Tenet – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia and Himesh Patel
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan
Length: 150mins

Over the course of the last two decades, Christopher Nolan’s name has become synonymous with the sort of mind-bending action-packed blockbusters that’ll leave you wondering what happened for the last two hours, and how soon you can see it again. But behind the grand spectacles and even grander scores, Nolan is capable of weaving a great amount of emotion into his films – a characteristic often left behind in the blockbuster genre. His latest release, ‘Tenet,’ certainly ticks some of his usual boxes, whilst also looking to expand on some more complex ideas, even by his own standards.

It’s very clear that Nolan has a fondness for complexity within his stories, whether that be the multi-layered dream states found throughout ‘Inception,’ the interwoven relationship between time and distance explored within his sci-fi release ‘Interstellar,’ or even the frequent memory loss that causes the narrative to become almost cyclical in his earlier – and significantly lower budget – film, ‘Memento.’ In this way, ‘Tenet’ smoothly fits into the Nolan catalogue as another exploration into an almost incomprehensible idea, with the focus this time resting on a variation of time travel that can’t be described in too much detail without giving away a few spoilers. Either way, this is another Christopher Nolan film that requires a great amount of attention throughout, and will probably still leave you wondering what just happened.

Many people have become critical of Nolan in recent years for his use of such complex plots – and for good reason. To challenge an audience is always encouraged, but to actively deliver a film that relies on a level of attention which can completely distract from any enjoyment of what is actually playing out onscreen is an issue that many have found to recur throughout his filmography. Of course, it could be argued that there should never be a limit on just how creative a filmmaker could be, and of course this is true, but with such relentless complexity, it’s expected by audiences that there will be enough exposition to give a fair chance of understanding what happens. Whilst Nolan’s found great success in this regard with earlier films such as ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ while still retaining a level of ambiguity that allows for intrigue on the viewers end, ‘Tenet’ seems to regard such an entry into the film’s narrative with no more than a vague disinterest. Moments of important detail are all-too-often drowned out by the overbearing score, and those that are audible come shrouded in references to philosophies and paradoxes that will generally go over the heads of most audience members – at least on a first watch. 

However, I truly believe that no one should be limited in their creativity by what those around them will make of it, and ‘Tenet’ does deliver a more sensical narrative after a repeat watch. But a film that makes sense to its audience is no less intelligent or intriguing than one that doesn’t, and In this way ‘Tenet’ appears as if Nolan has very little regard for any sort of widespread audience enjoyment, directly contrasting the very definition of a blockbuster, which like it or not, Nolan has come to be known for.

Despite all of this, there are some great moments within the film. All-round solid performances from the star-studded cast allow us to become greater invested in their characters, but is once again let down by the complete lack of any sort of emotional development. Attempts of relationships growing on-screen and playing into the narrative, which worked so well in earlier Nolan films, are completely devoid of any such care within ‘Tenet.’ The film works brilliantly as an intriguing action film, and would be greatly accepted as such if it didn’t try so hard to be something greater, without fully realising its own potential.

There’s no denying that ‘Tenet’ is an admirable feat of what can be achieved when working with the type of budgets that Nolan now has access to, and to miss such an experience would be a shame. Of course, be safe when doing so, but if you can, I would highly suggest going to see this film in the cinema, even if it is just to relive the movie magic of the big-screen experience for the first time in a good few months.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Review

Rating: PG
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis and Michael Gambon
Written by J.K. Rowling (Novel) and Steve Kloves
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Length: 141mins

After the success of the first two Harry Potter films in the early 2000’s, the rapidly growing franchise was looking to distance itself from the label of ‘children’s films,’ and instead be seen as an adult-friendly series also. In an attempt to do so, the producers turned to director Alfonso Cuarón, who at the time was fresh off the success of his latest release, ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien,’ a road trip movie that explores the sexual awakening of two teenagers when accompanied by an attractive older woman. Whilst not many people’s first choice of director for adapting a novel about a school for witchcraft and wizardry, Cuarón’s trademarks of floating, insightful cinematography and complex, fantastical characters perfectly suits the world of Harry Potter, and ultimately resulted in arguably the greatest film in the series.

‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ serves as a clear turning point for the films, and to show that the stories are descending into darker and more complex themes, Cuarón is quick to introduce the menacing characters of Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black, as well as sinister phantoms – the Dementors. Often these intriguing elements of the story are seen as the clearest moment that the franchise changes in tone, but what is also often overlooked is the introduction of some great humour into the story that injects life into films that could all-too-easily become repetitive, as well as emphasising what is at stake in the moments of darkness. Scenes such as Harry’s trip on the night bus and the directors choice to allow the cast to wear their Hogwarts uniforms however they wanted provides the film with a more light-hearted tone, and creates a better relatability between those on-screen and the audience, allowing the viewer to become better invested in the story.

As previously mentioned, Alfonso Cuarón is often cited as a modern master of storytelling through cinematography, and ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ is no exception. Often many of the locations used within the film have already been introduced to the viewer before anything important happens there. Simple moments within the narrative such as a bird flying through the grounds of Hogwarts may seem relatively unimportant in the moment, but actually introduce us to a clear layout of the school, allowing the film to flow smoothly from one scene to the next later on without having to make reference to how one location is linked to another. Furthermore, the themes of the film are often very clearly visually referenced whilst being explored within the narrative. For example, the time-turner used by Hermione and Harry allows them to travel back in the hopes of finding a way to free Sirius Black later on in the film, but as they move through the corridors in the hopes of liberation, the camera glides along behind them, only to travel through the inner workings of a giant clock, representing clearly their utilisation of such a device. This idea is later reinforced when they return from their adventure, and the camera travels back through the clock, visually articulating the journey that the two characters have just been on.

It is this clear attention to both narrative and visual detail that makes Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban arguably the greatest in the series, as well as serving as a great demonstration for Alfonso Cuarón being one of the best directors working today. Though many may label the Harry Potter series as not being for adults, this film serves as a testament to the fact that even young adult stories deserve the same level of detail and care as any others being told.

The Fugitive – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward and Julianne Moore
Written by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy
Directed by Andrew Davis
Length: 130mins

When the wife of a loving surgeon (Ford) is killed, her husband is arrested and sent to death row. During a bus crash en route to prison he escapes and the game of cat and mouse begins. A police detective (Jones) determined to catch his fugitive, and the fugitive determined catch his wife’s murderer whilst clearing his name. This film was not predicted to carry the success that it did, it was even rumoured that the actors believed the film could have damaged their careers. But with the clear, brilliant vision of Andrew Davis at the helm, a potential box office flop, turned into a smash hit and highly accoladed movie that would be considered a true classic.

The Fugitive’s success relies significantly on how plausible the action feels; though not something that you would hear in the news every day it feels realistic that the husband of a murder victim would be seriously investigated and, dependent on evidence (or lack thereof) charged. Also the fact that his ‘escape’ wasn’t a spontaneous, highly skilled prison break, but more of a grief stricken man making the most of an opportunity and driven by injustice. It’s refreshing and interesting to see an action based thriller with focal characters who are more ordinary, intelligent and successful, but still normal. It really opens up the opportunity for the audience to empathise with the situation.

The brilliance of this movie is a combination of the performances, direction and the clever editing. Harrison Ford’s character, Dr Kimble, is so interesting. Most of his performance is with just a small amount dialogue, meaning the bulk of his action is so heavily reliant on the physical transformation and portrayal, Dr Kimble speaks through his actions. Tommy Lee Jones earned an Academy Award for his work as Samuel Gerard. He is just outstanding, the audience really gets to walk through the whole situation with Gerard and it’s a fascinating watch, to have the two sides of this chase just enhances the build in suspense. The relationship between the characters is enunciated by the brilliant editing team (who also achieved Oscar nominations), the chase scenes cut between the two characters and you find that there are parallels between the two characters, making it wonderfully symmetrical. Andrew Davis, who had previously worked with Tommy Lee Jones, managed to turn a plot that could have easily ended up boring and predictable into a canvas for the two leading actors to play and push their characters, with brilliant results.

After it’s unexpected but well deserved box office success, The Fugitive has gone on to be considered a front to back classic and is timeless in it’s brilliance. It’s an exciting experience full of really brilliant moments and is well worth a watch.

The Host – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doo-na
Written by Bong Joon-ho, Baek Chul-hyun, Ha Jun-won
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Length: 120mins

Often when a filmmaker creates a work that is as highly praised as ‘Parasite,’ you can trace through their earlier work to understand how they developed their style in a way that would ultimately result in such a film. In the case of Bong Joon-ho, this is absolutely true, and his 2006 socially-aware action-adventure ‘The Host’ has all the markings of someone on their way to making a great film.

Tackling the continuously growing issue of pollution in a modern society, Bong Joon-ho utilises the format of American blockbusters such as ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Jaws’ to create a monster of his own. Born from the carelessness of American scientists in a South Korean lab, pollutants that are dumped into the Han River soon corrupt the local wildlife, resulting in one movie-antagonist sized monster. Of course, these things are never so simple, and to make matters worse this latest mutation is accompanied by a deadly virus that spreads from any contact with the creature. Following a family who run a local café on the banks of the river, we see how the carelessness of those in power can force everyday people to take matters into their own hands.

In terms of cinematography, Bong Joon-ho is on top form as usual, and between himself and director of photography Kim Hyung-koo, their ability to capture movement within a scene is unparalleled. A focus on handheld camerawork that follows the momentum of any moment allows for each character to display their reaction to a moment of tension or drama without ever distracting from the key part of the scene, which is often the actions of the monster. As well as this, the emotive range that many of the actors display allows for a great amount of non-verbal storytelling. Bong Joon-ho’s long-time friend and collaborator Song Kang-ho once again features as the father figure in the story, and his ability to display his emotions simply through changes in his facial features captures exactly what the characters are experiencing in many of the scenes. Together, the natural feel of the camerawork and its focus on capturing what each of the performers are expressing allows ‘The Host’ to stand out from many others in the genre.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bong Joon-ho film if there wasn’t a deeper meaning behind everything that’s going on, and between the origin of the monsters creation and the way in which the American media and government step in to mishandle the situation shows clear signs of an anti-western attitude from the director. In contrast to these large organisations in power, the lead family within the narrative own a small independent café that is massively effected by the choices made by those in charge, emphasising the anti-corporate ideology that the film takes on. It soon becomes clear that Bong Joon-ho feels as if elements of his home country have become corrupted by the world superpower, and that nowhere in the world is truly free from the control of the American government.

Amongst all of this, the film still manages to maintain a consistently entertaining action film, with some great moments of humour. ‘The Host’ shows itself to be an all-round great film that understands what many audiences want out of a trip to the cinema, whilst also providing a deeper and more thought-provoking message beneath its grotesque surface.

Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Rating: 12A
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens and Pierce Brosnan
Written by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele
Directed by David Dobkin
Length: 123mins

A Netflix release in the height of lockdown amidst Covid:19 fears and concerns, this film carries so much joy and silliness that helps to focus on positives amongst worrying times. Though at first glance it may look like a classic Will Ferrell comedy, surprisingly, it carries some moving moments; these moving moments intertwined with catchy songs, amusing accents, magical Elves and so much more…

Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) has always dreamed of winning the Eurovision Song Contest, with his doe-eyed childhood friend and not quite sweetheart, Sigrit (McAdams). Their band, Fire Saga, was selected at random to compete in the contest, representing their beloved Iceland. The drama that follows the pair is mostly nonsensical, but the story holds its own and keeps moving with the fun of outrageous ‘Eurovision-eque’ songs and dance routines paced throughout the film.

One of the most brilliant elements of this film is that it feels like Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele sat down to write the script and every possible hilarious idea that popped into their heads they wrote down and found a place for it to fit. There is a lot of detail in every scene, nothing is there to just connect the story and with each watch I found myself noticing more intricate choices.

What is truly lovely about this film is that amongst all of the busy, vibrant scenes are really well written characters with whom the audience can connect. Seen by most peripheral characters in the film as ‘freaks’, the performances of the lead pair are full of brilliant choices which allow the characters to feel authentic, if a little ‘out there’. Whilst some of the action is extreme, it doesn’t feel like you’re watching actors perform these characters, you are allowed into their sheltered world which encourages empathy. It almost creeps up on you as you enjoy the comedy and the silliness, then you’re hit with a moment that you can relate to in some way. With themes of perseverance, friendship and chasing your dreams there is something for everyone to take away.

This film isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it might just lift your spirits. It’s an easy, entertaining watch with positive messages of inclusivity and finding what is important to you. It is worth warning, however, that you will most likely find yourself singing some of Fire Saga’s songs and they are not easy to get out of your head! If you need a bit of a release, a break from the worries of today, I suggest you give it a watch. Let yourself fall into silliness and have a good laugh.

Boyhood – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater
Written by Richard Linklater
Length: 165mins

The career of director Richard Linklater is a particularly interesting one, from his origins as an iconic creator of slacker-comedies in the early 90’s to an almost obsessive insight into the relation that time has on film, it’s no surprise that he would eventually create a film like ‘Boyhood.’ In a similar style to his ‘Before’ trilogy, where the same narrative was picked up each time the filmmakers returned to the trilogy, even with the ten-year gap between films, ‘Boyhood’ became well-known for the director returning to the same actors every year or so in an attempt to accurately portray how they develop throughout their childhood and teen years.

Whilst the creation of the film features an interesting and unique approach to filmmaking, the whole elaborate plan would be completely irrelevant if the final product turned out to be a bad film. In the case of ‘Boyhood’ this isn’t exactly true, as the characters are often engaging, and their emotional journey throughout the film is interesting and will most likely resonate with many of the audience. The monotonous suburban lifestyle put to screen is one that is fairly atypical in recent years, and the fads and styles that litter the narrative will be familiar to anyone who grew up during the turn of the millennium. However, a film shouldn’t simply rely on an audience being able to compare their own lives with that of the characters to be successful, it should create an interesting and engaging story of its own. Whilst there are moments of this within ‘Boyhood,’ for a film that boasts a near-three hour runtime, there aren’t nearly enough elements of intrigue or excitement to really grab the audience’s attention. It could be argued that this isn’t the film’s intent, and rather its aim is to document the often underwhelming elements of adolescence, and in this way it would succeed if the characters were portrayed to be people that we could invest ourselves and our own experiences in.

One of the most difficult elements of a project such as this would most likely be maintaining a clear consistency across every scene. A cut between one scene and the next could be a difference of a year both within the film and the real world, and so ensuring that both the technical aspects and the performances don’t feature noticeable changes would have been difficult undertaking. Whilst the film is successful in its aesthetic continuity, the performances can often feel subdued, as if a low-energy approach to the characters will ensure that there are very few changes in their presence onscreen. In particular, the films lead, Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane) is often sullen and unenthusiastic, which does accurately represent most teenagers, but provides little interest when he’s featured in all but two scenes within the films 165 minute runtime. By the end of the film, you are left with very knowledge of any of the character’s interests or passions – save for one – and the relationships that he develops with those around him throughout the story feel fairly surface level. There are some great scenes that really shine through, such as his mother’s sudden outburst of emotion moments before the Mason Jr heads for college, but there aren’t nearly enough for a film that is working on as grand a scale a this one.

There is a clear beauty to ‘Boyhood,’ and the cinematography captures the simple intrigues of everyday life in a consistently interesting style – an impressive feat for a film that’s shot over the course of seven years. However, ‘Boyhood’ ultimately feels as if it contains a lot of missed potential. No doubt Richard Linklater will have more tricks up his sleeve in the future, and may attempt a project as lengthy as this this one again, but for now we should at least be thankful that his ‘Before’ trilogy turned out as well as it did.

Melancholia – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Keifer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgård and Stellan Skarsgård.
Directed by Lars Von Trier
Written by Lars Von Trier
Length: 135mins

From behind the sun emerges a planet previously unknown to the human race, much greater in size and set to travel past Earth’s atmosphere within very close proximity, Lars Von Trier is quick to establish the greatness of the spectacle that the aptly-named Melancholia will provide, whether it passes us by or smashes straight into us. However, like a prophecy being foretold, the viewer is allowed to witness the chaotic end-to-the-world within the film’s opening sequence, leaving only a constant sense of ambiguity within the story as to whether the two planets really will collide.

Released in 2011, ‘Melancholia’ is a very clear story of two parts. Divided neatly by title cards which simply characterise the first act as being called ‘Justine,’ whilst the second is named ‘Claire,’ these acts take their names from the two sisters that lead the films narrative, and it’s their relationship that the focus of the film is deeply rooted in, despite the chaotic and life-changing circumstances that surround them.  

Rich with symbolism, Von Trier is a director known for his affinity for detail, and this shines through particularly in ‘Melancholia.’ Perhaps the most persistently recurring symbol found within the film is the allusion to John Everett Millais’s ‘Ophelia,’ a painting which depicts the character of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet,’ as she lies in a river and sings, despite the fact that she will soon drown. This beauty in the face of death is a clearly recurring element within ‘Melancholia,’ and is characterised by the films lead, Justine, who is played brilliantly by Kirsten Dunst. Certain scenes directly allude to the similarities between Ophelia and Justine through their visual details, but they also coincide within the narrative elements of their tragic stories. Set to be married just a few days before the two planets meet, Justine’s overwhelming depression often takes full control of her actions, much to the despair of those around her. The film’s first act concerns itself directly with her actions on the wedding day, and allows for the frequent distractions and tangents that she explores to be focussed on within the narrative, creating a true sense of who this character is. Her flaws are often either completely ignored or directly condemned by those around her, but all too often she is far too detached to show any reaction to these attitudes. It’s clear that Von Trier is using the traditional joy of a wedding scene and the happiness of the bride to explore the true lack of emotion that comes with depression, and the harsh contrast between what these two ideas represent allows for a more complex exploration into the range of human emotions.

The film’s second act, named after the elder sister ‘Claire’ appears as slightly more convoluted than the first. There is no wedding scene to revolve the character’s conflicting narratives around, and the impending sense of doom from the oncoming planet causes many of the characters to begin acting strangely (or, stranger than they all were before). The more subtle focus of this half, however, once again rests on the back of one of the sisters. This time it’s Claire’s emotional anxiety that becomes the crux of many scenes. Of course, some might argue that in the face of a possible planetary collision, anyone might be overcome by anxiety, but Claire’s emotional instability is highlighted in a way that sheds a light on her actions within the film’s opening half. The presence of her sister’s depression seemingly overshadowed her own anxiety, reducing it simply to a by-product of the environment around her, but this isn’t really the case. As shown by her actions when finally relieved of the pressures from weddings planners and over-eager guests, her worries are not lessened, but amplified. Once again, Lars Von Trier is cleverly hiding his own experiences with mental health within the actions of these two sisters, creating a personified caricature of anxiety that, despite its presence within a film about the end of the world, remains relatively familiar to many of us.

‘Melancholia’ is a film about many different ideas, and tackles most of them in a fairly avant-garde or experimental manner, but ultimately has a deeply honest message about mental health. With film being a largely visual medium, such an issue can often be difficult to tackle, but Von Trier incorporates his experience with experimental cinema and greater access to a larger budget than such directors would usually receive, to create a beautiful portrait of the minds of two sisters who struggle greatly with their own mental health.

Da 5 Bloods – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr and Chadwick Boseman.
Directed by Spike Lee
Written by Spike Lee, Danny Bilson, Paul de Meo and Kevin Willmott.
Length: 156mins

From one of the greatest directors working today, Spike Lee presents his new film ‘Da 5 Bloods’ in collaboration with streaming giant Netflix. Changing between a backdrop of present-day Vietnam and its war torn counterpart of the 1970’s, the film follows the experiences of a group of black soldiers who refer to themselves as ‘Da 5 Bloods.’ Through the camera lens, we are able to witness how the war has affected them as they grow older and adapt to the contemporary American landscape, whilst they also reflect on their time in the war, after being drawn back to find a secret treasure that they hid as young soldiers, many years ago.

One of the many things that Spike Lee is great at is giving a voice to those who are often silenced in history, and this film is no exception. He employs still images of various historical black figures and soldiers who impacted American history, but are no longer provided the remembrance that they deserve. This demonstrates to his audience that the events of the story are not as fictitious as they may first appear. Although this technique does prove useful to better engage the audience with the type of oppression experienced by our lead characters and others who contributed to the war efforts in similar ways, the jarring nature of the images can feel as if it distracts from the film’s narrative, as well as leaning towards exploitative cinema in the way that the real life murders shown on-screen feel as if they infringe on the dignity of the victims that suffered these tragic fates during the Vietnam conflict. Of course it’s important to ensure that the innocent people caught up in the violence are remembered,  but by showing their murder to do this takes away any of their own personality, and uses them simply as another victim of conflict.

Between tackling the involvement of the US in the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights movement, the current US political landscape, a heist-style narrative, the reunion of old friends and a developing father-son relationship, ‘Da 5 Bloods’ packs a lot into it’s two-and-a-half hour runtime. However, the varied amount of grandeur each of these stories provide can often feel slightly contradictory when the film attempts to build to more climactic scenes. For example, a boat ride where tensions are rising between a father and a son is set to Richard Wagner’s grand piece ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ in a clear homage to Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Vietnam film, ‘Apocalypse Now.’ However, as the conflicting elements of ‘Da 5 Bloods’ story at this point are purely emotional, the shots of a boat slowly travelling downstream feels fairly underwhelming when set to Wagner’s piece, especially when compared to the iconic helicopter ride into battle that the scene is paying tribute to. There are moments of greatness within the film, but especially within the first hour-or-so they are few and far between, which may be a result of the amount of exposition the narrative requires to set up it’s later events, due to the wide range of issues being tackled.

 Although it does take a little while for the film to develop its lead characters and their relationships between one and another, the acting really does get better as the film goes on, especially in Delroy Lindo’s case. His role as a man traumatised by what he has seen in the war encourages hatred to shine through, and becomes increasingly clearer and more dangerous as the film goes on. As the story develops, his rush towards violence in situations becomes more and more frequent, reflecting the impact the Vietnam War has had on his life. Lindo does an incredible job at portraying this unpredictability, and accompanied with cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel’s camerawork, the intensity of the character directly confronts the audience and ensures that you’re appreciating the horrors that these men have suffered.

‘Da 5 Bloods’ feels like a great progression in Lee’s career. With his hands on a bigger budget and a wider audience than ever, he’s able to use his platform to spread ideas and attitudes that educate those watching – one of the most important elements of cinema. Although the film can feel like a slight mess in places, the overall story is intriguing and the way events play out grips the viewer, ultimately coming together to create a film that deserves to be seen.

Honey Boy – Review

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Rating: 15
Cast: Shia Lebouf, Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges, FKA Twigs and Byron Bowers
Directed by Alma Har’el
Written by Shia Lebouf
Length: 94mins

From the mind of Shia Lebouf, ‘Honey Boy’ delivers a deeply personal story of Lebouf’s own childhood, the relationship he has with his father and his experiences working as a child actor. Characterised by two intersecting narratives, with one following a 12 year old Shia (Noah Jupe), as he works on set whilst sharing a motel with his father, who is aptly played by Shia Lebouf himself. The second story provides an insight into Shia’s early adult life, following a performance by Lucas Hedges as Lebouf struggles through the hardships of rehab and PTSD from his own childhood experiences. Despite this appearing to be a one-man show, the entire film is carried brilliantly by its dynamic cast and the influence of director Alma Har’el.

For a story that almost feels as if it’s confined to the experiences of just one man, ‘Honey Boy’ allows room for all three of the films leads to provide their own clear impact on the story. The unrelenting harshness of Lebouf’s father, James Lort, is portrayed in a deeply human way by the person that felt the greatest effect of Lort’s struggles with sobriety and despondency – his own son. Furthermore, for someone so young, the trauma that Noah Jupe brings to the film is heart-breaking, and reflects the deep impact that his father has on his life. There’s a dramatic irony to the hope the audience feels towards Jupe’s character, as we believe that he may break away from this corrupt relationship and live a happier life, but the film only responds with its other narrative of an older Lebouf struggling through rehab. Once again, Lucas Hedges role as Shia struggling at this stage provides a clear impact to ‘Honey Boy,’ performing almost like a distant echo of the hope seen in Jupe’s character.

Whilst Shia’s voice remains strong throughout the film’s narrative, as a result of his authorship over the screenplay, Alma Har’el still makes her mark on ‘Honey Boy.’ The entire film maintains consistently opposing themes of hope and desperation that are articulated beautifully through all elements of the film. In particular, though the visuals and the composition may mark this film as one that re-iterates some fairly standard indie film ideas, they still show a unique flair that brings the narrative together. Alex Somers delivers an excellent score filled with a modern approach to ambience that fleshes out any scene that it touches. The music reflects the setting and situation in which the characters find themselves, and quietly draws the viewer into that world.

Although the film may not have received widespread mainstream attention, it still feels like an important release for many reasons. A mainly female-led crew and director shows a step in the right direction for the film industry, and the story also showcases the strength and promise of young performers such as Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges and even FKA Twigs, who breathed life into every scene she was in. As well as this, it shows a look towards a fresh start for Shia, who undeniably deserves it based on the quality of his screenwriting and acting abilities on display in ‘Honey Boy.’

The Invisible Man – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid
Directed by Leigh Whannel
Written by Leigh Whannel and H. G. Wells
Length: 124mins

This week’s review takes a look at the latest work of Leigh Wannel, the director who received critical acclaim for his stylistic action in his 2018 release, ‘Upgrade.’ This next venture sees the Australian director look to convey the horrors of disbelief in abusive relationships through a metaphorical scope, with the terror of there being no witnesses replacing what no one can witness – the Invisible Man. Our protagonist, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), escapes an abusive relationship, only to discover a few days later that her ex-boyfriend has killed himself. Plagued by the emotional trauma of their relationship, Cecilia can’t help but feel like her abuser hasn’t truly left her behind.

One of the first questions that must have been asked going into this project would have been, “How do you film something that is invisible?” Leigh Wannel and his cinematographer Stefan Duscio answer this question brilliantly, with the narrative being carried by consistently unnerving camerawork. There are moments of tension in which we know the Invisible Man is there, and the audience begins to question whether he is directly in front of the lens, or whether we are in fact seeing the events from his point of view. By visually building tension in such a manner, the viewer further engages with the fear that our protagonist is experiencing. Some people are put off by thrillers or horrors because of the experience they provide, and by using intriguing cinematography within his film, Wannel’s film becomes only a more engaging experience.

Once again, Elisabeth Moss demonstrates what a versatile actress she is, with moments of true terror balanced by scenes of kindness towards those around her that develops her character emotionally, allowing the audience to engage with her. However, despite Moss’s excellent performance, the development of the entire cast is hindered by the script. The film is successful as a concept, with the focus being entirely on Cecilia’s relationship with her abusive ex-boyfriend. Aside from that, there is only a surface-level exploration into how her relationships have been affected by her experiences, and as a result it becomes difficult to see the characters as little more than victims of the story’s phantom. Despite this, I do believe that the metaphorical exploration into abuse in relationships is successful, with the pain that Cecilia experiences when unable to explain her situation explicitly showing just how torturous the lies surrounding domestic abuse can be. She doesn’t just suffer physically, but mentally her abuser torments her, with his presence casting a shadow over her at all times.

It’s undeniable that ‘The Invisible Man,’ is a well-executed thriller, with great moments of tension developing throughout the film. Wannel appears to understand exactly when each new horror should be unveiled, and despite the story mainly taken place across various households and buildings, the thrill maintains its biting edge.

‘The Invisible Man’ feels like another step forward in the career of a relatively young director, and further demonstrates his capabilities when crafting a thrill. The film is a must-watch for fans of the genre, and definitely one that would serve as a great introduction to thrillers. I look forward to seeing where Leigh Wannel directs his talents next.