Beautiful Boy Movie Review

­­­7/10

An engrossing true drama and character study. Beautiful Boy unflinchingly reveals the ugly impact of drug abuse on families and has some stellar performances from its cast.

The film follows the life story of Nic Sheff a young man who succumbs to drug and alcohol addiction. As Nic battles his demons, his family tirelessly tries to help him overcome his addiction and repeated relapses. Timothée Chalamet plays Nic, with Steve Carrell supporting him as his father David. Together they combine to tell the story through their eyes as the film seamlessly covers years of Nic’s battles.

While difficult to watch, Beautiful Boy is incredibly engrossing to watch. Especially through the film’s examination of the different ways Nic’s addiction impacts those around him. The story unflinchingly portrays his tendencies to become a pathological liar; a thief; a terrified youth and a helpless emotional victim. All of which I had no doubt that such situations would be all too familiar for those who have unfortunately experienced the same problems with loved ones or friends. I found it quite the brutal and honest portrayal of a person struggling with a terrible issue, but I was glad that the film didn’t shy away from showing such harrowing situations.

The film is also led by an extremely talented cast who collectively make it quite the performance driven piece.

Steve Carrel is starting to prove himself capable of more dramatic roles in recent years and I was pleasantly surprised that his performance as David didn’t disappoint. chooses to take on a quiet desperation in David’s characterisation rather than the aggressive, shouting father figures that are often the standard character approach to similar roles. This approach grounded the character’s performance and made him feel more real to me.

Timothée Chalamet is equally brilliant. His ability to flick between his raging mood swings and consistently casually lying to his family without is both impressive and horrifically sad to watch. I also enjoyed his neurotic take on Nic that further alienates him from societal norms; making it harder for him to come back from his drug addiction.

Maura Tierney also does a great job as Nic’s stepmom. She captures the awkward combination of sympathy and detachment felt for Nic being her character is a person not directly related to him. Her love for Nic is evident but the need to protect her own children from the realities of the world that they’re currently too young to understand is also a driving factor that sees her take a much stronger approach to Nic. One of her best moments is a scene where she’s chasing Nic in a mad car chase that’s both incredibly tense and sad to watch. A true testament of the despair her character feels.

Interestingly, director Felix van Groeningen brings a hallucinogenic feel to the film often shifts the timeline the story operates within. This creates a feeling of confusion as to how much time passes, cleverly symbolizing the same feeling Nic experiences under the influence. There are times when it’s hard to keep track of how much time has passed in the story as the characters don’t seem to get older but it’s a memorable film that keeps you thinking for days long after you’ve seen it.

Finally, the soundtrack adds electric song choices. While they may not fit the emotion trying to be captured, they are suited to the moment and feel like intimate snapshots of moments that revolve around a song. It’s an interesting technique but in a way feels natural and adds to the realism of the entire film.

Ultimately Beautiful Boy is a harrowing but engrossing character study. Even though the film does feel long, it’s well balanced and brutally honest portrayals of the story’s issues more than makeup for it. This one film that might be difficult to watch but it’s worth taking the time to do so. See it.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Review

6.5/10

A solid biopic. Bohemian Rhapsody is a fitting film about one of the world’s greatest bands and an iconic figure of music. While it’s not one of the best biopics ever made, it’s still a crowd pleaser and worth the watch.

The film explores the life of Freddie Mercury and his career as lead singer of Queen. It tracks Mercury’s recruitment into the band and leads all the way up to their historic performance at Live Aid. A large focus is put on capturing the singer’s struggles and successes in both his personal and professional life.

What works great the film’s themes of family and diligent determination to realises one’s expectation of themselves. Both ideas give a relatable human factor to the story, which is needed when dealing with a film about global rock stars.

I enjoyed how the band constantly referred to themselves as a family of misfits who play to other misfits like them. While a little cheesy, it helps humanise the superstar band as everyday individuals. It’s interesting to see the band compare their dynamics and internal conflicts to that of a typical family as Mercury would often point out.

I also liked the films focus on Mercury’s diligent determination to realise his expectations of himself. Mercury’s determination to improve himself and accomplish his dreams are relatable human values and it’s inspirational to see others strive towards their goals. I found myself being thoroughly engrossed in watching his talent shine throughout the course of the film.

My only issue with the story is that it’s quite predictable. There are familiar beats and obvious signals to pick up that make it simple to know where the film is going to go. Even if I was born on Mars and had never heard of Queen or Freddie Mercury, the arc of the story is easy to gather.

Production wise the performances and camera work were both entertaining to watch.

I particularly liked Rami Malek who (fittingly) stood out as Freddie Mercury. Apart from the costumes, his flamboyant demeanor and stage presence in the film would have made Mercury proud. There’s a lot of visible effort in his performance to try and match the same level of life as one of the best performers in musical history. Although this is ultimately impossible to do so, Malek should commend himself and be proud.

Finally, some of the camera work in the film was also interesting to watch. One sequence involved a continuous shot of a camera flying between the legs of a piano and then onto the large crowd. While shots like these didn’t come often, I appreciated that there was an effort made to include them and I thought they were a nice touch.

Overall Bohemian Rhapsody is a solid biopic. Even if it feels safe* and predictable, the film works well as a crowd pleaser and I still enjoyed myself. Yes, it’s not the greatest biopic ever made but it’s still worth the watch. Especially for the epic finale which on its own feels incredible. See it.

*I wonder what the film would have looked like if Sacha Baron Cohen had played Freddie Mercury and realised his initial vision for the singer. Link here to the interview where he discussed this.

Suspiria Movie Review

8.5/10

A masterpiece mix of Rosemary’s Baby meets Black Swan. Suspiria is a disturbing, shocking, and thoroughly engrossing psychological horror. Yes, it holds a few flaws but ultimately, this is modern cinema at its finest.

The story is set towards the tail of the Cold War in 1977 Berlin. We follow the journey of a young American dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), who is accepted into the prestigious but mysterious Markos Dance Academy. Strange occurrences begin to occur, and Susie soon finds herself among company that’s of a different kind. Hint: this is not a film for kids.

The most enjoyable factor for me was the suspense, as subtly indicated within the name of the film. A large part of this comes from the story and its incredibly developed mythology teased out an array of harrowing concepts over time. Every time a new detail was shed, the more intrigued I became and the suspense of what could linger in the future was added.

I also loved how the film structures complemented the build-up in sense over time. Like a Quentin Tarantino film, the story was divided up into chapters and each added to this looming dreaded feeling for next part of the story. Think Paranormal Activity and how each new night brought about something worse than the one before.

The other parts that I thought were great to build suspense were the direction and performances.

Director Luca Guadagnino did a great job in breaking up these segments and teasing out important details to solidify the suspense. One of my favourite features was his use of the zoom on particular objects or faces. Apart from adding obvious focus to details important to the story, they were often employed before moments of dread and in turn made these scenes interesting to watch.

Normally directors would cut to a close-up but to me, Guadagnino’s choice of the zoom is far more interesting from a visual standpoint. Most of the zooms were done slowly, forcing me to gradually ascertain what important detail is being put forward.

It reminded me of Yorgos Lanthimos’ works (another great director, see our Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of the Sacred Deer reviews) as he also forces in this feeling of suspense from a zoom compared to a quick cut of a close-up. The latter style speeds up the information transfer process and doesn’t allow momentary confusion while I figure things out. Great in action pieces to hide the cheated punches; less in suspenseful horrors where you want to slowly tease out details and build up suspense (unless of course horror films want to use jump scares).

Interestingly, Guadagnino’s other works Call Me By Your Name and I Am Love which are dramatic films that are very different from Suspiria. Both of those are great films but I was still (pleasantly) surprised to see Guadagnino handle himself quite well in a horror genre.

Performances wise, Dakota Johnson was fine as Susie Bannion but it was Tilda Swinton who blew me away with her two roles; one of which I didn’t even realise she acted for it until looking up the cast credits. I don’t want to give this part away because I think the experience of picking this up later will make you smile but think Gary Oldman level of transformation. Suffice to say, she was simply incredible.

Apart from being a linguistic master, there are so many subtleties in her performance that really does confirm her as my favourite actress to watch. In Suspiria she plays a dance director with great commanding body movements but also real earnest in her eyes. She can give a lot away about her character simply through the way she stares at you and I found it fantastic to watch.

My only gripes with Suspiria are with subplots that could have been cut because they didn’t add anything to the story or weren’t addressed later.

Without giving too much away, there’s a subplot with the RAF (if you watch the film you’ll know what I mean) that kept getting raised but never had a payoff. I’m trying to grasp its relevance to the themes of the film, but I still don’t know what its point was. There’s also one character with glasses (again you’ll know who I mean) who I felt was important to the story but was never addressed by the end of the film. Once again, I’m not sure what her role was and I’m of the mind that this subplot could have been cut.

I also have a slight issue with the way the finale played out which came across as comical in parts even though that the exact opposite of its intention. After a while it became kind of ridiculous and in my opinion, it could have been presented differently to make it feel more harrowing. I can’t say exactly why it came across as comical without giving anything, but this is more of a minor issue compared to the almost pointless subplots.

Overall Suspiria is an incredibly well-made film and I had a blast watching it. I’m thoroughly recommending this to those that enjoyed Rosemary’s Baby and Black Swan because Suspiria feels like a mix of the two. Otherwise, if you like suspenseful psychological horrors in general, then this will still be right up your alley.

Be warned, it is quite long. The film clocks in at 2 hours and 32 minutes but thankfully I didn’t feel the film ever drag on because there’s a lot of intriguing suspense going on (even with the pointless subplots). This is a film that had enough for me to take away from one sitting but also made me more curious to read up on later (though I probably won’t be watching it again because I’m happy with what I got the first time).

I’m predicting this to be an early contender for Best Adapted Screenplay at next year’s Oscar’s as it’s based on the 1977 original of the same name. But until then, see the 2018 version when you can.

EDIT:

I forgot to add that the music is also composed by Thom Yorke, lead single and lyricist of Radiohead. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better right?

Bad Times at the El Royale Movie Review

5/10

Not that great of a time.

Bad Times at the El Royale had the beginnings of a great film; a stellar cast, interesting characters, and a beautiful 1950s-like setting. However, El Royale gets lost in its own flashy homage and forgets to produce anything of substance from the story.

The film is written and directed by Drew Goddard, who has works include A Cabin in the Woods, The Martian, World War Z, Cloverfield, and even episodes of Lost. He’s also written a shit load for Netflix’s Daredevil series (seriously, Google this and you might be surprised as I was). With such a solid resume (even though I wouldn’t count World War Z exactly solid) I was surprised that El Royale wasn’t as good as Goddard’s past work.

The film follows seven guests who check in to the El Royale hotel, each sharing a shady past and an uncertain future. Their lives begin to intertwine when secrets come seeping out of their rugged suitcases. And yes, the premise does sound very familiar to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

Unlike that film, the major problem with El Royale is that it struggles to juggle seven character arcs. Each of their story is slowly teased out in the beginning and then abruptly tied off. By the end of the film I was left wondering what was the point of all of it? It didn’t feel like there was an end goal that tied in these stories and I don’t know what the purpose was for having these arcs.

The film builds these beautifully flawed and complex characters but then doesn’t utilize them to their full potential. This is one of those cases where the story would have been better formatted as a television series. It could have solved my issues with underdeveloped character trajectories; glaring loose ends that were never answered; and a disappointing ending which I can’t go into without spoiling.

In saying this, the film isn’t a complete disaster. The production design of the hotel was brilliant. One of the neatest aspects was the corridors inside the hotel that were built with two-way mirrors, allowing you to see into each of the rooms. It’s an interesting and original touch that adds a lot of intriguing tension to the story.

The hotels foyer area is also a wonderful throwback to the early 1950’s. It hosts a record jukebox, a lavish gold bar and several milk bar styled vending machines. The rhythmic soul music that oozes out of the jukebox fits perfectly with films homage to 50’s. This is further accentuated by the character Darlene Sweet, who created a stunning soundtrack that kept my interest piqued.

While the cast is full of well-known names such as Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth, it’s unlikely duo Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo that steal the show. Erivo plays timid soul singer Sweet who after being taken advantage of by her music producer decides to try and make it on her own. Meanwhile Bridges plays Catholic Priest Daniel Flynn who is obsessed with digging for buried money under the floorboards of the hotel rooms.

When Flynn realizes he has the wrong room, he attempts to befriend Sweet to get access to hers instead. Their unlikely friendship is a joy to watch, but it’s Bridges’ honest portrayal of someone suffering from early on-set Alzheimer’s that gives his character a sympathetic side that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Sweet also gives sympathy to Flynn as he stumbles his way through old forgotten memories; giving their bond a relatable human factor that I enjoyed.

El Royale is an interesting mix. There are some excellent parts to its presentation, but the most important aspect of story is still somewhat a mess. This is far from Goddard’s best work, which is a bit sad, but hopefully this might be later rebooted as a television series. The story and characters just feel too big of a beast for a 2-and-a-half-hour film and I’d much rather see it play out in a series. Ultimately if you skipped this film, you wouldn’t be missing much. Plus, there are other great films to watch instead (see our Mandy review) and hopefully more being released soon (I’m looking at you Suspiria, please be good).

First Man Movie Review

6.5/10

Good but not great.

First Man is a biographical drama about astronaut Neil Armstrong and stars Ryan Gosling in the lead role. The film covers the decade leading up to his most famous accomplishment and the numerous struggles he toiled with along the way.

My largest complaint with First Man is that there are far too many conflicts raised. The film quickly tries to cover Armstrong’s struggles with loss, family, friends, NASA, public scrutiny and the missions leading up to (and inclusive) Apollo 11. Clearly, there’s a lot going on.

The problem is that the film doesn’t know which one to focus on. In my opinion, First Man overcrams many different conflicts to the point where none of them were given enough time for them to be impactful. It reminds of the Simpsons when where Mr. Burns discovers that he has an overabundance of diseases. Each effectively cancels the others out because they all can’t fit through the “door” at the same time to cause him any harm.

the simpsons infographic for first man.pngA visual metaphor for how First Man tries to cover all its conflicts.

The overall effect makes the film less dramatic than what I was expecting it to be. Comparing it to a similar film of nature like Apollo 13First Man feels like a comfortable walk in the park. Unlike First Man, Apollo 13 focused primarily on one single event. In my view, this was a big reason why that film felt way more dramatic. One major conflict (or overarching issue) generally help an audience connect more to the struggles of characters. Instead of introducing several conflicts and hoping one of them will stick.

Maybe this is because director Damian Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) wasn’t responsible for writing the script. Chazelle wrote and directed Whiplash, a film that I see as one of the most intense and dramatic films of the past decade. And funnily enough that was just a fictional story about a young jazz drummer; not about mankind landing on the moon.

Surprisingly First Man was written by Josh Singer, the man responsible for Oscar-winning dramas like Spotlight and The Post. I’m even more puzzled as to what went wrong when it came to him drafting the screenplay for this film.

I also questioned some of Chazelle’s directing choices. There is a stupendous amount of the same shot setups in this film that get recycled from scenes that similar in nature. Action set pieces would often cut back and forth between extreme close-ups of the characters eyes. Scenes with characters talking would typically involve basic shot-reverse shot close-ups. While the whole film wasn’t like this and there were some other very neat shots, I couldn’t help but feel like he dropped the ball compared to his previous work.

But as I said, not all of First Man is bad. The film works well as a crash course through the history of the 1960’s space race. Most of it might not be as dramatic as it could have been but I still enjoyed getting an overview of what it took for mankind to land upon the moon. Plus one of the events shown in the film did come off as feeling very intense and reading later up on it I still can’t believe it happened in real life.

I also enjoyed the overall look of the film which felt very authentic to the period it was set in. Most of the shots included a grainy film aesthetic and made the film look like it was produced during the 60’s. The same goes for the costumes and set designs that really do put you in the atmosphere of this time.

First Man isn’t a dramatic masterpiece and I fathom to say that I’d be surprised if it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscar’s (though many critics are raving about the film). It’s still an enjoyable film and I didn’t find myself being bored overall, even if I was ultimately disappointed. Give this one a watch if you’re interested in seeing what it took to get man on the moon, but I wouldn’t be rushing out of the house to go see it.

Venom Movie Review

3/10

Forgettable and confusing. Venom is a classic case of a film that most know is going to be bad but will still end up seeing it for an actor that they like. Hopefully, this review will make you reconsider.

Tom Hardy plays investigative journalist Eddie Brock. During one of his expose pieces, Brock becomes infected with the alien entity known as Venom. This alien uses Brock’s body as a host to survive and allows him to experience superhuman-like abilities. Brock soon realises that Venom is far from being a superhero and must learn to control his new powers to protect those that he loves.

Fundamentally the film just feels like classic Sony. They’ve hedged all their bets on this film being a success by hiring a stellar cast whose ability is way too good for a film like this; with a huge budget that you can just see being chewed up in big explosions and extensive sets. It’s begging to be liked. But the desperation feeling that pours off this film drag it down, making it a remnant of the blockbuster film Sony wanted it to be.

Tom Hardy is good as Eddie Brock but great as Venom. He fills Venom with a sarcastic ignorance-come-arrogance that provides a small amount of relief throughout the film. This performance gives Eddie Brock a lot more edge than the straight-laced version Topher Grace portrayed in Spider-Man 3 (but sadly there’s no ridiculous Tobey Maguire dancing). Despite all this, Tom Hardy just isn’t given the material someone of his caliber needs, and ultimately this is where the film falls short.

Strangely, Michelle Williams is cast as Brock’s lawyer girlfriend Anne and Jenny Slate as Dr. Dora Skirth who works for the corporation that discovered Venom. Michelle Williams gives Anne a red hot go, but again the script is lacking any real substance to show off her immense talent.

Ultimately, I thought her, and Jenny Slate needed to swap roles. It was a weird casting choice having Jenny Slate, a comedian, playing as serious a role as Dr. Dora. In my opinion, Slate should have played the character Anne. This is because there were more moments of humour that came from Anne which would have been better suited for the comedian. Michelle Williams wasn’t great in delivering these gags and most of them came off feeling awkward. This confirmed to me that their swapping of roles would have been a better idea and it would have given Michelle Williams a lot more to work with. I would have been more interested to see her play Dr. Dora and how she could dramatise the conflicted feelings in the scientist who can no longer justify the means to the end.

In terms of the story, it really felt underdeveloped. There isn’t any motive for Eddie Brock and that means there’s nothing he’s working towards in terms of growth or development. When he fucks up doing an expose which leads to him getting fired, his sense of justice and search for the truth gets completely thrown out of the window, and he never gets it back. The ease with which he ditches these morals makes you question how important they were to him in the first place.

The most disappointing part of the film was the underused Venom character. Venom is supposed to be the ultimate anti-hero, treading the line between good and bad, and often crossing over to the bad side. This part of Venom was never fully realized. At no point was there an internal battle between Venom and Eddie Brock that dealt with any complexities of what’s right and wrong. Venom merely plays a lame sidekick to Eddie Brock’s constant incredulous view at the situation he finds himself.

I fear part of the issue with Venom was also the seriously safe M rating that was slapped over the film. Sony baby proofs an anti-hero who eats bad people and often kills them gruesomely by not showing these aspects because they know it will give the film an MA rating. It’s playing it safe to make the film more accessible to a larger audience (i.e. children) to boost up sales. Compare to this another iconic anti-hero film, Deadpool wasn’t afraid to capitalise on MA rated aspects like strong violence and crude humour because the film knew it made them different and entertaining. The Punisher is another similar example of this.

Overall Venom is sloppy and unimaginative. It fails to realize and capitalise what the ultimate anti-hero Venom should have been. In this day and age where superhero films are a dime a dozen, Venom had the material to compete with interesting and different anti-heroes. But I fear the need to keep it within the safe realm of an M rating was a huge detriment to the film’s potential. Skip it.

Extinction Movie Review

extinction.pngSkip it. 3/10

From Perth director Ben Young, Extinction falls flat as a science fiction drama that takes too long to give anything remotely original or interesting. Focusing on a simple-minded civilian, Peter keeps having nightmares about an alien attack on Earth and his family threatened from the invasion. When these visions come true, Peter now has to use the knowledge from his nightmares to figure out how to save them all.

Starring Michael Peña as Peter and Lizzy Caplan as his wife Alice, the two give the roles their all. It’s interesting to see Michael Peña take on a leading role, as he’s normally cast as the bumbling sidekick or junior officer who smells that something is off, but no one will listen to him. Michael Peña handled the role well and put everything he had into it but the script was limiting and potentially held him back. Lizzy Caplan equally was her usual magnetic self and completely stole the show but equally felt limited by the script.

Extinction is an interesting choice for Ben Young following his breakout film the 2016 crime thriller Hounds of Love. You can see some of the elements he’s tried to introduce into the film, such as the close focus on Peter and trying to show his humanity throughout the whole ordeal. The twist in the film is actually incredible and brings so much to the film, making the entire concept unreal but ultimately the execution of the film lets it down.

Whether it is Ben Young lacking in the experience for this type of project, or whether it was rushed to get the project finished and distributed, Extinction has some huge flaws that prevent it from being the film it could’ve been. As already mentioned, the script needed some work, as the concept was great but the script took too long to get to where it began to be interesting. It relied on way too many narrative tropes which ultimately ended up becoming tiresome as the film progressed.

There was some interesting use of camera angles and techniques that unfortunately weren’t executed properly so fell a bit short, and the CGI graphics needed some serious work. A lot of the explosions were too bright and orange, almost reminiscent of the 80’s graphics that can be seen in classics like the original Star Wars.

It was a daring attempt from Ben Young to take on a film like Extinction and whilst it may not be his best delivery yet, I am looking forward to seeing more character-based dramas from him that return to his more comfortable territory like Hounds of Love. Unfortunately, in the case of Extinction, I am going to have to say Skip It.

BlacKkKlansman Movie Review

blackkklansmanSee it. 7/10

Winner of the 2nd Best film award (Grand Prix) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, BlacKkKlansman is a witty drama which is based on the true story of a black detective who went undercover to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. Whilst not perfect, the film’s fusion of great humour and an original tale of race relations in the 70’s, makes for director Spike Lee’s best work since his 2006 film Inside Man.

What sold this film to me was the entertaining dynamic between its two leads John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington funnily enough) and Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren from Star Wars). Their relationship shared many great exchanges and witty remarks, whilst they worked together to figure out how they would be able to pull off something so ridiculous.

This is because Washington’s character, a black rookie detective Ron Stallworth, has created a white alter-ego of himself, to help him infiltrate the KKK through only conversations over the phone. Whilst Driver’s character, a white detective Flip Zimmerman, is roped into posing as this white “Ron Stallworth” imaginary figure, for any in physical meetings and dealings with the KKK. Such a setup is why I term it as a ridiculous stunt to pull off and ultimately provides the charm for why I enjoyed the film.

I also liked the fact that given the story is set in the 70’s, there was a clear effort in making this film really feel like an artefact from that time. From the costume designs to the production sets of the cars and houses that were used, everything about the presentation felt genuine to what I imagine living in the 70’s would look like. This was also wonderfully supported, with the interactions between Washington and Driver’s characters. Who in one scene comically discussed the differences between how black and white men are “meant to talk”. In turn subtly smartly poking fun at such stereotypes.

My only real gripe is that the story tended to drag out in certain sections. There would be periods of time where I felt like I was flying through and enjoying the film, then suddenly, the plot would come to a halt and decide to unnecessarily take its time.

Some of these slower moments occurred whenever the story wanted to focus on hitting home a message about the racial culture of the period and its parallels to racism today. These came off as frivolous scenes that prevented progressing the story, which was already pointing out these same themes of racial relation parallels in numerous other scenes.

As the best example of such a case, the film ended by showing a montage of racially driven riots that have occurred in recent years. In my opinion, this was overkill to include as it came off as a blatant attempt of force-feeding a message that was already well understood since the film started. At that point, I felt that Spike Lee was using this film more as a mouthpiece to spread his own personal motif against the current racial culture in America, rather than telling this unbelievably hilarious and dramatic true story.

Having said all that, those moments where the film does come to a halt thankfully don’t happen that often to the point where it drags down everything else that was great about the movie. BlacKkKlansman is a witty and well-produced film that tells of a ridiculous story that somehow actually transpired in the past. And I’ll be recommending you give this one a watch in the cinemas when you can. See it.

You Were Never Really Here Movie Review

you were never really hereSee it. 6.5/10

Though far from greatness, You Were Never Really Here is nevertheless an interesting character study of a depressed man who works as a hired gun to help those in situations when the law can’t do so. It’s somewhat a disturbing affair, as apart from the subject matter’s bleakness, there’s also a few scenes of graphic violence interplayed. This isn’t done to over extremities like that of a horror or gore type of film but rather to complement the inherent disturbing nature of the lead character, played by Joaquin Phoenix.

The film is written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, who also was responsible for the psychological thriller We Need To Talk About Kevin and it’s clear from both films that she has a very astute eye for detail. There are quite a few close-up shots of specific objects or aspects of characters faces, that together aim to represent a deeper symbolic meaning to what Ramsay wants us to take away from those details. There are connections to grasp between scenes juxtaposed over each other and together the film was wonderful to watch with a director who is very calculating with what she chooses to show on screen. I also really enjoyed one particular action sequence which was all played out through the use of black and white security cameras and it added an interesting directing aesthetic decision to the film.

Being a character study, Ramsay smartly gives Joaquin Phoenix the room to really show off his amazing character actor abilities, which more than likely led to him winning Best Actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Much like her eye for detail, Phoenix’s attention for little idiosyncrasies or the way his character would move were examples that showed a deeper understanding for revealing who his character was and more importantly how he was feeling. Intertwined with this are some disturbing flashback sequences of his past which also helped paint the picture of this interesting and unique character.

Having said largely the majority of what I liked about the film, I still left feeling like it didn’t overall blow me away. For a film that was awarded the Best Screenplay at Cannes, I was expecting a lot more exciting aspects with the direction of the narrative but was met in return with a minimalistic slow-burn type of plot that didn’t go to incredibly tense heights. I still enjoyed exploring this character in this dark world that also herald some mysterious conspiracy elements, but altogether it came across as emotionally lackluster to what it felt like it was going for. The story tried to build up to an emotionally driven payoff but it was one that didn’t really work for me. I did feel a level of sympathy and interest towards the lead but it wasn’t to an extent that completely captivated me.

So, whilst technically I’d argue You Were Never Really Here is a sound film, it’s story ultimately is a mysterious puzzle that left me wanting. There are elements of the story that felt great and darkly interesting at times. Then there’s other moments which weren’t that exciting. I wanted to care more about the subject matter and the individuals it explored but alas I didn’t. I’ll still be recommending this as a film to watch this year because it is very much a good film but a good film is where I’ll be leaving it as.

Hereditary Movie Review

hereditarySee it. 6/10.

Hereditary is the first feature film from director Ari Aster and follows a grieving family after their grandmother passes away. Strange events begin to occur shortly after, bringing more grief and paranoia to the family, and leading the mother, Annie, to believe that the grandmother may have been dabbling in devil worship prior to her death.

The film has been touted as the scariest film of the year so far, and while there were some shocking twists (admittedly there was a huge twist that took me completely by surprise), overall it didn’t have a lasting effect on me. This isn’t to say there weren’t some uncomfortable moments. Annie’s career as a miniaturist sculpture definitely brought some creepiness as she recounted some of the more disturbing moments of her life, capturing them like a photograph in her sculpture creations. Plus there are some great moments played out without the reliance of the cheap jump scares but still took me by surprise.

What was interesting, however, was that as the story slowly revealed itself, different foreshadowing elements were presented in a seemingly scattered pattern but worked well to set up scenes later on. By the end, I found myself thinking “oh yeah, remember that person and what she said before?” and “now that makes sense”, which was an aspect I definitely enjoyed realizing on my way out of the cinemas. It was a sign that although the film was predominantly a slow burn type and took its time, at least it did so with some purpose and intelligent thought behind what was being shown so that it wasn’t just frivolously all put together.

And whilst this film is classified as a horror, it feels more like a character drama and a breakdown of the family. As Annie starts to lose her grip on reality, the hallucinations she projects onto her son also grow more and more disturbing. By doing so it takes the focus away from the horror elements and places it in more of a dramatic position that you soon find yourself sympathizing with his growing paranoia that she’s trying to kill him. Depending on what you’re expecting this might not be what you want but for me, I didn’t mind this change because at least the film tried to put a lot more character into a horror film. Which is usually neglected in such a genre, as the focus often turns to the horrific spectacle of events and characters become expandable figures on the chopping line.

There are also moments of technical brilliance, especially through audio, where the noise of a particular action is heightened to such an extent, often as foreshadowing, that you hold your breath waiting for the action to take a grisly turn. The use of tilts and pans to move to the different scenes was also a unique technique, especially compared to the use of fade to blacks that are often utilized. And there are also some very nice scene transitions that showed a lot of effort was put into making them seamlessly progress through. Clearly, those behind the camera worked hard to help achieve Ari Aster’s vision and it’s great to see horror filmmaking like this being technically and smartly well-made.

Toni Collette plays the role of Annie to perfection, capturing the desperation of a woman who hasn’t had an easy life, and is very aware of her mounting insanity but also convinced that there is something more going on. Toni Collette’s ability to portray wide-eyed fear and then in a heartbeat become angry and hate-filled makes her the standout of the film. Comparably Alex Wolff, who plays her cowardly son Peter, is slightly over the top in some scenes, especially when he’s crying. In saying that, his portrayal of a person in shock in the big twist scene was very well done, capturing not only the terror of the moment but the confusion that takes place following the event.

The downfall of the film, for me, lies in the source of the horror. Admittedly, horror films tend to be divisive as it very much depends on the individual and what gets under their skin. For me, demon worship and occult just doesn’t do it for me and felt a bit of a cheap and lazy way to bring this film together. A lot of the horror moments throughout the film mostly occurred in Annie and her son, Peter’s, mind. To then put this all down to demon worship didn’t seem true to the story being told and was kind of a letdown. The last 15 minutes of the film also completely killed it for me, as it took a turn from being on the edge of insanity straight into being utterly ridiculous and laughable.

I’m recommending that you see it, but hesitantly. There are some uniquely interesting technical aspects as mentioned above that are worth watching it for but overall, the story still feels weak and the ending destroyed any good components that came before it. Hereditary had the opportunity to make an intelligent horror film that had a lasting effect, but instead was let down by the narrative in the last act.