Supernova – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth, Pippa Haywood and Peter Macqueen
Written and Directed by Harry Macqueen
Length: 94mins

The story of an aging couple facing the challenges brought on by a cruel disease, ‘Supernova’ has graced the cinema screen quietly, but with warmth and a lot of heart. Led by established performers Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth, it provides a look at humanity in a way you can’t help but empathise with.

Although ‘Supernova’ may not burn as brightly as its titular dying star, Stanley Tucci fills the role of a different kind of dying star with tenderness and precision, in a performance that some might describe as career defining. A small scale story when compared to his previous work, ‘Supernova’ strips back the complexity of expansive casts and extreme dramatics, focussing instead on the deep connection experienced by the films lead characters as they navigate the heartbreakingly difficult process which has come from Tusker’s deteriorating mental state, in a role brilliantly played by Tucci. His approach to such a character can be described as both nothing more and nothing less than human, interacting with loved ones in a manner that seems fitting more for real life than the big screen. As a result, the relationship established both between Tusker and his partner Sam, as well as Tusker and the audience feels completely genuine, as if we are simply distant onlookers in each scene rather than a collective audience searching for a clear story and resolution. His matter-of-fact approach to the unavoidable consequence which he faces is something which any audience will be able to relate to, as Tusker puts on a brave face for the benefit of those around him, only hinting at the type of pain he’s experiencing, rather than showing it in detail – another reason why ‘Supernova’ deserves its praise as human and touching. 

Sharing the current cinema bill with ‘The Father’, another film which excellently dissects the experiences of an older man suffering from dementia-like symptoms, ‘Supernova’ may not receive as much acclaim, but it sets out to tell its story in a very different manner. The film draws you into its ninety minute character study and works to emphasise the excellent performances from Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth throughout, rather than looking to push the boundaries of what filmmaking can be. It’s cinematography, editing and score all benefit the film, but ultimately they’re the distant harmonies which exclusively work to strengthen the leading melody supplied by Tucci and Firth. It may not be a film for the history books, but when the audience are settled in their cinema seats, it’s effect throughout its runtime is undeniably powerful, drawing you into a portrait of two men’s lives who enjoy the same simple pleasures as ourselves, and who are just looking to make the best they can out of a bad situation.

Although it’s subject matter may be heavier than most films showing at the minute, there is so much to be enjoyed within ‘Supernova’. The moments of heartbreak and loss are counterbalanced by the simple pleasures shared between its characters, from looking up at the stars with childlike wonder, to making new memories with the person you care for most in the world. It’s definitely a film to bring some tissues along to, but also one that shouldn’t be missed.

Dream Horse – Review

Rating: PG Cast: Toni Collette, Owen Teale, Damian Lewis, Alan David and Lynda Baron. Directed by Euros Lyn Written by Neil McKay Length: 113mins

Dream Horse is based on a true story of Jan Vokes, a woman from the Welsh Valley’s who organised a community syndicate to buy a racehorse. Toni Collette stars as our leading lady and brings a warmth and determination to the character who managed to rally the locals to chip in a weekly £10 sub to save up to breed a prize mare; who they name Dream Alliance. 

Jan is a woman working two jobs just to make ends meet who becomes interested in raising a racehorse which could be both financially fruitful and fill a hole in her somewhat monotonous life. After buying a brood mare, the foal is born and the audience get to happily sit back and watch a series of nice moments. What follows is a predictable round of victories (the racing scenes are well done, including the high level of risk in the jumps) and mini defeats. The story is often delivered in dialogue which isn’t a surprise with the run time.

This story was always going to be made into a film. Dream Horse fits nicely into a typical, contemporary ‘Brit Flick’ category. It demonstrates small town community spirit, is very predictable and inevitably has a happy ending. Alongside Collette, Owen Teale plays her husband and Damian Lewis plays Howard Davies, a local tax accountant who’s passion for horse racing has created tension in his home life. This isn’t a particularly in depth story, it’s not going to challenge or provoke thought but it’s a really lovely, heartwarming watch. 

While there is nothing particularly remarkable or surprising about this movie, you can’t help but like it. Toni Collette and Damian Lewis give really solid, believable performances which must have been a nice change for the pair who recently have taken on much more gritty roles. I also thoroughly enjoyed the little sing song at the end where we see the actors singing ‘Delilah’ with their real life counterparts. Dream Horse is a bit of fun, and a good way to spend an afternoon, however, if you don’t get around to watching it you’ve not missed anything life changing. 

Another Round – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang and Maria Bonnevie
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Written by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm
Length: 117mins

After releasing almost a year ago in the US, ‘Another Round’ has finally hit the big screen in the UK. A Danish release from one of the founding directors of the Dogme movement, Thomas Vinterberg’s story of four school teachers who decide to maintain a consistent level of alcohol intoxication is a brilliant piece of both comedy and drama.

Led by seasoned performer Mads Mikkelsen, ‘Another Round’ boasts brilliant performances from all four of it’s leading actors. However, Mikkelsen is a particular stand out, bringing his character and the range of emotions he goes through to life in a way that captivates the audience and draws them into the story. There’s a sense of believability  which is maintained throughout, as if there really could have been four teachers who decided they’d keep up a 0.05% Blood-Alcohol Content level just to improve their lessons. Although this authenticity is helped by the directors roots in the Dogme 95 manifesto, a film movement which focused solely on story, and cast aside any special effects or elaborate technology, I feel that it’s the relationship between the performers which truly brings the story to life. The way they both endure hardships and celebrate success is an essential part of ‘Another Round’, and one of the main reasons it’s such a great film.

Although alcoholism is often utilised in the comedy genre to spur characters into more erratic and extravagant situations, there is also a much darker side to the topic which films have been known to explore with a sense of drama and severity which generally brings down the mood of an audience fairly quickly. ‘Another Round’ strikes a balance between these two extremes perfectly, showing both the entertaining and more serious sides of the four teacher’s experiment. Structurally, the film delivers these contrasting moments with great precision, building and releasing tension in a way which captures the audience’s attention, without ever feeling predictable or gratuitous. 

One of the most fitting adjectives for ‘Another Round’ would have to be ‘fun’. Despite dealing with the heavy topics previously mentioned, there are some brilliant moments of humour, as well as dancing and affection shown in a way which almost makes you want to stand up from your seat and join in the celebrations.

Although Vinterberg’s films may not be the most elaborate in terms of cinematography or sound design, everything seen and heard is there for a reason, and works to strengthen the story being told. Despite the school environment having a fairly cold aesthetic, the life that the four teachers bring to their students when beginning their experiment contrasts such a depiction, and reinforces this idea of going against the rules.

Now that ‘Another Round’ is out in UK cinemas and across the world, I would highly recommend giving it a chance. It’s one of the most artfully put together films so far this year, but also one of the most fun. Mads Mikkelsen is as great as ever, and every other part of the film is just as good.

Black Widow – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz and Ray Winstone. Directed by Cate Shortland Written by Jac Schaeffer, Ned Benson and Eric Pearson. Length: 133mins

The greatly anticipated Black Widow ‘stand alone’ movie has finally hit our screens after several release delays due to Covid:19. We join Natasha Romanoff inbetween Captian America: Civil War and Infinity War to learn more about her past and what drove her to become the Avenger that so many know and love.

There was a lot to pack into the plot of Black Widow. We uncover more about who Natasha was as a child and her experiences, we discover relationships that the Marvel audience has never seen before which needed a bit of grit  and history in around them to be believable, we have a couple of ‘mini-missions’, the main ‘mission’ and the fact that Natasha is currently on the run from shield to remind our audience of where this film fits into the MCU timeline. I really appreciated how they introduced the new characters of Yelena (Pugh), Alexi (Harbour) and Melina (Weisz). It could have been quite jarring to just announce these characters but with a bit of backstory and intelligent dialogue we get a real essence of who they are and what they do, without requiring a whole load of new introductory movies. The writers managed to acknowledge the world that this film exists in without dwelling on or focussing on the action of the other MCU films, it wasn’t too intense, but gave an appropriate nod to well known characters and situations when necessary. It’s an easy, entertaining watch, scattered with plenty of humour delivered wonderfully by the immovable Florence Pugh and brilliant David Harbour.

In true MCU fashion, this isn’t a short film. As previously stated they do cram a lot in and there were no moments that I found myself checking my watch but, for me, there were certain scenes that seemed unnecessarily long which was frustrating as there are other elements that might have served the story in a different, more impactful way. There was a lot of ‘falling through the sky’, which, although impressive started to get a bit boring after a while. Dare I say it, some of the more ‘explosive’ scenes towards the end of the film, felt like they were trying to match other films rather than embrace their own direction. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Black Widow, and would absolutely watch it again. Obviously, it’s great to have a female hero in this universe and this story will only enhance peoples love for Natasha Romanov. She’s human, she’s flawed, but she’s fierce, strong and passionate and fights for what is right. What else do we want as a role model for children? One thing I would say, as cinemas are still fighting to survive after the massive blow of being shut for over a year, social distancing and limited capacity, please, go and watch this on the big screen. It was made for cinematic release and although some may find it easier to stream and watch it at home, I don’t think you’ll regret the cinematic experience for this movie. 

Oh, and don’t forget to stay until the end of the credits…

The Father – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell
Directed by Florian Zeller
Written by Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton
Length: 97mins

Led by the established and brilliant Anthony Hopkins, with recently-untouchable Olivia Colman following in his great footsteps, ‘The Father’ tells the story of a man suffering from a rapidly declining mental health which has caused severe confusion and memory loss. A difficult story to tell, with the perception of such an illness contrasting from person to person, director Florian Zeller does an incredible job – with the help of co-writer Christopher Hampton –  adapting his own stage play for the big screen.

Firstly, and perhaps the most discussed aspect of the film, it almost goes without saying that the performances within ‘The Father’ are excellent. Anthony Hopkins stole both the show and the Academy Award for his performance, with his onscreen presence feeling completely natural throughout the entire film. Taking on the role of a person suffering from such an extreme illness, any other performer being cast may have led to some uncertainty about their ability to fulfil such a role, but with Hopkins there was never any doubt about the quality of his acting. A completely natural onscreen presence, his ability to change the momentum and mood of a scene through the simplest of gestures or expression captures the audience’s attention and doesn’t let it go until the credits roll. Furthermore, Olivia Colman is also not one to be forgotten about, playing her part as a supporting character excellently. In recent years she has only shown herself as a greater and greater performer, and the patience and humanity she shows towards Hopkins’ character feels completely real.

Many films have sought to tell the story of mental illness and dementia before, with the impact it has on people’s lives often making for compelling and devastating stories. However,  ‘The Father’ stands out from this crowd by utilising the freedom which filmmaking allows to place the audience within the mind of the victim of such a cruel disease. The titular ‘Father’, Anthony, is almost exclusively the character followed by the audience throughout, with moments of confusion within his own mind reflected in the purposefully inconsistent narrative, setting and characters delivered by the filmmakers. By telling the story in this way, director Florian Zeller is able to provide just a small insight into the way the mind works when struggling with such illness, driving home a greatly impactful message about the treatment of those who suffer and the way in which they should be cared for. Seeing through Anthony’s eyes, we are able to sympathise with those who care for him, strongly dislike those who are skeptical and cruel, and ultimately wish the best for the lead character himself, as the confused role he plays within his own life is one which could be taken on by any one of us.

Adapted from Zeller’s own stage play of the same name, watching ‘The Father’ you can see just how the characteristics of theatre are carried across to the world of film. Minimal characters and settings define Anthony’s world, creating a sense of instant familiarity for the audience which only delivers greater heartbreak when they start to become confusing for our lead character. A story which needed telling on a greater scale than just the theatre, the conversion from stage to screen is excellently done.

Though not an easy watch, I highly recommend going out to see ‘The Father’. There’s a reason it’s been so well received amongst critics and audiences alike, with brilliant performances, writing and editing all ultimately contributing to an unmissable film.