Review: A Monster Calls (2017)

img_1341

JA Bayona directs Patrick Ness’ adaptation of his own much-loved book into a heartwarming tale about a boy, Conor (Lewis MacDougall), and his struggle with grief in the face of his mother’s illness. He’s visited by a monster (motion captured, voiced by Liam Neeson), who emerges from an old yew tree to impart wisdom and frank honesty about the hardships to come. Continue reading “Review: A Monster Calls (2017)”

Advertisements

Review: Rogue One (2016)

IMG_1289.JPG

This electrifying standalone Star Wars chapter takes place before the events of A New Hope, when a band of rebels – fronted by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of a scientist forced to work for the Empire – band together to steal the plans for the Death Star, a new super weapon that has the power to destroy planets. It’s directed by Gareth Edwards, whose attentive approach to visuals awards the film a lived-in feel, whether in space or on one of the many planets featured. Continue reading “Review: Rogue One (2016)”

Review: The Theory Of Everything (2014)

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/924/13942284/files/2015/01/img_0109.jpg The love life of famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is the focus of The Theory Of Everything, a warm and beautifully acted, yet unfortunately dilute biopic. In the 1960s, Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) meets and falls in love with arts student Jane (Felicity Jones). Over the marriage that follows, both Stephen and Jane must deal with Stephen’s increasing disability while trying to hold onto a semblance of normality. Continue reading “Review: The Theory Of Everything (2014)”

2013 In Film: A Summary

Frances Ha

2013 has brought with it a lot of things, both good and bad. But in this particular post I’ll be focusing on the film-related highlights that I’ve experienced over the past twelve months, from a mini adventure in London that included my first ever podcast appearance to a wine-soaked preview screening of Gravity at the newly converted IMAX cinema in Glasgow. I’ve interviewed idols, attended film festivals, and even walked a red carpet. Continue reading “2013 In Film: A Summary”

EIFF 2013 Review: Breathe In (2013)

Breathe In

The 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival opened softly last night with relationship drama Breathe In. Reuniting blossoming British actress Felicity Jones with writer and director Drake Doremus, whose last feature Like Crazy deservedly scooped the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Breathe In may feel and look like a more adult effort, yet is ultimately depreciated by clichéd character stereotypes and a lack of believability. Continue reading “EIFF 2013 Review: Breathe In (2013)”

Like Crazy: The Low-Budget Murmur

It’s always been known that the films developed for Hollywood – those with million dollar marketing campaigns and bankable stars – have a better chance of succeeding than the smaller projects that aim to showcase rising talent.

For an independent film to survive, it requires positive hype, and as much as it can garner. This is where film festivals such as Sundance and South By Southwest shine. Independent films are able to play to small, mainly critic-led crowds, attract some hype and potentially come away with several multi-million dollar Continue reading “Like Crazy: The Low-Budget Murmur”

Review: Like Crazy (2011)

Anna (Felicity Jones), a British student, embarks upon a passionate, life-changing relationship with classmate, Jacob (Anton Yelchin), only to be separated when she overstays her visa and is refused re-entry into the US. Forced apart, Anna and Jacob must battle distance, jealously and their flourishing personal lives to keep their spark alive.

In stripped-back, scrapbook-like fashion, Like Crazy flits between time periods – from when Anna and Jacob first meet in Los Angeles, to their Continue reading “Review: Like Crazy (2011)”

Trailer: Albatross (2010)

Albatross first turned up on my radar when I heard the shamefully underrated and always transcendent Felicity Jones had signed up to star in a major role. A few months went by without any further news – most likely because the film was deep in production – until it was announced that it would receive its worldwide premiere at the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival in June of this year. Continue reading “Trailer: Albatross (2010)”

Review: Albatross (2010)

BAFTA award-winning director Niall MacCormick makes his feature length debut with Albatross: a nuanced, charming and veritably witty coming-of-age drama, penned by Tamzin Rafn – a budding new screenwriter.

The film tells the story of a frustrated author, Jonathan (Sebastian Koch), and the incendiary effect of the arrival of verbose would-be writer Emelia (Jessica Brown-Findlay) on his family. Emelia first befriends and liberates his bookish daughter Beth (Felicity Jones), before going on to irritate his ever-frustrated wife, Joa (Julia Ormond), and finally bewitching Jonathan himself. Can Emelia shed the albatross that hangs around her neck and rewrite her personality?

Rafn’s nuanced screenplay opens as a freeloading, comical teenage drama, but slowly unravels into a highly intelligible, fully engaging and wonderfully articulate coming-of-age tale. Although the sexual relationship between Emelia and Jonathan is very much at the focus for the majority of the film, it actually plays as more of a catalyst to the main narrative: the budding friendship between Emelia and Beth, who rely on each other as their lives and personalities evolve over the course of the short but sweet running time.

At its heart, however – and behind the meaningless fabrications, sexual dalliances and supposed lifelong friendships – the script is more curious in questioning the overall purpose of life, the journeys we take, and how the people we meet along the way each have a different – but nonetheless important – effect on our individual growth and the understanding we have of our own personal being.

Having built up his artistry on numerous TV projects, MacCormick – with the aid of Director of Photography Jan Jonaeus – makes an almost seamless transition to feature length filmmaking with such delicate immediacy. Albatross is beautifully shot and wonderfully framed. The outdoor, scenic shots represent the freeness and unpredictability of life, and they are wonderfully contrasted by much more common indoor ones. These manage to convey the contained and often emotionally structured lives we become used to. The only time this isn’t apparent is during Emelia and Beth’s trip to Oxford, which highlights the freedom they feel being away from their small, claustrophobic home town, and the dominance of both their parents and the stresses of life.

What’s most surprising is how well placed the music is within the course of the film. Mixing both indie music – such as excellent uses of Frightened Rabbit and Editors – and composed tracks by Jack Arnold, MacCormick finds a perfect balance. The music adds another dimension to what’s happening on the screen, often enhancing the themes explored in the narrative, pushing them to the forefront and making them central to our understanding of the films underlying message.

The performances across the board are sublime. Brown-Findlay and Jones in particular, who play Emelia and Beth, each deliver astounding performances, defining their position as two of the most interesting and enthusiastic young actresses currently working in the British film and television industries. It’s the relationship between Emelia and Beth that is very much the backbone of the entire film, and so it’s a pleasure to see both Jones and Brown-Findlay so passionate and at one with their respective characters that their on screen friendship, with all its trials and tribulations, feels entirely authentic to the eye and within the context of the narrative as a whole.

Koch, Ormond and Peter Vaughan are the most noteworthy members of the supporting cast. Each show their warmth, never fading into the background, and always using Rafn’s terrific dialogue to push themselves and their individual performances. The interaction between Koch and Ormond is, at its best, unforgettable: full of sarcastic banter and humorous one-liners, while Vaughn brings a calm and contemplative nature to the table as Emelia’s unnamed grandfather. Ultimately, to see such a talented array of actors working in unison with such a sincere, witty and multi-faceted script is an utter pleasure.

On the surface, Albatross may – due to its similarities with other quirky coming-of-age drama – seem like an easy to foretell imitation. But, as the layers unfold, it transforms into a fully realised and thought-provoking piece of cinema, chock full of heart, depth and humour to boot. In simple terms, it’s very much a film that demands your attention from the offset, and pays dividends for your fathomless investment as it reaches a head.

Review: Chalet Girl (2011)

Chalet Girl, a new Brit rom-com from director Phil Traill, centers on Kim (Felicty Jones), a former champion skateboarder stuck in a dead end job trying to support her Dad.

When the opportunity of a catering job in the one of the most exclusive chalets in the Alp comes knocking Kim takes the chance to discover snowboarding, and uses the big end-of-season competition to win some much-needed prize money. But before she can become a champion again, Kim has to dig deep to overcome her fears, and deal with the complicating factor of Jonny (Ed Westwick), her handsome – though spoken for – boss.

Phil Traill creates a reasonably believable world, and even makes up for the atrocious All About Steve. But his choice of bland cinematography and overbearing lighting do nothing for the beautiful scenery, or giddy action of the snowboarding scenes. The snow-blanketed Alps make for a very impressive backdrop, but Traill simply doesn’t have the experience to know how to use this to the films advantage, which in turn makes the endless montages and obvious stunt doubles more obvious and unbearable.

The script, written by Tom Williams, tries incredibly hard to please, stuffing every scene with every sort of gag possible, broadly caricatured characters and tongue-in-cheek dialogue, but it never hits the giddy highs of other teenage comedies, often succumbing to overuses of montage and falling over gags.

The core of the film, though, is Felicity Jones, in her first leading role. She’s a buoyantly likable lead, who mixes sarcasm and dead pan irony to superb avail, to the point where you even forgive her for choosing such a pointless film. It’s a light-hearted and fun performance, and a pleasant surprise to see such a talented British actress cast as a strong and forceful female.

The supporting cast, on the other hand, are hit and miss. Bill Nighy and Tamsin Egerton are forces of nature as Richard and Georgie respectively, each maintaining something of a comic composure while delivering quirky, comical and stand-out performances. Westwick, however, simply doesn’t have the credentials and screen presence needed to turn Jonny into a likeable, honest and interesting character. He’s pure and simple eye candy for Kim.

Chalet Girl is – aside from providing a few laughs – frustratingly dull and nothing more than a showcase for two talented British actresses: Felicity Jones and Tamsin Egerton.