Wednesday, December 14, 2022


Hollywood  loves a movie about movies so THE FABELMANS will probably win a ton of Oscars. Michelle Williams gives one of those Oscar-bait performances that's big and tortured and involves her crying for at least fifty percent of the movie in a performance that felt really mannered and fake to me.  This kind of torpedoes the whole film for me, and even without that it's just dull. It's actually worse than AMSTERDAM, which I watched on the same day, because while AMSTERDAM was incoherent, it at least contained flashes of brilliance. By contrast THE FABELMANS is far better made. It's coherent, it's well acted, it looks great, it's just a polished grown-up film. But it's so dull and predictable and blah.  It's just the same old story Spielberg always tells - about the loss of childhood innocence and the trauma of divorce - usually featuring a station wagon and a cute kid sister -  except this time in the guise of a biopic rather than an adventure film. 

The movie focusses on the marriage of Burt (Paul Dano) and Mitzi (Williams). He's a really decent guy, with increasing corporate success. But she's a frustrated concert pianist who spends the entire film battling depression and in love with Burt's best friend Bernie (Seth Rogen).  Her unhappiness dominates the family dynamic and puts unrealistic pressure on their son Sammy (Gabriel Labelle) to pursue his dreams of film-making: he is told by both his grand-uncle and Bernie that if he doesn't pursue his art he will break his and his mother's heart.

So the other half of the movie is seeing Spielberg, sorry Sammy, come of age in a school rife with anti-semitism, and make his first tentative steps into the film industry. Contrast the straightforward, polished, frictionless, lifeless way in which prejudice is treated here versus the grungy, nasty, altogether more impactful way in which it is depicted in AMSTERDAM.  At one point in a high school scene I felt the jocks were about to break out into a song and dance number, a la WEST SIDE STORY.

This is the problem with Spielberg. Even when telling the story of his own life he can't avoid smoothing over all of the spiky edges and making something soupy and syrupy and glossy.  

THE FABELMANS is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 151 minutes.


What a glorious failure AMSTERDAM is! A film that is indulgent, incoherent, tonally uneven and not as whacky as it thinks it is.  And yet, and yet, there's something noble in its square-on look at racism, fascism, class snobbery and misogyny - a film that shows us clearly what war actually does to vital bodies - at the same time as attempting a JULES ET JIM romance combined with a Coen Brothers'esque caper. Writer-director David O Russell is more than ever himself - for all his brilliance and over-reach. This film is absolutely his.  I found flashes of brilliance within it. And in a month where Germany convicted men of fomenting a far-right coup, the central message remains important.

Christian Bale channels Kramer from Seinfeld in his role as Burt, a World War One veteran with a glass eye and a fondness for self-medicating with gonzo drugs. Burt is balanced out by Harold, a black lawyer who oozes charm, calm and confidence in a much-needed straight performance from John David Washington.  The third partner in their friendship is Valerie Voze, a daring, courageous artist played with elan by Margot Robbie.  The three live a bohemian life in post-war Amsterdam, helping vets recover from their horrific injuries, until the boys return home to New York.  

Fast forward to 1933, where the film opens, and a glamorous rich young woman (Taylor Swift) is murdered shortly after asking our boys to investigate the suspicious death of her father, their commanding officer. So begins a shaggy caper in which we discover that a bunch of fascist sympathisers are trying to manipulate a US general (Robert de Niro) into launching a veteran-backed military coup. Sound too fanciful? It really happened. 

The resulting film is, as I said, a mess. But it's a well acted one with some amazingly funny set-pieces and a truly sinister slippery turn from Rami Malek and Mike Myers as a British spy standing out among the bit parts. The film also looks fantastic, with stunning production and costume design and a dreamy sepia tinted warm glow thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki's lensing. I don't know what this film truly is, genre wise. It doesn't coalesce. But I'm glad it exists. 

AMSTERDAM is rated R and has a running time of 134 minutes. It is streaming on Disney plus.

Sunday, December 11, 2022


MRS HARRIS GOES TO PARIS is a three-star film turned into a four-star film by the both delightful and moving central performance from Lesley Manville, as well as some sharper than expected writing.  I came to the film for whimsy and froth but thanks to Manville we get something deeper and more acute in its diagnosis of post-war class snobbery.  

Manville plays a post-war cockney cleaning lady who is taken for granted and grifted on by her rich employers (Anna Chancellor - magisterially awful).  Good and ill fortune (not least her war widows pension) give Mrs Harris the money to go to Paris and buy a couture dress from Christian Dior - her heart's desire. She has to contend with the snobbery of the Dior saleswoman - an equally haughty Isabelle Huppert, but soon wins over the ladies of the sewing room, the models, and the accountant (EMILY IN PARIS' Lucas Bravo) with her good humour, good heart and ready cash.

Naturally, she gets her dress, and is the agent of romance, and all against a soft sunlit Paris that is creamy-delicious to look at.  But there's always the dark backing of reality and Mrs Harris is no fool. She knows when she's being condescended to, and to see her face crumple when a certain character pigeonholes her as a servant is to have your heart break.  The genius of Mrs Harris is that, amid the whirlwind, she never loses herself. She is proud of what and who she is, despite society's attempts to make her feel less than. And I've never felt a delightful ending more earned and joyous. 

MRS HARRIS GOES TO PARIS has a running time of 115 minutes and is rated PG. It is available to rent and own.


THE WOMAN KING is a curiously old-fashioned and satisfying action epic that brings to an untold (at least in the west) story of the Dahomey empire the same kind of sword and sandal grand sweep of films like GLADIATOR.  Director Gina

Prince Bythewood (THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES) proves to be an impressive helmer of large-scale battle sequences. Cinematographer Polly Morgan conjures up majestic landscapes and the visceral heat of the red-earthed soil.  And Terrence Blanchard gives us a score that both has orchestral majesty and the bone-stirring war-cries of native songs.  This is a film to stir us and impress us.  Just look at Viola Davis' newly jacked physique. She and her female warriors look every inch the part.  But this film also gives us real emotion and doesn't shy away from the terror of war, far beyond the typical machismo of male-led films.  When Davis' General Nansica relates how she was the victim of rape, we are with her in her trauma.  When her deputy Izogie (Lashana Lynch) and her newly trained warrior Nawe (Thuso Mbedu) are captured, we feel their peril.  Maybe this isn't such old-fashioned film-making after all.

The only thing that lets this film down is its rather wooden dialogue from screenwriters Dana Stevens and Maria Bello, and a rather thinly drawn set of antagonists in John Boyega's King and his wife. What the film posits is a callow king who is torn between taking the riches of slavery (his wife's advice) and standing up to the neighbouring Oyo tribe and diverting his own economy toward palm oil production (Nansica's advice).  Sadly the King does little but look aggrieved and his wife is a caricature rich spoiled woman.  The film could've done more to show her motivations, given that her position is actually the one that the Dahomey empire took.

THE WOMAN KING is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 135 minutes.


I sat down to MR MALCOLM'S LIST wanting to love it and left bitterly disappointed. I sat down to EMILY resenting its premise and yet loved it! Two costume dramas. Both directed by feature film debutantes.  So very different in style and ambition.

First the premise.  I hate when we have to explain genius. When we have to explain why Grammar school boy Will Shakespeare wrote so beautifully by arguing that he was actually an aristo.  When we have to explain why Emily Dickinson could write with such passion and fervour though barely leaving her virginal solitude.  The same goes for Emily Bronte. She in unknowable - her slight life barely explaining the enduring power of her savage, dark, brooding masterpiece Wuthering Heights.  And so it is tempting to modern minds to graft onto her slender biography a torrid sexual affair that speaks to her knowledge of love denied.  I hate this stuff.  But I also loved this film.

Emma Mackay plays Emily Bronte as a smart young woman full of energy and mischief and intellectual curiosity but hemmed in by Victorian provincial rectitude - not to mention the symbolism of confined corseted clothing. She loves her family but is perhaps envious of her brother being able to try his talent as an artist and writer, and angry at his dissipating himself on drink and drugs. The film posits a sexual awakening with the new curate (Oliver Jackson Cohen), who respects her intellect, encourages her to write, but is unwilling to throw off convention in continuing their love affair. 

The film is written and directed by Frances O'Connor, an actress who costume drama fans will remember for her spirited Fanny Price, quite unlike anything in Jane Austen's actual Mansfield Park. Here, she reimagines Emily Bronte as a proto-feminist proto-modern writer in a manner that feels entirely plausible and authentic. She is helped in realising her vision by Nanu Segal's stunning landscape cinematography and most particularly by Abel Korzeniowski tremendously inventive, all-enveloping, stunning score. But mostly this is about Emma Mackay, showing once again her talent and ability to bring sensitivity, intelligence and spirit to any role she touches. 

I hope to see more from both O'Connor as director and Mackay as actor. You'll know why when you get to a tour de force central scene at a seance where both Mackay and O'Connor conjure up a feeling of such intense grief and compassion and such spectral fright as to show two women really harnessing all their artistic power. This is film-making to seek out and applaud.

EMILY is rated R and has a running time of 130 minutes. It is available to rent and own.


is a regency Austen-esque self-proclaimed rom-com that is actually devoid of sexual chemistry or satire.  It sits upon the screen like a dead fish, plodding faithfully to its entirely predictable conclusion, under-written and limply acted. The only exception to this turgid tedium is Zawe Ashton's arrogant but vulnerable Miss Thistlewaite, who drives the plot and the only real attempt at comedy.  

The plot, such as it is, is out of a Sweet Valley High novel. Mr Malcolm is a fastidious but rich bachelor - think Mr Darcy.  He snubs the superficial Miss Thistlewaite so she decides to lure him into falling in love with her friend Selina, before Selina rejects HIM with her own list. The problem is that Selina and Malcolm are actually ideal for each other, and Miss T is also exposed as a snob for not accepting the courtship of Captain Ossory, who is beneath her in the social pecking order. 

I love Austen. I love Austen inspired rom-coms both high-brow and low. I love Bridgerton!  So I should be the ideal audience for this film.  I was in its corner. The indie costume drama is a rare thing and one cast in a refreshingly colour-blind way even rarer. I sat down to watch it hoping it would be brilliant.  I suspect the faults lie in two directions, as director Emma Holly Jones conjures up some lovely use of landscape and interior.  First of all, Suzanne Allain's script, based on her own novel, is very dull indeed. Second of all, Freida Pinto is hopelessly miscast and/or underwritten as Selina. She is meant to be independent of mind and a grounded, vital foil for Mr Malcolm (or so I infer).  Here she comes across as meek and milquetoast as Fanny Price.  Plus there was zero chemistry between her and Sope Dirisu's Mr Malcolm. I couldn't have cared less whether they got together or not. We get further with Theo James's Captain Ossory romancing Zawe Ashton's Miss Thistlewaite but that story isn't given time to breathe. Also, not to sound ageist, but I don't understand why a film about two young twenty-somethings is cast with late thirty-somethings?

Overall, one to avoid.

MR MALCOLM'S LIST is rated PG and has a running time of 117 minutes. It is available to rent and own.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


TAR is the obverse of SHE SAID: it is a film that has no interest in the alleged victims of sexual harassment or in those that seek to expose it.  Where SHE SAID denies the aggressor screen time and has no interest in his motivations, TAR puts the accused in every frame.  TAR is unabashedly interested in genius and the way in which it goes hand in hand with narcissism and the structures that enable that power to be abused.  TAR is a film that dares to be sophisticated and nuanced and provocative:  SHE SAID plays like a TV movie of the month with a pantomime villain and unequivocal heroines.  Maybe that’s the correct approach in the latter film because it deals with the real-life heinous crimes of Harvey Weinstein and the brave women who came forward and took him down. But it makes for a far less interesting film, sad to say.  Maybe TAR, creating a fictional and more ambitious story of abuse, can allow itself to be more slippery, and is therefore more fascinating and compelling.

The film stars Cate Blanchett in the performance of a lifetime of incredible performances. She plays the self-created worldwide star conductor Lydia Tar, currently in residence as the Berlin Phil and about to record the seminal Mahler 5.  She is leonine and masterful and imperious: striding on the world stage in her power suits.  When we meet her she is on stage being interviewed by real-life New Yorker editor Adam Gopnik, being feted for her skill. We see her artfully create the apparently artless cover art for her new recording.  She lives in luxury with her partner and adopted daughter. Her life seems infinitely curated to beauty and brilliance.

On the peripheral vision of our screen experience the cracks start to show.  Tar’s assistant and aspiring conductor (PARIS 13TH DISTRICT’s Noemie Merlant) reads emails sent from a frantic young woman - another aspiring conductor - who claims Tar tried to seduce her and then blocked her career. Who is the aggressor here? Tar claims the woman is a stalker and dismisses the messages so quickly you can almost forget they occurred, and get taken up again in the juggernaut of Tar’s professional ambition.

But then, later in the film, we see Tar cultivate a young cellist and deliberately bulldoze convention to create an amazing career opportunity for her.  Is this favouritism, sexual grooming, or just aggressive meritocracy and the bestowing of favour on an admittedly great talent? We are in ambiguity although for those who want to see it, patterns might be condemnatory.  When Tar dismisses an ageing, fading, deputy conductor, he tells her everyone knows what she does, and social media seems to confirm it.

The final act fall from grace is swift and merciless and perhaps deserved. The beauty of the film is that while we can see Tar’s flaws we also inwardly cheer at some of her politically incorrect victories.  When she censoriously destroys a young conservatoire student who casually dismisses Bach as a misogynist, viewers of my generation and mindset cheer for a champion of the dead white male Canon and not imposing anachronistic demands of their regressive values. Similarly, what parent doesn’t wish she could scare the shit out of a schoolyard bully?  

Yes, reader, I must admit that I am indeed Team Tar and to see her, a woman who controlled time, reduced to conducting against a time-track, was rather depressing to me. The triumph of mediocrity and the cancelling and constraining of genius. This is, I think rather the point of the film.  That of course one must punish abuse, but is cancelling really justice?  Should we not prosecute according to law and not on social media?  Tar was certainly guilty of being an egomania. What great conductor isn’t? But is she guilty of harassment as charged?  We will never know.

TAR is rated R and has a running time of 158 minutes. It played Venice, Telluride and Toronto 2022. It was released in the USA last month and goes on release in the UK on January 20th.

Friday, November 18, 2022


THE WONDER is one of the best movies I have seen this year: sublime cinematography and score; a breathtakingly good central performance from Florence Pugh; and a script that takes us deep into discussion with ourselves about the nature of faith and family. Kudos to director Sebastian Lelio - who seems to specialise in giving us films that interrogate and shine a light on complex female characters in tough situations - whether in GLORIA, A FANTASTIC WOMAN or DISOBEDIENCE - the latter also deeply concerned with the interactions of religious extremism and our physical experience.

The woman in question here is Florence Pugh's Libby - a Crimean War nurse and widow despatched to central Ireland to sit watch over an apparently miraculous young girl called Anna (Kila Lord Cassidy) who has sustained herself for months despite not eating.  People are already travelling from far and wide to observe this miracle, and Anna's demeanour is one of serene acceptance of her role. Her mother and father are deeply religious and resist Libby's common sense scientific injunctions to let the girl eat, even if by forced feeding.

Libby's ally in scepticism is the journalist William (Tom Burke). He bears the scars of earlier experience, just like Libby, and they find common cause against the insular town elders and priest (Toby Jones most notably and Ciaran Hinds).  

It soon becomes clear that we are living in a world where the consuming or withholding of food is a weapon and a punishment and a martyrdom. This is an Ireland not far gone from the horrors of the Famine, which touched William's life particularly tragically.  We are also in an Ireland so doused in religion that fasting takes on meaning and martyrdom, and perhaps penance. Survival by merely eating is then relegated to the profane. Modern viewers cannot help but see prefigurement of further colonial injustices with the forced feeding of hunger strikers, and their modern day self-described martyrdom. And of course, where there is religious control we are now - sadly - conditioned to expect abuse.

The highest praise goes to Florence Pugh in a performance that is full of humanity but also resolute strength and intelligence.  I also loved the real-life mother daughter combination of Elaine and Kila Lord Cassidy. The former in particular is playing one of the most ambiguous and elusive roles as Anna's mother and I am still debating her motivations.

Behind the lens we must start with DP Ari Wegner (THE POWER OF THE DOG) who creates a film of oppressive interiors where the Dark Ages of religious belief feel as though they have been manifested in a house.  This contrasts with Libby and Will walking through open wild moors allowing us to breathe for a moment.  Then we have an excellent script - written by Alice Birch who also adapted Pugh's breakout film LADY MACBETH.  The screenplay is adapted from a book by Emma Donoghue, most famous for ROOM. It is so full of layered meaning and slipperiness that I am left in awe. Last but not least we must mention composer Matthew Herbert (A FANTASTIC WOMAN) with an eery, spectral score that gives the scrupulously period film an uncanny and anachronistic feeling that hints at the subject matter that transcends the era of the film.

THE WONDER is rated R and has a running time of 108 minutes. It played Telluride, Toronto and London 2022 and is now on release on Netflix.


DISENCHANTED is a joyless, tuneless mess of a sequel that may well put Amy Adams' career to bed. Think about it: when was the last time she was the leading lady in an actual hit?  But the real issue here isn't anyone's performance (although to be sure, no-one looks like they're having a good time).  The real issue is a messy,  overly-complex script that doesn't seem to know what it wants the film to be about. 

As the movie opens, we see our fairytale princess Giselle (Adams) now married to her Manhattan lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey).  They're both over-tired and stressed parenting a new baby daughter and a surly teenage Morgan (newcomer Gabriella Baldacchino). So, they move to suburbia and meet Maya Rudolph's Malvina - the oppressively perfect mean girl who seems to run the town. At this point we think the plot is going to be about Giselle coping with the reality after Happy Ever After, and dealing with a real-life villain.  

But no. To add a needless complication and magical Macguffin we have King Edward (James Marsden) and Queen Nancy (Idina Menzel) turn up with a magic wand that Giselle uses to turn her town into a fairytale, and herself into a wicked stepmother.  This totally unanchors the plot, which is now about which mean girl will win. By the end, I think the point the movie is trying to make is that Morgan has to accept Giselle as her real mum.  But all that stuff about middle-aged and middle-class ennui seems to have been forgotten, and Malvina is presumably still harrumphing around the town scaring all in sight.

There was nothing charming or funny or wonderful about this film. It felt joyless and directionless and cheap. The quality of the songwriting was particularly disappointing. I am awarding it a sole star for the only decent and mischievous number - where Giselle and Malvina debate who is the most wicked. The rest is disposable.

DISENCHANTED is rated PG and has a running time. It is on release on Disney+.

Sunday, November 13, 2022


WAKANDA FOREVER is a film that is hobbled by its earnestly expressed grief for actor Chadwick Boseman, the T'Challa of its predecessor.  This memorialising is welcome in the early part of the film, and beautifully handled both in the Marvel opening credits and in the way iwriter-director Ryan Coogler incorporates the death of the character into its opening act.  But as we move into the film's second half, and another character dies, we realise that this movie is leaning into grief to a level that slows the pace, brings down the mood, and creates a rather mawkish and morbid end-product.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the character of Shuri, T'Challa's younger sister and science nerd.  As written by Coogler and played by Letitia Wright, Shuri spends the entire film crying and quiet. Even the final scene is of her burning mourning clothes. I feel we could have gotten to her decision to move forward and adopt the mantle of Black Panther half way through the excessively long run-time.

The claustrophobically negative atmosphere spreads to the B-plot which sees Tenoch Huerta introduced as the character Namur. He leads an underwater kingdom of mer-people who also have access to Vibranium.  Namur is pissed off that T'Challa took the decision to tell the world about its wonders and so put his own kingdom at risk of colonial exploitation from the Americans.  

I really liked Huerta's performance and the design of this kingdom but the whole plot seemed weak as fuck.  He wants to ally with Wakanda against the imperials, but tells them if they don't ally with him he'll launch war on them.  Charming! So you end up with a massive battle between the two Vibranium super-powers with the real-world power of America left on the sidelines along with all of the American characters - Martin Freeman's CIA agent, his ex-wife - a wasted Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is now his boss, and Dominique Thorne as the MIT student who invented the vibranium detector.  The fact that the latter is squeezed out of screen-time is particularly sad, as it means the movie doesn't really explore the issue of the African-American versus African experience.

I also wonder how actual Africans feel about a film where lots of African-Americans are putting on a variety of accents and an African-American writer-director is creating a version of wise oracular Africa guided by its ancestors.  Not to mention the LGB community who must be looking at the almost embarrassed way the movie hints at a lesbian relationship between Danai Gurira's general and her sidekick played by Michaela Coel.  Somehow being so embarrassed about showing a proper kiss is even worse than not having any representation at all. 

WAKANDA FOREVER has a running time of 161 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is on global release.

Sunday, November 06, 2022


I was an enormous fan the original Enola Holmes film and I’m please to report that the sequel, reuniting most of the talent in front of and behind the lens, is just as smart and funny. It’s even more pleasing that the central murder-mystery is really well-constructed, and that the movie manages to incorporate its real history of the rise of the women’s labour movement with a light touch that is genuinely moving, rather than being crude or too on the nose.

The film opens with Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) struggling to find customers who take her detecting skills seriously. In desperation she takes the case of a missing match-girl which leads to the wider mystery of why so many of these factory workers are dying of typhus and why the profits at the factory have mysteriously rocketed. This brings Enola into the path of her famous elder brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill) whose case about corruption at the highest levels of government and industry is seemingly connected with Enola’s.  

Along the way, we get to re-connect with Enola’s aristocratic love interest Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), the martial arts supremo Edith (Susan Wokoma) and of course the proto-feminist that is Enola’s mum (Helena Bonham Carter).  And of the new cast members, David Thewlis is particularly scene-chomping as the nasty policeman, Inspector Grail. We also get a marvellous cameo from Sharon Duncan-Brewster, who was so impressive as Liet-Kynes in the recent DUNE remake.

The resulting film is fast-paced and often Guy Ritchie-inspired in its kinetic fight scenes.  There’s plenty of fun and even some meta-comedy at the expense of the knowing fourth-wall breaking catchphrase “Tis I!”

The only character I can’t get my head around is Cavill’s Sherlock, playing against type because his character has far less action than the female characters. He mostly looks grave and concerned and doesn’t entirely convince in his early scene as a drunk.  It’s interesting to see that the writers have given him a sidekick - Dr Watson - in the final credits scene. Let’s see how Cavill does in a more conventional buddy-comedy role.

ENOLA HOLMES 2 has a running time of 129 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is released on Netflix today.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY***** - BFI London Film Festival - Closing Night Gala

I was not the world's biggest fan of KNIVES OUT - Rian Johnson's closed-house murder-mystery starring Daniel Craig as the detective with the broad southern drawl. I sat stony silent in a packed London Film Festival screening with the rest of the audience having the time of their life.  I thought the mystery wasn't complex or interesting and the performances fell flat for me. I just didn't get it. As a result, I had zero expectations for its high-budget sequel, GLASS ONION, and was cringing at the thought of its two-hour twenty minutes running time. 

Well reader, I can happily report that GLASS ONION is one of my favourite movies of the year!  It flew by its running time in a haze of laugh-out loud comedy; brilliantly-acted outlandish characters; and a proper mystery that's both tricksy, meta-textual and politically biting!

The movie stars Daniel Craig, once again returning as Benoit Blanc, and leaning even further into the camp of a fussily over-dressed and anachronistic famous detective in the Agatha Christie style. The new villain of the piece is Ed Norton's tech billionaire Miles Bron, clearly based on Elon Musk. He's a vainglorious fake-hippie who invites all of his old college friends to a yearly retreat, this time on his supervillain island lair.  As the movie unfolds, in good detective tradition, we realise that each of the characters needs Miles for his money or connections and has a motive to kill him. There's even a MacGuffin - a piece of a new renewable energy-producing crystal widget that is also - oh no! - rather dangerous!

The heart of the piece - or maybe its moral compass in a sea of characters that are more or less self-interested and despicable - is Janelle Monae's Andi Brand.  As the movie unfolds we discover that Andi was in fact the brains behind Miles' big invention and they haven't really spoken in years. So why has she shown up on the island? And who invited Benoit?

The first half of the movie explores the connections between the characters and leads us to the murder. The second half of the film goes back and reveals what was really happening. This might sound tedious but it's so damn clever, smart and involving I promise you it won't feel like a rehash. But I can't tell you exactly why it works for fear of spoiling the plot - so I'll just encourage you to watch.

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 139 minutes. It played Toronto 2022 and will be released on Netflix on December 23rd.


THE GOOD NURSE is a quietly brilliant investigative drama about the real-life prolific serial killer Charles Cullen. He was a nurse in New Jersey who probably murdered hundreds of patients by contaminated their IV bags. The good nurse of the title is Amy Loughren, who worked night shifts with Cullen, and helped bring him in despite struggling with severe illness, being a single mum, and the obstructions of yet another hospital's administrative team trying to palm Charlie off.

The result is a film that is focussed on Amy and her battles, in a screenplay of deep empathy and subtlety from Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917, LAST NIGHT IN SOHO). It's also a film that focusses on the flaws in the hospital system that allowed Charlie to be detected - or at least suspicions raised - but for those hospitals to merely sack him and allow him to move on to his next set of victims. It reminded me of the Catholic Church, where sex offenders were knowingly moved on to new parishes rather than being dealt with openly for fear of (among other things) the legal and financial implications. 

What we don't get from this film is Charles Cullen's life story. There is no attempt to explain why he became a prolific serial killer or what his motivation was. He remains a mystery.  That may irk some of the more sensationalist viewers, but it's the right angle I feel. It also echoed another recent Netflix film, SHE SAID, in not shying away from what it means to be a working mother, and focusing on the toll that child-rearing takes on professional women. This seems like a new and welcome trend. 

I also love how the director, Tobias Lindholm, avoids any sensationalism in a film that exists in muted night-time tones of blue and grey, and where the actors barely speak above a whisper. The restraint that Lindholm shows reflects some of the ways in which he directed his episodes of the TV show Mindhunter, but with performances even more dialled down.  Jessica Chastain, fresh from her Oscar-winning larger-than life performance as Tammy Faye Baker, couldn't be smaller and quieter and gentler as Amy Loughren. And Eddie Redmayne is incredibly contained as Cullen, reminding me of his quiet and almost vanishing performance as a murderer in the seldom-watched and even less well-reviewed SAVAGE GRACE.  This makes the moment when Cullen does lose his temper in an interrogation room the more forceful.

The result is a film of slow but mounting dread and tension. A film that moves quietly and deftly to its conclusion, and provokes us to ask not what makes a serial killer, but what makes the system that protected him.

THE GOOD NURSE is rated R, has a running time of 121 minutes, played Toronto and the BFI London Film Festival, and was released on Netflix today. 


Director Olivia Newman has turned Delia Owens best-selling southern gothic thriller into a frustratingly dull, bloodless that fails to truly interrogate southern poverty, prejudice or sexual tension. 

The heroine, Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is abandoned by her mother and siblings and left with her abusive father living in rural poverty in the North Carolina marshes. The book makes us feel the indignity of her poverty and the cruelty of the townsfolk that forces Kya to live as a hermit. But in this film the rough edges are smoothed over and her shack is expansive, sun-dappled and picturesque even before the make-over she can afford when her nature book is finally published. We never feel her hunger or otherness. 

The same goes for her interactions with the two men in her life.  Tate (Taylor John Smith) is the kind-hearted kid who teaches her to read and develop her interest in wildlife before leaving her for university - yet another betrayal in a life where everyone leaves her. Chase (TRIANGLE OF SADNESS' Harris Dickinson) is the local jock who uses Kya for sex and ends up dead with Kya defending herself in the courtroom drama framing device. In neither relationship is there any hint of sexual chemistry or emotional depth. It's all so.... plastic. 

As for the rest of the film it's so cliched it borders on offensive. We have David Strathairn phoning it in, in a pastiche of the earnest southern lawyer made iconic in To Kill A Mockingbird. And a lot has already been written about Delia Owens' treatment of the two thinly-written and earnest black shopkeepers who take Kya under their wing. It's a shame that screenwriter Lucy Alibar didn't give Michael Hyatt and Sterling Macer Jr more to do in these paper-thin roles.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING has a rating of PG-13 and a running time of 125 minutes. It is now available to rent and own.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

TILL - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 11

TILL is a handsome and earnest film that is beautifully produced, acted and lensed, but that feels so freighted by grief that it becomes almost hermetically sealed and strains at its two hour, ten minutes running time.  This is perhaps because we never know a time before grief. Even in the early scenes where Emmett Till (Jalyn Hill) and his mother (Danielle Deadwyler) are happily living in middle-class Chicago, she is on the verge of tears and paranoia that something is going to happen to her teenage son when he goes to Mississippi to visit his cousins.  The foreboding is so heavy and persistent it never lets daylight in on the family, and makes us wonder why on earth she sent him if she was that convinced her happy-go-lucky charming child was going to be met with racial violence. I am in no way blaming the character, to be clear, I am just saying that this is a film about grief from minute one. Maybe that's an accurate depiction of the black experience in 1955, or today for that matter, but it makes for a film that doesn't seem to progress. It's trapped in amber for its entire running time, and its characters are trapped with it, never evolving or progressing. Mamie Till-Mobley is a strong, weeping mother for the entire film.  Her family are supportive.  The activists and community who rally round her are fully formed and ready to spring into action.  They are all good, decent people. This is a film where the good are good and unchanging. The bad are bad and unchanging. Racism is unchanging.

So the conclusion I have come to is that this is not a feature film in the conventional sense that is dealing in the currency of plot and character development. Rather this is an event to which we bear witness. It is the literal open-casket viewing at a funeral. It must be viewed and judged in those terms, rather than as a conventional film, because it is so freighted in history that it rejects those terms.

We bear witness to the affluence of the post-war middle class black America of the northern cities.  We bear witness to the still insidious but more muted racism that pierces the affluence. We bear witness to black Americans moving out of the first class train carriages as they cross into the South. We bear witness to southern black America still picking cotton in the fields. We bear witness to Emmett Till's disfigured, mutilated body. We bear witness to a southern courtroom packed with white men in white shirts. We bear witness to the casual way in which the prosecution team dismisses Emmett Till's mum.

Bearing witness is of value, if a depressing reminder of the ages long struggle for civil rights, and this film provides a sombre historical lesson told with care and skill. 

TILL has a running time of 130 minutes and is rated PG-13.  It was released in the USA this weekend and will be released in the UK on January 23rd.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

GIULLERMO DEL TORO'S PINOCCHIO - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 11

It feels as though the theme of this year’s  BFI London Film Festival is coming to terms with the death of a loved one. Maybe with a side order of humanity versus religio-fascism. If you don’t believe me, remember this is the second film I’ve watched in the last twenty- four hours that takes a children’s story and recasts it with added violence in the midst of early twentieth century European fascism. The result is a film that is strangely full of childish enthusiasm and hope but that does not shy away from the reality of mortality, death and war. Del Toro was straightforward about its agenda when he introduced the film at today’s world premiere: it’s a film about disobedience as a virtue. And as Christoph Waltz said, there’s something worthwhile in a film about a wooden puppet who wants to be a boy, at a time when humans are being made into puppets. 

The film is depicted with the most beautifully rendered stop-motion animation that has texture and vivid colours and the most wondrous attention to detail. Our narrator is Sebastian J Cricket - never referred to with his pejorative nickname. He’s voiced by Ewan MacGregor as a rather vain but ultimately lovely little insect, and he provides much of the comedy of the film. 

We are treated to a prolonged prologue that tells us about the beloved son that Gepetto (David Bradley) lost, and after whom he fashions Pinocchio. One of the themes of the film is that one should never have to change to be loved. The narrative journey of Gepetto is that he has to learn Pinocchio for himself rather than trying to make him a good little Carlo. 

The world around our trio is one of Italy falling into fascism under Mussolini. And we have a lot of fun with innocent Pinocchio mocking "Il Dolce" and inspiring others to disobey laws that are unjust. Gregory Mann gives a sensational voice performance as the puppet - full of energy and fun and heart.  In one of the most moving scenes of the film, Pinocchio passes on the advice given to him by Sebastian - that fathers may say mean things when they fall into despair, but they don’t mean it. As in all totalitarian societies, there is no room for the personal in this Italy and poor little Candlewick (Finn Wolfhard) struggles to be the son his Fascist father wants him to be. 

As with Pixar’s SOUL there’s a fair amount of time spent in the afterlife, or underworld or whatever you’d like to call it. And this is a subtly radical world insofar as it shows that the Catholic Church is quiescent to fascism. The imperative to obey moves easily from Church to State in this film as in UNICORN WARS - also playing in this year's festival. But in Del Toro’s universe it’s the spirits of nature that have real power, and it’s a pagan elemental world that we’re living in. This is depicted in the guise of two feminine powers, both voiced by Tilda Swinto..

So the subject matter is grown-up but as with all the best childrens' films it will appeal to the adults and to the children, who have always been aware of the horrors of this world. As Del Toro said in his introduction, this is fine for children to watch, so long as their parents talk to them about it afterwards.

GIULLERMO DEL TORO'S PINOCCHIO has a running time of 113 minutes. The world premiere is at the BFI London Film Festival 2022. It will be released on December 9th.

This is not a review of DECISION TO LEAVE - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

If DECISION TO LEAVE were made by anyone other than Park Chan Wook would it have been programmed in the BFI London Film Festival?  Because let's be clear, name recognition of a former icon aside, there was precious little in the first hour of this film to indicate we were watching a film of note.

As the movie opens we discover than old Korean functionary has had a deadly accident while mountaineering.  His young Chinese widow (Tang Wei - LUST, CAUTION) is under surveillance by Korean cop (Park Hei-Il). She doesn't seem to grieve and isn't surprised by his death as he was apparently being blackmailed.  She also murdered her own mum and is on the run from the Chinese authorities.  She claims it was a mercy killing.

For the first hour of the film that's all we get. Her being opaque and him becoming obsessed with her. But zero sexual chemistry or suspense. The only actual entertainment is from the cop's comedy sidekick who suspects the widow for xenophobic reasons and literally does drunken pratfalls. 

Maybe it turned into a masterpiece of VERTIGO like plotting and LUST/CAUTION style sexual chemistry in its final hour. I didn't stick around to find out. And reading reviews I feel like this film is the Emperor's New Clothes. No matter how good the final hour was or wasn't there's no excuse for the indulgence of the first. 

DECISION TO LEAVE has a running time of 138 minutes.  The film played Cannes 2022 where Park Chan Wook won Best Director. It also played Toronto. It was released in the USA this week and will be released in the UK the following week.

SHE SAID - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

SHE SAID is a Tab A into Slot B journo-procedural that's basically a worthy TV movie.  It stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as the real-life New York Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal by convincing some of his victims to bravely go on the record.  This in turn helped trigger the Me Too movement.  Their story is clearly important, and this film straightforwardly shows the tenacity and courage - not to mention supportive husbands/fathers - needed expose a powerful rapist.

The question is whether a feature film is the right format to tell this story. Or whether THIS feature film made by this director and writer. My view is that Maria Schrader's direction is so workmanlike as to be banal, and uses a script from Rebecca Lenkiewicz that is faithful to the book, but is never gripping and doesn't move. In fact, the only truly moving part of the whole film is when they use actual real life audio of a very frightened young woman being goaded and harrassed by Harvey Weinstein into an entering a room with him even after he acknowledges that she feels uncomfortable that he touched her breast the day before. That is absolutely chilling and says more about this scandal than any re-enactment. Having seen it, I became convinced that this story would have been better told as a documentary.

As it is, we have a film that will educate those that did not read the original reporting or the book, and that has value I suppose. But this is NOT an award-worthy film except if virtue-signalling.  It's very much a made-for-TV film.

SHE SAID is rated R and has a running time of 128 minutes. It will be released in the USA on November 18th and in the UK on November 25th.

UNICORN WARS - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

Alberto Vazquez' UNICORN WARS is essentially a one-gag film, but what a gag! Cuddly Care Bears-adjacent teddy bears are fighting a brutal war against innocent looking unicorns, inspired by religious zealoutry and the belief that the unicorns have stolen the Magic Forest. Conscripted into the army, poor Gordi has body image issues and a heart of gold.  But his twin brother Azulin, resentful at being born second, is a vainglorious pyschopath whose true nature is unleashed during an army expedition into the Heart of Darkness.  While Gordi makes friends with an injured unicorn and wants peace, a brutalised Azulin becomes a tool of the religio-fascist regime. 

This is not your childhood's care bear animated series.  Vasquez makes that clear in the opening scenes that show a bear washing his balls and taking a piss.  There's a kind of infantile pleasure every time we see a bear doing something vile, like beating another bear up, or the iconic heart-design used in care bears bent to a more evil purpose.  There's also a more serious commentary on - I guess - the Spanish civil war, and every other example of religious nutters inspiring endless war and strife.  You could argue this film has the same subject matter as THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.  The most sinister character is the Catholic priest teddy bear who sends the cannon fodder teddies off to war, and watching Azulin eventually take his place as an icon of nihilistic violence.

All this takes place amidst animation that's genuinely beautiful to behold. Acid bright pinks and blues and greens - a stunning depiction of the magic forest, and a true understanding of colour and form.  I can't wait to discover more of Vasquez' work.

UNICORN WARS has a running time of 85 minutes and played the BFI London Film Festival.

Friday, October 14, 2022

INLAND - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

Fridtjof Ryder's debut feature is a slow-burning, intimitately drawn rural thriller featuring a haunting performance from Rory Alexander as an unnamed man.  He has just been released from residential treatment for mental illness and seems to be haunted by an incident when his mother left him as a child. He re-enters life living with "Dunleavy" (Mark Rylance) who seems to be a father figure who knew his mum, but not actually his dad.  As much as Dunelavy wants to tether the protagonist to the real world, his slow drip of revelations makes for increasing tension and mystery cultimating in a stunning piece of acting with Rylance' face captured, claustrophoblically filling the screen.  This is just one example of really bold and assured directorial choices from Ryder, not limited to but including stunning landscape photography, the willingness to create haunting Lynchian visuals, and a truly creepy audio track. I cannot wait to see what Ryder and Alexander do next. I haven't been this excited by a British directorial debut since Ben Wheatley. 

INLAND received its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival 2022. It has a running time of 82 minutes. 

BANSHEES OF INISHERIN - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 9

There is much to admire in Martin McDonagh's THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, but I left the screening feeling that the movie was less than the sum of its parts. I think what McDonagh is trying to do is to show us the consequences of a mental health crisis on a friendship, and to make an allegory of seemingly pointless violence to the Irish Civil War and consequent Troubles. But while beautifully shot, acted, scored and designed - and full of real belly-laughs and poignant moments - this film felt rather too casual and clumsy in its use of allegory. Indeed, at a pivotal moment of violence, I felt it had jumped the shark. I was brought out of the film and its project, and only the heart-breaking performance from Barry Keoghan brought me back in.

The film starts in media res, with Padraic (Colin Farrell) going to call for his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) for their daily pint, and being rejected with seemingly no explanation. The rest of the film covers the consequences of Colm's decision to unilaterally withdraw from what he describes as Padraic's dullness to focus on his music. But we know the music isn't the point because of what he then does to himself when Padraic fights for his love. In fact, the truth of the matter is hinted at in the confessional box at Church. Colm is in despair.

Maybe despair is the appropriate response to living on a windswept, bleak, gossipy island off the coast of Ireland in the midst of a civil war. But Colm's targeting of the warm-hearted Padraic seems cruel and unnecessary. This is probably McDonagh's point. Only Kerry Condon's literate and no-nonsense sister cuts through both men's escalatingly maddening conflict. Her honesty is a characteristic she shares with Padraic, who has no trouble in pointing out what's happening with the village idiot Dominic (Keoghan) who is actually the most sensitive and observant and heart-breaking character in the whole piece.

The movie is set on Mykonos, which brilliantly doubles for Western Ireland, and is shot beautifully by Ben Davis. Carter Burwell's score adds to the air of melancholy. The performances are uniformally strong with Keoghan and Condon arguably better than the already brilliant lead actors. I just feel that when we get to "that" moment, the movie never recovers, and the vast themes it raises are never properly interrogated. As with EMPIRE OF LIGHT, I felt that the theme of mental health was done a disservice, particularly in the character of Dominic.

In fact, I felt that a lot of the accusations thrown at Aronofsky's THE WHALE are better thrown against this film: that it's too stagey, too claustrophobic; too exploitative of physical extremity; picks up issues of mental health too lightly; is a weak film containing great performances. I felt THE WHALE was a perfect, deeply affecting whole, whereas this was to be admired but also frustrated by.

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is rated R and has a running time of 109 minutes. The film played Venice and Toronto 2022 and is playing the BFI London Film Festival. It will be released in the UK and USA on October 21st.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 8

I'm not going to waste too much time on this review: I've already lost two hours of my life to this horrendously misjudged and borderline offensive film.  I believe writer-director Sam Mendes had earnest good intentions to make a film that explored mental health, racism and the healing power of the arts but he fails comprehensively.  This may be because he'd bitten off too much, or just because he has a tendency to the banal and twee in all his films.

On the mental health front we have Olivia Colman playing a middle-aged woman in a British seaside town in the early 80s. She works in a cinema, and the action of the film will take place among the people who work there. We soon discover that she has just come out of residential care for schizophrenia, and that she's in a pretty exploitative relationship with the cinema's manager (Colin Firth). All of this is good fodder for serious drama, but I can't emphasise how unreal, fake and performed Colman's character feels.  It's a rare mis-step, and maybe it's the writing because we know Colman is a great actor. But this feels to superficial and mishandled. To quote my husband, "do NOT get me started on the mental illness, which appeared to come and go entirely for the convenience of "the plot"."

On racism, we have the displeasure of Sam Mendes trying to tell us what it was like to be a young black man during the rise of the National Front in the character of Stephen (Micheal Ward).  And to add insult to weak writing, Mendes then proceeds to photograph Stephen as an object of desire (fair play I guess, it's from Colman's character's perspective), but the way in which we have a really extended shot of him naked, running into the ocean, made me feel uncomfortable with just how he was being objectified. To quote my husband once more, Mendes' handling of racism was "crass, simplistic and condescending and worse than GREEN BOOK by a long way."

Okay, so to the healing power of the arts, something that descriptions of this film make a big deal of.  The film may be set in a cinema, but it's no CINEMA PARADISO.  The films seem pretty incidental to the action, and the "healing power" consists of Colman's character asking to finally see a film in the final 10 minutes of the movie. It feels so cheap and tacked on and lazy. If you're going to use BEING THERE, then truly use it. And if you're going to cast Toby Jones as the projectionist, then give him something to do worthy of his talent.

In the words of my husband, EMPIRE OF LIGHT ends up as a "half-baked, pretty-looking mess. Deakins made it all look lovely though, and Mendes seemingly going for lots of Kubrickian symmetical framing with slow camera pushes. Edit to the right scenes (without people or dialogue) and you have a nice screensaver."  

EMPIRE OF LIGHT is rated R and has a running time of 119 minutes. It played Toronto and Telluride 2022 and is playing the BFI London Film Festival. It will be released in the USA on December 9th and in the UK on January 13th 2023. 

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 7

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is an hilarious dark political satire directed by Ruben Ostlund of FORCE MAJEURE and THE SQUARE fame. You know its going to be good not because it won the Palme D'Or at Cannes this year, but because it's so rare for comedies to get any awards that they have to punch so far above their weight to get recognition.

The film falls into the category of post Global Financial Crisis films where - I guess the normal people? - mock the super-rich for being greedy, selfish arseholes.  It's a category that includes the phenomenally successful White Lotus and this year's surprise film THE MEAL. As a reviewer for the blog formerly known as Movie Reviews for Greedy Capitalist Bastards, I am of course one of the super-rich and thus the target of this humour. As such the film resonates differently but just as powerfully!

As the film opens we meet male model Karl at a casting, being assessed like stock at a cattle fair. There's a laugh-out-loud hilarious moment when we are told that the more expensive the clothes, the more miserable the models look. It's so clever, and true, and funnily portrayed you know you're in good hands in this film.  We then move to meeting Karl's model girlfriend Yaya, over a rather difficult meal where he comes to the realisation that she's in a relationship of convenience. They're both beautiful and it's great for instagram followers. Hey, it scores them a free holiday on a luxury yacht.

This is the meat of the film - the cast of rich rogues being ministered to by a vast staff of pretty white servers and brown people behind the scenes. There's so much truth to that, and to the entitled behaviour - for sure exaggerated here for comic effect, but not by much, in my experience.  The pivotal event occurs about two thirds of the way through when have the chance to see society upended in a Lord of the Flies type social experiment that ends in a fairly predictable but still darkly hilarious finale. 

Kudos to everyone in this ensemble cast for creating such a brilliantly macabre film. But most of all to Ruben Ostlund for his script and direction. The message is depressing and cynical but resonates: that all relationships trade sex for money; that equality is a childish fiction; and that anyone would oppress the weak if they had the chance of power. 

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is rated R and has a running time of 150 minutes. It played Cannes where Ruben Ostlund won the Palme D'Or. It is currently playing the BFI London Film Festival and will be released in the UK on October 28th. It was released in North America last week.

LAST FLIGHT HOME - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 6

LAST FLIGHT HOME is a deeply moving documentary about a wonderful man and the love and strength within an ordinary family.  That man happens to be the father of documentarian Ondi Timoner. When we meet him he is bed-ridden with a poor quality of life, but his mind is still sharp. We learn that he was an incredibly successful businessman who founded and ran a regional airline and gave his family an affluent life, until a stroke left him partially paralysed.  The "T team" of mother and kids rallied round to give him the care he needed, but he clearly feels shame at not being able to provide for them after that, and for a being a burden on his beloved life. Much of this film is about him coming to terms with his life, releasing himself from any misplaced guilt, and truly seeing and hearing the wonderful love that surrounds him. In the words of his daughter, a Rabbi, "you were not perfect, but you were a good man". We really feel that in this film.

For the family, the  pain and sadness is in coming to terms with their father's decision to end his life rather than moving into residential care. Speaking from personal experience, they are incredibly fortunate to have end of life laws that allow a person, in specific circumstances, to commit euthanasia. It's so brave to show this on screen, but hopefully influential. We see Eli Timoner say good bye, receive love, dispense advice.  We see his kids and grandkids in such emotional pain but also able to release him for his last journey.  This is a film that is so moving I felt I was in the room with the family and was openly weeping as this man - thinking of others to the last - thinking of how to fix social injustice - passed away.

I cannot express how much I admire the entire Timoner family for allowing cameras into this most intimate experience - especially Eli Timoner. The result is a documentary that is so full of humanity and honesty that it is one of the most profoundly moving documentaries I have ever seen.

LAST FLIGHT HOME has a running time of 101 minutes It played Sundance and Telluride 2022 and is currently playing the BFI London Film Festival. It was released in the USA last week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

THE WHALE - BFI Lndon Film Festival 2022 - Day 7

In all my years of attending the BFI London Film Festival I have experienced three standing ovations. The first was joyous, riotous applause for WHIPLASH. The second was, I felt, performative, and was for 12 YEARS A SLAVE. The third was last night for Brendan Fraser, in Darren Aronofsky's THE WHALE

To be sure, the audience cheered wildly for him even before the film. Perhaps this reflected an acknowledgement of everything he has been through over the past decade, and a warm gratitude that he's simply back.  Perhaps it reflected anticipation for a performance that has been widely and warmly reviewed. But I've never seen anything like the flood of warmth that rolled over the auditorium and toward Fraser before a single scene had been shown. His humility, gratitude, and awkwardness was evident.

Once the film was done, the audience stood and applauded Fraser, who alongside director Aronofsky and playwright Samuel D Hunter, had been watching with us.  Fraser moved slowly through the hall toward the stage once again, evidently moved to tears, as he had moved us to tears. He shook hands with members of the audience and when he reached the stage he took a long, deep, bow.  This is a profound moment for him, and one that is richly deserved.

I say all this to explain what happened last night - the shared communal experience of intense emotion - as an example of cinema at its finest. When a work of art can profoundly move.  I did not cry during the film, though many did. I cried seeing Fraser's reaction to our outpouring of love. 

This film is one that is so full of humanity it can feel overwhelming. A film so full of hope and empathy and persistent attempts at connection that it is incredibly uplifting. And the entire cast is outstanding.  Brendan Fraser wears heavy prosthetics to play Charlie, an online university teacher who is dealing with grief by over-eating to the point of being close to death.  He is clear-sighted, sure of his intentions, and even when confronted with crass attempts at religious redemption retains his calm patience.  Charlie is trying to reconnect with his daughter Ellie - a whipsmart, angry, fierce teenage girl portrayed by Stranger Things' Sadie Sink in what surely must be her breakout cinematic performance.  This attempt at reconciliation is eventually rumbled by Ellie's mother Mary (Samantha Morton) - a woman we think is going to be angry and mean, but is actually kind and hurt and damaged but still full of love, just like her daughter and just like Charlie and just like his best friend, Liz.  How wonderful to see Hong Chau back on our screens in a role befitting her talent, so far from the caricatured role in DOWNSIZING.  Liz sees herself as Charie's protector and guardian from anything that might cause pain in his final days, not least a young missionary played by Ty Simpkins.

What follows is a film that is raw, honest, darkly funny and thought-provoking.  Its subject matter is the hypocrisy and cruelty of religion; the way in which people self-medicate to handle rejection, anger and grief; and the need for authentic, honest, brave communication. Every character is using some form of drug to cope with life, whether Charlie's compulsive eating, Liz' smoking, Mary's drinking or the kids smoking pot. This is a film that says life is rough, but better to face it truthfully and to have the courage to let love in.  All of that is encapsulated in the performance of a liftetime from Fraser - a performance of bravery, nuance and good humour - and one that deeply connected with the audience. 

THE WHALE has a running tie of 117 minutes It played Venice and Toronto 2022 and is playing the BFI London Film Festival It will be released in the USA on December 9th.