Emily – Review. 

Rating: 15 Cast: Emma Mackey, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Adrian Dunbar and Fionn Whitehead. Directed by Frances O’Connor. Written by Frances O’Connor. Length: 130mins. 

Emily is a loosely biographical drama about the Wuthering Heights author Emily Bronte which covers the years leading up to Brontë writing her novel, which is about cruel and haunted characters who play devastating games with love and social status. 

Frqancis O’Connor has made a really impressive debut as a writer and director with this glimpse of Emily Brontë, intelligently played by rising star Emma Mackey. It’s beautifully acted, creatively shot,  and nicely imagined. There were a few unusal moments with the editing, making scene changes a bit clunky and, at moments, questioning if there were technical glitches; but it just seemed to be harsh cuts that were used two or three times throughout. Emily manages to capture the Victorian era with a slight contemporary feel. Not modern in that post-Bridgerton sense, instead, the movie feels modern in the way it imagines Brontë’s reclusive nature and emotional swings with consideration towards trauma, depression and other possible mental health issues that we have the language for and understanding of today. The characters in the film can’t diagnose these things, but a contemporary audience will spot the signs that O’Connor subtly layers into the role, allowing it’s audience to be aware, but not let the issues detract from the progression of the story. 

 Mackey’s portrayal, excellent as it is, may be smoother around the edges and less windblown than the real thing but that’s not really a surprise, her skill seems to be so layered and each role, including this gritty, emotional period character, shows audiences her depth as a performer and I can’t wait to continue to watch her career grow. Adrian Dunbar, unsurprisingly, presents a solid character in Patrick Bronte, leaving his audiences searching for the moments of warmth and approval that the leading character spends so much of the film seeking as well. His performance allows the audience to empathise even more with the lead, which is a very generous trait for an supporting actor and also suggests deliberate and strong direction. 

While technically I think this was a good film with strong performances, and a really strong debut for O’Connor it did lack something. It’s visually quite dark, which although sounds like a small thing, it makes it a little more difficult to engage and stay focussed throughout. Some of this of course will be due to the time period and the miserable weather but it still has an impact on the audience. Personally I found it quite tricky to really invest in what was in front of us, Mackey’s Bronte isn’t particularly likeable and neither is Weightman – actually, none of the characters are very likeable with possibly the exception of Branwell, but even then it’s not an overwhelming likeability.  For me to truly enjoy a film I need to back characters to some degree and if you aren’t drawn to anything about anyone it makes the viewing experience a tricky one. My rating is purely for that reason, it’s a good film – just not for me.  

Don’t Worry, Darling – Review

Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan and Kiki Layne
Directed by Olivia Wilde
Written by Katie Silberman, Shane Van Dyke and Carey Van Dyke
Length: 123mins

An intriguing tale of an unsettlingly pleasant American utopia, an all-star cast featuring some of the biggest names in todays film and music industry, as well as a story chock full of references to great cinematic landmarks which came before – Olivia Wilde’s latest feature sets out to be an extremely promising trip to the cinema. However, audiences have experienced many different reactions to the film, and though the consensus seems to be that ‘Dont Worry, Darling’ is far from as strong a film as the director’s 2019 debut, ‘Booksmart’, there’s still a great deal to discuss.

Aside from the ambitious storyline and the twisting narrative, the first thing most audiences seem to have highlighted after stepping from the darkness of the big screen and back into daylight, is Florence Pugh. Her leading role as Alice, the doting housewife to a charming, yet traditional husband, is undeniably the film’s greatest strength. Her performance maintains a great energy and passion throughout, which is perfectly reigned in for moments for tenderness and shock. The film often acts as a test of her characters’ stability, and Florence Pugh walks this line with the grace of a ballet dancer. Harry Styles takes up the role of Jack, the aforementioned 1950’s all-American husband, despite his British origins. In truth, it would be difficult for any performer to match the talents of Pugh as their co-star, but rather than the strength of the couple together elevating the inexperience of Styles, it seems to only highlight the issue in greater detail. As charming as he may be, there’s definitely a little clunk to his movements and delivery which may smoothen out in the years to come.

‘Don’t Worry, Darling’ is a beautiful film to watch. The American suburbia which filmmakers seem to love to corrupt, remains as entrancing, yet unsettling, as ever. A repeated reference to Ridley Scott’s ‘Thelma and Louise’, pays homage to one of the greatest female-led films released, but can quickly draw the audience into making comparisons between the two, which often seems to work against ‘Don’t Worry, Darling’s’ favour. Despite this, as simply a film to take in visually, whilst you recline into the comfort of your cinema seat, there’s a great deal to love here. The sets are intriguingly detailed, the cameras capture everything with a rich warmth, and moments of unexpected thrill wash over you in captivating bursts.

In terms of story, the film sadly seems to fall completely at its own squeakily-polished feet. The first ten minutes sets up what could evolve into a captivating narrative, but very quickly begins to meander into a dull repetitiveness, only to suddenly throw everything it seems to have forgotten to mention at the audience in the final half an hour. There are moments which absolutely need to be seen to be believed, but so much potential is wasted on unmotivated actions and inexplicable storylines. Amongst the ever-confusing actions of some characters, as well as the equally unengaging plot devices which seem to pop up only to further bamboozle audiences, there may be hidden a great film, but sadly ‘Don’t Worry, Darling’ most likely won’t be remembered as one.

The Lost King – Review. 

Rating: 12A Cast: Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan, Harry Lloyd, Mark Addy and James Fleet. Directed by Stephen Frears. Written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. Length: 108mins.

In The Lost King, Sally Hawkins’s plays amateur historian-sleuth Philippa Langley who gets to butt heads with the archaeological establishment as she pursues her dream to find the mortal remains of King Richard III, as story well known to many and not too long ago… 

When Philippa reads a biography of Richard III that highlights the disconnect between his reputation and his “true” self, she resolves to set the record straight. So, after a couple of pub meetings with fellow Richard III fans, she’s banging on the doors of the establishment, seeking funding to dig up Richard’s bones, which she has become convinced lie under a car park in Leicester. 

The Lost King is an okay film – its plot is its focus and while based on true events it’s really about shining the light on a part of British history, and more importantly brings attention to Phillipa Langley and what she achieved while others took (partial) credit for her work. 

It lacks interesting characters which is fine due to the ‘point’ of the film, but I felt like the film makers were aware of this and pushed a bit too hard on some of the choices around the character of Phillipa. Obviously, I don’t know her – I hadn’t actually heard of her until watching this film, so I may be wrong, but it felt like the focal character was a woman who struggled with ME, had perhaps not been taken too seriously throughout her life but had the grit and determination to research and fight for her ultimate goals trusting her gut instinct, even when no one else was interested. While elements of this came across, the character of Phillipa was painted in a very feeble way. She came across as a bit weak, naive and the choice to include an imaginary King Richard who appears at various points throughout the film suggested mental illness to some degree, and yet this was never addressed and so I can only assume that this was a creative choice to try to add an extra ‘something’ to the film. It didn’t work in my opinion, it distracted from Phillipa’s hard work, made it a little cartoonish and didn’t really serve a purpose. 

The Lost King is filled with a top billed cast and I can’t fault the work that they did, unfortunately what didn’t work seemed to filter down from creative choices which is a shame because the target audience for a film like this would, in my opinion, have been equally happy with a basic telling of the story without embellishments or imaginary Kings. 

It’s important to recognise that with all retellings, or ‘dramatisations’ of true events there are always two sides to a story and one side will often be painted as the villain while the other a hero. As far as I can tell, real life Langley has said that she was indeed “sidelined and marginalised” by the academics, but representatives of the University have accused The Lost King of creating “an artificial narrative of a sexist, male-dominated university [by] removing all the key female academic leads”, with real life Buckley also complaining that “there is no truth to our department being under threat of closure or my job being on the line” and describes these plot points as “just nonsense”. I think the characters probably need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but focus should be on the telling of Ms Langley’s story and the incredible discovery that was made because of it.  

The Lost King is an easy and relatively interesting watch with small splashes of humour throughout. It’s not going to impact anyones life in a big way but is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, if you enjoy a true story without high drama then this is probably for you.  

Moonage Daydream – Review

Rating: 15
Featuring: David Bowie, Iman, Mick Ronson, Lou Reed, Brian Eno
Directed by Brett Morgen
Length: 135mins

The Earth’s favourite spaceman, David Bowie is perhaps one of the most untouchable prophets of the twenty-first century. The incredible output of music, performance and all-round allure which surrounded this man for nearly fifty years remains a feat of charisma which I would be hard-pressed to find comparisons with. Musically, Bowie remains an inspiration for all musicians alike, dancing from funk to punk, ambient to electronic, then back to glam rock, with a slender finger seemingly always resting upon the pulse of what the musical world needed most. Now, just over five years since his death, ‘Moonage Daydream’ seeks to relive the adventures of this singular man, with a documentary as ambitious as its subject.

The film sets out to divide the many apparitions of Bowie by decade, painting a vivid picture through sound and vision of the achievements and experiences which defined every ten years of the artists’ life. What makes for a fascinating seventies era, with the rise of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane captivating young crowds, as well as the later experimental tours of Station to Stations’ ‘The Thin White Duke,’ and Brian Eno and Tony Visconti’s incredible contributions to the music throughout the Berlin trilogy, can ultimately make the rest of the film feel as if it’s trying to summit these same peaks which formed early within Bowie’s career. Whilst there’s nothing wrong in exploring avenues of the artist’s life which stray from his musical output in later years, the film attempts to fill up these other eras with anything and everything that the man got up to, and as a result can often feel as if the narrative has lost its way amongst vaguely-strung narration and repetitive visuals. 

Perhaps the greatest thing to come from ‘Moonage Daydream’s release is the gloriously remastered visuals from throughout Bowie’s expansive career, as well as the opportunity to hear his equally expansive recordings through a cinema-sized sound system. What the film lacks in a consistency to its experimental take on a life well lived, it makes up for in its specific sequences. The early uprising of Bowie and his band at the beginning of the 1970’s, as well as his later explorations across various continents, from the beaten streets of Europe’s Berlin to Asia’s Singapore, are shown in compassionate detail, capturing the exact emotions we can only estimate that Bowie was feeling at the time, in a way which perhaps only film can truly achieve.

There’s a great film somewhere within the extravagances and meanderings of ‘Moonage Daydream’. Hidden amongst the short and equally vague voiceovers is a story of a tormented artist who took the world for his own through music, fashion, art, film and everything in between. And for the moment, the best way to have a look for yourself is to take a seat at the cinema, and let this ambitious piece of filmmaking wash over you for a few fantastical hours.