Do the Right Thing – Review

Rating: 18
Cast: Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn and John Torturro.
Directed by Spike Lee
Written by Spike Lee
Length: 120mins

Not only is Spike Lee one of the coolest filmmakers out there, he represents the start of a wider movement within black cinema being brought to the mainstream that still grows stronger by the day. In 1989, Lee directed, wrote, produced and starred in what many consider to be his masterpiece, ‘Do the Right Thing.’ Although we touched on this film earlier in the week on our ‘Black Lives Matter Cinema’ post, I feel there’s a lot more to talk about with this release. Set across a single day on the hottest point of the year, tensions rise on a street in Brooklyn as various events transpire that could build into something greater and of higher stakes.

One of Spike Lee’s greatest achievements within this film is his ability to give the location character. As all of the events transpire within a fairly small area, scenes seems to run into one another, with key characters crossing by in the background of shots, as well as audiences becoming familiar with certain sets and the characters that inhabit that space. As well as this, the way in which the heat of the setting is portrayed is also done excellently. Bright colours such as reds and oranges physically demonstrate this idea, whilst the dialogue between the characters also reinforces it. It’s only as the film progresses that we can possibly re-consider these obtrusively bold shades to instead represent the violence and anger that has built up within the oppressed communities living within the area, which is the greatest issue tackled by the film.

Although the film is very much a political and radical-minded piece of art, ‘Do the Right Thing’ also carries a great amount of comedy with it. The loud-mouthed and over-the-top Boston New York stereotypes played into by Spike Lee allow for some hilarious characters and scenes to be created. Furthermore, the way the different communities can interact with one another allows for some funny scenes, although they often hide another layer of contrasting cultural attitudes which can quickly evolve into hostile scenarios.

Although a fairly mainstream release, there are some great elements of more experimental filmmaking at play. Moments of anger within the narrative are displayed outright, with various characters from each community within the neighbourhood staring down the camera and reeling off as many race-related insults as they can. Through this, Spike Lee reflects the conflict onto the audience, interrogating you and making you appreciate the hatred that is carried in each word. As well as this, a ‘love and hate’ themed monologue delivered by Radio Raheem pays homage to Charles Laughton’s 1955 Christianity-based thriller, ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ and conjures up imagery of a deeply-rooted type of love-hate relationship that has been experienced by those of colour when living in America.

Lee’s writing truly encapsulates the idea that these characters have grown up together all within a few houses of one another. The interactions are often smooth and incorporate inside jokes that physically show the viewer who is familiar with who. I’m sure that in this regard Spike Lee is drawing from his own personal experience growing up in a Brooklyn neighbourhood himself. As a result of these intricate connections within the story, it only becomes even more heartbreaking when such relationships break down as a result of racial tension that divides the neighbourhood. As is all too often the case, the ignorance towards one another’s cultures is what fuels the fire, and the police’s involvement never helps either. What Spike Lee created in 1989 sadly echoes into our modern day society, and shows that nothing much has changed. Despite this solemn idea, this film shows that we must do more to more to progress past the racist values often upheld by those in power, so that another 30 years down the line the same cannot be said.

Spike Lee is one of the greatest directors working today, and ‘Do the Right Thing’ definitely stands as his masterpiece. His work carries so much ethical weight to them that they are all worth watching (except for his remake of Oldboy). I look forward to his upcoming release ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ this summer on Netflix.

Hot Fuzz – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Paddy Considine and Bill Bailey
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Length: 121mins

In 2004, British director Edgar Wright released his comedic homage to the zombie genre in the form of ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ a brilliant and clever film that utilised the stereotypical tropes of the genre to create a film that felt completely unique. This would be the start of a three-part series of films that would each take on their own respective genre in a comedic manner, and would feature a recurring all-star cast led by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Concluded in 2013, the so-called ‘Cornetto’ trilogy (named after the recurring appearance of the ice cream in each film, with three different flavours to match the three different genres) was rounded up by ‘Worlds End,’ a take on the world of sci-fi and aliens. However, I think that the strongest of the trilogy was made in 2007, when Wright turned his attention towards the action genre, and headed to Somerset to create his ode to the blockbusters of ‘Point Break’ and ‘Bad Boys 2.’

After over-successful London Constable Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is sent to enforce the law in the idyllic rural village of Sandford – hidden amongst the hundreds of other communities just like it – he begins to find that all is not what it seems, and after taking the Chief Inspector’s son PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) under his wing, Angel begins to believe that a series of grisly accidents may not be entirely so coincidental.

To say that Wright is thorough with details when it comes to designing his films would be an understatement. Within the script, the almost constant moments of humour are often accentuated by the smallest of details that may have alluded to future scenes in the earlier moments of the film. Not a line is wasted, and as a result, a moment of dialogue from the story’s beginning will only feature further along down the line. This extreme approach to script writing is what sets Wright and Pegg (who also co-wrote the script) apart from most, as their clever understanding of what adds humour to a scene is perfectly executed throughout the entire 121 minutes.

Wright isn’t only obsessive about recurring and subtle ideas in the script that may only be caught after repeat viewings, but also within the set and sound design. Moments such as Butterman’s peak of intrigue after Angel reveals that he’s been stabbed before is punctuated by a distant ‘ca-ching’ sound of a till opening somewhere within the pub, as well a burst of laughter from a pub-goer after Angel describes it as “the single most painful experience of his life,” are the kind of moments that could be easily mistaken for simple background noise, but are actually the work of meticulous sound design at the hands of a director who understands that if he’s creating a comedy, then he can use all areas of film form to add humour to a scene.

The fanatical use of noise doesn’t just stop at the sound design. Wright’s ideas towards musical accompaniment and the action of a scene are perhaps best displayed in his later work, ‘Baby Driver’ from 2017, where not a moment of action isn’t to the beat of a song, but ‘Hot Fuzz,’ still showcases some brilliant use of music. From Adam Ant’s ‘Goody Two Shoes’ accompanying the over-enthusiastic Angel in his police training, to Dire Strait’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ accompanying a scene of tragedy after a rendition of the titular play is performed. Being aware of the relationship between sound and action is what allows Edgar Wright to create moments that flow to a beat without the audience perhaps even realising.

Aside from the later action of the film, Wright perfectly captures the life of so many small villages dotted throughout the English countryside. From the only after work activity being the Pub, to the frequent reiteration of “everybody knows everybody round here,” anyone who’s spent time in such a place will know that ‘Hot Fuzz’ perfectly depicts the repetitious and slow lifestyle of any English village. Wright himself grew up in Wells, Somerset, where ‘Hot Fuzz’ was actually filmed, and was quoted as saying “I love it but I also want to trash it.”

‘Hot Fuzz’ is one of those films that you can stick on anytime, anywhere and with anyone, and not only laugh out loud, but get something new from it every time. Edgar Wright displays his talents excellently in this film and I look forward to the release of his new film, ‘Last Night in Soho,’ sometime in the near future.

Safe Haven – Review

Rating: 12a
Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders and David Lyons
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Written by Dana Stevens, Gage Lansky (Screenplay) and Nicholas Sparks (Novel)
Length: 115mins

Safe Haven tells the story of a mysterious woman who turns up in a small town. Nobody knows who she is or where she came from as she sets about creating secluded life without significant human contact. Our leading character, Katie (Hough), is soon drawn to the appeal of ‘small town life’, including a handsome widower (Duhamel) and finds herself starting to build a life. From the first moments of the film it is clear that there is something in Katie’s past that she is running from which, of course, comes to light just as her happiness starts to fall into place. The plot is relatively interesting for a film of this standard; it’s enjoyable but not earth moving. It lacks challenge or lesson but serves the purpose of entertainment should you enjoy a romantic story.

Nicholas Sparks, known for his romance novels, has had several of his stories translated to film. The mass following of the romance novelist presents an expectation of grand gesture, love surpassing all else and films that are easy to watch but perhaps, somewhat repetitive. Having grown up watching and enjoying several of these films it didn’t surprise me that I enjoyed Safe Haven; though the basis of the film has many similarities to other Sparks movies. Though I could happily find myself watching and re-watching films based upon the novels of Nicholas Sparks I cant help but notice that they are lazily formulaic. They follow a very precise structure which makes them easy to recognise, but it is a formula that sells to the romanticised audiences rather than creates an authentic connection between character and audience.

Safe Haven carries a reminiscent feel to that of ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’, a film which expertly tells its story. It doesn’t quite achieve the same level of tension or authenticity, however it is perhaps a bridge between a younger audience starting to experience storylines of this nature to that of a slightly darker representation. It is difficult to mention a key moment of this film which pulls it from entertaining and mildly interesting through to a bit ridiculous; without a significant spoiler. The ending throws a completely unnecessary curveball which, for me, detracts from the films strengths.

I wouldn’t recommend this film as an essential watch, as previously stated it doesn’t carry any importance or particularly mind blowing filmmaking. It is however a pleasant enough film with a very particular target audience – if you have enjoyed other Nicholas Sparks film adaptations then theres a good chance that this will satisfy for an entertaining evening.

La La Land – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, J.K Simmons
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Written by Damien Chazelle
Length: 128mins

In 2016 Damien Chazelle brought the highly anticipated ‘old Hollywood’ style musical, La La Land, to the big screen. The film itself seems to have split audiences into passionate opinions of ‘love it or hate it’ and for that response in itself I think its worthy of comment. I have found it so interesting to enter into conversations with people who disagree with my own views; I would confidently say that this is one of my absolute favourite films.

Our story follows two artists in Hollywood – Sebastian, a hot headed but passionate pianist with a deep love for Jazz music and Mia, an actress, taking on the industry one audition, one rejection at a time. Their paths cross a couple of times before their conjoined story begins, but what seems to be key is that they are connected – both young people, with big, possibly unrealistic dreams. This story has a very raw feel, assisted of course by the cinematography and directorial choices, our main characters have such a normal feel about them. I find both Mia and Sebastian very easy to relate to, sharing explicit moments of vulnerability; weakness, frustration and emotion. All performed beautifully by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, both of whom received high accolades for their work including multiple nominations and awards. I feel that what this film has done so brilliantly is create something that people relate to. Mia and Sebastian express so much of human nature making it almost impossible to not connect with the characters on some level. This makes me question the impact that this level of empathy instills within it’s audience, perhaps some dislike the outcome of the story because choices made aren’t the ones they would have made? Maybe not, but it’s an interesting idea to consider.

In comparison to one of Chazelle’s previous hits, ‘Whiplash’, La La Land was an opportunity to show a whole different side to his vision and creativity. Where Whiplash is said to have been a very ‘tight’ production – heavily relying on editing with lots of shots, focussed on exact, predestined moments. La La Land was a much more ‘free’ production, relying on less shots than Whiplash but allowing time for rehearsal and regular retakes (to assist in the practicalities of syncing actors to playback etc…) I understand that there was plenty of opportunity for improvisation within the script – though the visuals were predesigned the key relationship needed a real casual essence as its driving force and so the relaxed atmosphere of two professionals, totally in character, improvising gave new layers of truth while keeping the relationship and story telling light. In considering the visual presentation on a whole you cannot miss the sheer attention to detail. Everything is so deliberate from the colour schemes, camera angles to moments of quiet and a small glance.

I’m not sure you can discuss La La Land without commenting on the music, another element that divides people. I for one was slightly confused at some peoples outrage at the use of seemingly ‘normal’ vocals. These vocals, though of an extremely high standard, rarely sound polished or like recording artists and perhaps it’s just not to some peoples taste, but I feel that, firstly; it was a deliberate choice and therefore was selected to allow for the tone of the overall story and, secondly; it still sounds great, it just doesn’t necessarily fit with the framework of modern day ‘moive-musicals’. For me, the music and the lyrics provide extra layers to the storytelling, layers that are perhaps unreachable through alternative methods. I feel like Justin Hurwitz, the films composer, has outdone himself. In the films that he’s worked on I always find myself paying attention to the music, not as a distraction, rather as another thread of the canvas so to speak. As someone without much musical knowledge I wasn’t sure i’d ever really have a ‘favourite’ composer, but I certainly do admire and respect Hurwitz’s ability to tell story through music. Each piece of music, each song is so deliberate and powerful.

This film is truly a piece of art. By nature it wont be loved and adored by everyone, but it will speak to people in different ways. I encourage you to look at this film through a slightly different lens than just ‘popping something on the tv’. Consider the films intentions, the messages hiding in each detail, in each lyric. It might teach you something about yourself or encourage something in you that you had pushed aside.

“Here’s to the fools who dream”

Psycho – Classic Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Martin Balsam.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Robert Bloch and Joseph Stefano
Length: 109mins

Often described as the greatest horror of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film ‘Psycho’ demonstrated to the world the directors power over suspense, and brought an entirely different sort of thrill to the big screen – human psychology. When office assistant Marion Craine steals a large sum of money from her boss, it seems that the Bates Motel –  a run-down establishment hidden from the nearest highway – appears as the best hiding place for her to stay the night at. However, after encountering the enigmatic and mysterious owner, Norman Bates, the night may not run so smoothly.

It’s true that this film is a landmark in Western cinema, and as a result some may say that everything that could be said about it has already been discussed, but I believe that the film provides an entirely new perspective for a contemporary audience – and one that shows Hitchcock’s work as surprisingly forward-thinking. An antagonist born from normality is exactly what scared audiences the most at the time of the film’s release, and such an idea has carried through into many of today’s modern horrors – from the self-reflective nature of Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ to the human insanity that brings about terror in Robert Egger’s ‘The Lighthouse.’ Anthony Perkins’ success as a deceitful character like Norman Bates comes from not only the strength of the acting, but also the normality brought to his actions by his regular appearance and mannerisms.

Of course, even if you haven’t seen ‘Psycho,’ most of you will be familiar with the ‘shower scene,’ a revolutionary sequence of events for cinema that featured not only a scandalous (for the time) level of explicit violence, as well as a rapid succession of cuts that delivers the threat in an unrelenting and gripping way. Despite being a big Hollywood name, Hitchcock utilises a radical approach to editing and violence within this scene to shock the audience to a greater extent, and deliver a thrill that still hits hard to this day.

Known as the master of suspense, many may associate the way Hitchcock plays out a scene to be dependent on the physical actions of the characters. Whilst this remains true for ‘Psycho’, the film also accommodates dialogue that perfectly develops the narrative and characters who inhabit this eerie world. The relationship between Norman Bates and Marion Craine is so unsettling because there is never a moment when either appears relaxed with the other. Whilst we know the reasons for Marion’s deceptively placed lies within their conversation, Norman remains a more enigmatic character, and all elements of the film re-iterate this idea. As a result, the morality of Hitchcock’s work is far more impactful, and the investment that the audience places in each character becomes of greater significance.

There’s a reason why ‘Psycho,’ is considered to be a classic, and I think that the film works as one of the greatest examples that classic cinema remains important in the modern day – influencing contemporary films and contemporary filmmakers alike.

The Legend Of Tarzan – Review

Rating: 12
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz.
Directed by David Yates
Written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer
Length: 110mins

In 2016 David Yates brought the story of Tarzan back to the big screen. Originally books, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, the story of the boy raised by apes certainly captured the attentions of a wide range of audiences; assisted, of course, by Disney’s animated musical adaptation. There have been several film versions since so why make another? This film succeeds in taking a well known story and finding a totally fresh angle. While including the charm of a childhood classic it’s full of action, romance and friendship – a true family film and perhaps a modern classic.

Part of the intrigue of this film is that it’s main story is somewhat separate from ‘the boy raised by apes’. The movie starts with the setting of the scene – the African Congo divided and King Leopold of Belgium running up enormous debts in his attempts to discover his new colonies’ riches; in desperation he sends Leon Rom (Waltz) to source the legendary diamonds of Opar who is met by a mighty tribe determined to defend their land and its heritage…or so it seems. Our first introduction to Tarzan (Skarsgard) is as John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke, a gentleman thriving in his adult life with his wife, Jane (Robbie). A whirlwind of events follow in a plot filled with a wonderful originality for a legendary story remade many times.

For those hoping for a nostalgic experience, you will not be disappointed. Though this film does lack amusing little musical numbers and talking animals, we are presented with familiarities of the legend through flashbacks and reminiscent dialogue. This movie doesn’t strike me as one that aimed for particular accolades within the film industry and though armed with a hugely talented award winning cast, it really feels like the storytelling is at it’s heart. The editing and the score fit perfectly with the essence of the overall production. This seemingly ‘simple’ approach, by simple I mean a key focus being plainly on the telling of the story, is what makes it so watchable. Through my watching and re-watching of this movie it has highlighted and elicited a desire to pull out the truth from amongst the story. Though this particular storyline was created and developed, King Leopold of Belgium and the horrors that he imposed onto the Congo were very real; slavery, exploitation, kidnap, ransom and genocide. It is my view that if a fictional story can highlight an issue enough to encourage it’s audience to research how much, if any, of it’s story is true, then it’s a vitally important tool.

Alexander Skarsgard manages to portray a truly believable character, one difficult for many in western civilisations to comprehend. Though many will understand ‘Tarzan’ to be a fictional character there are some who believe that Lord William Charles Midlan, an earl who lived in the wilds of Africa between 1868 and 1883, was the inspiration for the original story. There are many true stories of children taken in my primates and though they most likely didn’t ‘speak’ to the animals, a level of communication and learning must have developed. Fascinating scenarios that really do add to the enjoyment whilst watching a film like ‘The Legend of Tarzan’.

While the country is in lockdown this is a perfect film to sit down and watch with the entire family, with little flashes of humour, action and a whole load of originality it should capture the attention of all ages. As previously stated this film encourages research, be it into the original inspiration for Tarzan (Lord Midlan), into cases of humans taken in by animals or into the historical injustices that cover the worlds history. If one of those areas interests you I urge you to look into it and see what you can learn.

Lady Bird – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet and Beanie Feldstein.
Directed by Greta Gerwig.
Written by Greta Gerwig.
Length: 94mins.

Lady Bird is the striking directorial debut by Greta Gerwig that is assured, singular and affecting. It tells a beautifully plain coming of age story following a teenage girl called Christine (who calls herself ‘Lady Bird’) as we explore the complexities of her relationships and trials of growing up. Though I describe the story as plain, it is certainly not boring and with the absolute powerhouse of Saoirse Ronan at the helm, supported by the outstanding talent of Laurie Metcalf, there is so much for the audience to be invested in.

The opening of the movie shows a very normal conversation between a mother and daughter in the car on the way home from a college trip – both moved by a series of cassette tapes that had just come to an end and quickly escalates into a spontaneous teenage tantrum propelled by a mother who is quick to take a pop at her daughter. Straight away the scene is set – we are introduced to one of the main themes considered throughout the film, the ever changing, volatile, ups and downs of the relationship between a seemingly ‘normal’ mother and daughter. A daughter with big dreams, lacking in patience and somewhat unaware of others while wrapped up in her own plans and a mother who wants the best for her daughter but knows her temperament and is frustrated by her ignorance and lack of understanding surrounding ‘grown up problems’. The scene ends with the unexpected but hilarious moment of Lady Bird opening the car door and throwing herself out of it while still driving along, followed by the horrified screams of her mother.

The script is just brilliant, it’s so authentic and conversational whilst flipping to either hilarious moments of quick comedy or deeply saddening moments. It keeps each scene moving along nicely while showing the audience more of each character with each sentence. One of the reasons I rate this film so highly is it’s impact on me; each time I watch it I seem to focus on a different theme that is subtly woven into the plot. Thanks to Ronan’s brilliant charm, the audience very quickly empathises with her character and is invested in each challenge that she faces on a day to day basis.

In what was the first in an undoubtably long run of films directed by Greta Gerwig, we get a glimpse at the type of stories she wants to tell. We see strong but imperfect female leads, a consideration of social and economical division and a focus on human relationships; all important issues with hundreds of stories to tell. This film is an easy watch, it’s not long but it has so much to say. Completely original, refreshingly honest.

“What I really want is to be on math olympiad”
“But math isn’t something you’re terribly strong in”
“That we know of, yet”

Edward Scissorhands – Review

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Rating: 12
Cast: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianna Wiest, Alan Arkin and Vincent Price
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Tim Burton and Caroline Thompson
Length: 105mins

There may be no better treatment for distracting yourself from the uncertainty of the outside world than huddling round one evening and losing yourself in the ludicrous world of Tim Burton’s 1990 release, ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ For Edward – the shy invention of a scientist who wondered what would be the result of creating a human with scissors for hands – it isn’t his Gothic castle or any of the dark clouds which swarm it that scare him, it’s the swarm of white-picket-fence Americans that unfold around the foothills of his home.

In the title role of ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ Johnny Depp becomes completely unrecognisable from his usual quick-witted and charming roles. Hidden by a shock of black hair, the protagonist can’t help but stand out in the pastel-themed suburb that he is brought into by the overly-affectionate saleswoman, Peg (Dianne Wiest). Tim Burton clearly ensured that his set and costume designers put great emphasis on the contrasts between the two worlds that, until previously, appeared to co-exist without much notice of one another. The blind ignorance towards the Gothic mountain-topping castle that lies in the middle of a classic 50’s American suburb only adds to the satirical nature of this film, with much of the humour deriving from this strange combination.

Although much of the humour comes from the explicitly-different set design, the way Burton includes small touches to every scene not only develops the humour, but also involves deeper themes on what it is to live in such a community. Whether it be the lights of the husbands cars coming back from work signalling time for the housewives to run home after spying on Edward, or Allan Arkin’s hilariously deadpan delivery as the father of the family that takes Edward in, speaking about moral values and decency in a way that re-iterates just how oblivious he is to what is really going on around him.

In ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ it feels like we know exactly what each character is like, and can relate them to someone in our own lives who would say the same things and act in the same way as they do. We understand how they might act in each situation, and why they do, and as a result, we feel truly invested in how the narrative plays out. As the tension builds in the final act, the audience is completely invested in what will happen to each character because of how we feel as if we know them personally, which elevates the film to something with an emotional impact, rather than just a wacky comedy.

Tim Burton’s classic film is a great light-hearted and family friendly watch that is perfect for sticking on if all the family are at home together. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ serves as a brilliant couple hours of entertainment – exactly what you might need these days.

Children of Men – Review

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Rating: 15
Cast: Clive Owen, Claire Hope-Ashitey, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Written by Alfonso Cuaron, David Arata, Timothy J. Sexton, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby and P.D. James
Length: 109mins

For many of us, in time such as these when the future looks uncertain, films fulfil their role in our lives as escapism – a distraction from the unparalleled situation that we now find ourselves in. For others, times like these require an indulgence into the more post-apocalyptic world of cinema. If that’s the case for you, there may be no better film than Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 masterpiece, ‘Children of Men.’

We lay our scene in 2027 Britain, a decaying society that has found its downfall in humanity’s seeming inability to reproduce. The youngest person on the planet is eighteen, and for everyone else the future looks uncertain. Our anchor to this world rests upon the shoulders of political bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen), whose past surrounds itself more with the chaotic world of protests and riots. When he finds himself reunited with an old flame, the future of humanity is thrust upon him in the form of a pregnant young woman, and it becomes Theo’s sole purpose to ensure the woman and her child safely reach the enigmatic utopia of The Human Project.

For Cuaron, the narrative presented within his work never seems to be told directly from any exposition or dialogue, but rather the world of his films. It’s the cinematography and set design in ‘Children of Men’ that truly demonstrate the world in a more successful way than any dialogue ever could. A theme throughout most of his work, the way that his camera seems to get lost within the worlds of ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ or ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ provides a subjectivity to his work that allows for an insight into how the world plays out, even when no recognisable characters are present.

It’s undeniable that the apocalyptic state of the world within this film is messy. The background of every shot is cluttered, and the score appears to be derived almost entirely from songs that the characters play themselves, as well as the chaotic noise of their surroundings. Furthermore, the film doesn’t fall into the convention of maintaining one group of people who stay together to protect the precious cargo for the entire journey. People die, people can’t be trusted and people get lost in the mess of a world falling apart.

It’s very clear that every moment of ‘Children of Men’ has been particularly designed to convey some greater message that cannot always be articulated through language. In the music of Radiohead’s ‘Life in a Glasshouse’ and King Crimson’s ‘Court of the Crimson King’ we find reference to two periods of music that focus on an explicit message. The former provides an insight into the world’s more contemporary political climate, and the latter an examination of the tyranny that King Crimson were so infatuated with during the creation of their progressive sound in the 1960’s. Furthermore, the presence of an inflatable floating pig in one particularly scene, where a power station lies in the background, harks back to Pink Floyd’s 1977 album ‘Animals.’ Itself a take on George Orwell’s earlier novel ‘Animal Farm,’ this allows for reference to Stalin’s soviet reign over Russia from the 20’s to the 50’s – itself an examination of tyranny – and mirrors the role that the government have played within the world of ‘Children of Men.’

To conclude, though ‘Children of Men’ may not be the most uplifting film to watch during our current situation, I do believe it to be an important watch, demonstrating how in times of need, we must be there for one another. More than just an exploration into a fantasy world, the film serves to inform the viewer on how we are shaped by what it is we do for others – a true demonstration of just how powerful this medium can be.

Shoplifters – Review

Rated: 15 Cast: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Kirin Kiki, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki Written and Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda Length: 121 minutes

“Sometimes it’s better to choose your own family,” is the phrase uttered by Nobuyo Shibata, the father figure of the tight-knit family in “Shoplifters,” and it is perhaps the quote that truly summarises the message and direction of the film. Created by Hirokazu Koreeda, this 2018 release tells the story of a struggling family who take in a young girl named Yuri, after she is left out in the cold by her abusive parents.

“Shoplifters” presents a conflict in a way that encompasses the entire film. Though most explicit in the dialogue, the family’s uncertainty of whether they are morally right to take a young girl away from her parents and save her from harm is argued throughout not only the writing, but the cinematography and performances also. Thematically, the opening scenes of the film are dark and cold, as re-iterated by the characters themselves, as they wrap up to avoid the biting February months. It is here where we first encounter Yuri, the catalyst for later events in the story. This young girl is first seen on an isolated balcony, not fully visible to the father and son duo of Nobuyo and Shota. After they take her in and the story progresses, she begins to connect to this seemingly struggling but happy family. She is no longer Yuri, but sister and daughter to those around her. As the colour scheme of the film begins to lighten and more scenes are featured in daylight, the environment that the family find themselves in appears ever-comforting. The beauty found in such warmness can’t help but be experienced by the viewer also, and the family portrayed on-screen begins to feel more and more like one that you, yourself are a part of. We are shown that perhaps it is best if you choose your family.

I believe that the immersion of the film is where director Hirokazu Koreeda excels. The emphasis on the joy found in family and the connections that are made by Yuri, allow us to forget the values that support their situation. Not only is Yuri not one of Shibata’s own children, but the reason the family make it month-to-month is because of Nobuyo and Shota’s successful shoplifting. The opening scene of the film is a clear portrayal of how lucratively this father and son are able to steal from a large supermarket. In this scene however, Koreeda makes one of his most interesting stylistic choices. It becomes clear that when they shoplift, the events the audience observe are from the perspective of the young boy, Shota. The playful way that his father signals to him, the camera that rests just behind his shoulders and the delicate way that he drops his stolen goods into his rucksack all add to the idea that stealing is second nature to him. Further reasons for doubt are presented to the viewer when later, Shota tells Yuri that “school is only for children who can’t learn at home.” Furthermore, it appears to be without question that Yuri begins accompanying the father and son when they go shoplifting, and it is celebrated by the family when they are successful. Despite appearing as a loving home, we can’t help but wonder whether choosing your own family could be worse than believing in the ones we have.

I believe that an aspect which truly makes this film believable is the performances, and how these characters interact with one another. Many of the scenes take place in the family’s home, and despite being a small house for the six of them, the family shows their compassion between one another in the way that they seamlessly interact, despite their often being multiple conversations taking place, further emphasising the care that each character has for one another. As well as this, the performances by Shota (Jyo Kairi) and Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) are entirely immersive. Their characters articulate themselves in a way that seems far too old for their age, as if weighed down by the secrets that the family hides from those around them.

“Shoplifters” is a brilliant study into the morality of family and love, as well as the desperation that accompanies poverty. Hirokazu Koreeda clearly understood the message he wished to convey when creating this film, and the overall story can truly only be told by the film itself.