JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Netflix and Chill-mas

Written by Sarah Buddery

Christmas movies are just a click or a tap away and in a year where the Netflix original films have really kicked up a notch, the streaming service is bringing us four fresh festive offerings this year.

JumpCut All The Way is celebrating some of the best and most beloved Christmas movies and the big question is, can any of the Netflix offerings join this pantheon? Here’s how I have them stacked up, from worst to best, to help you make the best choices this Christmas…

 

1

6. Christmas Inheritance (2017)

Full disclosure on this one, I was not able to get through this film. I was invested in its trashy and predictable vibes initially and just when I thought it would start wrapping up, I made the mistake of pausing it and seeing that there was, unfortunately, another 75 minutes left. I persevered for a little while, but honestly, this film is unwatchable. It struggles in particular with having a central character who is so inconceivably stupid and borderline detestable, that it is impossible to feel anything for its attempts at schmaltz. A character going on some kind of magical transformation is what we would expect from a film such as this, but this character is so unlikeable, you can’t help but think that she really doesn’t deserve to inherit anything. The pace is so slow it feels like it is moving backwards, and it lacks the charm and warmth of many of the other Netflix offerings. Avoid.

 

 

1.jpg

5. The Holiday Calendar (2018)

In a film about an enchanted advent calendar, you know the schmaltz is going to be ladled on thick, but whilst there is still an odd charm to The Holiday Calendar the contrivances outweigh this. There is absolutely no doubt, from the moment the film starts, how it is going to end, which makes much of the film feel like a wasted exercise. The performances are okay, and if you know exactly what type of film you are going to see going into it, then there are still things to enjoy.

 

1.jpg

4.  A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)

Just like the first film, this sequel is cosy nonsense, as indulgent as a giant mug of hot chocolate with mountains of whip cream and all the marshmallow trimmings. Its faux attempts at drama and plot are all inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as we’re really just here to see the magical Christmas nuptials, and they do not disappoint. The original was bafflingly brilliant and fans who have been eagerly anticipating this sequel will not be disappointed.

 

1

3. The Princess Switch (2018)

Anyone who thought A Christmas Prince had the most confusing location logic, you’re in for a treat with The Princess Switch. Continuing the trend of adding “via” onto the end of a random word to make a European sounding country, The Princess Switch takes place in the fictional country of Belgravia (actually an affluent district in London, but definitely not a country) centred around a baking competition that takes place at Wembley. No, not that Wembley, just a large building called Wembley, because of course any of the naming conventions of these films are decided by throwing a dart at a map of London. Aside from the fact it makes absolutely no sense, The Princess Switch is a rehash of The Parent Trap and as long as you can switch your brain off, this film is kind of fun. It’s ludicrous of course, but the dual performance from Vanessa Hudgens is charming, and the picturesque scenery will certainly make you feel warm and festive.

 

1

2. A Christmas Prince (2017)

Its placing at second on this list should not fool you, A Christmas Prince is still absolute trash, but boy is it wonderful trash! Again, the logic is absolutely baffling, and you’ll know how it ends from the moment it starts. It’s a slightly more modern take on Cinderella but it has a lot of the same story beats and is the closest a film has come to recreating the magic of Disney with a live-action offering. The locations are again beautiful and as a film, it could, of course, exist without the Christmas element at all, but it’s all part of the odd charm. Like mince pies and Christmas cake, A Christmas Prince is the indulgent treat that you should only have to endure once a year.

 

1.jpg

1. The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Home Alone, Die Hard, Elf…everyone has their go-to Christmas movie, whether it is one of those mentioned here or one of the countless other classics. Hopefully, this is not overstating the mark, but The Christmas Chronicles genuinely feels like it could be one of those ones. It’s endearing and sweet enough to give you all the warm festive fuzzies that you need, but it also has plenty for the adults with the legendary Kurt Russell playing a (rather dashing!) Santa Claus. There’s a couple of jokes in it which are not going to age particularly well but it still has all the ingredients of a Christmas classic. It’s funny, heart-warming and has all the magic to make you laugh and cry. This is far and away Netflix’s best original Christmas film and one which will hopefully endure for many years to come.

Advertisements

What You Can’t See Can’t Hurt You In The First Trailer For Netflix’s ‘Bird Box’

“When a mysterious force decimates the world’s population, only one thing is certain: if you see it, you take your life. Facing the unknown, Malorie finds love, hope and a new beginning only for it to unravel. Now she must flee with her two children down a treacherous river to the one place left that may offer sanctuary. But to survive, they’ll have to undertake the perilous two-day journey blindfolded.”

Directed by: Susanne Bier

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

Release Date: December 21st, 2018 (Netflix)

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

                              

Like Father

Year: 2018
Directed by: Lauren Miller
Starring: Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen

WRITTEN BY COREY HUGHES

Actor-turned-director Lauren Miller, notably known for her comedic roles in Superbad and Sausage Party, makes her feature-length debut with the Netflix backed drama Like Father, a take on the ‘estranged father’ sub-genre that shouldn’t be confused with Father of the Year; another Netflix original film that is, shall we say, an insult to cinema.

Like Father tells the story of Rachel (Kristen Bell), who is introduced in the opening scene taking a business call in her wedding dress. It’s her wedding day, her future husband stands at the altar awaiting his bride; looking worried as she’s later than expected. Unbeknownst to Rachel, her estranged father sits in the crowd on her big day, learning about his daughter for the first time as her boss officiates her wedding – telling stories about Rachel’s character. But when Rachel’s phone slips out of her dress and falls to the ground, her husband leaves her stranded at the altar; frustrated at his fiancé’s life-intruding work ethic. As she spots her long-lost father in the crowd, Rachel’s day can’t seem to get much worse…

At the film’s most warming and tender scene, Rachel and Harry spend a night drinking Manhattan’s and discussing theoretical principles on how to eat pizza on a park bench in the hope of rejuvenating their fractured relationship. Sadly for Rachel, drunken decisions lead to the pair waking up sore-headed on a cruise across the Caribbean; both stranded at sea and forced to rekindle the extinguished flame that is their relationship.

The strongest aspect of Miller’s debut is her encouraging depiction of Rachel, a strong-willed woman in an esteemed position at an advertising firm in New York; a positive role model for all female viewers. Yet that also leads to the main problem of the movie, in the way that Miller obliviously contradicts her achievement in bringing a headstrong, independent woman to the fore by promoting her relentless work-ethic as a discouraging trait; a trait that leads her to being the butt of a bad joke between her fellow cruise attendees. There’s an argument that Rachel’s constant phone-checking is a metaphor (albeit on-the-nose) for our obsession with digital media consumption, but when this message is being banged over our heads for the entire duration of the movie, it undermines the sincerity of bringing a successful female protagonist to the centre of the narrative.

Even if you disassociate the politics from the story, the film also fails on a tonal level. Miller has a hard time juggling between the heavy melodrama of childhood trauma and the comedic levity, the latter relying on cliched humour such as fat people falling and awkward first encounters for laughs. The comedy isn’t that funny, and the more dramatic moments fail to penetrate beneath the surface; as if the movie wants to be more of a Caribbean cruise commercial rather than an emotionally provocative comedic drama about estranged parenthood.

Ultimately, Like Father adds to Netlfix’s collection of unspectacular and forgettable flicks. There’s nothing new to be seen here, but I have faith that debutant Miller has much more to show in her career.

COREY’S RATING:

2-5

Reel Women: June UK Releases

Written by Elena Morgan

Welcome back to Reel Women, a monthly feature where we highlight the films that are being released in the UK this month that are written and/or directed by women. As ever this is a mixture of wide and smaller releases, so depending where in the country you are, some might be easier to see than others, and there’s a couple of Netflix Original films here too. All the release date information comes from Launching Films and all dates are correct at the time this post was written – we all know film releases can change at the last minute, especially for smaller films.

This month there’s romantic comedies, documentaries, dramas, and one I’m personally very excited for – the Ocean’s spin-off.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

1 June

Book Club
Directed by Bill Holderman
Written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms

When four long-time friends (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen) decide to read 50 Shades of Grey for the book club, they all get a whole new lease for life.

Erin Simms is an actress and producer who worked as a part of the crew for such films as ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘Pete’s Dragon’. ‘Book Club’ is her first produced screenplay.

Ismael’s Ghosts

Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Written by Arnaud Desplechin, Julie Peyr and Léa Mysius

Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) is a filmmaker whose life is turned on its head when his wife (Marion Cotillard), who he hasn’t seen for over twenty years comes back into his life, disrupting his relationship.

This is Julie Peyr’s second collaboration with Arnaud Desplechin and her tenth screenwriting credit. Léa Mysius is a writer and director of a number of short films. Her debut feature film, ‘Ava’, screened at the London Film Festival last year.

Lost in Vagueness
Directed by Sofia Olins

A music documentary about Roy Gurvitz who created Lost Vagueness at Glastonbury and reinvigorated the festival.

‘Lost in Vagueness’ is Sofia Olins’ first feature-length documentary. She’s previously worked as a second unit director or assistant director on a variety of British television series including ‘Primeval’, ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘Peep Show’.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

8 June

The Boy Downstairs
Written and Directed by Sophie Brooks

Diana (Zosia Mamet) is forced to reflect on her past relationship with Ben (Matthew Shear) when she unintentionally moves into the apartment above his.

‘The Boy Downstairs’ is Sophie Brooks first feature film.

15 June

Set It Up
Directed by Claire Scanlon
Written by Katie Silberman

Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) are two stressed out assistants who each have a high maintenance boss, Kristen (Lucy Liu) and Rick (Taye Diggs). When they decide to play matchmaker, maybe they can spread some romance and get their freedom.

Think of any big American comedy show of the past ten years and Claire Scanlon has probably directed at least one episode of it. Her directing credits include ‘The Office’, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Fresh Off the Boat’. ‘Set It Up’ is her first feature film. Katie Silberman has previously produced comedy films ‘Hot Pursuit’ and ‘How to Be Single’. ‘Set It Up’ is her first feature-length screenplay to make it to the screen.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

22 June

Ocean’s 8
Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Gary Ross and Olivia Milch

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) gathers a crew to attempt to rob the Met Gala.

Olivia Milch is a writer-director whose debut film, ‘Dude’, is a Netflix Original Film. As well as co-writing Ocean’s 8 she is also a co-producer on the film.

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat
Directed by Sara Driver

A documentary exploring the pre-fame years of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and how New York City its people and the shifting arts culture of the 1970s and ‘80s shaped his work.

‘Boom for Real’ is Sara Driver’s first documentary feature film and her first film in 15 years.

Freak Show
Directed by Trudie Styler
Written by Patrick J. Clifton and Beth Rigazio

Despite attending an ultra-conservative high school, teenager Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) decides to run for Homecoming Queen.

Trudie Styler is an actress and producer and ‘Freak Show’ is her directorial feature debut. Beth Rigazio has previously written TV movies including the Disney Channel original movie, ‘Go Figure’.

24 June

To Each, Her Own (aka Les Gouts et Les Couleurs)
Directed by Myriam Aziza
Written by Myriam Aziza, Denyse Rodriguez-Tomé

Simone’s (Sarah Stern) been in a relationship with Claire (Julia Piaton) for years but has never come out to her family. Her brothers keep trying to set her up with men, her father’s a traditionalist and her mother is just a little bit eccentric – soon everything comes to ahead and Simone is forced to make some hard choices.

‘To Each, Her Own’ is a Netflix Original and is Myriam Aziza’s sixth film. She wrote, directed, edited and was cinematographer on her documentary film ‘L’an prochain à Jérusalem’. Denyse Rodriguez-Tomé previous screenwriting credits include ‘I Hate Love‘ which won the Award of the Youth in the French Film category at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

27 June

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
Written and Directed by Mari Okada

Maquia (Manaka Iwami) is an immortal girl and when she ventures out into the world she meets Erial (Miyu Irino) a mortal boy, their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond that lasts throughout the years.

‘Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms’ is Mari Okada’s directorial debut but she’s written episodes for dozens of different anime. In 2011 Okada won the Animation Kobe Award, an award and event that aims to promote anime and other visual media.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

29 June

Leave No Trace
Directed by Debra Granik
Written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

A father (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) have an idyllic life living in a vast urban park in Oregon, until they are forced to re-join society.

Debra Granik is the director of ‘Winter’s Bone’, a film she co-wrote with Anne Rosellini and which earned them both an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. ‘Leave No Trace’ is their first feature film since ‘Winter’s Bone’ was released in 2010.

Patrick
Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Written by Vanessa Davies, Mandie Fletcher and Paul de Vos

Sarah’s (Beattie Edmondson) life is a bit of a mess and she really could do without the pug named Patrick her grandmother bequeathed her. As Sarah struggles to look after Patrick, find romance with his vet (Ed Skrein) and cope with a new job, Sarah realises that Patrick might just be helping her turn her life around.

Mandie Fletcher has directed episodes of popular British comedies like ‘Black Adder the Third’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’, and ‘Miranda’ and her previous film was ‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’. ‘Patrick’ is both Mandie Fletcher’s and Vanessa Davies’s first produced screenplay.

The Bookshop
Written and Directed by Isabel Coixet

Set in a small English town in 1959, Florence (Emily Mortimer) decides to open a bookshop but is met with polite yet ruthless opposition.

Isabel Coixet is a Spanish filmmaker with over 30 directing credits and 20 writing credits to her name.

 


 

That’s thirteen films made by women being released in the UK in June. There’s something for everyone with animation, dramas, documentaries and a fair few romantic comedies. Personally, I’m looking forward to ‘Ocean’s 8′ and ‘Set It Up’, two films that have been on my radar for a while, but one I hadn’t heard of before researching this feature but definitely want to see is ‘Freak Show’ – the trailer makes it look like so much fun!

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: 

Untitled-1

Martin Freeman Is A Man Running Out Of Time In The First Trailer For Netflix’s ‘Cargo’

“From the producer of ‘The Babadook’, and starring Martin Freeman, comes ‘Cargo’. Based on the viral short film, this is the story of a man and his infant daughter who are stranded in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in rural Australia. And when he becomes infected, the countdown begins for him to find her protection before he changes forever.”

Directed by: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke

Starring: Martin Freeman, Anthony Hayes, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius

Release Date: May 18th, 2018 (Netflix)

Mute

Year: 2018
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Seyneb Saleh

Written by Fiona Underhill

When I heard a new Duncan Jones film was coming to Netflix, I was excited. I loved both ‘Moon’ and ‘Source Code’ and it looked like ‘Mute’ would also have a sci-fi/futuristic element. When I saw the trailer, it looked even more up my street – a noir set in a ‘Blade Runner’-style world about a mute bartender searching for his missing girlfriend. The cast was also stacked, leading to me having really high hopes for this one.

Then came the reactions.

Woo boy, the reactions. According to the internet, ‘Mute’ is vile and offensive trash and yet another reason to blame Netflix for the death of movies (‘Cloverfield Paradox’ being another recent example). My take on ‘Mute’ is more complex – I neither loved it or hated it and I feel that most of the overreactions have been unduly harsh.

The film starts by showing the reason why Leo (Alexander Skarsgard) is mute, after a boating accident tears his vocal chords, his Amish family do not allow him to have the surgery that would repair them. As an adult in a futuristic Berlin, Leo tends bar in the same club as his girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). Leo wants his girlfriend to move in with him and take things to the next level, but in true noir-style, she keeps warning him that she has a secret – a dark hidden past that will change his perception of her. When she goes missing, Leo turns to her best friend Luba (played by a stunning Robert Sheehan) for help. He also becomes embroiled with two ‘doctors’ – Cactus Bill (played by Paul Rudd in a magnificent moustache) and Duck (an unrecognisable blond Justin Theroux) – who run an extremely shady side-line in torture, among other things. There is also a cameo by Dominic Monaghan, as one of the people Leo ‘questions’ in his search for Naadirah.

I shall start positively – this film had impressive visual effects, for a film that presumably had a limited budget and effective world-building. It featured believable touches such as your take-out being delivered by drone. Leo, who has been raised Amish is obviously struggling in this technological world, even resisting having a mobile phone. He also spends his time beautifully carving and crafting wooden furniture, in an attempt to create a homely environment for Naadirah. Skaarsgard gives a tender performance as Leo, in a totally different role to his award-winning turn in ‘Big Little Lies’. Something else I really liked about this film was the subtle nods to the fact that this takes place in the same universe as ‘Moon’ – the multiple Sams are shown on news footage on TV screens in the background. This film features one of my favourite Paul Rudd performances, purely because it’s so different to his usual charming fare. He uses his charm here as a weapon – to seduce those around him to do his bidding, including using prostitutes to babysit his daughter. Another extremely positive aspect for me is the score by my current favourite film composer; Clint Mansell. He can do no wrong in my eyes (ears?) and this is another stunning example from him.

Cactus Bill’s daughter is where the film becomes problematic for many viewers. A man who is capable of terrible violence, yet shows a softer, caring side with a young ward is a dynamic we have seen recently in ‘Logan’, among other films. This definitely adds a layer of moral complexity to Paul Rudd’s character, because he is happy doing evil to others, but when it came to his own daughter, he is obviously protective. The problem here is that Bill’s partner Duck is gradually revealed to be a paedophile. For me, this had a purpose within the plot because it added a lot of tension to the end which wouldn’t otherwise have been there. It is also used as a plot device in ‘Sin City’ – a film I can see as an influence on this and I don’t remember there being this level of moral outrage about that film.

I can understand the arguments leveled at ‘Mute’. The female characters are tropes, rather than fully fleshed-out characters. They really boil down to the missing girlfriend who only exists to give Leo his mission within the plot and a few workers at nightclubs, stripclubs and brothels. However, this is a staple of the genre and I heard similar arguments made against ‘Blade Runner 2049’ and ‘Baby Driver’ last year, both of which I loved (I’m clearly a terrible feminist). Another accusation against this film has been homophobia. I personally feel that Luba, played by Sheehan is a complex character and not just a caricature. He clearly loves Naadirah deeply and is allowed to show different sides of himself. Some people have said that Theroux’s character Duck shows that the film equates homosexuals with paedophiles, however that was not my interpretation of that character at all. Another thing people have been disgusted by is that the film is dedicated to Jones’ father, David Bowie and his nanny. I believe that Jones was exploring different types of parenthood in this film, from the seemingly ‘good’ mother to Leo, who actually damages him, to the perceived terrible father Cactus Bill, who actually has some positives. He is showing that there is no such thing as ‘traditional’ parenthood and this is understandable coming from someone who must have had an unconventional upbringing.

My main issue with this film, rather than being outraged or offended is that it did feel long and slow-paced. The plot lost its way at times, certainly in terms of holding my attention. However, the end did pick up for me and provided some effective tension. This film certainly is risk-taking and I can see why it found a home on Netflix, rather than on wide cinema release. I see it as a positive that films like this can be made and released and they won’t please everyone or always succeed, but are at least experimental and interesting. I would encourage people to look past the howls of derision that have greeted this film and give it a chance, particularly if you have enjoyed modern-day twists on noir, such as ‘Sin City’. It is violent, gritty and has adult themes that will offend some people, but I enjoyed it. I’m not sure what that tells you about me.

Fiona’s Rating: 7/10