Movie review entries
January 21, 2010
- The Road
I told the boy when you dream about bad things happening, it means you’re still fighting and you’re still alive. It’s when you start to dream about good things that you should start to worry.
To say that John Hillcoat’s The Road is emotionally hard-hitting is something of an understatement. As someone who hasn’t read the Cormac McCarthy novel on which the film is based, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The words “post-apocalyptic” have been bandied about, but contrary to immediate perceptions, this isn’t a film on a soapbox, bashing home a message about the potential near-future consequences of the way we’re living. Rather, it came across as a rather difficult examination of human nature, and what becomes of us when absolutely everything that constructs our lives is ripped away. The simplistic but all too real separation of “good guys” and “bad guys”, with the grey that lies in-between, and the terrible decisions people make when balancing survival with suffering.
The performances by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as father and son were great, drawing you in to their relationship and their individual struggles. My favourite thing about the film, however, was the cinematography. The bleakness of the landscapes seemed to bleed off the screen, the familiarity of the various settings creating unease as they were presented in a very unfamiliar context.
As long as you can handle the powerful themes of misery and futile struggles, I definitely recommend The Road. But do make sure there’s something light-hearted available to cheer you up when you get home.
April 27, 2009
On Saturday I went to the late show of Shifty, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a performance-driven film, with outstanding turns by Daniel Mays, Nitin Ganatra and Riz Ahmed, who plays the title character. There’s something unsettlingly ordinary about the tone of the script, which essentially follows a pair of reunited friends who wander around a fictional London suburb as the drug-dealing Shifty goes about his daily business. For me, it really brought home the point that the use of illegal substances lives on all of our doorsteps. The unanswered question of why Chris left London four years previously gives an undercurrent for the story to travel on, and just as you get comfortable with the plodding pace of events, something comes in to take it up a notch without being excessive – an argument, a chase, a tidbit of information about the back-story.
Although I had figured out the final twist before the end, I still enjoyed this snapshot of a world that most of us would like to forget about. The impact as I left the cinema came from the simplicity of the message this film delivered in its matter-of-fact way: just one day in the life of a small-time drug-dealer, but so many broken lives and fractured relationships.
“24 hours to deal yourself out”, so says the film’s tagline – but this clever piece of cinema shows all too painfully how it’s never that easy.
December 01, 2005
- The Constant Gardner
On recommendation from friends and good reviews in the paper, I went to see The Constant Gardner last night. I can honestly say that I can't remember the last time a film affected me so much. For those of you who don't know anything about the film, take the time to visit the website and get a heads-up. I'm not one to take notice of conspiracy theories and activist scaremongering, but the message The Constant Gardner delivers is not one to be ignored. As far as I know, the book upon which the film is based isn't a true story, but it made me think long and hard about what might actually be going on in the Developing World without anyone realising. I read in the paper today about the astonishing cost of HIV/AIDS medication in Africa, when we enjoy the benefits of a free health service in a country where the GDP is many, many times that of countries like Kenya and Sudan.
I won't stand on a soapbox for too long, but go and watch this amazing film and see if it doesn't make you think about the bigger picture. And if for no other reason, the intensity of Ralph Fiennes screen presence makes The Constant Gardner an incredible piece of cinema.
By the by, it's World AIDS Day today – spare a thought for the lost generation of Africa.