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Director: Phil Sheerin Starring: Emma Mackey, Anson Boon, Charlie Murphy, Michael McElhatton Running Time: 92 minutes


An Irish-Canadian co-production, director Phil Sheerin’s The Winter Lake intertwines two family stories in the chilly backdrop of rural Ireland. Tom is a troubled and broody adolescent, who arrives in what appears to be an inherited old farm with his equally troubled young mother Elaine. Both Tom and Elaine seem to be running away from something, although details of their past are sketchy. At the outset, Tom is meandering around the outskirts of the farmland, and ends up digging something out of a lake. This “something” is what sets in motion the rest of events that unfold. The moody teenager meets Holly, a charismatic but distant woman who takes an interest in Tom. At the same time, Holly’s father Ward and Tom’s mothers Elaine develop what appears to be a burgeoning fling. As secrets about Holly’s past and Ward’s true character are gradually exposed, both Tom and his mother find themselves implicated.

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Director: Kevin MacDonald Starring: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Levi Running Time: 129 minutes


With apologies for beginning a review on such a cynical foot, there’s something almost quaint these days in the kind of procedural drama that relies on shock and indignance at injustice for its narrative thrust. The ‘This Is America Dammit’ legal flick has always been a Hollywood staple, with layers of presentation, slicker, smarter versions like Erin Brockovich or Dark Waters do exist, but there’s usually the foundational principle of ‘This Isn’t Who We Are’ involved somewhere, which is harder for audiences to latch onto after so many years of exposure to the idea that injustice is exactly who people in power are, and they’ll just say it isn’t, and even when it’s exposed that it is, they just get away with it anyway.

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Gazing up at the stars, a man shares his expertise in finding constellations with his partner, one of a lifetime of small moments as bright and dazzling as anything in the night sky. Unfortunately, he for all his intelligence, he cannot recall the word ‘triangle’, and as time goes on, his memory of more and more things, big and small, fades into the void. Supernova is a story built around early onset dementia, but more than a shallow wallow in the sad nature of the disease, Harry Macqueen’s sensitive and measured approach uses the condition to explore the difficulty in saying goodbye, both to those you love and to yourself.

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Director: Ron Howard Starring: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Frieda Pinto Running Time: 115 minutes


Sometimes ignorance is bliss. No matter how honestly one might believe that the Oscars are not the be-all-and-end-all of filmmaking, the ceremony remains impossible to avoid in the world of film. It can be a black hole that sucks in all quality discussion of the subject. Once familiar with the term ‘Oscar bait’, the industry within an industry that farms out forgettable, pandering, dull dramas purely to snag award nominations, it’s a bell that cannot be un-rung. A third, more cynical eye opens. It becomes just a little harder to judge certain films on their own merits, to become immersed in the nuances of an actor’s performance and not the narrative over their worthiness or whether they are ‘due’ their big win. Increasingly, every year the Oscar season also quickly picks out an ‘enemy’ among the frontrunners, from La La Land to Jokerthe discussion around the films, quality or otherwise, becomes slightly weighted; talk about whether the films would be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ winners taking on an ethical meaning as much as a qualitative one. The whole discourse can become it’s own self-perpetuating headache.

It’s actually a comfort then, when the Oscar Bait isn’t just middle-of-the-road but rather veers wildly off the road and into a lake where it sinks to the bottom with the rest of the miserable shite. As is the case with Hillbilly Elegy.

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With new releases thin on the ground once again, during November Film In Dublin are revisiting some notable releases during 2020 that we haven’t yet had the chance to review. In this Review Round-Up, we’re looking at a pair of films available now on Netflix that are essential viewing. Expect more recommendations in the next few weeks of films from this year that are worth accelerating up to the top of your catch-up list.

 

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Director: Ben Wheatley Starring: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristen Scott-Thomas Running Time: 121 minutes


 

Did Netflix, one wonders, agree to distribute a fresh adaptation of Rebecca out of a higher-up’s affection for the source material, or a canny belief that it would make fertile ground to grow acclaim and awards? Or having run the numbers, one might continue to wonder, did they determine that the beautiful faces of stars Lily James and Armie Hammer would be suitably alluring to get subscribers to click on them, and that the title was recognisable enough to squeeze out a week or two in the ‘Trending Now’ tab? The mind tends to do a lot of wandering while trying to take in this latest adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s literary classic, a disappointingly vacant ‘return to Mandalay’ from creative forces that seem to have spent little time in the grounds of this story on their first go around. The result feels like a perfume advert that overstays its welcome to the tune of two hours; stale and lingering.
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Director: Melina Matsoukas Starring: Jodie Turner-Smith, Daniel Kaluyaa, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny Running Time: 132 minutes

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The first thing I noticed about Queen and Slim was the theatrical poster. I was coming out of a cinema and was taken aback by the aesthetics of the gritty garage backdrop, contrasted with the glossy greyscale shine. While Daniel Kaluuya played a crime boss in Steve McQueen’s Widows, it was the first time he came off as a true “tough guy” to me. While intrigued as to the plot, I decided to keep prior research to a minimum and walk into Queen and Slim with a blind eye.

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Director: Greta Gerwig Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep Running Time: 135 minutes

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Not having yet read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or seen any of the previous film versions means that it’s difficult in many ways to discuss the latest version by Greta Gerwig’s success as an adaptation. Will those who have read the coming of age story of the March sisters cover to cover dozens of times take issue with characterisations that I wouldn’t spot, or balk at Gerwig’s remixing of the story? Possibly, but even without familiarity it is possible to describe how the film feels and to add by way of ringing endorsement that Gerwig’s take on a book around 150 years old is so fresh and vibrant as to shoot it up to the top of the aul’ “must read list”. It feels like someone who loves a story very deeply gush over all the little details of it to you, feeling for the characters like they’re old friends and filling you in with every bit of their lives, a warm and welcoming time in the cinema.

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Director: Barry Jenkins Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King Running Time: 117 minutes


“I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass.”

The words of James Baldwin, from a character that sadly knows that plenty have had to look at someone they love through glass, or through some restriction or another, few, if any, deserving to have their full hearts clutched by oppressive fists. As a writer who felt even harder than he thought and had too many of his own restrictions, it’s hard to blame the writer for his frustrations that ignored that pathos. Writing about the cinema of his time that aimed to show the black experience, socially active author Baldwin only ever found it inadequate. Their feel-good narratives rang false, tripping gracelessly over themselves to reassure and reframe for guiltily ignorant, or ignorantly guilty, white audiences. We can’t speak for Baldwin, but in adapting his novel If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins has clearly and skillfully endeavoured to present a lived experience that is genuine, lives that feel real, and a lush love story that is all the more enriched by that effort to be genuine.

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You are cordially invited to spend this week (whatever blasted day it is) at the Light House Cinema, to have a ball watching the costumed have #drama in a mini season of costumed dramas. In anticipation of the release of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, they’re bringing some of the all time great period piece powerhouses back to the big screen for a quick run. Though one should never run in such elegant gowns.Read more…