Saturday, 22 September 2012

A Single Man - Review


A SINGLE MAN

 
2009

15

Directed by Tom Ford

Starring Colin Firth, Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult

 
“Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.”
 

George (Firth) is an English professor at a Los Angeles school in the 1960s who decides he is unable to cope with the sudden death of his partner Jim (Goode) whom he lost a year earlier. The film takes place over the course of, what George thinks is to be his last day. He goes about preparing for his suicide in an almost ritualistic manner while continuing his daily duties.   

A Single Man is aesthetically over-awing. From the beautiful cast to the striking costume, every aspect of this movie will strike a chord with the creative souls amongst us. While some will find this level of stylisation unnecessary, others will find it breathtakingly appropriate. We need not justify Colin Firth’s acting talent, he is a true great, but this is definitely one of his strongest portrayals to date.

The 60s influence is entrenched in every shot and it’s clear that every single detail of this film has come straight from the eye of Tom Ford. The makeup, the clothes and the model-like standard of every actor would not be out of place in a high fashion magazine, and as opposed to this level of style alienating, it merely enhances what is an extremely novel perspective. Ford has brought an unusual filming style to the table, one that should not be written off. At first the candid close-ups seem intrusive and curiously distracting. Likewise the work with changing saturation ranging from near black and white to vivid colour may initially seem heavy handed; but it’s not. These techniques seem to be a subtle way of illustrating the times when George is focusing on the beauty of isolated events believing he is seeing these things for the last time. Tom Ford acknowledges the sheer beauty that can crop up in the most bleak and mundane places, to the point that there seems to be something worth appreciating in every circumstance.

But without getting carried away with the visuals, it has to be said that the plot and script writing is staggeringly good. As we proceed through George’s day and series of flashbacks all we need to learn about this man is plain to see: his relationships with others, his view of life and his reasons for living. This film isn’t about the hedonic and fleeting moments of beauty; it is a searing study of pain, loss and the torture inflicted by personal memories. Tom Ford toys with the concepts of fear, love and grief against the mundane existence of a single man. By the end of it film, it is clear that life itself is not so dull and in the most unexpected places you can find reasons to go on.

Rating: 10



Sunday, 16 September 2012

Half Nelson - Review

HALF NELSON

2006

15

Directed by Ryan Fleck

Starring Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps and Anthony Mackie


Dan Dunne (Gosling) works in a disadvantaged school where he is an engaging and unconventional History teacher. Out of school hours, a troubled social life is fuelling a drug habit which is becoming more debilitating. One night Dan's professional life becomes intertwined with his sordid affairs when a student Drey (Shareeka Epps) stumbles upon his secret. What initially seems like an unlikely relationship is perhaps not so, as they both understand what the other should stay away from.

If you ever find yourself doubting Gosling's acting ability, you need only watch this movie to affirm the fact he's a massively competent actor. He understands that real people are not one-note so his character toys with charm, vulnerability and force in a way which is far more believable than the majority of protagonists out there. Gosling, Mackie and Epps are not removed from reality and this makes the emotional backbone of the film that bit more potent.

Half Nelson is unapologetic in its ambiguity and revels in the fact the movie goes largely unresolved. But instead of being unsatisfying, it's quite the opposite. The movie carries a quiet level of elegance, subtlety and unpredictability which alludes to a real life balance between optimism and pessimism. On the contrary, the film would have felt insincere and hollow if all the ends had in fact been dealt with in a fairytale Hollywood manner.

Dunne's addiction seeps into every aspect of his life as the film progresses. The fuzzy cinematography, out of focus close-ups and shaky camera shots echo Dunne's own perspective in an inventive way. Narrative slight of hand is almost non existent in Half Nelson, this delicate approach is unorthodox because as a viewer it is unclear how you should emotionally respond and this, some could say, made it feel long winded.

This film is not original, but it stands out from other American dramas of this genre for being completely unhurried and sobering in its script, direction and acting. This may not be a film you rewatch over and over again, but it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Rating: 7




Monday, 3 September 2012

Submarine - Review

SUBMARINE

2011
 
15

Starring Noah Taylor, Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige

Directed by Richard Ayoade

 
Oliver Tate is a 15-year-old boy who makes his fiery classmate Jordana his conquest.  While he struggles with the trials and tribulations of his first real relationship he also has to contend with the fact his parents marriage is on the brink after the emergence of one of his Mum’s old flames moving in next door.

Now this film was shopped as a comedy, and while there are some, no doubt, humorous moments, Submarine seems to be more of a warm drama first and foremost. The casting is magic as Roberts and Paige are literally polar opposites while still managing to be a plausible couple. His sweet and timid advances are, more often than not, rebuked by his extroverted counterpart. And while Oliver seems to be the more sensitive one at first, we soon find out that maybe Jordana isn’t so brash after all.

But what really excells in this movie is the directorial flair of Ayoade. For a debut, this is wholly promising stuff. Set in Wales, Ayoade manages to make bleak beaches and Oliver’s ‘favourite industrial estate’ look utterly picturesque. The grainy montages encapsulate the whimsical nature of youth and the moments of arson that are captured are really unique and distinctive. Ayoade is creative with his shots too, there’s some artful breaking of the fourth wall which is all too often hammed up in movies. As well as this, his real love of the craft is illustrated through some of Oliver’s gags about zooms and crane shots in a biopic of his life and cliché moments in romantic comedies. It's inconically stylised, without being heavy handed, from the trademark duffle coats to the opening and closing credits, it's all indie and lovely.

And on a side note, Alex Turner’s original soundtrack is marvellous. Submarine is heart warming and nostalgic because the film is not too removed from youth and is from a novel perspective of future leading man material.
 
Rating: 6