Review: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Deserving of more awards attention than it’s received, Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel and Ethan Coen’s follow-up to the very different True Grit – is a very heartfelt and rich piece of cinema, perhaps even one of their best. Melancholic and somber, yet imbued with a tremendous amount of heart, insight and humour through its realistically flawed central character and soul-stirring use of folk music, this is one intoxicating parable that shouldn’t be missed. Continue reading “Review: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)”

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Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be a literary classic. It’s no wonder, then, that in the time since the novel was published in 1925 it has been adapted for the screen on numerous occasions. The latest of which hails from director Baz Luhrmann and screenwriter Craig Pearce, who’ve created an ambitious – and visually sumptuous – interpretation. Continue reading “Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)”

Review: Shame (2011)

Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a highly successful businessman living in New York, is unable to manage his uncontrollable sex life. When his wayward sibling, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), abruptly invades his personal space, Brandon’s carefully constructed world slowly spirals out of control.

Unflinching and relentless, Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan tackle the controversial subject matter head-on, invading every aspect of Brandon’s seedy life through meditative moments – such as a hypnotising rendition of New York, New York from Sissy, which will forever be referenced – and increasingly brazen sexual encounters, rather than unnecessary plot devices and diverting side-stories. Instead of weighing down the narrative by spending time exploring the past that resulted in Brandon and – to an almost equal extent – Continue reading “Review: Shame (2011)”

Review: Drive (2011)

Genre sensibilities are turned inside out with Drive, Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn’s muted modern-day take on the celebrated neo-noir film.

Hollywood stunt-driver by day, getaway driver-for-hire by night, Ryan Gosling’s unnamed character is shrouded in mystery. He subscribes to a methodical lifestyle, timing everything to perfect precision. When he meets his coy next-door neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), he finds himself wrapped up in her husband’s (Oscar Issac) unfortunate – and criminal – predicament. Forced to abandon his scrupulous attitude, he must adopt a much more reckless way of life. Continue reading “Review: Drive (2011)”

Review: Never Let Me Go (2010)

Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed and highly influential novel, chronicles the phases of three characters’ lives: Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, and marks his first film in nine years.

As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy (played by Ella Purnell, Izzy Meikle-Small and Charlie Rowe), spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school in the English countryside for children who are special.

As they grow into young adults (played by Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield), they move to The Cottages and find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them.

Ishiguro’s gentle sci-fi concept is executed with sombre subtlety by Romanek and, despite Alex Garland’s sometimes too methodical screenplay, preserves an eerie sense of mystery and discerning dubiety in its translation to screen. These elements, in a bid to keep the film realistic, are wisely buried within a wholly human story, one about love, loss and empathy.

Romanek’s successful direction is highlighted in the great care he has for the source material and the characters that inhabit it. His remarkable skill comes to light in the way he presents the dystopian British countryside as beautiful yet bleak. It perfectly juxtaposes the beautiful lives everyday people lead with the bleak lives lead by the donors.

The three central performances are equally astounding, each superbly displaying repressed desperation and their desire to achieve true happiness. Mulligan’s exquisite beauty and incandescent quality make her perfect as Kathy, confirming her newly won status, while Garfield is undeniably arresting as the troubled Tommy.

Knightley, who is left with the trickier role, hits the right notes of disdainful faux-sophistication, holding her own as the vindictive Ruth, the manipulative force of nature who interferes with the lives of Tommy and Ruth.

The supporting actors – Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Nathalie Richard, Domhall Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough – hold their own against the powerful trio. Though none of them has much screen time, they all play their characters with conviction and restraint, further accentuating the central themes of loneliness and longing.

Rachel Portman’s etherial score, almost a character in itself, penetrates your heart, in a pondering, beautiful way that compliments, and often surmounts, the heart-rending narrative.

The only issue is with the sometimes irritatingly slow pacing, and the disproportionate narrative that works against audience involvement. This, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially considering the realistic and sinister themes the film explores – and is excellently concealed by the fantastic performances.

Never Let Me Go is not only a beautifully explorative, acted and directed piece of filmmaking, but a masterful adaptation and glorious cinematic achievement.