Waves (2019)

Trey Edward Shults directs Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell and Sterling K. Brown in this teen drama where a young black wrestling jock’s perfect life starts to unravel and his sister is left discombobulated by the aftermath.

The rare joy of going to see a film with little to no idea of what is going to happen. I was impressed by Shults’ post-apocalyptic thriller It Comes At Night and all I knew taking my seat was this was his next release. What unfolds is unpredictable, chaotically so. One of Waves pleasures is it could go any which way. We see Tyler slowly cracking up as pressures come in from all side but have no idea what his redemption will be. The film is so overwhelmingly colourful, noisy and frenetic (scenes skip forward before they are fully finished like a faulty CD) we are given no choice but to just submit to its bleak unfolding. There’s no respite to second guess it or figure out where exactly all this erratic stress will land. Then it pulls off a particularly difficult narrative switch… the lead tags another character in as our central focus. It works here, and the change of pace and outlook is reformative. Waves is a bit too messy and indulgent to be seen as a true success. And it would appear that Trey Edwards Shult wants to put his name on every production credit… I’m pretty sure some of those shared ones are undeserved. You’re a director, you are going to be in the room, but let the technician who executed the task have their dues for their job, please. And the soundtrack is very much what an adult man thinks the cool kids are into. But I think this will mean a lot to teens who discover it. And there’s enough magic, thump and genius here that I might revisit it before films I enjoyed far more easily. Harrison puts in another great turn (see: Luce) and Sterling K. Brown relishes his best role since his showy breakthrough in American Crime Story.


Just Mercy (2019)

Destin Daniel Cretton directs Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson in this courtroom drama based around real life attorney Bryan Stevenson, a black Harvard graduate who went to Alabama to set up his own practice specifically to represent men on Death Row.

Does a figure like Bryan Stevenson deserve more recognition? Yes. Do we want to see the incredibly charismatic Michael B Jordan in more lead roles? Yes. Does this movie have to go through the expected motions quite so unwaveringly? No. Flavourless.


A Hidden Life (2019)

Terrence Malick August Diehl, Valerie Pachner and Matthias Schoenaerts in this WWII drama where an Austrian farmer refuses to swear allegiance to Hitler.

The elders of the town drunkenly descend on the farmhouse with same jittery motions as Lynch’s elderly demons in Mullholland Dr. A cautious priest tries to convince our lead of his folly surrounded by mountains… are they keeping the secret of the conversation or looming like the impending doom? A Nazi prison guard stops a free man from looking out of the window of his cell. This is the Terrence Malick you want… pastoral, narration, innocence lost, lyrical. Cinema as poetry and philosophy. Could it be an hour shorter?… yes. Is it a little too close to being Jojo Rabbit without the wackiness?… Yes, but this po-faced journey is the slightly better movie.


Creepshow (1982)

George A Romero directs Stephen King, Leslie Neilsen and Adrienne Barbeau in this comedy scare anthology written by the Master of Horror and based on the old EC comics.

I had high hopes for this given the pedigree but it didn’t live up to its reputation. Quite dull and lacking scope. The black comedy isn’t funny, the shocks only fitfully disturbing. The attempt to recreate the colourful vibe of the comics works and we have Romero’s visual astuteness to thank for that. The Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson’s two hander is the only chapter that has any staying power. More Tale of the Unexpected than horror but the comedy stars sell the darkness of it well. Natalie enjoyed this more than me.


Le Petit Soldat (1963)

Jean-Luc Godard directs Michel Subor, Anna Karina and Henri Jacques Huet in this French New Wave drama where a draft dodger gets caught in a grinding Kafka-esque tangle between French spies and Algerian freedom fighters.

Ils ne peuvent pas tous être gagnants, gamin.


Weekend (2011)

Andrew Haigh directs Tom Cullen, Chris New and Laura Freeman in this romance between two men who meet at a club, have a connection but know nothing can happen come Monday.

I’m trying to clear the TiVo box of all the films I have recorded over the past 4 years before it is sent back to Virgin to be scrapped. There’s about a hundred things on there. I’m not going get through it all. So I’m having to select the “must sees” that might not practically crop up on streaming or at retrospective screenings anytime soon. This was very highly praised on release. I liked it’s obvious Before Sunrise vibes. I liked the hazy, very familiar look of modern British living… this feel more true to life in the telling details than your Love, Actuallys and Gavin & Staceys. I thought Tom Cullen was very eye catching as a sweet, shy, different kind of leading man. Surprised his career didn’t sky rocket after this. I appreciated how the small, frequent burst of casual homophobia interrupted the romance, possibly giving a far more accurate depiction of how British attitudes are still not fully accepting of two people in love… and how that must be disruptive to those trying to make a connection in public. But I’ll be honest and say I’m not entirely convinced of the chemistry of the central pairing and there were times the dialogue grew repetitive and the narrative cliched. Almost.


Elena and Her Men (1956)

Jean Renoir directs Ingrid Bergman, Jean Marais and Mel Ferrer in this French farce were a Polish countess in Paris finds her latest trio of suitors gives her unusual political cache.

A frippery. Not very funny or romantic but gorgeous to watch when it isn’t French politicians running in and out of hallways (warning – it often is). The energy and satire of the crowd scenes and the stunning ladies make this.


Nostalgia (1983)

Andrei Tarkovsky directs Oleg Yankovsky, Domiziana Giordano and Erland Josephson in this arthouse drama about a Russian composer who engages with an Italian hermit at some medieval baths only for their conversations to have tragic consequences months later.

130 minutes of watery pretensions and gorgeous imagery. People used to wank in cinemas back in 1983.


Byzantium (2012)

Neil Jordan directs Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan and Johnny Lee Miller in this era spanning vampire tale where a mother and daughter try to resettle in the seaside town that they fled centuries ago after becoming immortal.

There’s two ways to approach this strange, quite likeable film. A feminist recalibration of Interview With the Vampire, showcasing another fine performance from Ronan. Or an occasionally very gory excuse for Arterton to dress in a slaggy, cleavage enhancing outfits from pretty much every decade since Thackeray. Either way I’m in, sold on an unpredictable, full fat adult fairy tale. There’s stunning fantasy imagery of waterfalls of blood and all-male vampire cabals. Would make a fine unofficial trilogy with The Company of Wolves and Greta.


Bullhead (2011)

Michaël R. Roskam directs Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval and Jeanne Dandoy in this Flemish crime thriller where a brutish farmer is reminded of his tragic past when an illegal hormone ring and police investigation circle his business.

With its tight lipped lunk lead and low level / big stakes crime plot, this reminded me of underrated Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini starrer The Drop. Turns out it’s from the same director. This isn’t anywhere near as good… shifting tone between sketch comedy and wincing tragedy, the muddy gangster genre stuff gets lost in the mix. The one lighthouse when all is adrift is Schoenaerts’ impressive physical performance. You can see why Hollywood took notice, he makes this overlong mess watchable.