VICTORIA (Germany/15A/134mins)
Directed by Sebastian Schipper. Starring Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff.
THE PLOT: One unremarkable night in Berlin, Victoria (Laia Costa) meets four men in a nightclub. Not wanting to go home just yet, Victoria goes for a drink with Sonne (Frederick Lau), Boxer (Franz Rogowski), Blinker (Burak Yigit) and Fuss (Max Mauff). When Fuss becomes to drunk to even stand, Victoria is drafted in by her new friends to drive them to a meeting… This is where the night takes the first of many unexpected turns.
THE VERDICT: If you have heard of ‘Victoria’, chances are you have heard that it is filmed in one long, continuous shot lasting 134 minutes. While this is seriously impressive and adds a certain urgency to the film, this is not the only impressive thing about the film, which is well acted, warm and engaging.
Laia Costa does a wonderful job of holding the film together in the title role. This is Victoria’s story, and it is she that we are on the journey with. Although we learn little about the character through exposition – other than she is a gifted pianist – Costa makes the character playful, fun and strong, and this, as well as the fact that she does not speak German, leaving her out in the cold from her new friends, is enough for us to root for her. As Sonne, Frederick Lau is charming and sweet, and instantly seems to care for the young woman he has just met. As the film progresses and events get out of control, Lau is protective of his new friend, which endears him to the audience. The rest of the cast do well in smaller roles.
The story, written by Sebastian Schipper, Olivia Neergaard-Holm and Eike Frederik Schulz, was scripted at just 12 pages, with much of the dialogue improvised by the actors. There are times when the dialogue seems such, with the small talk between the characters often feeling insignificant in the first half of the film. This improvisation, however, also gives the relationship between the characters a feeling of reality, awkwardness and all.
Director Sebastian Schipper keeps the film moving at a steady pace; seemingly revelling in the first half of the film, which feels very true to the reality of a night out in Berlin, before taking things down a darker past when Victoria’s new friends reveal more about themselves and their plans for the night. Although the running time is 134 minutes, the film never feels drawn out; even the slower scenes are to be enjoyed, watching these new friends become closer, and enjoy one another’s company. The second half of the film changes direction totally – even modes of transport change from bikes to cars – and although it is clear that these characters deliberately find themselves in a dangerous situation, the performances are so rounded and strong that out sympathy always lies with this gang of twenty-something miscreants.
In all, ‘Victoria’ is a testament to the power of risk-taking in cinema. The characters are relatable and warm, the story takes several unexpected turns – even as the dialogue struggles from time to time – and the idea to shoot the film in one continuous take gives the feeling that we are seeing a snapshot in time, and lends weight to the events on screen. Truly remarkable.
RATING: 4.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

MAMMAL (Ireland|Luxemburg/15A/92mins)
Directed by Rebecca Daly. Starring Rachel Griffiths, Barry Keoghan, Michael McElhatton, Nika McGuigan, Joanne Crawford, Johnny Ward.
THE PLOT: Griffith’s loner Margaret is happy to keep her circle of activity between her second-hand clothes shop, her daily dip in the local pool, and being alone in her home. Margaret hardly moves outside of her daily routines, but you feel that she may be silently running from something. And when her ex-husband (McElhatton) turns up with news that the son she abandoned all those years ago has gone missing, the news sparks Margaret into offering her vacant spare room to Joe (Keoghan), a feral teen she recently nursed back to health after finding him passed out and bleeding behind her shop.
Soon, these two losts souls are swimming ever closer to one another…
THE VERDICT: Irish filmmaker Rebecca Daly enjoys exploring the spaces inbetween, those moments where nothing is said, and everything is revealed.
It was there in her 2011 feature debut, ‘The Other Side Of Sleep’, Antonia Campbell-Hughes sleepwalking through her life as she struggled with loss in a small midlands town. And it’s there in Daly’s second feature, ‘Mammal’.
A hit on the festival circuit since debuting at Sundance last year, and co-written by Daly once again with Glenn Montgomery, Mammal is a film that offers no crashes or bangs, and only a handful of wallops (well, it is an Irish film, after all). Largely a two-hander, with some fiery support from the mighty McElhatton, the kick here is ‘Mammal”s subtlety.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

  • filmbuff2011

    Also opening this week is the wonderful Eddie The Eagle. Here’s my review:

    British actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher’s third feature after Wild Bill and Sunshine On Leith is Eddie The Eagle, a story inspired by the life of Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards AKA Eddie The Eagle – a sort-of talented ski-jumper with an unbreakable spirit.

    Ever since he was a youngster, Eddie (Taron Egerton) wanted to compete in the Olympics. It’s all he ever talks about, much to the delight of his adoring mum Janette (Jo Hartley) and his disapproving dad Terry (Keith Allen), whose only dream was to become a plasterer (and he made it a reality too). Dustin (Tim McInerney) from the British Olympics Association blocks him from entering the Olympic skiing team, as he’s just not good enough and is something of an embarrassment. That’s when Eddie comes up with the idea of trying for the ski-jumping team at the Winter Olympics. The last great British ski-jumper was in 1929 and there hasn’t been one since. With an unquenchable thirst to learn, Eddie heads to Germany to practice on the slopes and qualify for the Winter Olympics. 15m was a doddle, but Eddie predictably stumbles awkwardly on the 40m jump. This is where he catches the attention of washed-up ex-ski-jumper Bronson (Hugh Jackman), who was a champion in his day. Bronson reluctantly takes him under his wing and teaches him how to fly like making love to Bo Derek (ha-ha), whereupon Eddie gains the nickname Eddie The Eagle. That dream of competing in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada and jumping the almighty 90m might just become a reality…

    How much of Eddie The Eagle is real and how much is filler? According to a BBC interview with the man himself, he was told that the film would be mostly made up. Presumably that comes in the form of the dramatic storytelling by screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton, which props Eddie up to be an underdog with a small amount of talent trying to compete in the big league. For example, the longest jump he can maintain is 62m, yet the top rivals from Norway and Finland can manage almost twice that. That doesn’t matter so much, as a phrase is repeated that it’s not the winning that matters, but the taking part.

    That’s the key message of this unashamed crowd-pleaser, which is warmly affectionate towards Edwards, without being mocking or cynical about him. He has a heart bigger than his talent, but his firm belief in never giving up is what really comes through in the film. Playing him with a permanent look of befuddlement and childish enthusiasm, Egerton is a treat as he flaps about in front of the crowds like an eagle gaining a lot of press attention (look for a quick reference to those other underdogs from Cool Runnings). Jackman brings just the right amount of weary, boozy life experience to counter Eddie’s naive approach to his dreams. A strong supporting cast also includes Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent.

    Eddie The Eagle is a straightforward film, which cynics may scoff at for lacking depth or being too simplistic. But its simplicity is its key quality – for this film is a real winner. Fletcher’s direction is spot-on, getting just the right balance of heart, humour and ambition. He’s got the cast to back it up too. It’s hard not to be swept along by the story and just enjoy it for what it is. Its heart is so big that it sweeps away any real complaints to instead become a thoroughly enjoyable look at a sportsman with an unbreakable spirit. There’s something here for everyone to take away with them. Eddie The Eagle is undoubtedly a charmer. ****

  • emerb

    Not a huge choice this week, feel like a laugh so going to chance My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 🙂