We review this week’s new cinema releases, including BOYHOOD and BEGIN AGAIN…
Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Elijah Smith, Steven Chester Prince, Bonnie Cross, Libby Villari, Marco Perella.
THE PLOT: Charting 12 years in the life of Mason Evans Jr. (Coltrane), from the age of 6 to 18, we meet our daydreaming protagonist staring up at the blue sky, Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ blasting on the soundtrack. Mason lives with his single mum (a powerful Arquette) and his smartass little sister, Samantha (a sparkling Linklater), whilst dad (Hawke) hasn’t been around for a year and a half. When Mason Evans Sr finally arrives on their doorstep, mum isn’t all that impressed. A move to Houston sparks a whole new chapter in the kids’ lives, especially when mum marries her fun-but-strict professor (Perella). The initial security, and joy of having a new brother and sister, turns sour for Mason and Samantha though when proceedings turn into This Boy’s Life. And that’s when those difficult teen years kick in…
THE VERDICT: It must have been hard not to lean towards the epic here, given the 12-year shoot and the task of charting a real coming-of-age, but Linklater knows that it’s the small details and apparently incidental moments that really tell a story. As with life itself, BOYHOOD feels endless and yet, there’s a sense that it could also end at any given moment. The boy doesn’t have to get the girl here. The separated parents don’t have to kiss and play happy families before the closing credits. Everything here isn’t leading up to the group hug.
There’s joy and there’s pain, there are little victories and embarrassing defeats, there’s the magic and the mundane, the indifference and the ecstasy – all the yin and yangs that make up this glorious, bastard life. And BOYHOOD is not just all about this boy’s life either – each of the four members of this broken family has a story to tell. Sister Samantha (Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei) goes from cheeky, pint-sized, Gertie-esque comic relief to self-conscious, awkward, sarcastic teen; dad goes from James Dean to Ned Flanders, from his slick, sick GTO to a grey, spayed minivan; mum survives a poisoned relationship or two, unwittingly putting her kids in the line of fire along the way as she progresses from dazed and confused single mum to, as all good mums do, something approaching mother earth.
There’s truth, both painful and uplifting, running all the way through BOYHOOD, the early novelty of the Michael Apted …Up approach giving way to something far closer to the fine American film tradition of capturing everyday modern families, a la Noah Baumbach’s THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. With 12 years of material, perhaps it’s understandable that the film edges towards the three-hour mark, but, for once, the buttock-numbing is worth it.
Review by Paul Byrne
BEGIN AGAIN (UK/15A/103mins)
Directed by John Carney. Starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, Mos Def, Jamdes Corden, Yasiin Bey, Cee Lo Green, Catherine Keener.
THE PLOT: Ruffalo is fallen music executive Dan Mulligan, his rather crappy day lifted somewhat when, through a drunken haze in a New York bar, he hears Brit singer/songwriter Greta (Knightley) sing one of her own compositions, having been pushed up onto the open mic stage by her bubbly buddy, Steve (Corden). We jump back to see just how crappy Dan’s day has been, and just how miserable Greta’s day happened to be too. Dan is separated from his music critic wife (Keener) and having as much joy understanding his teenage daughter (Steinfeld) as he is the music industry’s new digital age. Greta isn’t having all that much joy with love or the music industry either, her boyfriend of five years (Levine) having opted for the high life when one of his songs landed in a hit movie. Naturally, these two beautiful losers are drawn to one another…
THE VERDICT: It feels like forever that John Carney’s latest has been waiting to get a release here, but it’s only been 10 months. Just why it took Carney’s film ten months to play on his home turf might have something to do with the so-so American box-office. Whatever the reason, the wait has almost been worth it. Almost. Thankfully, the original title, CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE?, has been scrapped for something that doesn’t want to make you throw up, but given the basic plot similarities with Carney’s 2006 breakthrough film ONCE, there must have been a real temptation to call this one TWICE. After the criminally underrated Ealing alien comedy ZONAD (2009), and the under-the-radar thriller THE RAFTERS (2012), it’s perhaps understandable that the former Frames bassist would return to a world he’s very familiar with. Only trouble is, for those who have seen ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN will be a little bit too familiar.
Review by Paul Byrne
GOLTZIUS AND THE PELICAN COMPANY (UK/Netherlands/France/Croatia/IFI/128mins)
Directed by Peter Greenaway. Starring F. Murray Abraham, Ramsey Nasr, Kate Moran, Giulio Berruti, Halina Reijn, Flavio Parenti, Truus de Boer, Francesco De Vito, Pippo Delbono.
THE PLOT: Charing the life of the 16th century Dutch painter and printmaker Hendrik Goltzius (Nasr) through a series of tableaux vivants (look it up), and it’s a life that apparently featuring an abundance of putang. Which is nice. Set in 1590, and Goltzius and his crew are employed at the palace of a powerful margave (played with gusto by Abraham), the former hoping the latter will finance a printing press. That way, he can publish illustrated versions of the Old Testament as well as the works of Ovid. But how to win over his lordship? Well, sex sells, and so Glitzius sand his crew put on a live show of the Six Sexual Taboos, hitting all the particularly naughty bits in the Bible. Suddenly, everything goes a little Jersey Shore. If not downright Kardashian. With wigs on.
THE VERDICT: Peter Greenaway is very much a filmmaker you either get or don’t, you either love or hate. From the early, relatively straightforward outings The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982) and Drowning By Numbers (1988) to the more opulent and gleefully OTT offerings such as Prospero’s Books (1991), The Pillow Book (1996) and the very English director’s 1989 breakthrough, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Greenaway has always revelled in the grandiose, the gothic and the grotesque. With Goltzius And The Pelican Company, Greenaway has also embraced the grind. The amount of rumpy-pumpy on offer here may have a deep and throughful point to make, but did Greenaway really need to drive it home so hard? And repetitively? All done in the best possible taste, of course, but this porn for Bible buffs will arouse only Greenaway’s hardcore fans.
Review by Paul Byrne