Director Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) has chosen to rush through the early days of the introduction of Freddie Mercury to the pub band Smile and their subsequent mega-success as the renamed Queen.
The result is engaging but strangely emotionally uninvolving, an episodic telling of Mercury’s distance from his family, love for Mary Austin and the clashes with band members, record company and management.
But, by slowly drawing the audience in and as Rami Malek (The Master, TV’s Mr Robot) grows into the role of the troubled star, there’s a moving finale of 30 minutes or so. A lonely Mercury finally recognises and accepts just who he is. And then Singer throws in a re-enactment of 10 minutes of one of the greatest live gigs in recorded history – Queen’s Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in front of 100,000 people. Breathtaking.
A great documentary for the togs and sheer spectacle of Alexander McQueen’s visionary presentation but as an insight into the man himself, Ian Bonhote & Peter Ettedgui’s documentary is sadly lacking.
Undoubtedly a tortured genius, Lee Alexander McQueen, the London chav, son of a taxi driver, took the fashion-world by storm prior to his suicide in 2010. Candid interviews with colleagues, friends and family provide a certain insight into the man, but there’s a great deal more left out or merely touched upon (cocaine abuse, HIV, child abuse). And it’s this imbalance that leaves the rags to riches tale as a lost opportunity.
A taught, nervous, noir thriller as traumatised veteran Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Inherent Vice) tracks down missing persons – with liberal use of violence when necessary. With the disappearance of a senator’s daughter, Phoenix finds himself in a tight-knit paedophile ring.
Winner of both best screenplay and best actor at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, director Lynne Ramsey (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ratcatcher) has adapted the novel by Johnathan Ames into a moodily stylish ellipsis of flashbacks, suggestion and suppression. It’s a pity that You Were Never Really Here occasionally lapses into incoherence.
They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. So begins Ian McEwan’s 1960s-set novel, On Chesil Beach.
In adapting his own elliptical novel for the screen, McEwan emphasises that lack of meaningful communication between the young couple, neither of whom can talk to each other or their respective families. Their lack of knowledge results in tragic and devastating consequences.
As the uptight Florence, Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Brooklyn) beautifully portrays the terrified innocent, balanced perfectly with the awkward, bumbling Billy Howle (Dunkirk, The Sense of an Ending). Acclaimed theatre director Dominic Cooke is at the helm, resulting in a tender, dialogue-rich love story.
Small in scope (a product of writer/director Michael Pearce’s television experience in his feature film debut), Beast flits between a (dysfunctional) middle-class family drama and psychosexual horror story.
Unquestionably flawed, a remarkable performance from Jessie Buckley (TV’s Taboo, The Last Post) as Moll is the highlight. Desperate to escape her cruel, oppressive family, she becomes involved with Johnny Flynn (Clouds of Sils Maria, Love is Thicker Than Water), a convicted poacher living on the margins and suspected of being a serial killer of teenage girls.
A cold, windswept Jersey – far from its halcyon summer tourism – is the setting for Pearce’s intriguing drama packed with (mostly) unpleasant characters.
Screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival
A bleak drama as two siblings battle for tenancy of the family farm following the death of their father.
After 15 years away, a compelling Ruth Wilson (Anna Karenina, Saving Mr Banks) as Alice returns to Yorkshire to the decrepit homestead surly and angry brother Mark Stanley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Our Kind of Traitor) has left to rot. Memories of paternal sexual abuse come flooding back as Alice battles to make the farm a going concern. But her brother has different ideas.
As the title suggests, it’s a brooding narrative from director Clio Bernard (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant) very loosely based on Rose Tremain’s novel Trespass (the setting for a start is transposed to Yorkshire from France). Both brother and sister share a dour affinity to the land, but each demands a different return. It’s raw and uncompromising, only marred by a less than convincing final minutes.
Screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival
Gritty, dour and hard-as-nails, Funny Cow is a powerful drama about a female stand-up comic battling with her audiences and home life in 1970s working class Yorkshire.
Domestic violence, racism and homophobia are the norm as an abrasive Maxine Peake (The Theory of Everything, The Falling) confronts the male establishment (and gets a broken nose, courtesy of a violent, threatening husband for her trouble). It’s a harsh life with her jokes crude, her heckling audiences cruder.
It’s the social realism world of Ken Loach, but director Adrian Shergold (The Last Hangman, TV’s Holding On) has extensive experience in television rather than film – and it shows. Strong performances by Peake and Tony Pitts (War Horse, Rogue One) as her husband fail to cover the shortcomings in the narrative and lack of explanation in some of the superfluous background scenes.
Whether you like/liked ABBA or not (and it’s more than 40 years since they won Eurovision), there’s no denying their catchy, upbeat pop is some of the most joyful around. And that’s true of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Cheesy, superficial, predictable it may be as we travel back in time from Mamma Mia to see where it all started. Yet…
Casting is inspirational (Lily James – Cinderella, Baby Driver – for Meryl Streep and Hugh Skinner – Hampstead, Les Miserables – for Colin Firth in particular). Selection of songs perfect for the narrative (Cher as Meryl Streep’s mom!) and even Croatia standing in for the original Greek island is a perfect setting. Sheer unadulterated joy – even if, other than singing the songs, everything is forgotten about the minute you walk out of the auditorium.
The extraordinary love affair between Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and Percy Byshe Shelley and the resulting penning of Frankenstein is manna from heaven for storytelling.
But the clunky treatment by director Haifaa Al-Mansour (Wadjda, Women Without Shadows) and a cast guilty of overacting (Bel Powley – A Royal Night Out, Diary of a Teenage Girl – as Mary’s stepsister, Gail, in particular) undermines the story and the quiet performances of Elle Fanning (The Beguiled, Maleficent) and Stephen Dillane (Darkest Hour, Welcome to Sarajevo) as her father.
Engaging as a story but sadly, as a film, a misfire.
An intense, claustrophobic love triangle in London’s Orthodox Jewish community as Ronit (Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener, The Lobster) returns from a self-imposed New York exile on the death of her rabbi father.
Ronit left the close-knit community under a cloud – and finds herself once more deeply attracted to best friend from school, Esti (Rachel McAdams – Spotlight, Sherlock Holmes). Only Esti is married to the new rabbi-elect, Alessandro Nivola (Selma, American Hustle).
An emotionally honest and authentic drama, director Sebastian Lelio (A Fantastic Woman, Gloria) allows the dialogue and nuanced performances from the three leads to question love, faith, friendship and desire.