Film review: “Ali and Ava” is an understated triumph

By Peter Bradshaw | The Guardian

There’s a tremendous human warmth to this love story from writer-director Clio Barnard, a social-realist tale that you might compare to Ken Loach’s Ae Fond Kiss (though Loach might not have made the landlord the good guy). It’s a drama of autumnal love conquering the divisions of race, the disillusionments of middle age, the discomfort of parenthood and grandparenthood, and the tensions of class.

Adeel Akhtar is Ali, a likable, happy-go-lucky British Asian in Bradford whose family is well-off. They own properties and insofar as Ali has a job, it is going around collecting rent, and he is a genial friend to the tenants and their families. Ali sees himself as a frustrated DJ and a musician: his house has a converted basement “mancave” where he keeps his extensive vinyl collection. But Ali has a terrible secret: his wife Runa (played by the excellent Ellora Torchia) has outgrown her puppyish husband intellectually and they are separating. Rather than confess this shaming fact to his family, the couple are still living together.

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‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

In Nicole Riegel’s feature debut, Jessica Barden stars as an Ohio teenager who strips buildings of metal to earn cash.

Holler begins with Ruth (Jessica Barden), its protagonist, running. She’s racing to drop trash bags into the flatbed of a truck, where her brother, Blaze (Gus Halper), is waiting. They high-tail it from the scene and sell discarded cans to Hark (Austin Amelio), who pays them chump change for metal. Soon, they will graduate to higher-stakes scrap work: stripping deserted buildings of wiring for larger payoffs, with even bigger risks.

The central question of the movie is whether Ruth will summon the courage to run again, to flee her hometown. The director, Nicole Riegel, making her feature debut, shot the film in the section of southern Ohio where she’s from. Riegel has said that Ruth’s story was inspired by her own challenges leaving the area. Even the medium — Super 16-millimeter film, in the era of digital — adds to the ambience of rusting, abandoned machinery.

Ruth has little overt incentive to stick around. She hides an eviction notice under a flower pot. Her mother (Pamela Adlon) is a drug addict in a county jail. But Ruth gets an unexpected — and, to a condescending teacher at her high school, impractical — offer of college admission: Although she had prepared the application, she never submitted it. Blaze did that for her.

The film strikes an unanticipated false note with its ending, which initially seems too easy — a way to avoid resolving conflicts. But despite a parting smile, and the music of Phoebe Bridgers over the credits, the final moments become bleaker upon reflection. The only way to end this story is to abandon it.

 

Source: ‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

Movie Review – Kate Winslet triumphs in a moreish murder mystery, “Mare of Easttown”

 

Mare of Easttown (Sky Atlantic) is a millefeuille of misery, as exquisitely layered and as moreish as the real thing. In rural Pennsylvania, we meet a small-town cop, Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet). World-weariness, the weight of professional responsibility and – we discover later, although the clues are there – family tragedy show in every line of her body, every heavy step she takes. She rarely smiles. She is not surly or grumpy – she just doesn’t have the energy for anything else, after doing her job and taking care of her family.

Life takes out of Mare more than it puts in – especially since 19-year-old Katy Bailey, the drug-addicted daughter of Mare’s high-school friend Dawn, disappeared a year ago. If you can have a defining performance this late in a career, this is surely Winslet’s. She is absolutely wonderful – and ably supported by the rest of the cast.

This is a defiantly unglossy US. Easttown is a bleak, impoverished place, full of overlapping sadnesses. As the tiny, tight community’s police detective, Mare sees and deals with most of them. Drug and alcohol addiction is rife. One of the earliest scenes shows Mare attending the scene of a burglary – another burglary, we understand – at the house of a woman called Beth Hanlon (Chinasa Ogbuagu, in a small but heartbreaking role; she is due to return in later episodes). It is her brother, Freddie (Dominique Johnson), on the hunt again for things to sell for his next fix.

When Mare tracks him down, Beth punches him publicly, cries to Mare privately (“God forgive me, but sometimes I wish he would just fucking die and get this over with”) and declines to press charges. Mare tells a junior officer to phone the company that has illegally cut off his heating to get it restored and – limping on the ankle she sprained chasing him down – gets on with her day. It is an interlude that does little to further the plot, but is the essence of the series in microcosm:fully realised characters with deep, conflicting emotions, united in the face of encroaching forces greater than themselves.

The main arc weaves through this perfectly conjured study of a community and how it endures. Neither seems secondary to the other. Mare of Easttown is as much about the psychology of terrible events and how they are absorbed by – and affect – those around them as it is about solving the crime at its heart.

Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a single teenage mother (although, again, nothing like the TV drama stereotype) is found dead after the town’s young people congregated for a party in the woods. Erin had left early, having been beaten up by Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing, the vicious girlfriend of her baby’s father, Dylan) and stumbled away to her unwitting doom.

The town, now with one missing and one murdered girl, is deeply disturbed. A new investigation into the former is ordered alongside the new murder case and a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters, in an impressive change of pace since he was seen as Pietro in WandaVision), brought in to assist Mare. Through him, we see the limitation and the flaws in the policing and practices in a small town, as well as the benefits. It is another layer of complicating interest in a show that has already generously provided.

Add a love interest for Mare, in the form of the writer and guest lecturer Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce, playing him with just the right amount of easy, intelligent charm); Mare’s daughter, Siobhan, keeping her sexuality a secret from her overstretched mother; and Mare’s ex-husband, Frank, getting engaged to his girlfriend and there is almost too much to enjoy.

As the twists and turns of the cases are revealed, it becomes a show greater than the sum of its already considerable parts. By the time you get to the revelation at the end of the second episode, you become less stunned by the news itself than you are by the computation of what it will mean for all involved. Everything and everyone is real and you care about every tiny part. Wonderful.

Source: Mare of Easttown review – Kate Winslet triumphs in a moreish murder mystery

NPR Review: ‘Promising Young Woman’

In the dark comedy Promising Young Woman, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) works at a coffee shop by day and hunts sexual predators by night. She goes to bars, pretends to be falling down drunk — and then confronts the men who try to take advantage of her.

“When I was growing up — and I think still probably it’s the case now — in movies, getting women drunk to sleep with them, filling up their drink more than you’d fill your own, waiting at the end of the night to see who’s drunk at the club, girls waking up not knowing who’s in bed next to them — it was just comedy fodder,” Fennell says. “We live in a culture where this sort of stuff is normalized.”

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Film Review: “Creation Stories”

Nick Moran’s biopic of Alan McGee, the infamous head of Creation Records, takes a fairly conventional narrative approach to this highly unconventional man. It’s a rags-to-riches tale, tracing his journey from a drab and dreamless life in Glasgow all the way to the very centre of the UK music industry.

The film takes most of its stylistic cues from the holy text of narcotic-infused Scottish stories, Trainspotting (perhaps not surprisingly so: Irvine Welsh is on script duty). McGee’s drug-addled adventures are brought to life with the same bag of distorted lens, haphazard angles and scenes of weird hallucination. In an attempt to match the frenetic pace of his life and mind, it moves at a rapid clip, letting the audio spill from one scene to another, stitching the whole thing together with a lot of oddly matched shots and strange transitions. The resulting effect is often disorientating and not always in a particularly effective or purposeful way.

The quest to cram in as many needle drops, smash cuts and cute voiceover gags makes the whole thing feel a little manic, and its frantic energy often means that the big emotional beats get lost in the noise. Still, even if it’s playing a lot of other people’s songs and relying more on volume than skill, Creation Stories is anchored by a magnetic lead performance from Ewen Bremner and an overriding love for its subject, making for a hugely enjoyable jam even if it likely won’t become a classic.


Creative Stories has its world premiere at Glasgow Film Festival, screening 24-27 Feb
Released 20 Mar on Sky Cinema