Another Year, Dir. Mike Leigh (2010)

Tom (Jim Broadbent), Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and Joe (Oliver Maltman), the model middle-class family.

 

Rating: 9/10

Definitely one of my favourite films of the year, and up there with Topsy Turvy and Happy Go-lucky as one of my favourite Mike Leigh films so far (have yet to see his other renowned films such as Secrets & Lies or Vera Drake). The film follows the lives, through the seasons, of happy middle-class married couple Tom, an engineer,  and Gerri, a therapist,  played by Leigh veterans Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. They live a contented and model  life attending to their allotment and catching up with their equally contented son Joe, (Oliver Maltman), a solicitor.

But they are anchors in a storm that surrounds them (let’s face it something had to disrupt their lives otherwise it would all be boring and undramatic) as their comfortable life is frequently disrupted by friends and family, such as Gerri’s co-worker Mary (Lesley Manville), who is a seething torrent of emotion, insecurity and neediness; a middle-aged woman, unlucky in love, who feels desperately lonely, ¬†and clings onto Tom and Mary for respite and solace. Or the overweight ¬†and also lonely Ken (Peter Wright) who like Mary is prone to bouts of depression after one too many drinks, and makes¬†desperate¬†passes at Mary, obviously sensing her¬†loneliness. And then there’s Tom’s brother the¬†monosyllabic¬†Ronnie (David Bradley) who is lost and lonely (yes that word again) and¬†when his wife die and who¬†comes to stay with Tom and Gerri to recuperate. ¬†He also has to deal with an ungrateful, rude and angry son (Martin Savage).

Mary who is used to dealing with depressed people in her job nevertheless has Continue reading

In Our Name, Dir. Brian Welsh (2010)

Rating: 6/10

This highly-researched feature debut  from British director Brian Welsh examines the effects of post-traumatic stress on female soldier Suzy (Joanne Froggatt). When Suzy returns home to Newcastle to rejoin her husband Mark  (Mel Raido), also a soldier, and eight year-old daughter Cass (Chloe Jayne Wilkinson) after having served a tour of duty  in Iraq, she struggles to adjust to civilian life and her family notice how distant she is. This particularly frustrates Mark (an alpha-male if there ever was one) who begins to suspect that Suzy has cheated on him with Paul (Andrew Knott), a soldier in her company, when she refuses to have sex with him.

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Interview with director Brian Welsh

This was meant to be for Little White Lies’ website ¬†but it doesn’t seem they’ve published it yet (annoyingly) so thought I’d post it here as well:

Brian Welsh started off working in Glasgow as an editor on social documentaries, and then trained as an editor at The National Film and Television School. He wrote and directed his first micro-budget feature film Kin-about a guy who is separated from his family and is looked after by a care worker-between projects. His second feature In Our Name explores the plight of a female soldier Suzy, who returns home to her family mentally scarred from what she has witnessed during her time in Iraq.

Did working on documentaries  with social issues, did this inform the way you conceived of In Our Name?

I worked up in Glasgow as an editor with a company called Autonomi cutting a lot of films about things that were going on in the city, like we made a film [Good Cop] about a Race Relations copper and gang fighting problems. The film’s [also] about the Choker murder inquiry which was Glasgow’s Stephen Lawrence, if you like, with this young Sikh guy being killed. I’ve always been interested in films and stories about real people as opposed to mindless escapism, you know, cinema that really has something to say about the world around us and society. So that was my editing background and that overspilled into the stories I wanted to tell when it came to writing my own scripts.

How difficult was it to make that transition from editing documentaries to directing a feature film?

I was very fortunate, because I’d studied editing at The National Film School and the types of films or projects that I was excited about becoming involved in- the main reason for coming down there- weren’t really materialising. So I decided that given the fact that I had all of these resources and all of these very talented people I met, that it would be¬† a great idea to try my hand at directing something that I wanted to talk about. So I made a really low-budget film there, and luckily that was seen by Artificial Eye, and then they asked me if I’d like to submit a script for this new scheme that they were running, and that was In Our Name.

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The London Korean Film Festival 2010:Secret Reunion (2010), Dir. Hun Jang

Ji-won (Dong Won-kan) and Han-kyu (Kang Ho-Song) form a tense but later rewarding partnership.

 

Rating: 8.5/10

Hun Jang’s second film is a detective film which combines comedy with social commentary on the ongoing tensions between North and South Korea. The film pairs a South Korean ex-police detective turned private detective Lee Han-kyu (Kang-ho Song recognisable from his roles in the excellent Thirst (2009) and Memories Of Murder (2003)) with North Korean spy and hit-man Song Ji-won (Dong-won Kang).

The film starts off as a serious action thriller detailing a North Korean operation, involving Ji-won under the command of the ruthless assassin Shadow (Gook-hwan Jeon), to track down and kill North Korean defectors. When Song refuses to kill a child he is named a traitor and banished to South Korea, meanwhile Han-kyu starts a deadly gun battle with the spies and is fired as a result.

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54th BFI London Film Festival-Shungu: The Resilience Of A People (2009), Dir. Saki Mafundikwa

Rating: 4/10

Shungu is the first feature documentary by Saki Mafundikwa; a renowned Zimbabwean graphic designer and educator. The film came out of frustration with Zimbabwe’s terrible economic situation and a desire to show the world what exactly is happening in Zimbabwe, now that the mainstream media seems to have lost interest. Thus the film sets out to show the aftermath of the long queues for bread, empty shelves and political violence, and show Zimbabwe’s long term suffering.

This is done by focusing on the stories of people in Zimababwe who represent the struggle, frustration and determination of the Zimbabwean people, embodying the title Shungu which means all these things. So we learn about the lives of a 30-something metalsmith and opposition supporter trying to keep his business going amidst government supporters attacking and threatening him and his family, and people stealing his equipment or not paying him.

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The Social Network (2010), Dir. David Fincher

Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) and Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) are potrtayed as ruthless power-hungry mavericks.

Rating: 8.5/10 

One person for every 14 worldwide use Facebook, that’s 500 million people. Facebook really has changed the way we think about our social lives and the way we interact (as Justin Timberlake playing computer prodigy Sean Parker says: We lived in farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re gonna live on the internet!). But will a film about it’s first year of inception really be that interesting? Won’t it just consist of loads of geeks staring at computer screens writing code and talking incomprehensible techno-babble?

Whatever your misgivings about a film based around the internet, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and David Fincher (The Fight Club), have come up with something that is genuinely entertaining and involving. The fact that they had to play with the truth to do so is another matter which may annoy some looking purely for accuracy, but then how many films based on true stories do you know that are really 100% accurate?

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Everlasting Moments (2008), Dir. Jan Troell

Maria (Maria Heiskanen) finds a new purpose in life in taking pictures

Rating: 10/10

I watched this Swedish film, courtesy of Love Film, in a bid to watch more Scandinavian films and¬† was very glad I did. The¬† film-based on a true story ans set in the early 1900s-looks at the life of working-class housewife Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) and her family, which consists of her violent and heavy drinking dock worker husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt), her loyal daughter Maja (Callin Ohrvall, Nellie Almgren) who also narrates the film and her three sons, Erik (who dies tragically¬† early from polio), Elon and Seven and two daughters Stina and Anna. When Maria wins a camera in a lottery and is persuaded by the genial local camera shop owner Sebastien Pedersen (Jesper¬† Christensen) to keep it, despite the protests of her husband who wants to sell it, Maria’s life is transformed by her natural talent as a photographer.

The film is then also a tribute to the early pioneering days of photography when people were first starting to realise that money could be made from good photographs and that photographs provided an important lasting record of the times. Appropriately enough the film is beautifully shot by Troell and co-cinematographer Mischa Gavrjusjov  who frame people in slow languid takes and capture the period in precise detail, taking in the extremities of rural green landscapes, bare fading cottages and bustling sawdust strewn and smoke-filled docks  and busy streets.

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