Reviews – New movies opening September 25th 2015

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Starring Toni Collette, Drew Barrymore, Paddy Considine, Dominic Cooper.
THE PLOT: Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been friends since they were small children, and inseparable for most of that time. When Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer, Jess does everything she can to support Milly and her young family, but at the same time, she is trying for a baby of her own with her partner Jago (Paddy Considine), which throws the two womens’ relationship into new, uncharted territory.
THE VERDICT: Written by Morwenna Banks and presumably adapted from her BBC Radio 4 play ‘Goodbye’, MISS YOU ALREADY is the story of two best friends who struggle to stay together in some of the worst days of their lives.
Toni Collette plays Milly and, as usual, is great in the role; it is clear why the two women became friends, since Milly is a force of nature with a kind heart. As the film goes on, Collette allows Milly to become more and more self-absorbed, but somehow always manages to make her actions real and believable. Drew Barrymore suffers through some seriously dowdy wardrobe choices as the kind and forgiving Jess, who eventually has some of the most powerful and heartbreaking dialogue in the film. Barrymore is strong and relatable in her performance. Paddy Considine plays Jess’ partner Jago, who is silly, kind and obviously madly in love with her, but doesn’t get much screen time. Dominic Cooper plays the sweet but rather lost Kit – Milly’s husband – with charm and grace.
Morwenna Banks’ screenplay feels personal and real for most of the film, and the issues dealt with are often the more unpleasant ones. Milly’s double mastectomy is not shied away from, nor is the challenge of explaining chemotherapy to two small children. Pitting this against the swell of new life that is happening with Jess is a clever juxtaposition, and a reminder that life always does go on, no matter how much we would like it to stop. The screenplay stumbles with the decision for the two women to head to Yorkshire, and their journey there – sound tracked by REM’s Losing My Religion – feels trite and a little strange, especially since a pregnant character suddenly starts acting drunkenly.
Director Catherine Hardwicke has created a story about a friendship ending, but an ending that is not the fault of either of the people involved. Hardwicke has coaxed real and honest performances from her cast, and does not shy away from showing the painful and heartbreaking side effects of the treatment for cancer; rather than a little frailty and some vomiting, the audience is shown the cruelty of chemotherapy in what feels like all of it’s horrific glory. While the performances are strong and the issues touched on are real, however, there are times when it is hard to marry this honest story of impending death with the hipster wonderland that these characters seem to inhabit; beautiful and unrealistic homes, a houseboat on the Thames opposite Battersea, dream jobs, and beautiful clothes, décor and people become tiresome rather quickly, and serve to undermine the seriousness of the film’s message.
In all, MISS YOU ALREADY is a touching and honest story about two friends; one facing the end of her life and the other facing a new chapter in hers. The film does not shy away from showing the true issues faced by these people and the performances are strong, but all of this good is undermined by some frankly unrealistic choices in terms of the characters’ homes, income and the world they live in.
Review by Brogen Hayes

OLDER THAN IRELAND (Ireland/PG/87mins)
Directed by Alex Fegan. Starring Bessie Nolan, Kathleen Snavely, Luke Dolan.
THE PLOT: Various Irish people who have reached 100 years of age and beyond reminisce about their lives, from the aftermath of the 1916 Rising through both World Wars, that first kiss, the arrival of television, the birth of rock’n’roll, hippies, the Pope’s visit, the arrival of RTE2 and the last kiss. Some, such as Dubliner Bessie Nolan and New York millionaire Kathleen Snavely, have plainly enjoyed quite a few rare oul’ times whilst others are merely spending each day patiently waiting in Dr. Death’s reception. All Irish life is here…
THE VERDICT: Having already turned the twee all the way up to 11 with 2013’s THE IRISH PUB, Alex Fegan puts another of our green and peasant land’s dying breed under the spotlight here, as he interviews 30 Irish people who were born before the 1916 Rising. As with THE IRISH PUB, there’s always a very real danger here that proceedings will slip into John Hinde’s ‘Creature Comforts’, as some cuddly, chucklesome old folk cough up a few golden memories and the odd vendetta, but once again, Fegan holds it together, managing to balance the magic with the tragic by keeping the hell out of the way.
With the arc of the film following the arc of a life, the 30 characters taking part get emotional about the early years and, in many cases, surprisingly hard about the latter, with more than one stating flatly that they’d rather be dead. Amidst all the flat caps, crooked teeth and conspiratorial cackles lies some deep home truths, OLDER THAN IRELAND leaving the viewer to make up their own mind where the line between bliss and piss might lie.
Review by Paul Byrne

MY MOTHER (MIA MADRE) (Italy | France/15A/106mins)
Directed by Nanni Moretti. Starring Margherita Buy, John Turturro, Nanni Moretti, Giulia Lazzarini, Beatrice Mancini.
THE PLOT: Margherita (Margherita Buy), a movie director, is trying to juggle work and her mother being bed bound in hospital. She is just about managing to cope when the star of her movie Barry Huggins (John Turturro) arrives on set, and her ordered world comes crashing down.
THE VERDICT: It is clear that former Cannes Jury President Nanni Moretti’s latest film is an incredibly personal one, but instead of doing what we might expect, and casying himself in the lead role, he has changed the role to a female part, allowing the film to speak for itself.
Margherita Buy is fantastic in the lead role, easily treading the tightrope between grief and pleasure, work and life, death and carrying on. We see the film through her eyes, and although her supporting cast are incredibly strong, it is with Margherita that the film lives and dies. John Turturro is a ball of arrogance, noise and pretentiousness as Barry, and bring some much needed levity to the film through his fictional stories, his demands and the jokes he tells that never land. Of course, he is a source of constant frustration for Margherita, but he embraces the role, speaks Italian well and generally throws the fact that life does, and must, go on into sharp relief. Giulia Lazzarini is heartbreaking as Margherita’s ailing mother, Moretti himself turns up as Margherita’s brother, and Beatrice Mancini plays Margherita’s daughter Livia.
Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo and Valia Santella’s screenplay carefully balances grief and ridiculous humour in the film, making the film feel almost painfully honest at times; there is no tragedy without joy, and there is no joy without sadness, and the two are wonderfully tangled together in the film. Without Turturro’s character, the film would fall along the lines of Amour; a woman coming to terms with the slow decline of her mother, and desperately trying to hold her life together. While the film certainly still is this, it is also screamingly funny, often seconds after a moment of true grief.
As director, Moretti has created a film that feels honest, painful and beautiful, while capturing the horrible impatience, struggle and despair that comes when life quickly spirals out of our control. The film is well paced and, although each of the actors does a fine job, this is really Buy, Turturro and Lazzarini’s film, with the latter’s final line of the film one of joy and utter heartbreak.
In all, MY MOTHER is a funny, tragic and often heartbreaking film that feels personal and honest. Buy and Turturro shine, and although there were plenty of tears shed at this morning’s screening at Cannes, there were also gales of laughter, proving that Moretti has made a wonderfully balanced film, a film that is surely a return to form for the director.
Review by Brogen Hayes

LIFE (Canada | Germany | Australia | USA/15A/111mins)
Directed by Anton Corbijn. Starring Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ben Kingsley
THE PLOT: Photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) is intrigued when he meets the up and coming actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan), and sets out to photograph the actor, knowing that there is something special about the man, something that could be invaluable for his portfolio. The trouble is that Dean is less than enamoured with the idea of having his photo published in Life magazine.
THE VERDICT: James Dean is one of the most iconic figures of 1950s Hollywood cinema, partly because of the photos that Stock eventually got, but also partly because of his tragic death at the young age of 24. Due to this legendary status, any film about the actor is bound to be problematic, but Life seems to be a movie that struggles to find a consistent tone.
There is little doubt that Dane DeHaan looks remarkably like James Dean in Life, but although his performance feels honest to some degree, it also feels forced and rather like an imitation or an affectation. There are moments of greatness, but there is a lot of overacting and scenery chewing also. Robert Pattinson hits one note throughout the entire film; never seeming to get angry, sad, happy or anything in between, just coasting along and pursuing a man who wants to be pursued. The rest of the cast is made up of Alessandra Mastronardi, Joel Edgerton, and Ben Kingsley as the head of Warner Bros Studios at the time when Dean was flirting with fame.
Luke Davies’ screenplay tries to balance out the notion that Dean and Stock were at odds with one another for most of the film, and harmony and understanding led to wonderful photographs and an advancement in both mens’ careers. This may or may not be true – who can say, 60 years after the fact – but this is the rock that the film is built on, and it’s an unsteady one. By framing the film this way, most of the running time is spent with Stock chasing Dean down, and Dean avoiding him. Since neither character seems to particularly care about anything, this nihilistic vibe spreads through the film, leaving the emotional resolution at the end to fall flat.
As director, Anton Corbijn allows the film to meander through the story, with no sense of urgency or pace. While the relationship between Dean and Stock is interesting to watch, it hinges on the creation of a visual image, which does not lead to a high level of drama, tension or emotion. As mentioned, there are some moments of greatness, but these are perhaps created since we, the audience, already know the fate of one of the central character. Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s cinematography is beautiful, however, and Anastasia Masaro’s production design makes the film feel like a true period piece.
In all, LIFE is a film about the creation of iconic images in which the images do well, but the icons suffer slightly. DeHaan over does it slightly and Pattinson plays one note; the story is interesting, but suffers through bad pacing, underdeveloped characters and an emotional payoff at the end that doesn’t actually payoff all that well.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

CAPTIVE (USA/12A/97mins)
Directed by Jerry Jameson. Starring Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mimi Rogers, Jessica Oyelowo, Leonor Varela
THE PLOT: As he is brought to court to stand trial for the rape of a former girlfriend, Brian Nichol (David Oyelowo) escapes and guns down a judge, a stenographer and a security guard in cold blood. After stealing cars to keep his cover, Nichol forces his way into the home of recovering meth addict Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) and the two spend the night facing their demons.
THE PLOT: CAPTIVE is an odd sort of film; initially reminiscent of last year’s No Good Deed, starring Idris Elba, the film quickly changes tone into a thriller, before twisting again, and becoming a redemption tale with heavy religious overtones. See told you… Odd.
The story is based on events that actually happened, but this does not do much to make the film feel any less strange or uneven. Kate Mara does well as Ashley Smith, the recovering addict who is taken hostage in her home. Although she does not really have a chance to show much range, Mara makes the audience root for her character and sympathise with a woman who is trying – and failing – to get her life together. We all know by now that David Oyelowo is a fantastic actor, and he does well enough here, although he never truly manages to make Nichols menacing or frightening, other than by merit of being physically bigger than his co-star Mara. The rest of the cast is made up of Michael Kenneth Williams, Mimi Rogers, Jessica Oyelowo and Leonor Varela.
Brian Bird’s screenplay, based on Ashley Smith’s memoir of the events that finally caused her to turn her life around, starts off like a typical police thriller. As the film goes on, however, the power of a book given to Ashley – ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ – in terms of the story, is revealed, turning this from a story of survival and fear into one about the fact that God has a purpose for us all. This is all well and good, but it also serves to draw any of the tension or suspense out of the film and, combined with the footage of the real Ashley Smith being interviewed by Oprah at the end of the film, makes the film feel twee and rather hokey.
It is obvious that director Jerry Jameson has had a long and rather successful career in TV, by the way he handles CAPTIVE. The pacing of the film works, the performances are good enough to carry the film, but everything begins to fall apart in the final act as the sense of urgency is lost, and the audience loses track of who is lying to whom. There are parts of the film that work incredibly well, but these slip away toward the end of the film, and the audience is left to fill in the blanks and close the plot holes with their imagination.
In all, CAPTIVE is a film populated with great actors who are never truly given a chance to show off their range. The pacing, story and tension fall away in the final act, only to be replaced with a false feeling belief in God and destiny, that belittles the struggles the characters go through in the rest of the film. A wasted opportunity for sure.
Review by Brogen Hayes