A tale of unselfish love told in about as realistic a way as possible. A man falls for a woman abandoned by her fiancé and stranded in the refugee camps of the UK. She is tender and sweet, but susceptible to letting her emotions cloud her judgment. He is aimless and bored, but also kind and smart. Their relationship evolves naturally as she seeks his guidance in an unfamiliar area. It sort of reminded me of a 20s or 30s love drama the way he takes her (and her son in this case) under his wing and is unable to elude her quiet charm. She is an extremely sympathetic character as (despite an unpredicted situation) she immediately accepts her circumstances and looks for a way to ensure she and her son are taken care of. Her intentions are good, but her decisions are often desperate. Seeing this, the man puts his feelings aside to save her from a free fall. Self-sacrifice is rarely as unforced and emotionally precise as it is here, and it leaves viewers wrestling the same hollow yet tranquil feelings that consume the characters in the film. 9/10
Archive for the British Misery Cinema Category
This review contains spoilers.
I’m calling this a remake of High Plains Drifter. I won’t get into the details of why, but be warned that I’m probably the only person who thinks this (so if you haven’t seen it, don’t go into expecting those comparisons to stand out). Putting that aside though, what you have here is a heartbreaking depiction of abuse and its residual effects. We’re treated to a caring yet vengeful protagonist (the abused man’s brother) who is basically doing what anyone who has ever had real reason for vengeance dreams of doing.
But despite the initial appearance of an endorsement for retribution, the film ends with the sad realization that revenge is more bitter than sweet. This doesn’t come about as a revelation to the protagonist, but instead as a revelation to the viewer in a convicting final scene full of more emotional agony than I ever would have predicted. (This sounds a heck of a lot more preachy than it actually is. I would actually probably argue that the protagonist’s actions are not meant to be necessarily viewed as ‘wrong’, but as ‘with consequence’.) Also, viewing the creation of a vengeful heart as similarly tragic to the initial wrongdoing is a very unique perspective. If you can stomach the jarring content (and a few guffaws in the storytelling), you’ll be rewarded with a staggering payoff. 8/10
Anyone who follows this blog with any regularity knows that I spent a long time using the western as my go-to genre. Starting today, I’m adding another genre to my repertoire – British Misery Cinema. After reading an article in the December edition of Film Comment magazine on the genre, I realized that many films that I have a great respect for fall into this category. They’re often difficult to watch due to their honest depiction of human suffering, but I find them important because of that honesty.
To start, I re-visited a film I saw years ago that I didn’t even realize fell into this category until reading the article. In this ‘kitchen sink’ drama (this term refers to the working-class, domestic life setting often used in the 50s and 60s for the ‘misery’ movement), Richardson brings to life a sympathetic young protagonist who finds himself in a boy’s reformatory. After showcasing his ability of long distance running, he is allowed to leave the school grounds for training runs. It’s here where the film finds its footing. These gorgeously shot scenes are weaved in and out of memories and reminiscences – thoughts of flirtatious teenage romance, mischievous undertakings with friends, and a hard family life. Anyone who has ever done solo training runs knows how the mind wanders, and Richardson illustrates this perfectly. It’s a beautifully accurate film in regards to self-reflection and teenage life, and even as a distance runner, these aspects were far more involving than the film’s final race or the ‘fight the power’ message. I would have been fine with a film completely focused on actual isolation and the contemplative yearning it creates. 8.75/10
Phew, this was a bleak and exhausting watch. I have to file this under the category of movies that I respect and admire for what they do, but won’t ever be able to re-watch because the content is too harsh. This was a bit more of a fulfilling watch than some others in the same boat because I appreciate Considine’s examination of real Christian faith (based on love), and the way we can affect those around us with it. The depth at which the characters are developed is outstanding. There are no clichés or agendas; each character is written as a person, with individual problems, fears, and doubts.
The film’s main relationship is started as a result of genuine, undeserved love given from a woman who, once we learn of her appalling situation, is clearly calling on her faith to make it through each day. Her authenticity is never in question, but also never more obvious when we see her lash out at God in frustration. You can’t feel abandoned by someone you don’t walk with. And while the ending is still vicious, and the man whose life she touched isn’t dramatically changed, there is an obvious sense of hope and change in both of their lives as their friendship continues, and I have to believe that God is healing them both. 8.25/10
Almost as poignant a use of stream-of-conscious to portray childhood memory as The Tree of Life. The Long Day Closes combines big, powerful, sweeping images and music to create a poetic, rhythmical film-viewing experience. In what I assume is an autobiographical film, we view Davies’ life as a pre-teen boy with three older siblings and a mother. Numerous fragmented events piled on top of one another, many seeming mostly insignificant, are the staples in this young boy’s life. It’s the small things that shape us just as much as anything and Davies is not afraid of that fact. He’s not worried there no ‘life-altering’ situations or occurrences here, but takes it one relatable step at a time. And the way he paints with such stunning visuals and breath-taking music is a real treat. At times, the film does become a little theatrical, especially with the overuse of the spotlight shining down on the boy protagonist. And the second half of the film is not quite as daringly stream-of-conscious as the first and becomes a little more straightforward in its storytelling. But the final scene, as a spiritual punctuation, is a fitting and beautiful conclusion. 8.75/10
Mike Leigh is a director whose work I’ve dabbled in for a while, but have never dove in completely. And, really, I can’t figure out why. I have yet to see one I don’t like, and Another Year is no exception. The film follows an aging, happily married couple as they spend time with friends, their son, and other family. The people the surround themselves with are in all different stages of life – some happy, some desperate, some grieving, and some plain content. Their lives weave in such a way that awkward situations are naturally created, most so real they are painful.
Lesley Manville absolutely dominates this film with her performance as a co-worker/friend who finds herself involved in nearly every important event – finding herself in the center of most of these awkward situations. She is sad, lonely, and desperate, and she finds comfort in the protagonist couple. And despite their heart to see her happy, their relationship isn’t always sunny when she pushes the limits, and that might be the most sad (but realistic) aspect of the story. Leigh didn’t necessarily blow me away with this one, but it is still intriguing, and extremely well made. 8.25/10
Bleak Moments is a sad tale of missed opportunity – at least that’s how I view it. Sylvia is a secretary, taking care of her mentally ill sister. She starts a friendship with a slightly strange neighbor while also trying to spark a romantic relationship with a local teacher. Every character in this film is shy, reclusive, and socially awkward, and it makes for a tedious viewing at times. (The characters struggle nearly the entire time trying to have regular conversations.)
I did fine the whole thing touching, in a heartbreaking sort of way, especially at how happy Sylvia seems when spending time with her neighbor compared to how stiff everything is when out with the teacher. But a 30 minute stretch in the middle where Sylvia and the teacher try painfully to have a conversation really took a lot out of me, often to the point where I found myself unable to concentrate. And while I did find some of it rather funny, (There is a scene at a Chinese restaurant where a waiter embarrasses the teacher that I couldn’t help but laugh at.) most of it was as the title describes – bleak. Still, I couldn’t help but feel an endless amount of sympathy for Sylvia as she continued to give and be loving of others while nothing went her way. 7.75/10