Disobedience (2018)


Love is an all consuming thing and this film goes some way in demonstrating the strength of that powerful four letter word. Anchored by two astonishing female leads, ‘Disobedience’ isn’t as resolute in the pursuit of its story and feels slightly lacking of consequence.

After a family tragedy, photographer Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) flies from New York to London to pay her respects. The world she returns to is of the strict Orthodox Jewish community of which she’d left behind. As she stays longer, her past is unbottled and Esti Kuperman (Rachel McAdams) is a reason for why she was estranged and distanced from her father and his religion.

What this film has going for it, is a good sense of tenderness. Sebastian Lelio ensures that the central pairing of his stars are the focus, their developing connection one that feels soft and lovely around the edges. There are some great moments in the opening scenes of the film with the setting up of characters and Ronit’s arrival back in London comes with traces of strained family humour and a tickling sense of intrigue to these furtive looks that occur between Ronit and Esti.

On the other hand, it is this tender quality that can make the film feel somewhat wishy-washy. The burning nature of love and passion should be unmistakable and though you can tell the two ladies want each other, it’s the aftermath of their connection that never really hits like you’d expect or want. Perhaps the setting of it within the Jewish faith is why the glances and silence are all you get but a darker kick-back to what they do and what happened in the past would make this film more engrossing to watch.

In fact, the film doesn’t totally sell us on the build up to their elicit rendezvous, there’s just a smidge enough to know there’s something going on but it doesn’t feel like the movie has enough gusto to sell us on the fact and suddenly what happens, happens. It’s the softly softly approach which makes for good detailed performances but doesn’t help the screenplay feel sparkling, in fact the film quickly loses dynamics and come the end, it feels vaguely like a quiet soap opera.

Weisz is superb and you can see it in her face and the way she fiddles with her hair or scarf that she’s juggling feelings of grief, annoyance and love. McAdams is just as sensational as her counterpart, if not more so. The complicated state of her marriage, the possible lack of love in her life and the reappearance of Ronit are all carefully balanced by the American actor, she is captivating to watch and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her up for an Oscar in 2019.

‘Disobedience’ has some nice qualities and the background of the Jewish community feels well handled, Weisz and McAdams are the perfect lovers. If only the film didn’t disobey it’s own powerful rules on love, when it should have instead, committed to a more vivid and less unsatisfying flow of tension in the relationship.



Wildlife (2018)


‘Wildlife’ marks the directorial debut for actor Paul Dano and what an assured, quality debut it is. Dano and his partner; fellow actor and screenwriter Zoe Kazan, have joined as a force of talent to script this film, which delves into a family through beautiful crisis.

In Montana of 1960, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to find a new job and gets one working away from home, to control the fires in some mountains. Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) finds work of her own and it’s during this time when their son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) has to become the man of the house and witness a shift in his parent’s relationship.

Paul Dano had stated that he always knew he wanted to make films about families and this is a look at one that disintegrates whilst you helplessly watch. Based on a 1990 novel of the same name, his screenplay was looked over by ‘Ruby Sparks’ writer and playwright Zoe Kazan who then helped as joint screenwriter and, together the pair have really nailed down on the personal, unflinching state of separation, explored through the 14 year old eyes of Joe, yet blisteringly sold by Mulligan’s performance.

It isn’t long until the strains of Jerry and Jeannette’s marriage take hold and once this happens the cracks can do little but get larger and larger. Through this slow-motion descent, Carey Mulligan trembles, spills tears and explodes with her affecting portrayal of a mother always asking what her son thinks and slowly taking her own route at whatever cost. She provides a fantastically haunting, mesmerising performance.

The cinematography from Diego Garcia is similarly mesmerising in a haunted, stunning way. Just from the opening shot, which sets the scene for it being a movie about house and home and the dysfunction that can happen within. Then you see the lovely bliss of this town and its peaked background reflecting the story of their apparently blissful marriage clouding over like the fire and smoke which is raging close by.

Dano and Kazan have ensured there’s a quiet burning which runs through the narrative, carrying a simmer of unease. You never truly know if something will boil over and on the occasion it might, the atmosphere slams with such a ferocity of family heartbreak, none more powerful than the silent and final image of this film. Paul Dano himself has seamlessly carried his remarkable magnetic talent from in front of the camera and neatly placed that skill behind it, ensuring there’s no need for showy tension to make a weighty drama and that’s what makes this film all the more important and brilliant.

‘Wildlife‘ is a carefully written work of art with its power buried from the inside out. As it slowly leaks out, the audience are in for a film that feels like theatre, this scenario of a family breakdown gorgeously acted by Mulligan and Gyllenhaal and wonderfully sold from Oxenbould’s Joe, as he and we too, can’t help but face this happen.



The Children Act (2018)


This is a drama with a profound core revolving around a quandary of life and death. It’s very easy to say that Emma Thompson is the crowning aspect within ‘The Children Act’. There is a lot of weighty material going on in this plot and not all of it is as stirring as the film would believe it is.

The Honorable Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a well respected judge but away from the courts she’s facing a communication breakdown with her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci). On top of this she is given a case about a 17 year old with leukaemia; his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and are refusing a blood transfusion which leaves Maye to make an informed choice on the teenagers welfare.

Richard Eyre; with a sturdy background in theatre and directing play adaptations for TV certainly knows how to facilitate strong performances for this thought-provoking story. It’s a shame then that he overdoes the melodrama and thrusts too much emotional manipulation onto the audience come the final minutes of this film.

Before that point, the first two acts are solid and methodically attentive to both the trials of court room lore and her marriage behind closed doors. The High Court of Justice scenes are gripping and tackle tricky issues of law and morals, family and love, death and life which are beautifully explored in Ian McEwan’s script. This sensitive development of healthcare versus dignity never backs down by taking one side and that makes the dialogue based within the court rooms very interesting to hear.

After the verdict is decided, it isn’t only the melodramatic nature that spoils the film but the scripted behaviour and actions of one character are apparently signs of a forced upbringing but are just strange and make the story a surreal ache to get through. I was totally out of the film by the midst of the third act and any chance of evoking a sad reaction from me was utterly in the wind.

Thompson is as sensational as you’d expect, she has such a great emotive range which is second to none. In her eyes, a thousand words are spoken even when she is just silently listening or contemplating. Tucci doesn’t have a large role but brings a subtlety to his turn as Jack, there’s definitely an interest he portrays of quiet, honest conflict for Fiona’s personal life.

‘The Children Act’ has a lot going for it and with a powerful duo of performances, the story especially in the first stages is dignified and absorbing but after a while, it views like a train coming to a halt but still with a mile of track left to go.


On Chesil Beach (2018)


Here is a reunion of sorts, as ‘Atonement’ star Saoirse Ronan and its author team up to tell the story of a young married couple. It’s a small scale tale and one that’s excellently performed, but it’s a film that comes across as quite bland.

Spending their wedding night at a hotel near Chesil Beach; are classical music player Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and country romantic Edward (Billy Howle). As they near the consummation of their marriage, it becomes clear that something could stand in their way.

The 1962 period and quintessential Britishness of the Dorset locations are prettily shot. Sean Bobbitt certainly gives the stretch of uncomfortable looking shingle a vague haunting quality. It also is a place of quiet yet heated reflection which becomes the setting of the revelation that stirs the pot and helps step the film narrative up.

Before this moment, I have to say the movie is quite a slow and dragging affair. There are some humorous moments and within the flashbacks of their courtship, it’s clear to see their adoration but they’re never totally interesting. There’s also the matter, that after the big moment, there’s two points in the plot that are so predictable. Luckily, I can forgive the expect record shop moment and the ending because they’re performed so well that my gut was punched and my eyes almost welled with tears.

Ronan is always an sensational actor to watch and that doesn’t change here. The way she plays the upper class and more stuffy frigid nature of her character is superb, you always buy into Florence’s pained fears of commitment. Howle, surprisingly, stole the film for me. I love Ronan as an actor but I was enthralled by his turn as Edward and especially in the later stages of the film I felt for him.

It’s not a clumsy film but it’s not exactly a serene picture-perfect one either. The acting from the two lovers are what keep the interests just above nap-mode. ‘On Chesil Beach’ comes across like a great Sunday afternoon watch, to have on whilst you’re enjoying a solid British roast dinner.


Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)


I fully expected this movie to follow in the bad leagues of the other Efron starring movies that have been released in 2016. Gladly ‘Bad Neighbours 2’ and ‘Dirty Grandpa’ this is not, of course there’s still some crass goings on and a general dumb vibe but the movie made me laugh more than a few times and a shining piece of heart does almost come through too.

Multiple family event offenders of ruin, Dave (Zac Efron) and Mike Stangle (Adam DeVine) are told by parents and little sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) they need to clean up their partying ways and invite nice girls to Jeanie’s wedding to prevent any disasters on her big day. After posting an online ad, the brothers are inundated with responses which include self absorbed bad girls Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) who pretend to be smart ladies to gain a vacation to Hawaii for the wedding.

This is definitely one of those comedy movies where you can tell a lot of the lines are ad-libbed but thankfully it works here. The moments where dialogue feels less scripted helps give it a fresher humour. It helps that the film is in capable hands from the cast who have done and know comedy, leading them down a confident track of coming up with well timed quips, the funny outtakes in the credits is a great example of the many choices of lines the director had on his plate to work with.

A long but admittedly brilliant exchange of whispered words and one sided sexual arousal in a hotel hallway is a stand out scene, this is down to the chemistry between Plaza and DeVine. I believe the main reason this wedding comedy movie hits better than anticipated is because of the chemistry within the cast. There’s a frankly odd yet amusing massage scene, the sibling rivalry comes to a great head and fireworks literally explode after an ill-thought through song and dance performance.

Some smuttier scenes don’t land as well though, a steam room encounter to gain Rihanna tickets is slightly off, a moment where characters take ecstasy isn’t as funny as it may have been and amongst a hell of a lot of cursing is the obvious amount of sexual referencing and frat boy humour you get with this type of American movie. It’s nowhere near as childish and vulgar as ‘Dirty Grandpa’ and it’s certainly not as horribly rude either, in fact the wedding genre is a hugely bankable one and this film fits into the fold nicely with elements of love and big day jitters stopping the whole thing being boobs and bad language.

It’s the cast that save the day, the script has some funny enough ideas but they’re elevated by a capable set of actors that charm the pants/knickers off this feature. Adam DeVine pretty much steals the show, his level of gurning and shrieking amounting to a huge percentage of the laughs. Aubrey Plaza plays the dirty mean girl well, but showcases a hilarious switch when portraying a perfect educated teacher with glasses and a chewed pencil to boot. Anna Kendrick has an element of damaged jilted behaviour and is rude in places but she’s ultimately the sweet good girl and her chemistry with the nicer bro Zac Efron is believable. He must have a signed Hollywood agreement now to take off his shirt in every release, but topless-ness aside he is good bouncing off energetic DeVine and clawing back dignity after his two recent turkeys.

Nothing here rocks the boat or breaks the mould but it’s a funny addition to the comedy wedding line up and thanks to a brilliant cast, the teen humour gets a boneheaded yet fun ride.


Honeymoon (2014)


If eerie and creepy were the key notes the filmmakers behind this movie wanted to run with, then they certainly succeed on that front. It may not be a scary horror in any way but the shattering marriage theme, coinciding with a good level of tension helps this unique story mess with your mind as you watch it go on.

Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) are a newly wed couple and go to a wooden cottage in the woods for their honeymoon. At first everything is great until Paul begins to notice little things that are different about his wife. After more nights it’s clear that Bea is a changed woman and something out there in the darkness could have an ulterior motive utilising Bea and her relationship with Paul.

It’s a stand out feat of work for a debut directing job. Leigh Janiak helms the directorial duty on her first feature film and she works with her actors, the sound technicians and the flesh of this engaging story with a defined dark knack. Janiak clearly has an eye for strained situations and confined spaces of close ups help rack up the tension of this unraveling marriage. She also takes the cliched cabin in the woods setting and plays with that prior horror movie knowledge and uses it sparingly to never become predictable. In fact the plot is very good in not being an out and out slasher or overly forced jumpy number, it’s about the marriage and as that dwindles you get the feeling of hairs standing up on the back of your neck. It’s a diminishing love story that gives the horror room to survive and thrive.

Heather McIntosh who provided the music, does a great job in playing around with twinkling nice sounds for their first arrival and subsequent outings on the lake and such, but she can do worrying too with drawn out ominous tones in the music making the entire film unsettling to watch. The sound overall is impressive and really aides the tense story get told.

It’s an odd yet somehow fascinating plot. Janiak and Phil Graziadei have written a somewhat slow yet bubbling character focus that just happens to twist and deform into a horror movie. There are some gross out moments that will appeal to lovers of squeal, a lot of ladies however may find these certain bloodier visuals very squeamish, hell, I think everyone will find it shuddering to see. It’s a bold, strange script that works in connecting you to characters and more so with Paul who becomes caught up in a plan bigger than he could imagine.

Treadaway blends emotions greatly. He demonstrates masculine strength every now and then as he screams or tries being dominating to his wife, but it’s a smart act of the writers to make him likable even as he does this because of the fear he is feeling. He can confidently be more down and upset too even shedding a tear as his predicament worsens. Leslie is fantastic and acts her characters journey with sublime ease, so much so that you believe what you’re seeing. She can switch between rage, sadness, love and blank nothingness giving Bea tremendous three dimensional quality.

It may be slow getting into it and moments of tension that could have been racked up higher, fall into pushed on unease but on the whole you can overlook that and a slightly surreal ending that tries and nearly manages to be a cool grander twist of what is going on.

Solid first time directing, brilliant small cast and perfect lead roles combine with tense story and suspenseful sounds to create an intriguing and worrying mood.