Sweet Country Review

Sweet Country

As much as I love westerns, one thing they almost all discomfortingly fail on is their representation of indigenous peoples as white men make their journeys through the wilderness. Here to show the Americans how it’s done is Australian director Warwick Thornton, whose outback western Sweet Country is quietly revolutionary in its focus on Aboriginal lives and stories, giving these characters an agency and voice that we too rarely see. It’s a superb genre film in its own right, but with this unique perspective, it becomes all but essential, which is why it’s lucky that it’s so completely gripping and thrilling.  Continue reading

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Last Flag Flying Review

Last Flag Flying

With the Before trilogy, Richard Linklater has proved that he’s a master of continuing stories, but it’s still a surprise to see him tackle a follow-up to another director’s film from 1973. Last Flag Flying is adapted from Darryl Poniscan’s novel, a sequel to The Last Detail, already turned into a film by Hal Ashby, starring a young Jack Nicholson, and though Linklater definitely honours the original, he also puts his trademark razor-sharp humanist spin on it. There’s never a wink or nudge in sight, and though this total sincerity left Last Flag Flying open to some critical snipes after its New York Film Festival premiere, it’s this element that makes the film so special.  Continue reading

120 BPM Review

120 BPM

Informed as it is by the stories of activists who lived their lives to the full, all the while staring death right in the face, Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM is a film full of contrasts, sometimes brimming with vibrant life, at others more detached and academic. It’s that rare historical epic set in the very recent past, a vital and informative study of the fight in ‘90s France – by a series of agencies, but focused in here on the direct action of Act Up – to have the government recognise that the AIDS epidemic was a crisis that needed addressing.  Continue reading

Journey’s End Review

Journey's End

Premiering at 2017 festivals before a 2018 UK release, Journey’s End, a screen revival of RC Sherriff’s classic World War One play, could not be better timed. On the centenary of the final years of that hideously destructive conflict, it’s important to be reminded of the human toll it took on the nation’s youth, as well as to look at the dangers of a divided Europe. Even by the standards of war, WW1 was colossally, atrociously stupid mess, and with very strong performances, Saul Dibb’s adaptation gets this across, even if never quite escapes its own staginess.  Continue reading

Happy End Review

Happy End

It says a lot about the current state of children’s/tweens’ entertainment that the most unwatchable thing in the new Michael Haneke film, Happy End, is not a daughter poisoning her mother or an old man asking a group of strangers to push him into traffic, but a Youtube vlog. Haneke shows us a full clip of a French teenage Youtuber, ruthlessly refusing to cut away from the inanity, and in doing so crafts one of the most squirm-inducing scenes of the year. The now 75 year old master of punishing cinema shows no sign of being uncomfortable using the latest technological and cultural advances to render his audience a panicky mess.  Continue reading

Battle of the Sexes Review

Battle Sexes

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton are two of the most loved darlings of the festival circuit, their breakout hit Little Miss Sunshine so successful that it changed the image of both the Sundance Film Festival and American indie movie making as a whole. After the mixed reception to their 2012 follow up, Ruby Sparks, the directing duo are back in more obviously crowdpleasing mode with Battle of the Sexes. A sports film, morality tale, love story, and underdog comedy all in one, this true tennis tale is a (very entertaining) mess, but fantastic performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carell see it past the finish line.  Continue reading

The Florida Project Review

Florida Project

The world of The Florida Project is not one you’d ever want to find yourself in, but by the end of Sean Baker’s wildly funny and tenderly empathetic new film, it’s also one you’ll be sad to say goodbye to. Grounded in a studied reality of Orlando’s hidden homeless, but bursting with colourful style, it’s a bit like Wes Anderson doing Ken Loach, neatly avoiding leaden worthiness or a myopic focus on misery by centring on a gang of six year olds. Baker matches the hardships of poverty with the imagination and joy of childhood, crafting his masterpiece as a result.  Continue reading