïve ideas leave him vulnerable to Farson (Peter Stevens), the sharp, soulless marketing exec who knows exactly how to stroke Max’s ego in order to get exactly what he wants. The narrative is interjected with abstract scenes (a beautiful Helen Mirren makes an appearance as a sensual Goddess, to be druelled over and marvelled at) and often frightening and obscure snippets that reference sometimes a later part of the film, and other times something totally random and confusing.

The photography is as outstanding as any film in British cinema history, a perfect blend of an eerie London through a fog-filled lens, criss-crossing with bold, luminous and often repulsive images, it is at once totally sentimental and also dazzlingly different. As with many films of the era, it is obsessed with looking at London, and does so exquisitely.
The performances are sensational. The dialogue remains sparse and often stilted; the performers are exactly that- people, saying words that are totally shallow and empty, with the only sincerity coming from Farson’s secretary Clio, played by Gabriella Licudi. Clio is perhaps the only human in the whole tale; although she has a price, just like everybody else.
It’s a crying shame that this was the only feature from director Don Levy, his obvious talent is reminiscent of Nic Roeg, Joseph Losey and even Antonioni in style. Tragically, both Levy and Gothard committed suicide, with their careers never quite reaching the peaks of their peers. But the film deserves as much praise for its daring, original filmmaking as it does for its technically brilliant delivery. It is everything that a perfect film should be. It’s exciting, engaging, shocking and breathtakingly beautiful; a true masterpiece.

Posted in A Bloody Great Film, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The UK film industry-a problem


NOTE: So I’m a little embarrassed. The other day I posted this article with the sole intention of highlighting an issue that has bothered me about the UK film industry for a while. Namely, the way that certain film genres and indeed issues in the industry, namely bullying, are often ignored by the mainstream media. You can see the full, unedited* article below. I understood that it was a tricky issue, particularly as I highlighted some accusations (important word there) that Adam Deacon had made against Noel Clarke. I want to repeat, just so it’s crystal clear, that I do not know either of them, and have no idea what happened.  I feel sad that Adam has been ignored, and that he clearly feels, rightly or wrongly, upset and angry by whatever it is that has happened. But what is also making me feel sad is the way that this article as been used as some sort of leverage to attack Noel Clarke. Adam Deacon is talented, good-looking actor with lots of fans who are young and impressionable and feel that it is OK to be abusive and offensive towards Clarke, with absolutely no context or understanding of what has happened. Not only is this not very clever or very nice, it is also BULLYING. To those of you who are older and should know better, please make sure you understand the content of this article before reposting it, I am happy to clarify it for you. The reason I have not deleted this article is because I still firmly believe in the issue I have raised. Many of you may scoff when I say that I loved Kidulthood, Adulthood, Green Street, The Business and the Football Factory and basically anything with Danny Dyer, and as long as there is scoffing going on, I will believe that I am right in what I’ve highlighted below.

*The only change that I have made is that I have changed the photo of the piece, which was originally of Deacon but is now of the both of them. Let’s hope they sort it out kids.

 Strolling through Twitter a few weeks back, I stumbled across Adam Deacon’s Twitter feed. He seemed pretty irate at the time, apologising to his followers about a supposed outburst he’d had regarding a matter that he promised to clarify. Then today, I read on Deacon’s Instagram that he’d been having trouble with director Noel Clarke. You can read what he said here, but to summarise, Deacon alleges without too much detail that Clarke has been trying to sabotage his career, referring to ‘psychopathic bullying’ that has been used to create a divide between not only Deacon, but numerous other people in his area of the British film industry.
Before I go on, I have to admit that I’ve not always been a champion of Deacon’s work. I watched Anuvahood with my then boyfriend, and was less than complimentary about the things I said. I was a fucking snob in my reaction to him winning the BAFTA Rising Star Award too, so maybe this is an atonement of sorts.
The issue that Deacon is raising is not unusual. Bullying happens in all areas of the film industry. It’s a tough sector to work in, the pay gap between the top and bottom is overwhelming. Ego’s fly about everywhere, people are stressed and overworked. Nearly all of us, particularly those in this industry can think of a boss or a senior colleague that have made us feel upset, nervous or just completely worthless. But Deacon is in a situation where he doesn’t have a PR breathing down his neck telling him what he can and can’t say, and he also doesn’t have anyone to go to that can help mediate the issue. And so he’spoken out.
Of course, I don’t know Adam Deacon or Noel Clarke. For all I know, Deacon could be lying through his back teeth, but actually, that’s not the issue here. Deacon aired his concerns 3 days ago. I only saw it because I have weird obsession with Fire in the Booth and similar channels, and Deacon did his bit recently for 1Xtra (if you like that kind of thing, or have no idea what I’m talking about, there’s an example here.) It seems to me, bizarre that such in important issue is going unreported. Whether or not you like Deacon’s work, the first thing that is undeniable is that he is someone who takes the industry incredible seriously. Deacon is from Hackney, East London. Anuvahood was his passion project. He co-wrote, directed and starred in it and got it in the cinemas and he’s nearly always been in work. And as a white, relatively privileged white woman living in Hackney, casual observation tells me that it’s a pretty hard place to climb out of if you were born here, which makes what he’s achieved all the more impressive. But one can’t help but wonder if this is part of the issue. To be fair to Clarke at this point, his films have also strived to represent the stories of those who, like Deacon, don’t always have a voice or a platform to speak out. But like those straight-to-DVD gangster films (again, a deep passion of mine), there seems to be an overwhelming snobbery to address them as anything other than hatchet-fodder at best; at worst, they are largely ignored. I’m not asking anyone to like those sorts of films, but it’s impossible to deny that the characters and stories being told are representative of real communities in the UK. Loach obviously does it best, Ill Manors and My Brother The Devil are also examples of films that are at least critically acclaimed, but they all are a valid part of our industry, and Deacon’s concerns, whether true or false, are valid too.
I can’t say whether there’s going to be a tectonic shift due to Deacon speaking out, but what is clear is that he shouldn’t be ignored. He has a large fan base, and has undoubtedly received support from the lads who think that his films are ‘well sick’, and the girls who think he is ‘well fit’, but the support should be coming from the industry that he is part of and has contributed to as well. I’ve no doubt that someone with his passion and enthusiasm will be OK, but what would be awful is if, like his Instagram post suggests, people like him get sidelined by bullies and snobs. Nobody wants a film industry saturated with one or two points of view, we should be striving for an industry that is representative of the all the cultures and communities around us, isn’t that the best thing about the UK anyway?

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

’71- Interview with Jack O’Connell and Gregory Burke

To mark the release of the exceptional debut feature from director Yann Demange, I caught up with lead actor Jack O’Connell and screenwriter Gregory Burke.

First things first- the comment in the script Derby and Nottingham-was that already in or did Jack put that in?
Jack: Well its blueprint was…
Gregory: Yeah it was a Yorkshire / Lancashire thing at first, but then obviously with Jack being a Derby lad, it was his prerogative really.
Jack: I was quite happy to make myself yet more Northern, but I’ve always been on the belief that my region isn’t really susceptible to cinematic coverage at all.
Gregory: It also proves that tribal conflicts are everywhere, there’s fault lines wherever you look, if you look hard enough.

Gregory, the film isn’t heavily bogged down in politics. When you were writing it, what made you decide to treat it as a sort of thriller?
Gregory: Well I’m not particularly interested in writing a film about Northern Irish politics, number one because I’m not Northern Irish, but also, I just wanted to do it from a squaddies point of view, because I thought that it was a thing that hadn’t really been covered. When I wrote Black Watch (Burke’s play about the conflict in Iraq) I found that there was this thing, particularly in drama where if you’re in a uniform, you’re either this poor little boy who is being lead to his death by his superiors, or you’re a robot-like thug who’s just there to kill people- but the Army isn’t like that. People join the Army for a myriad of reasons. Mostly they join for a job, but there’s lots of different reasons. It also contains lots of different types of people, it doesn’t just contain thugs or lost little boys. There are elements of that in Jack’s character, he’s absolutely looking for a home and a structure, and the Army know how to push those buttons on young men. They absolutely use these boys for a purpose that’s destructive. That’s the reason why I wanted to do it from a squaddie’s point of view, and of course there’s the back drop of the Troubles which I felt was relevant to our times that we’re living in now. Armies don’t fight armies anymore, armies fight civilians.

When writing from Gary Hook’s (Jack O’Connell) perspective, do you ever get worried about getting embedded in one point of view?
Gregory: Well in 1971, as the conflict went on, the British Army became more and more entrenched on the loyalist side but in ’68 when they first went, they went to protect the Catholics from loyalist paramilitaries. So the Army were at a pivotal point anyway on the early ‘70’s, kind of going from the initial role they were doing. The Army didn’t really know what they were doing at that point either, there wasn’t an infrastructure in place, and they didn’t really understand how to fight that kind of war. It was quite easy to steer clear of the politics, you don’t have time in 90 minutes to go back through the history anyway. Gary Hook is on the middle of it all, we just about wanted to get enough of it in so that we weren’t glossing over it and saying ‘that wasn’t happening’ but at the same time we couldn’t get bogged down in that.

When you’re writing, do you feel aware that you’re telling the story of a conflict where people who lived though it are still around?
Gregory: If I had made it a film about a soldier who had actually been killed in Northern Ireland, that you’re going to have that soldiers’ family saying ‘That was my son, you have no right to do that’. It’s about fictionalising it enough that you’re not actually telling someone’s story. It’s like any situation where you’re telling a real-life story, it has to be fictionalised enough to make the drama work.

Jack, as an Irishman yourself, were you happy with the way that the Irish people were portrayed?
Jack: It was key for me that neither side of the divide was depicted with any form of bias or prejudice I never once felt that the story had tried to sway my opinion. I read what is happening as the truth because to me, we’re in a real-life premise. I think it’s a credit to the casting too, but we didn’t only have the opportunity to tell their stories, but also to work with some of the most exciting young actors in Ireland.

It’s a really tense film to watch, was it that tense on the shoot too?
Jack: It’s even more tense, I’d argue. One thing you don’t have to experience in the cinema is how cold it was, and then they obviously spray me down with cold water to make me sweaty; I’d have been much happier providing my own sweat. If I wasn’t cold, I was extremely hot shooting the pursuit sequences in the middle of a fucking heatwave in Blackburn in March. I don’t deserve any extra credit for that, I knew what I was getting myself in to, but it’s a prerequisite for me; if you’re going to feel exhausted watching it, then something’s got to give on set.

Do you enjoy the more physical roles?
Jack: Yeah I suppose, there’s a lot I have to do between things to keep up that sort of level of stamina and that’s not so exciting. And so I probably do feel myself overdue a little bit more of a relaxed role but that’s unambitious you know? I’m actually craving the sleep deprivation and the hurt again. If I’m portraying people like Gary and Louis Zamperini (his role in Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’) I’m never going to hurt as much as they do and they made it through so I’m always dwarfed by their example a lot of the time, and that gives you a kick up the arse. There’s an emotional exhaustion too, so when you’ve got both of them to contend with, you’re really being made to work for your money. But I don’t feel like I’ve been pushed to my absolute extreme. It was hard enough, ’71, but it didn’t break me.

You considered joining the Army, was that something you brought to the role?
Jack: Yeah, it areas that go unnoticed you know i.e. the shape of my beret was taught to me in the cadets, and little things like that help me feel like a soldier. There were times if it was getting boring on set where I would just go and do some drill somewhere just to help stay in that sort of mind-set. But I haven’t looked back since becoming an actor I can tell you that much.

How deep to you go when preparing these roles?
Jack: As deep as you can really, but sometimes you’re battling against the elements too. Something like ’71, you’re filming on a residential area so you have the reality of 2013 constantly hindering your illusion of 1971. So I’m not sure how beneficial it is to be super rigid and strict about becoming method in that role but it does benefit me, certainly.

Gregory, did you have Jack specifically in mind when you were writing it?
Gregory: Well I probably didn’t went I was writing it initially, because I don’t really have time to think about anybody, I just think about the character, but actually it became quite obvious as I was I was writing it that if we weren’t going to get Jack then we’d be struggling.

There were some amazing young actors in the film, what was it like working with them?
Jack: I’m really susceptible to adopting youngsters on set! I remember a similar thing happening to me when I was a youngster and I really appreciated that leadership that was on offer and I don’t mean being nurtured either, sometime it was very effective for me when people were quite mean to me, and that would sometimes be more beneficial to me than feeling welcome. I try to steer away from that a bit, particularly in young Harry Verity’s case, I could sense him envisaging me as a bit of a brother by the end of it, and it’s tricky as well because these things finish and then you go your separate ways, and I’m only just getting comfortable with that and this kid’s around 10 years old. And then there’s young Corey McKinly too. I’m just in constant awe of these kids, and it does a lot for me, it educates me too. We had a strong cast there and as much as Yann had to keep the pace and had to make this exciting, it also relied on performances to make it human and I feel very flattered and fortunate that I was in there amongst the likes of Sean Harris and Killian Scott.

Are you both happy with the final film?
Gregory: I’m delighted actually, at the time of writing it I thought it was the least promising thing I was writing! But as it developed it was the quickest of all and it was quite a painless experience as writer. I think it’s brilliant, and it’s down to Yann and Jack, and so many people. And I’m chuffed with the reaction it’s had so far.
Jack: It was important for me that the same things that attracted me to the script were going to be the things that I celebrated as well. We are just depicting the truth and displaying the costs. Because someone is profiting from what we’re portraying here, making money out of that shit, and I think we’re duty-bound to portray that sensitively.

Originally published on Hey U Guys

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Review: A Night at the Cinema in 1914

night-at-the-cinema-1914-1000x750To mark 100 years since the beginning of WW1, the BFI have released A Night at the Cinema in 1914. The idea behind the film is to recreate the experience of the average cinema goer at the time, and is a blend of newsreels and short films (features weren’t readily available at the time). There’s films such as ‘Austrian Tragedy’, reporting on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand with footage of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, mixed in with ‘Egypt and Her Defenders’, a travelogue of the landmarks of the country. Of course, no 1914 cinema outing would be complete without Charlie Chaplin, and in this instance A Film Johnnie rounds off the piece, ending on a slightly more uplifting note than how the programme begun – there was a war on, after all.

It’s certainly an exciting and interesting concept. Programming at the time was obviously not crafted the way it is now. Film was still in its infancy almost, and just the very act of being able to see images from far flung lands would have been excitement enough, let alone the opportunity to watch comedies and tales of adventure in a setting which for many would still have been a novel experience. The film is scored by Stephen Horne, one of Britain’s leading silent film composers, to ensure an authentic war-time experience.

The main issue with the film is that it is now being shown to a far more sophisticated audience. Whilst a lot of archive film takes short clips from many places that are cut to form a narrative that in itself forms an entirely different film altogether, the simple act of watching a series of programmes makes for a unique experience, it doesn’t necessarily make for an edge-of-your-seat watch. This of course, is down to the personal taste of the viewer, and the researchers have taken care to ensure that a variety of different films are shown, so at the very least, everybody should be able to take something away from it.

That said, the BFI’s dedication to the preservation, restoration and exhibition of such work can never be highly praised enough. It must be acknowledged that the very existence of the film, one that marks the heritage of our cinema, is something that we cannot underestimate or take for granted. To sit in a cinema 100 years later and watch Emmeline Pankhurst striding to petition the King is an experience that even 50 years ago, would not have seemed even possible. It’s a piece of social and cinematic history, and it’s absolutely remarkable.

Originally published on Hey U Guys

Posted in New Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lilting: Interview with Director Hong Khaou

Hong+Khaou+z14Bksi5k92mTo mark the release of Lilting, I caught up with Cambodian born director Hong Khaou to discuss his debut feature film, starring Ben Whishaw in the leading role.

The film has done very well, and was made as part of the Film London Microwave scheme, can you tell us how it first came about?
Well I was at Sundance film festival with my short film Spring and I remember coming back from the festival, it was such a great experience. I knew the Microwave scheme was around and what it does, is it gives the opportunity for first time feature filmmakers to make a low-budget film. There were other great films, such as Shifty that came out of the scheme and I just went for it.

Your background is in writing, you did a lot of writing first before you came on to direct; how did you first come up with the script?
It’s weird actually, when I first went to film school, writing wasn’t wanted to do, I wanted to become a director, but it’s very hard. I’m not very good at the whole networking, socialising sort of thing so I ended up writing my own stuff, and I think that’s how I fell in to writing. The film came from my own experience. I’m from an immigrant family, I’m bilingual, me and my brothers had assimilated when we came here, and my parents hadn’t really assimilated. I just thought it was a really interesting premise to start on. My main drive when I was writing it back then was all about communication. I wanted the film to be bilingual, I didn’t want to use subtitles, I wanted to have the translator as a major narrative device, because I spent so much of my early days translating for my parents. Even now when I go out for a drink in the evening with my mates, there’s always more than on language being spoken. It happens often in a big cosmopolitan city. It’s wonderful but it can also be confrontational because it highlights differences. So whether it’s cultural or generational, you have conflict rising out of it.

With the language barrier, it’s sometimes hard to express what you’re trying to say. We see this through the exploration of Junn and her relationship with Alan, and how it breaks down when they can understand each other verbally.
Yes that was the intention, and that’s why I wanted their relationship to breakdown. Here and Richard however were able to find something to push forward with, and whether they remain friends or not, we don’t know, but hopefully at least they managed to find some sort of peace within themselves. At the same time I wanted her relationship with Alan to break up because of communication, and also because it didn’t make sense for her to have a relationship as well, especially in that situation and at that age where there are so many differences, not just with language but with cultural differences as well. It would’ve been too fairy tale.

Richard can’t really grieve properly around this woman because he can’t really reveal what their relationship was. Do you feel that acceptance was also a theme? The issues surrounding homosexuality in the film aren’t as palpable as in other films that explore gay relationships.
I didn’t want to make it in to a ‘big thing’ and I think that when he does tell her the truth, it’s really important how she reacts. If she would’ve reacted in a different way, it would’ve taken the film in a different direction, it would’ve been a ‘coming out’ film, but the same time it carries elements of that. When Kai dies, Andy has to Kai’s guilt of not coming out to his mother. When we were rehearsing, I was sitting with Ben (Wishaw) and Andy (Leung) and we felt that it was a really interesting dynamic, Richard almost has to come out all over again and it’s that sensitivity of not knowing if he can do to it or how. Is he doing what’s right for Kai or is he doing it for himself? There’s a lot of internal struggle and conflict that Richard has to process, and he can’t grieve. And grieving is such an odd, messed up process. Richard has to see Kai’s mother to help his own grief but the more he sees her, the more he gets drawn in to her problems.

Richard feels he has a sort of duty to Kai. Kai kept this secret from his Mother for fear of upsetting her and Richard takes it on.
Yes, this sort of thing excites me, the human condition. Why we do the things we do. Towards the end when Richard has this massive row with Junn, it’s so out of character, but all of it needed to be said, and it’s what Kai should’ve said. But then he apologies in a way, because it never bothered him, it bothered Kai.

Grief is such a huge subject. When you’re dealing with it, do you want it to be subtle, or did you want it to be more obvious?
I didn’t want it to be a weepy film. I’m aware that when you’re talking about grief it’s a very emotive subject matter and I think my biggest fear was it to become sentimental but nevertheless I was aware that a film like this has many sentiments in it and when you’re talking about grief, you shouldn’t be afraid of that. It’s hard to find that balance and I remember thinking that the best way I could deal with that would be to be as sincere as I possibly could, so then when you hit those sentimental moments, you’ve sort of earned it and so I’m OK with that. Grief is such a subjective thing too, I knew that I couldn’t please everybody. If we’re being mechanical about it, I put things in place to try and control that I think. For example Richard is very emotional, but Junn isn’t, and if she was there would be a crisis. With grief, you can’t be afraid to talk about it, and also it’s very easy to manipulate, and the minute we feel that, we tend to kick it away. I wanted to find a way that would resonate a bit more. I don’t want to go for the easy route!

Originally published on Hey U Guys

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Review- Lilting

LiltingLilting is the touching debut feature by Cambodian born director Hong Khaou. Ben Whishaw plays Richard, who has lost his long term partner Kai (Andrew Leung) in accident. Kai was incredibly close to his Cambodian Chinese mother, who is unable to speak English and so is completed isolated without him. In attempt to feel close to Kai, and to honour him, Richard reaches out to Kai’s mother Junn (Pei-pei Cheng), in the hope that he also bring her some comfort. Junn was unaware of their relationship, firmly believing that they were just best friends, and initially greets Richard’s attempts at a friendship with some suspicion. But as their relationship blossoms, what plays out is a gentle, if somewhat challenging piece.

Grief is a subject covered often in cinema, and director Hong Khaou certainly attempts to explore the subject in an interesting way. Flashbacks see Richard and Kai in intimate moments, Richard recalling the memories of the little things he shared with Kai, the sort of in jokes, petty arguments and funny habits that he misses. But sadly the study of grief as a whole seems fairly vague. The rawness of the emotion never really gets through, and a lot of the time it’s frustrating to watch. Some of the dialogue is stilted, and not just because of the language barrier. Whishaw himself, whilst undeniably sweet and likeable as Richard, is unfortunately not well suited in this instance. He’s a wonderful actor, but in certain roles, his tendency to overact and be theatrical can be incredibly distracting, and in this instance it makes some of the scenes seem quite artificial.

Pei-pei Cheng is exceptionally good as Kai’s mother. She’s clouded by her grief, and the death of her son is all the more painful as it leaves her feeling totally alone, in a care home where nobody speaks her language. Her romantic relationship with a fellow resident is very touching, and provides a welcome spark to the morose tone, and the study of her isolation and alienation from her surroundings is by far the best thing about the film.

The film comes from a really genuine place, but sadly just doesn’t quite reach far enough in terms of its exploration of a notoriously difficult subject. It feels overly long for its running time, and doesn’t delve deeply enough in to any of the areas that Khaou is trying to explore, preferring to skim lightly over subjects that should perhaps be given a little more time. It’s worth a watch just for Pei-pei Cheng alone, but other films with the same ideas have achieved far more.

Originally published on Hey U Guys

Posted in New Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Review: Keeping Rosy


The debut feature from director Steve Reeves, is a film that’s hard to classify. Keeping Rosy is a sort of genre-hybrid, part thriller, part drama, part who actually knows?
Charlotte works in the city, and has just learnt that her less-qualified male colleague has been promoted above her. Less than happy, she takes redundancy and wonders how she’s going to fill the rest of her life. Childless, she’s devoted her whole life to her career, lives in a modern, characterless flat and is very alone. But what follows is far from a churned-out tale of the modern women, forced to choose between a family and her job, struggling against the vein of patriarchy that is still so apparent in modern society. It certainly challenges these issues, albeit in an almost surreal way.
The film works well as a study of the internal conflict within human beings, our ability to transform and adapt, to give in to our desires, to be deceitful, to conform and to completely and utterly lose control. Reeves makes a good attempt at exploring this idea, but unfortunately doesn’t quite pull it off.
The biggest problem with the film, and one that really lets it down, is that tonally, the film doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be. It begins in the style of a TV drama with very little cinematic quality, but as Charlotte’s life begins to unravel, it shifts to what looks to be a promising, dark allegory, revealing the dark depths of the female psyche and the pressures of women to fit in to a particular role within society. However it quickly loses it’s way, and morphs into a bizarre, low-budget-style thriller.
There are scenes of graphic violence on a couple of occasions, and it’s hard as viewer to understand exactly how we’re meant to respond; it’s incredibly uncomfortable. When watching a thriller, there’s a general understanding that, rightly or wrongly, the violence is meant to generate excitement, but when the tone is so patchy and the viewer initially understands that the violence is meant to be taken seriously, when everything changes and starts to follow the conventions of a thriller, it doesn’t quite work, and totally devalues what was actually the strongest part of the entire piece.
The cast, however, are absolutely outstanding. The ever-faultless Maxine Peake shines as Charlotte. Her rigid, cold exterior makes her hard to figure out initially, lulling the audience in to a false sense of security until she switches, flitting between deranged psychopath and back to stony-faced ice-queen. The film is worth watching just for Peake alone. Blake Harrison is also terrific, although the less said about his character at this stage the better. Christine Bottomley also makes an appearance as Charlotte’s trusting, wide-eyed sister, and is the perfect antidote to Peake’s harsh coldness.
It’s a real shame that the film doesn’t quite deliver on what is a solid, interesting idea that sadly just loses it’s way too early on. It’s certainly does enough to make it worth watching, and it’ll be interesting to see what Reeves does next.

Reviewed for Hey U Guys

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment