Casey Affleck

Film Bouquets 2017

unknown-18

unknown-18

unknown-18

All things considered, 2017 was a pretty good year for film – so much so that we’ve decided to award twelve bouquets – and it still means leaving out some excellent movies. Here, in order of release, are our favourite films of 2017.

Manchester By the Sea

manchester-by-the-sea-001

This bleakly brilliant film got the new year off to a great start. Powered by superb central performances by Casey Affleck and (especially) Michelle Williams, it was a stern viewer indeed who didn’t find themselves reduced to floods of tears.

Moonlight

Unknown

An affecting coming-of-age movie chronicling the life of a young black man as he gradually came to terms with his own sexuality, this film, of course, beat La La Land to the best movie Oscar in unforgettable style. It absolutely deserved its success.

Get Out

Get Out

A ‘social thriller’ that, despite it’s serious message, enjoyed a lightness of touch that made it a joy to watch. There were shades of The Stepford Wives and this witty calling card from director Jordan Peele suggested that cinema had found a hot new talent.

The Handmaiden: Director’s Cut

the-handmaiden-2016-movie-review-chan-wook-park-south-korean-film

Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece, loosely based on Sarah Water’s novel, Fingersmith, took us into the Korea of the 1930s and kept us spellbound for nearly three hours. Lush cinematography, a genuine sense of eroticism and fine performances from an ensemble cast – what’s not to like?

The Red Turtle

RedTurtle

This stunning animation from Michael Dudok de Wit, co-produced by Japan’s Studio Ghibli,  exemplified the best artistic traditions of east and west – a beautiful allegory about life and love and relationships. A delight to watch and a story that we couldn’t stop thinking about.

Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort

Edgar Wright’s adrenaline-fuelled chase movie ticked all the right boxes – a great soundtrack, breathless pacing and an intriguing central character in Ansel Elgort’s titular hero. It all added up to an unforgettable movie experience.

God’s Own Country

GodsOwnCountry

This extraordinarily accomplished debut by writer/director Francis Lee played like ‘Brokeback Yorkshire’ but had enough brio to be heralded in its own right. Beak and brutal, it told the story of two farm hands slowly coming to terms with their growing love for each other. Magnificent stuff.

Mother!

Mother

Darren Aronfsky’s absurd fantasy alienated as many viewers as it delighted, but we found ourselves well and truly hooked. From Jennifer Lawrence’s great central performance to the film’s bruising finale, this was definitely a film not to be missed – and one of the year’s most discussed films.

Blade Runner 2049

blade-runner-2049

We waited thirty years for a sequel to Ridley Scott’s infamous film and I’m glad to say it was worth the wait – a superior slice of dystopian cinema that dutifully referenced the original whilst adding some innovative ideas of its own. Denis Villeneauve handled the director’s reins expertly and Hans Zimmer’s score was also memorable.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

the-killing-of-a-sacred-deer-ksd_02198_rgb-3000

Another piece of eerie weirdness from director Yorgos Lanthimos, this film also managed to divide audiences, but for us it was a fascinating tale, expertly told and one that kept us hooked to the final, heart-stopping scene. A unique cinematic experience.

Paddington 2

paddington2

Yes, really! The sequel to the equally accomplished Paddington was an object lesson in how to effortlessly please every single member of an audience. Charming, funny and – at one key point – heartbreaking, this also featured a scene-stealing turn from Hugh Grant.

The Florida Project

the-florida-project

Think ‘Ken Loach does Disney’ and you’re halfway there. Sean Baker’s delightful film might just have been our favourite of 2017, a moving story about the tragic underbelly of life in contemporary America. Brooklyn Prince’s performance as six-year-old Moonee announced the arrival of a precocious new talent.

Philip Caveney & Susan Singfield

Advertisements

A Ghost Story

14/08/17

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few months, you’ll already have heard about this film. It’s the one where Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck spends most of his time hidden under a bed-sheet – the one where Rooney Mara has to eat an entire chocolate pie in one take, even though she’s never actually eaten pie before… Seldom has so much information been spread in advance of a film’s release. And then there’s that killer trailer, which really raised my expectations for this.

So, is the actual film any good? Well, the answer to that question isn’t as straightforward as you might hope.

This is the story of handsome young couple, C (Casey Affleck), and M (Rooney Mara), living together in a modest clapboard house, somewhere deep in the heart of Texas. When C is killed in a car crash  – don’t worry, this really isn’t a spoiler – he somehow finds himself rising up from his death bed, cloaked in his funeral shroud. He returns to his house, where he watches in silence as M goes through a lengthy grieving process before finally moving on with her life and leaving for pastures new. C is doomed to remain tied to the house, waiting for something – we’re not sure exactly what – to happen and, as we eventually witness, he is destined to be there for eternity, even able to somehow loop back around to revisit the past.

The film unfolds at such a funereal pace, it makes a Terence Malick film seem like Fast and Furious by comparison. Indeed, at times it’s less like a motion picture and more like watching a series of still images in an art gallery. Obviously, this is no accident on the part of writer/director David Lowery, who clearly wants you to meditate deeply on the subjects of bereavement, mourning and the passing of time, but I’d be lying if I claimed that the film doesn’t sometimes test my patience to the extreme. Which is not to say that there aren’t some brilliant ideas in here. There are, but they take an inordinate amount of time to reveal themselves. The conviction remains that this could have been a brilliant short but, even at an economical 92 minutes, it drags its heels more than you’d like.

Weirdly, the images do tend to stay with you long after the closing credits, but this doesn’t feel like enough to recommend it to others. It feels to me that there’s the ghost of a very good movie in there somewhere, but it’s too tightly wrapped in its funeral shroud to ever claw its way out. Definitely a marmite film, this, and I’m already bracing myself to hear from those who will inevitably jump to its defence. But I was left wanting more. And that makes A Ghost Story a major disappointment.

2.5 stars

Philip Caveney

Manchester by the Sea

 

08/01/17

Manchester by the Sea is a bleakly brilliant film, far more original and affecting than either the trailer or a synopsis can convey. The plot is fairly conventional fodder: Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is tasked with caring for his nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), after the boy’s father dies. Lee is not really cut out for the job, and their relationship is fraught with problems, which they have to work to overcome. So far, so ordinary. But there is a rare honesty in the telling of this tale that renders it both raw and authentic, making it one of the most compelling films I have ever seen.

Casey Affleck is extraordinary. He’s closed, inarticulate and conflicted, a reserved, introverted man who’s called upon to fulfil a role he simply can’t take on. There is real pain in his performance, despite its understatement. The gradual revelation of his past trauma is beautifully handled by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, whose script is clearly a gift for the actors in this film.

Michelle Williams, as Lee’s ex-wife Randi, is as exemplary as you’d expect; she only appears in a handful of scenes, but her final conversation with Lee is utterly heartbreaking, without ever straying into sentimentality or sensationalism. And Lucas Hedges, as Patrick, acquits himself well too, absolutely convincing as the grief-stricken, selfish, but ultimately decent teen.

The setting plays a huge part in this movie: the wintry colours of Manchester reflecting the apparent coolness of its residents. The eventual thaw is slow and slight. The cinematography is beautiful, capturing those cold blues and greys with icy precision.

We loved Manchester by the Sea. Do try to catch it; it’d be a real shame to miss this one.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

 

 

 

The Finest Hours

MV5BNTY1MDU1NzYzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTA0MDQyNzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

21/02/16

A rare Disney vehicle that doesn’t involve animation or slapstick humour, The Finest Hours (forgettable title) is based on a true story and depicts a daring rescue mission carried out in the heart of a terrible storm off Cape Cod in 1952. In terrifying conditions, a huge oil tanker is not so much battered by the storm as actually ripped in two, drowning its captain and most of the crew, but leaving the rear section still afloat with thirty two men on board. It’s down to quietly spoken engine-room man, Ray Sybert (Casey Afflick) to take control of the situation and devise a way of keeping what’s left of the tanker above the waterline until help gets there – but in the days before GPS location existed, how is anybody ever going to find them?

Help eventually comes in the shape of handsome coastguard officer, Bernie Weber (the angel-faced Chris Pine)  who has recently become engaged to the feisty Miriam (Holliday Grainger). Having failed to save some local seamen in a recent maritime tragedy, Weber has something to prove, so despite being warned by all and sundry that he’s embarking on a suicide mission, he selects three plucky crewmen and sets off into the heart of the storm, trusting on good luck and previous experience to guide him.This would seem unlikely if it didn’t hap[pen to be true.

The Finest Hours is a handsomely mounted film, that has much to recommend it. The period detail is convincingly evoked, there are nice performances from the ensemble cast and the storm at sea sequences are suitably immersive, occasionally downright thrilling. If in the end it’s all a bit reminiscent of The Perfect Storm, it matters not one jot, because if the aims of this film were to entertain and enthral then it achieves them with ease. In what’s becoming an increasingly popular trope, the end credits show images of the real life heroes alongside their screen counterparts, allowing us to see just how faithful the filmmakers have been to their source material.

A word of warning though. Anyone planning a cruise in the near future may want to give this one a miss.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney