Anon

Year: 2018
Directed by: Andrew Nicol
Cast: Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried, Colm Feore, Sonya Walger, Mark O’Brien

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2018 British science fiction thriller is directed and written by Andrew Niccol and stars Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried, Colm Feore, Sonya Walger and Mark O’Brien.

In the not too distant future, biosyn implants allow humans to be connected to an endles visual stream of information nown as the ‘Mind’s Eye’. What people see is recorded and stored in a grid called ‘The Ether’. Privacy and secrecy no longer exist.

Detective Sal Frieland (Owen) is soon brought in to investigate a string of murders where the killer seems to be living within the Ether itself; leaving no visual clues, footprints or streams against their victims – he is seeking a ghost within the system. Sal comes across an informant known only as Anon (Seyfried) who he suspects is linked to these crimes – but why? It’s clear the security of people’s minds has been compromised, and Sal needs to find the Anon before it’s too late…

An “original film” which at least comes across as original in context, but really it’s just a blend of other big-budget sci-fi thrillers before it like ‘Minority Report’ and even ‘The Matrix’. Yet it’s painful to watch with a un-engaging story, a less than engaging cast, and a pace that makes a snail look quick in comparison.

It’s a world where people “see” streams of information depending what they look at. They can see adverts ping up around shops and sidewalks, they can see information about everyone they pass including age, job, place of residence, criminal records. It’s not a million miles from what technology can find on people today, except here it’s a constant stream where your privacy and secrets are recorded and stored in a “cloud”.

It’s like Apple becomes Skynet.

And yet to compensate a basic formula for a crime-thriller where you don’t know who or what is behind an obvious major conspiracy or rebellion against the system, you need a good cast. We sadly don’t have that either.

While Amanda Seyfried does a mediocre job as our ‘Anon’ living in the void as a ghost, never really becoming anything other than a 2D hacker with a grudge, it’s left to Clive Owen as the sharp suited detective of this cyber world. A detective who juggles heavy drinking, a failed marriage and a traumatic past to do what he does best – solve crimes. But Owen just lacks any gravitas as Sal, either due to the material he’s working with or the fact he isn’t just that great an actor in a film that requires complex character studies. We get none of that here.

With Owen out to solve a crime as basic as this, it takes so long for the cogs to turn and almost an hour for things to just warm up. Cue lots of sub-par visual effects, over-used P.O.V shots (‘Hardcore Henry’ this isn’t!) and lots of talk. Too much of a relatively good thing soon loses the impact it initially set out. Exposition upon exposition makes it complicated to follow and adds so much more to things when it didn’t need to.

Maybe there’s a reason this is a Netflix ‘original film’, because in the mainstream swing of things, it’s not original. It’s been done before, and it’s been done better. This is just a basic offering with a premise that looks and sounds exciting in trailers, but comes over slow, amateur and boring in execution.

 

Chris’s Rating: 

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Tully

Year: 2018
Directed By: Jason Reitman
Cast: Charlize Theron, Mark Duplass, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Davis

Written by Fiona Underhill

This is going to be a hard review for me to write because I felt this film on a deeply personal level and objectivity is going out of the window. I do think this film will be viewed by those who have experienced motherhood (yes, not parenthood) in a very different way to those who haven’t.

‘Tully’ is director Jason Reitman’s third collaboration with writer Diablo Cody (after ‘Juno’ and ‘Young Adult’) and his second with Charlize Theron (‘Young Adult’). Reitman has been something of an uneven writer-director and usually quite divisive with critics. I have generally been a fan of his work and he does seem to have been particularly successful when teamed with Cody.

Tully follows Marlo (Theron) after the birth of her third child. Her rich brother Craig (Mark Duplass) suggests Marlo and her husband Drew (one of my favourite actors; Ron Livingston) get a ‘night nanny’ – someone to come in at night and help with the baby so the parents can get some rest. This seems a flawed idea to me, if the mother is breast-feeding, but the realism of the situation kind of isn’t the point of the film. Marlo eventually caves and hires Tully (another one of my favourites; Mackenzie Davis) and finds a new lease of life, waking up to a clean kitchen and freshly-baked cupcakes.

Theron has had quite a year; with the successfulAtomic Blonde and the pretty woeful ‘Gringo’. Tully is another physical transformation for her (which led to her Oscar success with ‘Monster’) although I’m not sure how much is prosthetics here. It is an incredible performance, quite apart from the physical side. Theron effectively communicates a mother barely holding it together, despite the pressures from her kids’ school and comparing herself to her perfect brother. I adore Mackenzie Davis. She has given some great performances on TV in ‘Halt & Catch Fire’ and ‘Black Mirror’ (San Junipero) and in rom-coms ‘That Awkward Moment’ and ‘What If’ and she is equally fantastic here. The dynamics between the two women as they form a close bond is at the heart of this film, and they have great chemistry.

All I can say is that the details that Cody and Reitman have captured of motherhood (especially of having a newborn baby) are painfully real and relatable. I cried several times during the film, as Marlo was doused in a juice cup, dealt with tantrums from her older children and examined her postnatal body. The house was recognisable as a real, lived-in house and her relationship with her husband felt  authentic also. It is rare to find a film that you feel speaks to your experience so accurately and for this reason, I was pretty destroyed by the end.

The plot does not go in a predictable direction, for a film dealing with a young, attractive nanny coming into the home of a older couple. Despite managing to avoid all Infinity War spoilers before seeing it, I did have ‘Tully’ spoiled for me on Twitter and this did affect my experience of watching the film. The ending will not be to everyone’s taste and I can also see people having an issue with the depiction of mental health in the film. However, there are not many films that have touched on the madness-inducing exhaustion of having a newborn or on postnatal depression – topics that it’s important we discuss as a society.

It’s difficult to say much more about this film without spoiling it and I do recommend that you go in knowing as little as possible. As I have said, I believe you will find this a very different experience depending on how much you can relate to Marlo. For me, it was an extremely well written and well acted film that spoke to me on a deeply personal level. But, I can fully understand other people not getting the same things from it. I also think the ending will prove controversial and will colour your view of the film as a whole. Definitely worth seeing, so you can make up your own mind!

FIONA’S RATING:

4

 

Mary & the Witch’s Flower

Year: 2017
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Cast (English dub): Ruby Barnhill, Jim Broadbent, Ewen Bremner, Lynda Baron, Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Morwenna Banks, Teresa Gallagher

Written by Sarah Buddery

Now reportedly ceasing to operate, the world is mourning the loss of Japanese animation giants, Studio Ghibli. But fear not anime fans, the spirit of Ghibli lives on, in the newly formed Studio Ponoc. Founded by former Studio Ghibli lead film producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, Studio Ponoc gained the support and allegiance of several Ghibli animators and directors, including the director of their debut movie, ‘Hiromasa Yonebayashi’.

‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ continues that Ghibli tradition of taking a classic (and usually English) children’s book, and giving it their own unique and fantastical spin. Whilst I would normally insist upon watching any anime film in the original language, the English dub of ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ that I saw was perfectly adequate; in fact the quintessentially British tones of national treasures such as Jim Broadbent, totally lend themselves to this type of story.

Whilst it might initially appear to be narratively similar to Ghibli’s classic ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, it does manage to be its own film, whilst still evoking the spirit of everything that makes these Ghibli classics stand out. ‘Mary’ actually owes more of a debt to ‘Harry Potter‘, and indeed the magical school that our protagonist finds herself in is very Hogwarts-esque; it surely can’t be coincidence that the students bear the colours of red, blue, yellow, or green either!

The story itself is quite simplistic, but then again it is for kids, and whilst the charming characters and easy-to-follow story will keep the attention of the kids, the beautiful animation will capture the older viewers as well. Voiced by none other than Spud from ‘Trainspotting’ (aka Ewen Bremner), the groundskeeper Mr Flanagan is an utter delight, and the only shame being that he doesn’t get enough screen-time.

Whilst this is enjoyable fare, it never feels like it has that timeless quality of some of the Ghibli greats. It does feel like a story that has been seen before, and its childlike innocence is pleasant enough not exactly world-changing.

Still, the animation is as stunning as you would expect, and the sense of magic and wonder permeates throughout. It also has adorable cats, and that is pretty much all you could want in any film. Regardless of the quality of the voice cast, watching these films with the English dub is utter sacrilege, so do seek out the Japanese language version for the most authentic and therefore enjoyable experience. ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ is enjoyable animated fare, and a great start for the new dawn of Studio Ponoc. Will certainly be watching their future efforts with great interest!

Sarah’s Rating:

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I Kill Giants

Year: 2017
Directed by: Anders Walter
Cast: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Sydney Wade

Written by Tom Sheffield

The poster for this film depicts a young girl stood hammer in hand facing a giant with the words ‘from the producer of Harry Potter’ placed at the very top. Having not seen the trailers or read anything about this film beforehand (or even the graphic novel on which this is based), you’d forgive me for expecting some massive fantasy showdown between a teenage girl and giants on a similar scale to the Harry Potter series.

What I actually got was something I wasn’t expecting, but I loved it all the more for it…

Barbara (Wolfe) isn’t like the other children at her school. Rather than sitting at home watching TV, or gossiping about boys, 12 year old Barbara is out protecting her family, and the Earth, from giants. We soon learn these ‘giants’ are Barbara’s very imaginative coping mechanism after her mother becomes ill. Sophia (Wade) is new to the school and Barbara’s imagination piques her interest from the moment they meet – but as Barbara’s grip on reality begins to slowly slip away, Sophia must help her new friend any way she can with the aid of new school psychiatrist Mrs. Mollé (Saldana).

Madison Wolfe is an absolute tour de force. She delivers a truly wonderful and completely captivating performance that makes her one young actress you should keep your eye on! After her impressive role as the lead in ‘The Conjuring 2’, I am positive Wolfe will become a much more familiar name over the next few years if she continues to deliver such solid performances. Imogen Poots plays Barbara’s older sister, Karen, whose suddenly thrown into a caretaker role to her two younger siblings as their mother becomes ill. Karen struggles to balance work life with her new found responsibilities, and her unappreciative siblings only add to her troubles as it becomes clear that all three of them are trying to cope with their mother’s illness in different ways. Whilst Barbara is off defending the world from giants, her brother uses his videos games as means to escape from his real life woes, and Karen does her best to keep everything feeling as normal as possible.

Zoe Saldana’s Mrs Mollé doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but Saldana, who received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this week, brings her A-game. Mrs Mollé tries her best to support Barbara through therapy sessions, but it’s clear to her that Barbara’s powerful imagination is having a detrimental effect on her school and social life, and her poor attitude and disrespectful nature towards teachers and adults in general stems from the fact that she thinks everyone will be thanking her in the end. Barbara’s personality traits mean that if her character was in any other film, she’d be that character you instantly don’t like – but because you learn more about her as her story goes on, you can’t help but sympathize as we see things from Barbara’s point of view.

‘I Kill Giants’ is Anders Walters’ debut feature film, and it’s an incredibly impressive and very promising start to his career. His direction and vision for this adaptation were a great combination for this screenplay, and despite the films small budget, the CGI is still fairly impressive. Knowing the CGI was never going to match that of ‘A Monster Calls’, which features similar themes and is being heavily compared against in other reviews, Walters cleverly uses the scenery and weather to conceal some of the giants flaws. That being said, the story at hand is much bigger than the giants and the mid-quality CGI was a non issue for me because I was much more focused on Barbara throughout the whole thing.

The cinematography really captures the theme of this film, with the surroundings often being bleak and uninviting, but Barbara and Sophia inject a lot of colour into each scene in the form of their clothing. The scenes that take place inside the school and forest in particular are some of my favourite shots because they’re a great representation of Barbara’s mindset at the time – for example there’s a particular scene where Barbara is scared and the whole school fades to black around her and you can really feel how isolated, alone, and scared she feels at that point in time.

‘I Kill Giants’ is available to download today and I would highly recommend you take some time this weekend to give it a shot. I think it’s a real shame this film never got a UK cinematic release, but at least no one will see your tears as Barbara’s story unfolds. As much as you may read about this film being compared to J. A. Bayona’s ‘A Monster Calls’ , I think both films stand firmly on their own merits and if you ever have a day you just want to let some tears out, here’s the perfect double bill for you!

Tom’s Rating: 8.5/10

We’re currently offering you the chance to win a free copy of this film over on our Twitter page!

The Rider & Lean on Pete

Year: 2018

WRITTEN BY FIONA UNDERHILL

Two films have come out in recent weeks that are portraits of young men in the American West, made by outsiders. Chloé Zhao is from China and this is now the second film she has made examining life on Native American reservations. Andrew Haigh is from the North of England and this is something of a departure for him, as he is best known for ‘Weekend’ and ‘Looking’, which both follow the gay community. Both of these films feature horses prominently and this made me fearful to watch them. I don’t deal with animal peril well in films and get very emotionally invested in horses on film. However, I am mostly glad that I overcame this hurdle and gave these two films a chance. The scenery and locations are stunning and really need to be seen on a big screen, if you have the opportunity to do so.

Chloé Zhao has a unique way of working; she found the location and the community that she wanted to work with first and the story and characters arose from this. ‘The Rider’ treads a fine line between documentary and fiction; it is perhaps closest to ‘constructed reality television’, in that the ‘characters’ and scenarios are real, but they have been given dialogue. The 19-year-old protagonist Brady really did have a bad accident in the rodeo and was really recovering as Zhao filmed him. His real father and sister play his father and sister in the film and the ‘acting’ is unusual because of this.

‘Lean on Pete’ is a more traditional narrative film, it follows a 16-year-old boy (Charlie Plummer) who has moved around the country with his single father a lot and has wound up in Oregon. He gets a summer job working with racehorse owner/trainer Del (Steve Buscemi) and forms an attachment to Lean on Pete – an old, tired horse who is on his way out. The always-wonderful Chloë Sevigny plays a jockey who has to remind Charlie that the horses are there to do a job and earn money, they are not pets. Charlie makes the decision to steal Pete and attempts to take him to Wyoming to be reunited with his Aunt.

‘The Rider’ very much focuses on the devastating after-effects of rodeo riding. Not just with the main character, Brady (who has a serious skull injury) but also his best friend Lane, who has suffered brain damage. The allure of the horses and the rodeo is palpable because they are beautifully shot and the appeal to the young people who live on the isolated South Dakota reservation is clear. The risks are great but the rewards can also be big, not just financially, but as a means of escape. Brady has a gift for working with animals, particularly training wild horses, yet to be broken in. ‘The Rider’ is a soulful examination of masculinity and how these young men are defined by their physical prowess. When that is under threat, the devastation is clear.

‘Lean on Pete’ very much has a three-act structure and for me, the first act (with Steve Buscemi and Chloë Sevigny) is by far the most successful. The middle section, which follows Charlie and Pete wondering the landscape is beautiful but a little cringe-worthy in places as Charlie treats Pete as a confidante. Then something takes place that I found hard to recover from and Charlie meets Silver (Steve Zahn), a fellow homeless man. I like Zahn in general, but his acting style feels out-of-step with the rest of the film. The film gets more ridiculous, plot-wise towards the end and I didn’t like it as much as the start. Charlie Plummer, however, gives an incredible performance and I’m excited to see what he does next.

What Chloé Zhao has achieved with ‘The Rider’ is a stunning feat and I cannot wait to see where she will go with her career next. Her gonzo style of film-making is so interesting and unique, I would like to see her turn her lens onto different communities and see what she draws out of them.  ‘Lean on Pete’ was, for me, a much more sensitive portrayal of the American West by an outsider than ‘Three Billboards’ (which was offensively disastrous, for me). Again, I’m very interested to see where Haigh goes in his career next. If you are able to catch either of these films on the big screen still, you should absolutely take the chance to see the stunning American landscape portrayed by two extremely talented filmmakers.

FIONA’S RATING FOR ‘THE RIDER’: 9.0/10
FIONA’S RATING FOR ‘LEAN ON PETE’: 7.0/10

Journeyman

Year: 2017
Directed by: Paddy Considine
Starring: Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Anthony Welsh, Paul Popplewell

Written by Dave Curtis

Paddy Considine’s first film ‘Tyrannosaur’ was not only a great debut as a director but it was also a stunning piece of film. Released in 2011 to a shower of praise from critics, it proved that Considine was a true talent in front of and behind the camera. It has taken nearly 8 years for his second film ‘Journeyman’ to reach the screen. So how does it fair up to his stunning debut? Directors second films are notoriously difficult to get right.

Paddy Considine this time writes, directs and stars in this gritty boxing drama. Considine plays Matty Burton; a veteran middleweight boxing champion who in a championship fight suffers a serious head injury which affects not only him, but those closest to him. Jodie Whittaker plays Matty’s loving wife and rock Emma.  This isn’t your average boxing flick, this is no Rocky 4 or 5. The fighting in  ‘Journeyman’ is not done inside the ring but outside of it. This isn’t an underdog tale or redemption story, which is truly refreshing. This is a story about going to the darkest place physically and mentally and then the journey back to recovery. 

The gift that Paddy has as director is that you can feel his passion for filmmaking and the subject of boxing. You can tell that he has a love for the sport and the boxing community. The injury that Matty endures is never laid at the feet of the sport. Rightly or wrongly his injury is just paved over as a terrible event. As a director who is still reasonably new to his craft; Paddy Considine has kept this a pretty simple looking picture. It feels unfair to compare ‘Journeyman’ to his first film ‘Tyrannosaur’ but every director gets compared to his last piece of work. It’s clear that he is a very talented director whose future work will be interesting to watch. But this could easily have been made for TV, like a really good ITV drama which would win loads of awards. It’s a shame that it just doesn’t feel very cinematic because the performances all round are outstanding and the script is nearly flawless.

Strong casting is the selling point to ‘Journeyman’. Both Paddy Considine and Jodie Whittaker put in stellar performances. Great chemistry goes a long way and both these leads carry the film. Paddy Considine has seriously been underrated on these shores and in Hollywood for far too long, he should have been given a role like this year ago. Maybe that’s why he wrote the part for himself. Considine is believable as an aging boxer and he does a descent job playing a character with serious head injuries. In the wrong hands it could have gone very wrong.

Jodie Whittaker’s stock continues to rise. Here she carries the film. As Matty’s wife Emma, she plays the role with so much heart, the viewer feels exactly what you should be feeling. Her life has been turned upside down and it’s down to her performance that grounds the whole film. The tears and sadness seem so real, my tears definitely were. For ‘Doctor Who’ fans it’s very exciting to see such a great actress about to play such an important and iconic TV character.

‘Journeyman’ gives a punch right to your gut. A film that will take you to the darkest areas of your mind but leaves you with hope and love. Considine and Whittaker’s strong performances are reminders that we have some great talent in British cinema. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 8 years to get Paddy Considine behind a camera again. That would be a shame.

Dave’s Rating: 7.0/10

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Year: 2017
Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Lily James, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Glen Powell, Tom Courtenay, Penelope Wilton

WRITTEN BY SARAH BUDDERY

Let’s face it, the world is going to sh*t. The world of cinema isn’t always just big explosive blockbusters, and scientific head-scratchers, and sometimes we just need a cosy, picture-perfect film to escape into and forget about all our problems. ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ may have a mouthful of a title, but it is remarkably easy to digest, and with a cast full of British national treasures and ‘Downton Abbey’ alumni, it’s all just pretty bloody lovely really.

Juliet Ashton (James) is an author who, after happening across a letter from a book club in Guernsey, decides to visit the eccentric group of characters and find out more about them. Faced with the German occupation of their small island, the society came together over books, friendship, and a rather unpalatable potato pie. However, under the surface there are secrets and questions that need to be answered.

The plot moves at the genteel pace of a Sunday evening BBC period drama, the costumes are gorgeous, and the scenery is incredibly picturesque. Likewise, the cast are very easy on the eye and its chock full of British acting institutions, giving it all the comfort and warmth of the titular pie. Lily James is always a delight on the screen, and she oozes an effortless likeable charm. Fellow ex-‘Downton’ star Jessica Brown Findlay might not have too many moments on screen, but her firebrand character is a constant presence and it is the reveals regarding this character that keeps the plot ticking over. These aren’t quite world-changing reveals, more a gentle clutch of the pearls, but this film never tries to be anything outlandish or ground-breaking.

It’s perhaps about 20 minutes too long, and to find a fault, it would be that the plot is a little thin. The German occupation of Guernsey provides a fascinating backdrop, but the atrocities of war are only ever briefly mentioned, hinted at, or they occur off camera. There are moments where the story feels frustratingly slow, and despite the aforementioned reveals causing a slight ripple, we all know it is going to end well, so there doesn’t always seem to be a purpose in taking things quite so slowly.

With great performances, and beautifully shot locations, ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is a harmless slice of escapism. It is charming, twee, and just all-round delightful with its themes about the power of stories, friendship, and that good old British stiff upper lip. This is perfect lazy Sunday afternoon watching; your Mum and Nan will love it, and so will you.

SARAH’S RATING: 7/10

Avengers: Infinity War

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joe & Anthony Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johannson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Sebastian Stan, Winston Duke, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Tom Holland, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Vi Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Jeremy Renner, Benicio Del Tor, Jon Favreau, Benedict Wong, Sean Gunn, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper

Written by Dave Curtis

18 films, 10 years and it all comes down to this. ‘Avengers Infinity War’ is the film that Marvel studios has been building too ever since Robert Downey’s first ‘Iron Man’ appeared on our cinema screens back in 2008. Back then, Marvel weren’t even a proper studio, they were just a small cog in a much bigger wheel. Well, now they are the wheel. To say this is a big deal would be a understatement. This is the ultimate event movie. The hype and build up that surround the release of the film have been huge. Very few spoilers have leaked out and we are going to keep it that way. JUMPCUT will be releasing much more and spoiler filled and in-depth reviews over the next few weeks.

This is just initial reactions from the press screening that happened in London on 24th May 2018

Before the screening you could feel the anticipation in the room. Conversations were rife with the future of all our favourite characters. Where’s Hawkeye? Does Cap’s beard play a major role? Where’s that missing soul stone? Answers were coming. The lights went out and the Marvel Studio logo comes up and the crowd went wild.

For the next 149 minutes we were all putty in the Russo brother’s hands. They have woven a tale which bounces around all Marvel’s best and across the darkest corners of the universe and back again to New York and Wakanda. It was always going to be a hard job to give every character their moment but ‘Infinity War’ just about does that. With multiple story-lines, it does feel more like ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Two Towers’ than the normal single story narrative. The script is so tight and every word that is said is important, so listen carefully.

Thanos lives up to his reputation at the ultimate bad guy (A problem Marvel has had in the past). The Mad Titan is at the heart of the movie and Josh Brolin’s voice will send shivers down the spine of any mortal man. He truly is a test for the Avengers.

‘Avengers Infinity War’ at its best is epic, emotional and very, very shocking. It has impressive set pieces and of course it’s very funny. The few faults it does have are going to be down purely to the viewer. A knowledge of all that has happened before is essential. This is not the film for newbies. If you don’t know your Captain Americas from your Star Lords then maybe it would be best to catch up first. . Also as you expect some characters get more screen time than others, sadly some of your favs may just be bit part players. Overall this was worth the wait.

‘Infinity War’ holds true to its core and has truly raised stakes on the Marvel cinematic universal. Nothing will be the same again. Roll on May 2019 for Avengers 4.

ps. There is a end of credit scene, so don’t leave early!

Dave’s Rating: 8.5/10

You can hear more of Dave’s thoughts in his podcast!

A Fantastic Woman

Year: 2018
Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Daniela Vega, Franciso Reyes, Luis Gnecco,
Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra, Amparo Noguera

WRITTEN BY SARAH BUDDERY

LGBTQ+ cinema is absolutely thriving at the moment. With films like ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Call Me By Your Name’ garnering some of the top awards, and 2018’s ‘Love, Simon’ already attracting plenty of positive buzz for bringing a gay love story to a mainstream, teen audience.

‘A Fantastic Woman’ sadly had a very limited cinema release in the UK, despite it getting a lot of positive reviews following its inclusion in the London Film Festival line-up last year. After picking up the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film earlier this year however, it is likely there will be a second wave of interest, and that can only be a good thing.

Marina (Daniela Vega) is a trans woman who works as a waitress and moonlights as a nightclub singer. After the tragic death of her boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes), Marina faces a huge amount of prejudice from his family as she struggles to come to terms with her own grief.

It is perhaps cliche to say, but ‘A Fantastic Woman’ is truly fantastic, anchored by an incredible performance from Daniela Vega. Having a trans actress in the leading role is essential for a film such as this, and she brings a huge amount of emotion and passion to the role. We spend almost the entire film with Marina, and Vega is simply magnificent; she emotes so much through her eyes and facial expressions, maintaining a sense of stoicism, resilience and defiance that is beautiful to watch.

Told almost entirely through her eyes, this is very much the world as Marina sees it. It never shies away from the prejudice that she experiences, but yet it also veers into dreamlike fantasies. However, as we spend so much time with this character and experience the world through her eyes, when it veers into the surreal, it never feels out of place. The excellent score from Nani García and Matthew Herbert has certain fairytale qualities to it as well, which suits the tone perfectly.

The film does an amazing job of highlighting the daily struggles of trans people; the offensive language used is designed to shock and appall. Despite this however, the film feels incredibly dignified in its portrayal of a trans woman and despite the moments which are hard to watch, it feels uplifting and triumphant as well.

Vega’s performance is really the glue that holds this film together, but the direction of Sebastián Lelio also deserves a huge amount of credit. Frequently focusing close-up on Daniela Vega’s face ensures that she is able to deliver such a powerful and resonating performance, and the camera treats her with all the dignity and radiance that she deserves.

Simultaneously portraying emotion and stoicism from both Vega, and the film as a whole is what makes this film truly unique. There are some utterly mesmerising sequences, and this is easily one of the most compelling characters seen on screen in a long while. To find a fault in it, the ending is perhaps a little unnecessarily vague, but again, when viewing the film from the viewpoint of Marina, we can perhaps understand why elements of the story were glossed over.

This is an important film in highlighting the beauty and bravery of a trans woman, and it is so refreshing to see an actress in the leading role who embodies all of these things. ‘A Fantastic Woman’ is simply that; fantastic.

SARAH’S RATING: 8.5/10