This film is about choosing a direction in life and how much help you really want or need; and Life Guidance certainly needs some help choosing a direction. The beginning of the film is essentially an update of Fahrenheit 451, with Alexander Dworsky (Fritz Karl) providing a Montag somewhat less flighty than Truffaut’s version, and his career choice is also a great deal more mundane – he is a futures trader at a faceless finance corporation. So very faceless that they all dress exactly the same way – which is an excellent excuse for Mader to deploy her strong and subtle use of palette to really control the tone of this film.
Biography is difficult. It’s tough to fit a life history and useful insight into the subject’s character into 90-odd minutes, and too often films about creatives are simply too long. Loving Vincent neatly solves this problem by wrapping the storytelling around van Gogh’s work itself, capturing both very neatly, and then turning the whole result into a living, breathing painting, put together by a hundred artists working over two years to create 65,000 frames. It took directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman four years of development just to figure out how to make that work, but it really paid off.
Van Gogh is famous for his character flaws, and the film uses and deals with them all to great effect. It cleverly dispenses with the ear thing REALLY early, and gets a few laughs out of it too, neatly avoiding the potential distraction. Aside from the utterly unconventional presentation, the film is essentially neo-Noir, framing the storytelling through the eyes of a close friend’s son, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth).
David Stratton: A Cinematic Life is a simple idea superbly executed: tell the history of Australian cinema through eyes of a man who is arguably its most famous critic. Sally Aitken’s film is a fascinating portrait of one man’s passion for film, a love letter to his adopted country (Stratton was born into a conservative middle-class family in Trowbridge, Wiltshire).and how a national cinema gained maturity and global acclaim.
My Generation is Michael Caine’s personal take on the swinging sixties; the decade that brought fame and success for many working-class upstarts in the world of film, music, fashion and the visual arts. As one of the film’s producers, Caine works with documentarian David Batty and screenwriters Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement to weave a portrait of a decade for which the term “unreliable narrator” seems to have been invented.
Cargo is the remarkably confident and moving debut of Belgian writer/director Gilles Coulier. With a natural gift for dramatic realism, Coulier puts the viewer in the centre of a battered, but not beaten family of 3 brothers trying to keep their trawling business alive off the Northern European coast. When their father has a stroke during a particularly rough voyage, the brothers are confronted with the harsh reality that the business is overwhelmed by debt. The oldest brother puts the trawler up for sale and starts to drive a freight truck. The younger brother is barely staying ahead of some loan sharks who want their money back and the middle brother is a closeted gay man in love with a refugee seeking a better life in England.
Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin might not be one of the most perfectly executed films, but what it lacks in the direction stakes, it definitely manages to make up for with its genuinely heartwarming and deeply affecting storyline. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan, the film offers a beautifully nuanced account of the story behind one of the most loved children’s books in history and the boy who became symbolic of an idyllic childhood in the English countryside in A.A Milne’s Winnie The Pooh books. Recounting the story behind the creation of all the characters who became part of most people’s childhood, the film present a flawed yet charming story arc which is certain to move its audiences to tears despite its obvious shortcoming.
In life, there are only two types of people, those who can’t see the fun or the point in rom-coms, and those who literally cannot get enough of them. Those who hate the genre will simply never get the fuss and find the whole thing rather cringeworthy at the best of time; others, like yours truly, will defend the humble rom-com until the cows come home, especially if they happen to star the brilliantly versatile and always likeable Reese Witherspoon. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Home Again is flimsy and somewhat poorly executed farce, which despite its shortcomings managed to be deeply charming and given half a chance will eventually win you over.
Hitler’s rule over Europe was nothing short of horrifying for those who lived in fear of their lives. In David Leveaux’s The Exception, those times of brutal uncertainty peer through the lens with tense ambiguity reaching beyond the facade of regimented orders to show a touch of nuanced humanity.
Set in 1940’s Holland, the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II, played with effortless fervour by Christopher Plummer, mellowing in his twilight years, hungers to be restored to his German Throne. His ever-loyal wife Princess Hermine (Janet McTeer) staunchly stands by his side, reprimanding him for his blasé attitude and his runaway opinions. With a constant threat lingering on his life through assassination attempts, Captain Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is assigned to protect him by the SS. In the midst of the household is a Dutch maid, Meike de Jong (Lily James), a firm favourite of the Kaiser who becomes entangled with a romantic dalliance with Brandt, but with the threat of a spy lurking in the town.
On the surface this bizarre little Russian film could be misinterpreted as a strange fetish tale about a woman with a tail – not just a tiny one like that of Jason Alexander’s in Shallow Hal, but a full-length animalistic tail, fleshy in colour and with a mind of its own. This emotive story ventures deeper than that. It’s a story of how single women of a certain age are perceived and the aching loneliness that envelopes its victim with the longing to just fit in.
Ambitiously, writer and director Ivan Tverdovsky has tenderly touched on the story of Natasha (Natalya Pavlenkova), a middle-aged, drably dressed woman who still lives at home with her overtly religious mother. Bullied at work by two women who are old enough to know better and should have left their mean girls spirit in the playground when they left school. When she faints at work, she is subjected to a number of hospital visits for x-rays on her tail, raising her hopes that she could finally be able to do something about the one thing that has impacted her sad and lonely life.