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Director: Philippa Lowthorpe Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Keira Knightly, Greg Kinnear, Lesley Manville, Rhys Ifans Running time: 106 mins

Misbehaviour benefits from the pedigree of a strong cast, a compelling story and a seasoned director at the helm; Philippa Lowthorpe was the first woman to win Best Director at the Baftas, and she’s won twice. The costuming, make up, hair and set design all evoke the new era being born and really ground the story in a time and place which feels fully realised. Misbehaviour has all the ingredients to make it a hit but unfortunately it falls down on building layered and sympathetic characters and it’s difficult to stay on board, especially when the plot holds no surprises (which isn’t the film’s fault necessarily because you can’t have spoilers for history!)

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Director: Lorcan Finnegan Starring: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris Running Time: 97 minutes

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Even as news reports were starting to darken and arrive ever closer to our doors, while sitting in the sold out screening for the Opening Gala of VMDIFF 2020 it was difficult to imagine just how real Vivarium would become. Or how quickly the energy of a film premiere, glamorous stars ; a room packed full of people eagerly anticipating the uncertainty and possibilities of the immediate future, would feel like a bittersweet memory of oohhh, a billion years ago.

If Vivarium is a horror, it’s a horror about the domestic drudgery, a blunt jab at how social constructs can be so narrowly confined, widely expected and hellish to navigate that they can feel like a trap from which there is no escape. The fact that we all have to stay indoors right now with unknown and deadly consequences lurking ominously over us all the time has made the film’s blunt, exaggerated parody of suburbia very real in ways that director Lorcan Finnegan and writer Garret Shanley (who paired previously on Without Name) might never have anticipated when putting this story together, and it would be hard to blame the average viewer for running a mile from its ideas at the moment. The black joke has gotten a few shades darker, but the film is so committed to the bit, so giddily weird, it manages to pull off the delivery.

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The effects of Covid-19 continue to cause uncertainty and doubt in the film industry, with cinemas closed and the festivals that would normally be filling the calendar in the fair city of film either out the window or up in the air.

Thankfully the GAZE Film Festival along with the British Council Ireland are presenting some online screenings to keep us all going indoors as part of the #FiveFilms4Freedom Shorts Programme.

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Director: Céline Sciamma Starring: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino Running Time: 120 minutes

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“Do all lovers feel like they’re inventing something?”

So whispers the besotted Héloïse in a fit of passion in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The exploration of that spark, that fierce and intense rush of feeling is central to the latest feature by Céline Sciamma, her own work continuing to evolve and innovate in exhilarating fashion here following the “accidental trilogy of youth” that was Water Lilies, Tomboy and Girlhood. Love as shown here between painter Marianne and her subject Héloïse has that feeling of invention, the sudden arrival of something entirely new and brilliant and unique and though what emerges between these two can’t hope to last in the way that they would prefer, the depth of emotion and ideas brought to light by Sciamma and her excellent crew lifts Portrait into so much more than the typical Forbidden Romance.

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Director: Leigh Whannell Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen Running Time: 124 minutes

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Leigh Whannell is in the director’s seat for this modern adaptation of the 1897 sci-fi horror tale by H.G Wells. Whannell has had plenty of horror experience on screen, as a long time collaborator with James Wan. He’s also dipped his feat into directing with some impressive results. Insidious 3 was arguably the second best film of the series, and 2018’s Upgrade was well received by critics.

 

At a time when Ireland has just seen its first conviction for coercive control handed down in February of this year, it would be an understatement to say that the timing is appropriate to clear up narrow misconceptions about domestic abuse. It’s not always about physical abuse, nor is it exclusively about sexual harassment. Often, it’s a sociopathic lust for control. This is an aspect that The Invisible Man attempts to tap into, with limited success.

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