My take on mother! (there may be spoilers, although I have tried to avoid them)


A couple’s blissful existence is disrupted when two strangers come to stay at their home.
I think that’s as far as I’m going to go with my synopsis of mother!. I feel as though if I go on to describe what happened in any more depth than that I may spoil it for people, and that is the last thing want to do, believe me. It’s a funny old film this – I left the cinema not having much idea of what I had just been subjected to for the past two hours, but after thinking long and hard about the film for the rest of the afternoon, I think I finally got it.

Neither of the two main performances here were what I’d expected. I watched the film because Javier Bardem was in it, and I’m a huge fan of his work. For some reason, I had thought he was going to be bit of a villain, but he wasn’t. Saying that, however, I wouldn’t have said he was exactly a good guy either. When you begin to understand the symbolism in the film, I think that this kind of portrayal of Bardem’s character was the best way to play it, because we do question whether or not the figure who he is possibly playing in the film is actually good. I’ve now just realised that a lot of what I say in this review is probably not actually going to make sense (if anything I say in any of my reviews ever does). Jennifer Lawrence also played a character that we generally wouldn’t have her down for. Lawrence has become known for playing strong female leads. In this, she was very meek for the most part, but gradually she got back to her usual self until in the end, she decided she’d had enough and destroyed everything. Both were good performances, but I’m not convinced they were my favourites from either actor.

On the surface, this entire film looks like a complete mess, I’m not going to deny that. As I said, I didn’t know what to think for a good while after the film. However, once you accept that everything in the film is symbolic (I think, anyway), you can hopefully start to make sense of it. I’m not going to go into every little detail, but if I say that Bardem’s character is supposed to be a metaphor for God you’ll hopefully begin to see what the whole thing is getting at, or at least what I thought it was getting at. The film is swimming in religious connotations, and maybe because of this it comes across as pretentious. But when you think about it, religion itself also tends to be that way inclined, so I think it is one of those rare occasions where a film’s own pretentiousness has worked for it.

In all fairness, I think mother! was sold short by the trailers – it’s not the film trailers make it out to be. It also was not as horrific as I had expected, although, granted, something does get eaten in the film that will mean you’ll never view baby back ribs in the same way again. There were definitely horror elements, but I think to pin this one down solely as a horror film doesn’t work.

Overall, mother! is a very strange film that will most likely mean nothing to anyone who takes what they watch at face value. As a result, this probably isn’t one for everybody, especially casual cinema goers. However, if you have patience and are willing to think about what everything actually means and represents after watching the film, you might find that you like it quite a lot. I for one was certainly not sure how to feel about spending £11 on seeing this film for the first couple or three hours after seeing it, but after a while, things clicked into place and I’ve now come to the conclusion that it was actually very impressive. Of course, that’s not to say that if you do get it, you’ll love it, but it definitely helped me to appreciate it on a whole other level.
If you’ve seen mother!, let me know what you thought – I think it’s a film that’s going to start some interesting conversations, and I really would love to hear what your impression was.

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It will float your boat


A group of bullied school kids spend their summer investigating the disappearances of a series of local children.In October 1988, Ben’s (Jaeden Lieberher) littler brother went missing, and was never found. The following summer, a number of other kids start to go missing, and Ben is not able to ignore It (Bill Skarsgård) . He and his friends (all played by some cracking performers) join together to see what’s been going on, only It has his eyes on them first.

What. A. Film. I am a very happy person right now. It was brilliant! I’m finally able to say that I like horror films when they’re done right, and this thing didn’t put a foot wrong. I would honestly have not problem paying to see the film again this week.

The kids in this film were all brilliant. I loved all the characters, and the way each actor captured their own was really great to see. There was none of that cheesy, over-egged acting that can sometimes happen with younger performers, and that had been one of my main concerns after deciding to see the film. They each really understood the eccentricities and oddities of their roles, for example, Jaeden Lieberher nailed Ben’s stutter, and Finn Wolfhard got Richie’s ballsiness down to a T. I was also a huge fan of Sophia Lillis as Beverly. She fitted right in with the lads and wasn’t afraid to be different, and I really liked that. There was, of course, Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise too. He was excellent, getting the two elements of his character just right – the childlike side of him was hugely contrasted by the less friendlier moments, and both complimented each other really, really well. 

As I said at the start, this is a film that I’d happily pay to see again at the cinema. I think the atmosphere helped me to get into the film, but the other thing that worked well was the fact that I thought that It was actually scary. There’s a lot of shockers that happen – I’ve not read the book and I avoided trailers like the plague so had no idea what to expect. People who’ve been reading my stuff for a while will know I’m a jumper, and this film well and truly got me… many times. As always, it was a mix of the moments Stevie Wonder could see coming and those that were not as expected that had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was very effective at building tension, but also at counteracting it with some massive anticlimaxes that persuaded you to let your guard down for a second. 

Alongside the horror though, there was plenty of humour, but not in the way that turned it into a comedy horror (I’d have felt quite let down had that have been the case). It was a style of humour that I can’t put a word to to describe, but I can say that it properly fitted the coming-of-age nature of the story and cast. Again, it helped to break the tension at points so you got a nice change in pace and it kept the film feeling fresh.

On the whole, I can’t recommend It enough. This is a film that has given be greater confidence in horrors, and has me very excited for a sequel that we better get sooner rather than later. I loved the characters, and thought the overall style of the film was spot on. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say this could be the best film I’ve seen so far this year, which is saying something.

You’re Next was surprisingly wonderful


A family reunion is violently disrupted when a group of masked hooligans gate crash anniversary celebrations.
When the Davison family got together for their parents’ 35th wedding anniversary, they knew some sort of drama would be on the cards. After all, what family reunions aren’t without a little… excitement? However, during dinner, a group of masked killers descend upon the house, and one by one they set about picking off each and every member of the Davison clan. Well, almost all of them.

You’re Next is one of those films that hadn’t really appealed to me until recently. By now, you guys will know that I’m not exactly a horror fanatic, and because this is billed by a lot of people to be a bit like that, I hadn’t been in a hurry to watch it after being majorly let down by roughly 90% of the horror films I’ve seen. However, in the last few months or so I’ve heard a few people really rave about this film, and seeing as it was on Netflix at the minute, I decided to watch it. I am very pleased I’ve seen it now, because it was really good. Packed full of action and a wonderful heroine, plus something that actually resembled a plot, it was a very pleasant surprise!

Sharni Vinson played the hero of this story. Erin was everything I want all horror characters to be from now on. She was intelligent; she stayed calm when everyone around her was losing their heads, and she could put up a bloody good fight. Words can’t describe how happy I was to find that I was finally watching a film such as this where the lead had a brain.

Inevitably, there were more idiotic characters to be found here, but they helped to highlight how this film got things right. It took the characters who had straw where their brains should have been and killed them off first. This was a film with horror elements that got the idea of natural selection spot on. Charles Darwin would honestly be so proud of the film makers here, as am I!

There was so much creativity used in this film too. I’ve discovered so many different ways in which I can now arm myself in the event of a home invasion in my own house, and some of them were hugely ingenious. I mean, I’d never seen someone get their head blended before seeing this, but now I have, and I must say my eyes have been opened. The various different ways people got killed or injured in the film meant the action could be stretched out across more or less the whole film, and this made for a packed 90 minutes. It was absolutely brilliant!

However, I wouldn’t say that this has ignited a love for horror films with me. I personally wouldn’t class this as a horror film. There were elements, I am not disputing that, but this was definitely more of a thriller than anything else. The only reason I would say this got handed some horror status was because of the amount of blood that was spilled in it, which is fine, but for me I need to more than that before I can start throwing the H word around. Still, that shouldn’t take away from how good this film was. I was probably just being nit-picky.

I would definitely recommend You’re Next if you hadn’t already gathered that much. This is basically what The Purge tried to be but ended up failing miserably as. There are so many plus points for this film, and I could go on for hours more about the finer details. The bottom line it this was a fun, action-packed violent thriller with a brilliant lead character who shames so many others who came before her. I absolutely loved it!

Charismata is a decent effort but needs a bit polishing


The film is about a female detective following a Satanic cult murder case. As she begins to uncover more bodies and more details, she starts to become obsessed with the darkness of the case and the possibility that the potential suspect is trying to victimise her. As she, and those around her, begin to question her sanity, it’s clear there is more to lose than just her life.So, Charismata. This is a film that I think shows there is a lot of potential for the people involved to go onto bigger things, especially writers and directors Andy Collier and Tor Mian. However, I do think there are little tweaks that need to be made, as there were a few things that I struggled with whilst I was watching the film.

One of the biggest problems I had was with the characters. I simply didn’t like them. There were no obvious redeeming characteristics for me to cling onto with them, and personally this is something I need to really be able to get behind the story and the film. For example, the character of Rebecca Farraway had such a huge chip on her shoulder. She was too stubborn for her own good. I like strong female characters and am all for more of them being written, but she didn’t know when to ask for help and this led to a lot of unnecessary hardship coming her way. The same thing kind of goes for the Eli Smith character, as well as many of the other men. There was a lot of male bravado floating around, and it was hard to get past this. I think had the more negative qualities possessed by these characters been toned down a bit and accompanied by a bit more humility, it may have been a different story.

That being said, I quite liked much of the rest of the film. The storyline had Se7en vibes, but didn’t feel like a rip-off of the film. It took the idea and put it’s own twist on it, and I liked that because with a film as great as Se7en, the temptation would be to copy it, but here it seemed to inspire something different altogether. Of course, the filmmakers themselves may not have been influenced by it at all. Either way, the story was a winner for me. It needs polishing a bit just to take it to the next level, but what the writers did with it was not a bad idea. I also liked the psychological element of the film, and liked how big a part it had. What I thought worked so well here was that it felt fairly realistic that Rebecca was having all the hallucinations that she was because of the line of work she was in. It was believable and this made it easy to watch and go along with.

Overall, Charismata was a decent psychological horror film. It needs a bit of work doing to it, mainly where the characters are concerned so that you can find yourself being a bit more supportive of them, but generally it is not a bad effort at all. The storyline worked very well in it’s favour, and it’s psychological themes were also effective. I don’t know if I’d watch the film again, but I certainly don’t regret seeing it.

Dunkirk is a victory in every sense


Allied soldiers are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during World War II.
Between May 26th and June 4th in 1940, 400,000 British soldiers found themselves surrounded on the beach of Dunkirk with no ships to take them home. Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill put the call out to the public that their boys needed help, and so help came. They aimed for 30,000 boats, but got 300,000 in a feat that remains just as astonishing today is it did back then.

Straight away I’ll come out and say that Dunkirk is probably the best war film I’ve ever seen. Christopher Nolan has done a fantastic job with this film. I absolutely loved it! I think we have a serious contender for Oscars here with this one, although I am unsure whether any will be for the acting because of the ensemble line-up.

There were so many great performances in this film, and what was so good about it was those making their acting debuts got as much screen time as the more experienced cast members. Fionn Whitehead was excellent. You really got the impression of a young boy way out of his depth with his performance. Harry Styles is actually capable of some decent acting – who’d have thought it? And then you have the people who we could refer to as the veterans in this particular film. Cillian Murphy gave a very good performance as one of the soldiers who were rescued out at sea. The shock and pain that he was experiencing was something that you felt as well. Mark Rylance played Mr Dawson, one of the civilians closely followed in the film. I think if any of the cast are to be nominated for any awards and are likely to win, it will be him. I think his was the most complex character of the lot because I think he helped to show the impact the war had back home, yet how much the public were willing to do. Finally, I would just like to kindly point out that Tom Hardy was in this film and I can conclude that he has done more acting with just his eyes during his career than anyone else has done with their whole body. 

While performances were a key part of the film, what set it apart from so many other war films were all the other elements that contribute to the film-making process. The cinema screening I went to was truly immersive, and I didn’t even see it in IMAX, so you can imagine how much more mind-blowing it would’ve been if I had. The sound was awesome, making you feel as though the bombs were being dropped metres from you. The camera work for all of the scenes with the fighter jets was on another level entirely. When the planes moved, the camera moved with it (maybe not recommended for those with motion sickness, but hey, sometimes you just have to toughen up a little), and as I was watching these scenes unfold, I found myself moving with the picture. It was honestly like being in a flight simulator at times – phenomenal cinematography.

Of course, with this being a Christopher Nolan film, which means it was never going to be a simple, run-of-the-mill beginning, middle and end narrative. This was one thing I had been slightly concerned about because my little head has been unable to wrap itself around some of the plots in his previous films. However, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to inform you that even I managed to figure the timeline out here, and also believe it to have greatly enhanced the film as it gave it a real-time, play by play vibe, which added to the feeling that you were right there in the middle of the action.

Overall, Dunkirk is a knock-out. It’s a grown-up film that can be enjoyed by the younger generations, and works to give a three-dimensional view of how events played out during this amazing operation that took place in WWII. It combines terrific performances with a score that ratchets tension perfectly, and visuals that place you right at the heart of the action. Has Nolan excelled himself here? Hell yeah!

To The Bone is fairly solid, but has a few fractures


A young woman with anorexia is helped by an unconventional doctor to overcome her illness.
Ellen (Lily Collins) is a 20 year old woman who has been struggling with anorexia nervosa for some time. In between various family dramas, she is taken to see the unorthodox Dr. Beckham (Keanu Reeves), who accepts Ellen into his residential programme which uses unconventional practises to try and help people get better. There she meets a handful of people with similar conditions to herself, and although reluctant, realises that there is hope after all.

To The Bone is one of the latest original films to come from Netflix, and is one that has received a ton of publicity thanks to the controversy surrounding it’s subject matter. Given all the coverage it had before even being released, I decided to jump on it straightaway, and I have to be honest, I thought it was an okay film, although it did have it’s faults.

Performances here were all good, but there was nothing that was very memorable from my point of view. Apart of Lily Collins’ part, the line-up had a very ensemble-y feel to it. Nobody really stood out in any way for me. As the one real lead character though, Collins did a good job I thought of portraying Ellen. There was nothing overly dramatic about her performance, which I thought was really effective in showing that she didn’t feel like her condition was a big deal. I also like the amount of wit she gave Ellen, as this added some lighter moments to what really is a very heavy story when you look deeper.

With regards to story, there isn’t a huge ground-breaking narrative being told, but I guess it’s something that hasn’t really been looked upon with 21st century eyes in the world of film, so in that sense it is still quite fresh. I liked how it showed the effect Ellen’s illness was having on her whole family, with the scenes shared between Collins and Liana Liberato, who played Ellen’s sister Kelly, being the most impactful due to the way the relationship was written. I think in all fairness though, this is one of those films that serves as more of a character study than anything else, which is where I think it suffers one of it’s biggest downfalls, because while the character of Ellen is not one that’s really been explored before in this way, she just wasn’t quite interesting enough for me to struggle to pull myself away from the film.

To The Bone has had a lot of attention since the first trailers came out, with a lot of people branding it a ‘controversial’ film. I’m not sure really that that is the right way to describe it – yes, it covers a sensitive issue, but surely you could say most films cover sensitive issues if you tried hard enough? I don’t want to sound dismissive of people’s concerns, but I do think that reactions such as the ones received by this film have the power to ruin cinema because they seem to label many new ideas and different storylines ‘controversial’. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to viewers discretion – if you think you can’t handle what a film is going to show you, simply do not watch it. Anyway, rant over and back to the matter in hand. Did I think this was controversial? Not really. Personally, I felt it presented eating disorders in a way that was very human, and one that could start a discussion for people, which I think is ultimately what you want to try and achieve with films such as this.

All in all, To The Bone was worth seeing, for the reason that it opens the every-mans’ eye to a sense of what is going on with matters such as those presented in the film. However, from a purely film-related perspective, I can’t say that I’d watch it again. It didn’t grab me in the way I’d hoped it would mainly because the characters felt a little under-done, especially in the case of Ellen, and for a film such as this, I think the characters are what make or break it. So, if you haven’t seen it, I would suggest watching To The Bone, but I would say don’t expect to be reaching for the replay button immediately after finishing it.

Not a fat lot of Room for improvement with this one


After spending the past five years locked away in a kidnapper’s shed, a little boy and his mother finally get out and are able to reacquaint themselves with the world.
When she was seventeen, Joy Newson (Brie Larson) was kidnapped on her way home from school. For seven years she was held hostage by her kidnapper in his garden shed, and gave birth to his child, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), after two years in captivity. Joy and Jack survived together for five years in the shed, until one day Joy decided the time had come where they had an opportunity to get out. She constructs an escape plan which heavily involves her son, and when the mission is completed, the two, especially Jack, find that things on the outside are more different than they expected. 

I’d heard that Room was supposed to be a phenomenal watch, and I had also heard that it had brought a tear to the eyes of many viewers. To be honest, I’m surprised that it has taken me until now to see the film, but I will say that after finally seeing it, that wait has been well worth it. I will also say that the film manage to stir up emotions within myself that I was not even sure existed. If you’re in the mood for a full on ugly cry, this is probably a film you should consider.

There are some incredibly powerful performances in Room, brought to you by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The two of them got the whole mother/son dynamic perfect, and it felt like a really authentic relationship for the entire time you were watching them. Larson nailed the patience needed by Joy whilst she was locked in the shed, and the innocence shown by Jacob Tremblay as Jack towards the idea of a huge world outside of his own existence was clear to see. I found that it was Tremblay’s performance that provoked the greatest reaction from me at various points throughout the film (one such point was when he set eyes on a real dog for the first time, I’m still not over it). However, the scene where Joy was reunited with her father for the first time since she disappeared was also a significant one for me, and once again, tissues were needed.

I have to whole-heartedly praise Emma Donoghue for her writing of both the novel and the screenplay, and with that I also take my hat off to whoever had the idea of keeping the same writer for both. The emotions that are brought to the surface by the characters she created are like a punch in the face. There is no escaping them, meaning even the most hardened non-criers such as myself find themselves reduced to tear stained ruins by the end of the film.

Director Lenny Abrahamson did a fantastic job with the making of this film. I’ve read about all the struggles that were presented to the cast and crew by the task of filming such a huge proportion of the film in the confines of the shed that Joy and Jack were kept in. It does not sound as though the first month of filming was a breeze. However, I think Abrahamson’s belief in the story was shown by his persistence and determination that they would succeed in filming those scenes within those four walls, which, if you are aware of it, I think gives you even greater faith in the film as you watch it.

So, would I recommend Room? Well, it’s not remotely like anything that I’ve personally watched before, nor has any other film made me such an emotional wreck on numerous occasions before. The performances are on a new level altogether (I forgot to mention it, but Larson won a Best Actress Oscar for her part, although I’m sure you already knew that), and really work to bring to life the feelings that the script is absolutely sodden with. I’ve already been recommending it to people, and I wouldn’t think twice about sitting down to watch it again myself.