CAMFF 2018: I Love My Mum (2019)

Directed by: Alberto Sciamma
Starring: Kierston Wareing, Tommy French, Aida Folch
UK Release Date: 30th March 2019

Written by Elena Morgan

After a freak car accident, Ron (Tommy French) and his mother Olga (Kierston Wareing) get trapped in a shipping container and are shipped off to Morocco. They only have the pyjamas they’re wearing and now they have to work together to travel across Europe to get home, attempting to rebuild their rocky relationship as they go.

I Love My Mum is everything you could want about a two very confused Brits, stranded in Europe with no money and no foreign language skills. The situations Olga and Ron get into are farcical and often hilarious as they try to make their way back home.

Olga and Ron act more like feuding siblings than mother and son, with Ron often being the more mature of the two of them as Olga seems like she never really grew up. She’s needy, impulsive and a liar while Ron is sometimes simultaneously a realist and very naïve. Their relationship isn’t a solid one though their circumstance forces them to work together and attempt to communicate properly with one another, with mixed results. It’s both funny and strangely sweet seeing these two people slowly begin to understand one another, and French and Wareing have great and realistic chemistry.

This is Tommy French’s first film and boy does he have pretty perfect comedic timing. Ron is such a normal British lad, the kind of guy so many of us know or regularly seen on the street. He’s the kind of guy who knows some things when it comes to the world at large (when asked by his mother what they are when they’re stranded in Morocco, his guess is economic migrants, she was going for British) but when it comes to love and relationships is pretty clueless.

I Love My Mum is smartly directed and edited, wide shots show Olga and Ron arguing in the middle of busy markets, showing how out of place they truly are, and some of the edits perfectly allow a joke to grow and then come to an abrupt yet brilliant conclusion. The film does slow down a bit towards the end, substituting laughs for some more dramatic moments that don’t always hit the mark, but it’s still a really enjoyable film.

Elena’s Verdict:

4

 

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REVIEW: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Mike Myers, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander

Written by Cameron Frew

“Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy,” sings Freddie Mercury, opening not only the finest Queen song, but a ballad for the ages, a true Rhapsody that captures the very essence of the profound, ever-changing landscape of music and a pitch-perfect example of how mesmerising the British quartet were. How painful it is then that a biopic of the band that goes as far as to take that song’s title, is far from killer. In fact, its very nature as a stale piece of filmmaking would be enough to make the bold musicians scoff.

Bryan Singer’s (part Dexter Fletcher’s) ode to the band that truly changed the industry forever chronicles their humble beginnings in local pubs and clubs, to their time-stopping performance at Live Aid in 1985. Freddie says in the film, “We’re all legends”. But everyone knows he was the icon of the time, and the film gives a more directed look at his rise and subsequent falls from grace in his rock and roll tenure.

The film tries to assure you of its dedication to her royal majesty with a 20th Century Fox-cum-Queen riff at the start. As expected you’ll hear many of the band’s greatest hits throughout the biopic, often overlaying big transition scenes that show the passing of time. For example, ‘Somebody To Love’ pulls the curtains up as Freddie (played by Rami Malek) trims his moustache and makes his way to the Wembley stage for the famous charity gig. Sure it’s relatively jazzy, but the transitions are jarring, with ham-fisted editing and worst of all, Singer chose the most obvious way to open the picture – “here’s the moment right before the gig, and now we’ll flashback for the rest of the movie”. Nonetheless, this isn’t where the film falters the most.

We then see Malek’s Freddie working at Heathrow, the morning of the night he would fatefully meet his royal family. He’s taking suitcases off the plane and putting them onto a truck, when his superior shouts down, “You missed one, paki”. The use of racist language isn’t problematic in itself, as I’m sure the writing team of Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan know. But when you don’t use it to introduce a wider dialogue around the subject, when you don’t actually use it as a focal point during and simply just use it to rather distastefully remind us of the singer’s circumstances (there is way more than one use of “paki”), that’s an issue.

Here’s the thing; there’s the old maxims, “less is more” and “slow and steady wins the race”. Bohemian Rhapsody is a portrait of ignoring those age-old soundbites, a lavish display of extremist filmmaking. The transitions often remain questionable (apart from one absolutely inspired moment with a cockerel), the use of visual metaphors is amateurishly overegged and characters are written to the point of pantomime. Not that the latter is necessarily always a bad thing; Mike Myers’ music producer is hilariously cynical and Allen Leech’s villainous Paul Prenter is deliciously infuriating. But it all feels incredibly artificial.

Even the visual style, a mixture of a parody-esque look and smoky rooms despite absolutely no smoke add this layer that separates you from the band whose music is part of all of our lives. Thankfully though, Malek, despite being under pressure, is a marvellous Freddie. Not just cosmetically (although he is frighteningly uncanny), but his cocky mannerisms, assured attitude towards his talent and reluctance to take on any sort of label (as a hugely uncomfortable press conference scene illustrates) are true of the greatest showman to ever live himself, and it’s a crying shame that the film as a whole isn’t on par with a performance of such dedicated charisma. The other performances are a mixed bag, with his Queen-cohorts Roger Taylor and John Deacon (played by Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello respectively) either having not much to do or let-down by the writer’s incapability of nuance.

The exception is Gwilym Lee’s Brian May, who really exhibits the sort of compassionate, constantly admiring but utterly bemused relationship you would expect him to have with his lead singer. In portraying the twisted family dynamic the band famously had, the filmmakers and actors mostly succeed, if it weren’t for the haphazard pacing that completely botches the viewer’s sense of their efforts to go big.

A key part of Freddie’s story is his romantic life, and puzzlingly, the film portrays homosexuality like a forbidden fruit, accentuating the orientation to a point where it feels like Freddie is doing something incredibly wrong. But he wasn’t, and one scene with his former partner Mary (played by the terrific Lucy Boynton) really shows this to be painfully true, and if it weren’t for this melancholic moment, the film would have no sense of emotional grip.

The music is, naturally, enough to make anyone go “Ga Ga” and the gig sequences are shot with a poppy vibrancy and love for the band that really paints a rousing picture of the hysteria in the band’s heyday. Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography (a frequent collaborator with Singer) though is mostly unspectacular, often framing corny theatrics with that aforementioned artificial aura.

Then comes the show-stopping, stirringly powerful Live Aid sequence, and everything soars. Your heart races and the goosebumps wash across you as Freddie performs the eclectic mix of the heart-aching opening to the titular song, eventually reaching the fist-punching rendition of We Are The Champions. For a feature so scattershot and pitfall-ridden, it feels like a distant memory as you stand among Wembley’s crowd, simply in awe. If only the entire bloated runtime bottled the sensation of the phenomenal closing act.

Malek gives his undivided gusto, and the result is unforgettable. But for a man and a band that were so groundbreaking, so fixated on musical revolution, this is supremely cheap work.

Cameron’s Verdict:

2

REVIEW: Halloween (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick
Castle

Written by Megan Williams 

Halloween is probably my favourite holiday. You get to dress up in scary costumes without anyone judging you, watch horror films with your friends, carve pumpkins, see a man in a William Shatner mask creep around the neighbourhood with a kitchen knife…

Hang on a minute…

Produced by Blumhouse and starring Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, the latest entry in the iconic ‘Halloween’ franchise is here! Already grossing over $76 million in its opening weekend (from a $10 million budget), it’s earned the second highest October opening ever.

Set 40 years after the original, ‘Halloween’ centres on Laurie Strode, her granddaughter Allyson and Allyson’s parents as they fight against Michael Myers after he returns to Haddonfield to cause new mayhem and murder.

I love 1978 original and was, honestly, sceptical of this entry; the previous entries haven’t been great in my opinion (aside from ‘Season of the Witch’ which didn’t even feature the masked killer!).

And, after seeing it, I think it’s ok but a little flawed.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a delight to watch as she plays the survivor who’s sworn to kill Michael Myers, and she is one of the highlights of the film. While I say this, however, there wasn’t a bad performance in ‘Halloween’, and I did care for each character and wanted them to survive the night. This is a mindset I find rare in most horror films: this time, I’m not rooting for the villain.

Another highlight of ‘Halloween’ was the score, which was composed by John Carpenter (the composer of the original film). While the original theme did feature, the rest of the score was fantastic and elevated the film, giving it a tense and haunting atmosphere.

At times, ‘Halloween’ was suspenseful, making Michael Myers a creepy and silent killer. But it also brought in some humour, making this a fun slasher film that wouldn’t have looked out of place if it had been released 40 years earlier. There are a lot of references to the original film too; some are obvious, while others require a keen eye or knowledge of the overall franchise to spot. The constant reoccurring ‘Halloween’ theme, and an updated version, was a pleasure to hear!  

The film was visually gorgeous and, while most of it featured dark lighting and was set during the night, ‘Halloween’ still managed to appear vibrant, especially during the scenes in Haddonfield. The cinematography was great and the film featured a fair amount of one–take shots that sometimes didn’t focus on Michael while he was carrying out his murderous actions; it really emphasised that Michael is a silent killer who has no limits.

Unfortunately, the film was a little too long and was unevenly paced; it could’ve been around 20 minutes shorter. There’s even a certain plot point that I thought could’ve been removed completely as it goes nowhere. And, while it is suspenseful at times, it isn’t as scary as it’s predecessor.

Overall, ‘Halloween’ is an enjoyable, but average, entry into the franchise and, while I would recommend it, I wouldn’t rush out to the cinema to see it.

MEGAN’S VERDICT:

3

 

LFF 2018: The Old Man and The Gun

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Lowery
Starring: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover

Written by Sarah Buddery

A legend of cinema since the mid-1960s, Robert Redford has certainly had an illustrious career. Now some 50+ films later, Redford tips a cap to his own career and gracefully retires from acting in the delightful throwback film The Old Man and The Gun.

The phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” could certainly be applied to Redford himself, and it is that mentality that also applies to this film. It harkens back to the capers of yesteryear, and there is an old-world charm to it that makes it the perfect swansong for Redford. With Director David Lowery at the helm, it is evident that there is love, and a real passion for the craft of filmmaking behind this film, as well as an appreciation for the lead actor.

There is a grainy authenticity to the film, and were it not for the now older appearance of Robert Redford, it could quite easily have passed for a film made much earlier in his career! The Old Man and The Gun is endlessly charming, and the care for the making of the film and the story itself permeates throughout.

From the grain of the film and the jaunty soundtrack, everything about The Old Man and The Gun is meticulously put together, and it makes for an incredibly enjoyable watch. There’s something incredibly comforting about it; in fact, it is almost like the film equivalent of curling up in front of a fire with your cosiest slippers on.

There’s a beautiful sense of melancholy to the film as well, with Robert Redford’s Forrest Tucker refusing to put his heist days behind him, but yet also accepting that his age can sometimes be a hindrance. It is also in the scenes with Sissy Spacek’s Jewel, that this film truly sparkles (pun intended!) and they have a delightful and warming on-screen chemistry. It’s refreshing to see an onscreen relationship that features an older couple, who are simply just happy to be in each other’s company. There is the sense that they are truly kindred spirits despite their huge differences and there is something about this which just makes it lovely to watch.

The Old Man and The Gun succeeds in being both an enjoyable throwback caper, as well as a great vehicle for Robert Redford at this reported final stage in his career. It is comforting, delightful, charming and endlessly endearing. Mr. Redford, the world of film will miss you!

Sarah’s Verdict:

4-5

LFF 2018: Outlaw King

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Mackenzie
Starring: Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tony Curran

Written by Dave Curtis

I was once told if you go into a film expecting the worst, you will never leave disappointed. There is some truth in that. Early talk on Outlaw King suggested that it is the film that Chris Pine gets his cock out. Well, that is true. He does go full frontal (only for a fleeting moment), but it is only fair that he does.  Florence Pugh and several other actresses have to show some skin, he is doing his bit for equality between the sexes. Surely you can’t expect everyone to get naked apart from him? Luckily Outlaw King is relying on more than a bit of nudity to be remembered.

The film reunites director David Mackenzie with star Chris Pine (after Hell or High Water) alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Florence Pugh. It is a violent and unflinching portrayal of a bloody tale in history. It is filmed in Scotland which provides a gorgeous backdrop. Scotland really is quite pretty.

Outlaw King is based on historical events (or so it says) of Robert the Bruce, a nobleman who was defeated by the English who was eventually crowned King of Scotland. Just imagine a sequel to Braveheart and this is it. Outlaw/King (the actual name) starts with Robert kneeling to King Edward Ⅰ of England. As a proud Scottish nobleman, he struggles with this especially when the King raises taxes and starts to attack the common folk.

Chris Pine sports a spectacular mullet as Robert Bruce. His accent is very subtle, in fact he barely talks at all. It is a brave decision to cast a non-Scottish actor as one of Scotland’s most famous folk heroes. He looks like he has bulked up (either that or everyone else is really small). Pine carries himself well. He fights, he makes love, he plays with his child and he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He is the ideal man.

Florence Pugh has a bit of a thankless task. She has such strong chemistry with Chris Pine and it is such a shame when she is literally hung out to dry. She plays Elizabeth De Burgh, Robert’s recent wife. This is a very macho picture, not a lot for a female character to do. It’s all men with swords hacking each other down. The little material Pugh’s character has is performed to the best of her ability.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is one of Robert Bruce’s right-hand men. As James Douglas, he transforms himself to such a degree that he is almost unrecognisable. His accent is flawed but he definitely is committed to the part. His performance is like a guy on a night out who had one too many drinks and taken too many drugs. He is off his head, wide eyes and wired who just wants to dance all night long. It is very entertaining.

The real selling point to Outlaw King are the battle scenes. Its been a while since we seen fights and battles on this scale (and remain entertaining). A fight at night lit mainly with flaming arrows and huge fires show that David Mackenzie has an eye for the dramatic. The costume design is also convincing, from the armor to Florence Pugh’s outfits.

Whereas with Braveheart which had a runtime of nearly 3-hours, Outlaw King is just under 2. Mackenzie cut 20 minutes from it after the premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. This helps with the pacing and makes the film zip along at an entertaining rate. Sure this isn’t anything new but it keeps you interested in the characters and plot.

There are some concerns that this being a Netflix title, it may mean it won’t translate to the small screen. The battle scenes are made to be seen on the big screen. A lot of the shots are so tight that some of the details will get lost in all the chaos and mud.

Surprisingly, Outlaw King is worth the time. The big sweeping bloody and violent battle scenes paired with gorgeous scenery of Scotland and the convincing costume design makes quite a spectacle. This won’t bring any new fans to the genre but it will keep the die-hard fans happy. If you like your big battle scenes then Outlaw King will scratch that itch.

DAVE’S VERDICT:

3-5

 

LFF 2018: Shadow

Directed by: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Chao Deng, Li Sun, Ryan Zheng, Qianyuan Wang

Written by Sarah Buddery

Known for his gorgeous visual storytelling, legendary director Zhang Yimou is back with his follow-up to the disappointing (albeit aesthetically beautiful) The Great Wall (2016), and thankfully back in more familiar territory now with Chinese-language film Shadow.

More akin to his most well-known films Hero and House of Flying Daggers as opposed to the aforementioned blockbuster, Shadow is a story steeped in mysterious Chinese history that sees the director return to his legendary best.

The ‘Shadow’ of the title refers to the mantle given to those who would impersonate and fight in the place of Chinese nobility and Commanders when they were unable to do so themselves. The film focuses on one such ‘Shadow’, Jing (Chao Deng), who pretends to be Commander Yu (also played by Deng), and his journey to reclaim their homeland.

What ensues is a visual feast for the eyes, Yimou choosing a striking monochrome colour-palette for his film, based on the tai chi symbol; commonly known as the yin and yang. Not only does this symbol provide the visual framework but it also forms part of the narrative device, and that helps this film to feel truly unique.

It is a little slow in the beginning, but much care is taken to establish the delicate political imbalances, and there’s some early moments of high tension as those around him start to suspect that the ‘Commander’ is an imposter. Of course, we know he is, but the majority of the characters don’t, and this makes for a tense and unsettling atmosphere way before the bloodshed.

When the violence does come, boy does it come, and Yimou shoots the beautifully choreographed fight scenes masterfully. The muted colour palette means the flashes of red blood are dramatic and impactful, making Shadow one of the most exquisitely brutal films you will see all year.

There’s some truly spectacular moments, as one would expect with a Yimou film, and this ensures that despite the predictability of the film’s plot, that it still stays with you afterwards. This film is truly striking from a visual standpoint, and narratively speaking it is one of the more accessible of Zhang Yimou’s films. Shadow marks a triumphant return to form for the Chinese director and is easily able to stand alongside his previous notable works.

Sarah’s Verdict:

4

REVIEW: Hunter Killer

Year: 2018
Directed by: Donovan Marsh
Starring: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Michael Nyqvist, Toby Stephens

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2018 American action thriller, based on the 2012 novel ‘Firing Point’ by Don Keith and George Wallace, is directed by Donovan Marsh and stars Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Michael Nyqvist, Common and Toby Stephens.

As friction boils between American and Russian military forces, Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) is captured by his Defence Minister Dmitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy). A military coup is staged.

Learning of the coup, US Admiral Donnegan (Oldman) tasks a team of Navy SEALS led by Lt Bill Beaman (Stephens) to infiltrate Russian soil and rescue the President before they instigate World War III and attack America to show their military might.

Commander Joe Glass (Butler) commands ‘Hunter Killer’ class submarine USS Omaha and is to rendezvous with Beaman and extract the President. But Glass will have far greater dangers to contend with including Russian submarine commander Sergei Andropov (Nyqvist) who claims to be an ally, but can he be trusted…?

Pop quiz. Name five good submarine movies in 10 seconds. Go.

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Time’s up. What have we got? We have the stalwarts ‘The Hunt For Red October’, ‘Das Boot’ and ‘Crimson Tide’, right? Then possibly ‘U-571’ at a pinch, even though I said “good” movies. ‘K-19: The Widowmaker?’ Remember that?

Anything else? ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ or ‘X-Men: First Class’? Now you’re just clutching at straws. ‘Down Periscope’? I’ll accept that even though it’s total nonsense.

In a nutshell, it’s hard to do. The submarine genre is as dead as the western in mainstream cinema as it proves to be one of the most technically challenging and narrative dependant genres out there. You have the confines of a submarine no wider in places than a grown adult, and action based in a hulking great steel and iron vessel under water. It’s dark, it’s claustrophobic, it’s gritty, and to be fair it’s the best place to develop a really immersive, character-driven story. Yet nowadays, military thrillers are set above water for greater allowances for explosions, sweeping geographical action and mostly using stories based on the war on terror or armed force operations

But when we have Gerard Butler heading a new sub movie, you will have flashbacks of the loud, 2-D popcorn fests of ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, ‘300’ and even ‘Geostorm’. But wait, as much as we secretly all love the no-brainer action world of Butler, here he plays a pretty restrained and down to earth part. And he doesn’t even fire a gun. And still, the genre lets him down sadly.

As our captain, Butler has only one job to do – care and see over his submarine and his crew to get in, get the job done, and get out. He’ll do whatever it takes with his decorated military past as experience in navigating minefields, evading enemy subs or facing down those who have no faith in him. While the thought of what Butler could do in a submarine movie with a sub-machine gun, some grenades and outrageous stunts are exciting, director Donovan Marsh reins him in and allows him to do some good acting for a change based on character relations and a few great tense set-pieces.

The frantic calls around the ship as crew battle to prepare for diving out of range of torpedoes, or preparing to be hit, or making no noise at all to avoid sonic mines….it’s simple things, but all very humane things which capture you from the start. You can’t get distracted or bored, because the pressure and risk are so high at all times, your palms may even get a little sweaty and your breath will be baited before the all clear.

This is where the genre shines (it’s just a shame there’s not enough of it).

Cut between the submarine segments, we have top-billed Gary Oldman in about 10 minutes of edited screen time who heads up the political tension between America and Russia, barking orders about what to do and when to do it along with Common and Caroline Goodall as our US President. We also then have the Tom Clancy-esque Navy SEALS out in Russia led by a bearded, rugged Toby Stephens who talk tough, shoot often and deliver the oo-rah! might of America.

While this blend of genres may work on their own, together it proves a sloppy mix of story-telling, jumping from one to another just as you’re getting into something. While the cast is strong around Butler, Oldman, and Stephens in their segments, everything else just comes out a little generic and stitched together. I’d much prefer a stronger focus on Butler and the Hunter Killer itself, especially when the late great Michael Nyqvist arrives on the scene as a Russian sub captain holding a lot of aces up his sleeves in a “is he or isn’t’ he” a good guy. His screen time with Butler and the US crew only helps enhance the action they share.

When the finale arrives after the bullets fly and explosions ring out, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of ‘X-Men: First Class’ for some reason. I’ll leave that to you to discover, but it certainly goes on 20-minutes longer than it needs to, and sadly I was disengaged from the whole thing by then.

Submarine wise, technically, it’s brilliant. Wonderfully shot, edited and choreographed with satisfying SFX. It’s this I wanted to see more of without the need for bullets and bombs – just raw emotion mixed with doing your duty in the hardest environment possible where it feels the walls are closing in but the fate of the world and your colleagues rests on your decision.

Butler and the Hunter Killer didn’t disappoint and earn their star each. The rest of the film, however, sinks.

CHRIS’ VERDICT:

2

REVIEW: Apostle (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Starring: Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, Richard Elfyn, Paul Higgins, Lucy Boynton

Written by Jo Craig

There is a rare moment after watching a film where you sit and stare at the credits, or even pause them rolling altogether whilst wearing a perplexed expression. Your brain frantically tries to decipher the last couple of hours you’ve spent watching a feature that carries its pros and cons, but leaves you with the hanging expression: “What the fuck?”. Gareth Evans’ Apostle hit Netflix at the start of Halloween season, and my thoughts are still stuck inside his brutal cult horror that had an avid gore fan glancing away to “take a moment”.

The premise of Apostle lies in the early twentieth century, following infiltrator Thomas (Dan Stevens) as he travels to a remote island to rescue his sister who has been taken hostage by a religious cult. Lead through blinding faith and insanity, Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen) demands her rich father to pay a ransom so his sect can continue to thrive in their segregated habitat, but Thomas soon uncovers a larger plan at work that explains the devotion of Malcolm and his followers.

Only viewing the trailer last month, I was giddy to see Apostle arrive on our favourite streaming platform so soon to let the grim rituals begin. Grim stood as a massive understatement by the end of Evans’ Welsh folktale (in stripped-back terms) that is rich in exposing the evil behind religious loyalty but perhaps suffers in its colossal leap to explain the abnormal. By the end, I was exhausted. Not surprising from the director of The Raid (Apostle being Evans’ first English language film since his first feature Footsteps) where his joint effort in direction and penning is admirable and driven with enough force to support the unforgettable scenes of the macabre.

Dan Stevens has had quite a genre shift from his recent silver screen entries (Beauty and the Beast, The Man Who Invented Christmas) making his role in Apostle surprising for the charming actor whose dabbling with horror only reached the extent of his fantastic cult superhero show Legion. Nevertheless, Stevens is first class and full of expression, whose piercing blue eyes are a character in themselves; Wide in terror on top a blood-soaked body was so visually effective and his permanent furrowed brow resembled my face as the plot thickened. Michael Sheen brought a powerful performance to witness as the proud prophet who was certainly a grounding character to hold on to as the waves of fantasy swept in to aggravate an already seasick stomach.

Undoubtedly gripped by every slow building scene in the first hour – too engrossed, in fact, to even recognise a thirst that had been developing while my jaw grazed the floor – Evans’ understanding of suspense has to be applauded. The raw brutality – that you would expect from his direction – tangled with threads of hyperbolic lore may be the gigantic leap of faith that some viewers won’t be willing to take. Personally, the added mythical element restrained a considered tale from being nothing more than a mindless gore-fest that you’d expect from Eli Roth. Instead, Apostle resembles (at points) greats like The Wicker Man that build on the terrifying feeling of isolation and play on belief and faith in various different ways pertaining to which character has the spotlight. In an abstract way of thinking, the tale’s progression could emulate bible chapters as they introduce each character and acknowledge their beliefs whether for or against the unorthodox civilisation they have ended up living in, further proving that Evans has a sound method behind the madness.

Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal’s tour de force score holds your attention in a vice even from the title screen with a resounding ambience that is deliberately too loud to ignore. A series of haunting choirs and screeching strings (reminiscent to Mother!) only drives the audience into a deeper state of discomfort that supports Evans’ crippling tension and the religious nature of the premise. As you hear every overwhelming roar of instruments, Yuskemal’s sound design never lets you miss a crunch of bone which adds credence to Evans’ skilful decision-making as a horror filmmaker.

This dark crusade will no doubt divide audiences and troublesome psyches as it’s not for the faint-hearted, but although fantasy and horror are mixed and often overpowering in the denouement, its hold over you never slackens despite its lengthy runtime of 130 min. It’s not the likeliest of films to end up on your Halloween marathon nor a film that I would revisit in the near future, but regardless of possibly being the heaviest film of the year, Apostle respectively thrives in its originality.  If being squeamish is your downfall, then forcing yourself through the torture of watching an albeit, for lack of a better term, thought-provoking horror, is pointless and conclusively a feature you can afford to miss.

Jo’s Verdict:

3-5

                              

LFF 2018: If Beale Street Could Talk

Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Cast: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo

UK Release Date: February 8th, 2019

Written by Sarah Buddery

Despite the on-stage debacle that threatened to overshadow the award itself, Barry Jenkins’ debut feature Moonlight took home the biggest prize at last year’s Oscars, beating the favourite La La Land to Best Picture. Handling the whole thing as admirably as someone could, director Barry Jenkins rode the wave of emotions on the night like a true professional and is ready to have all the attention on him once again with his second film If Beale Street Could Talk.

Where Moonlight was perhaps intentionally cold and distant, Beale Street instantly feels much warmer and likeable, but once again Jenkins delivers a palpable sense of intimacy with the characters that immediately hooks you and draws you into their world. Moonlight felt transcendent, almost hypnotic in places, and despite its slightly more conventional narrative structure, If Beale Street Could Talk is as equally compelling.  

Beale Street tells the story of young lovers, Tish (Layne) and Fonny (James). With Fonny behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, and Tish pregnant with his child, she desperately tries to prove his innocence so they can enjoy the family life they had always wanted together. Tish and Fonny deserve to go down as one of the best on-screen couples, certainly in recent memory, and watching them together is enough to make your heart soar. Jenkins’ camera focuses in on their eyes, their touch, and the small gestures, the considered silence and pauses speaking louder than words ever could.

Whilst their love story is at the heart of this film, it also has subtle thematic notions running through it that add even more weight. Its backdrop of racial tensions and discrimination, particularly in the attitude of white police officers towards black males, is something which is incredibly potent, but yet it never goes into preachy territory and never totally dominates over the characters and the narrative. Instead, it provides a background to these characters, and its relevance to today means that despite its period setting, we can instantly relate with them and their experiences.

The warmth and love of Beale Street positively radiates through the screen and there is wonderful tenderness to both Jenkins’ direction and his writing. Particularly in the scenes with Tish’s family which are wonderfully written and astutely observed.

Jenkins is undeniably an exciting filmmaker, and he succeeds in following up Moonlight by more than surpassing the unfairly high expectations placed upon him. It is unfair to compare the two films because they are so different, but Beale Street is undeniably more accessible and much easier watch. It doesn’t stray from some hard-hitting topics, and its ending is crushingly bittersweet, but watching this love story play out is a privilege. Awards success may just be beckoning his name once again…

Sarah’s Verdict:

4