Emma – Review

Rated: U
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Josh O’Connor and Callum Turner
Directed by Autumn de Wilde
Written by Eleanor Catton (Screenplay) and Jane Austen (Novel)
Length: 125Mins

February 2020 saw Autumn de Wilde’s first feature length film hit the big screens, bringing a classic Austin Novel to life in a fresh, new remake. The task of producing yet another Jane Austin hit comes with the high pressure of competing with previous versions and some audience’s asking ‘why bother?’ but also paralleled with the reassurance that your story is a much loved classic that will ultimately draw in an audience.

This delightfully kooky retelling of Emma really brings forth the humour of the story. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and really allows the comedic text and situation to rise to the forefront. The jocular skills of Miranda Hart, Mia Goth and Bill Nighy bring laughs from start to finish while still creating characters that the audience warms to. The story is compelling, you fall into this wonderful, picturesque world and although I felt the first ten minutes a little disjointed, it doesn’t take long to be completely wrapped up in the wonderful world of Austin.

The story follows the titular character of Emma, known for her matchmaking ways, as she takes a young girl under her wing with hopes to set her up to marry a man of high esteem while sustaining her reputation and considering her own future. The story charmingly twists and turns giving the audience everything it could desire from the plot. I didn’t particularly warm to the character of Emma, but I love that within this story our leading lady makes mistakes. She messes up and as her character unravels, as demonstrated visually by her tight ringlet curls falling loose at climactic moments, we get to see a wonderful glimpse of the human condition. Someone making an error, having their behaviour questioned and then working to right their wrongs. Jane Austin herself wrote “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like” which I just love – the very personal approach to writing this character, deliberately giving her a storyline and characteristics which readers might dislike, wrapped in a personality that the author so carefully constructed. I feel like this was honoured in this adaptation, we the audience like Emma just enough to stay interested but not so much as to be blind to her poor choices.

A large portion of Autumn de Wilde’s professional experience is in photography and I felt like that was obvious from the first frame of this film. Each scene was so visually pleasing, so much care taken on production design, costume and carefully selected shots that frame the actors, timeline and mood of the scene. This film is a true piece of art with careful consideration around the framing of her shots.

Overall this film is just lovely, you will know from the poster whether you’re going to enjoy it or not. It’s a quirky period drama intertwined with hilarious humanity and a good dashing of romance. I felt like for a debut feature film Autumn de Wilde has burst onto the scene with bright, bold choices and I’m really excited to see what she does next.

Little Women – Review

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Rated: U
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep
Directed by Greta Gerwig Written by Louisa May Alcott and Greta Gerwig
Length: 134 mins

Adapted from the brilliant work of Louisa May Alcott, and directed by Greta Gerwig, ‘Little Women’ follows the story of four sisters who come-of-age in the USA in the 1860’s, a time when every household was affected by the civil war that divided the country. The story mainly follows how these four women adapt to this world, as they must quickly learn to support themselves and their own family.

‘Little Women’ has drawn much attention from the wide-array of successful actors within the feature, with the story led by Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, who provides a captivating performance. Attempting to balance a life of supporting her family whilst also making a successful career as a writer, Jo finds herself encountering romances, drawbacks from her writing and issues due to her gender. Ronan approaches all of these events in a way that truly embodies the character, and she appears on screen truly as Jo March. Though the clear lead of the narrative, Ronan’s time on-screen is well balanced between the rest of the characters, allowing for significant development between the sisters and those around them, whilst also leaving space for a satisfying conclusion that focuses on Jo’s own story.

Florence Pugh also delivers an excellent interpretation of Amy March, the youngest of the four sisters. With a narrative that frequently changes between the present and a previous series of events, the duality between Amy’s earlier adolescence and her later intelligence and maturity is brilliantly portrayed through not only the performance, but the film’s direction also. Her status as an aspiring artist puts her experiences into a similar vein as Jo March’s, and through often times nuanced and subtle mannerisms Pugh does an excellent job of expressing her struggles as someone who is often considered to be second-best.

The supporting roles within this film are also well-balanced and serve the narrative exactly as required. Timothée Chalamet performs as Theodore Laurence – the grandson of the March’s wealthy neighbour – dancing between all of the sister’s stories and influencing each in a unique way. Furthermore, the performances from Laura Dern, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper all provide their own voice to the story through the small quirks and subtle expressions of their characters, and only further develop the relationships of the film’s little women.

This film is beautifully shot, and the idea that each frame should tell the story visually is one that Greta Gerwig is highly successful at throughout. The use of 35mm, each scene’s composition and framing, as well as the set and costume design all build to moments of cinema that eloquently display the narrative rather than tell it. The musical composition is light when necessary, but also further explores the emotions of the film without the need to be pronounced. There are also a few scenes of more-experimental direction, such as characters reading their letters and notes directly into the camera in a setting that is removed from any other scene. Reminiscent of Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing,’ these shots only further benefit the conversation that this film explores, with themes linking to gender and equality in equal measure.

Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ is a powerful piece of feminist literature, and Greta Gerwig continues to tell the story with further exploration into the status that women have in our world, in both the story’s setting and present day. In the film, Amy March says that “I want to be great, or nothing.” For Gerwig the same appears to be true, and with ‘Little Women’ she has created something truly great.

Marriage Story – Review

Rated: 15
Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Written by Noah Baumbach
Length: 136 mins

A director known for his realistic dialogue and perceptive insights into true-to-life relationships, Noah Baumbach’s approach to a marriage that has led to divorce was also going to be interesting, but ‘Marriage Story’ is a truly brilliant work of cinema, and it is one which will stick with you for a long while after the credits close.

The performances within this film are incredible. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson portray their characters in the most immersive way, and their on-screen relationship can travel from hopeful to entirely hopeless within a matter of seconds, through the most minimalist of actions. The development of their characters is brilliantly enhanced by the films pacing also, with long periods of Charlie’s (Driver) experiences with the divorce being portrayed, only for then a similar length to show Nicole’s (Johansson) own ordeal. It is impossible to not attempt to choose a side within the divorce, but it is even more difficult to maintain that viewpoint throughout the entire narrative.

Furthermore, the supporting roles within ‘Marriage Story’ are not only excellently brought to screen, but also feel as if they are used for the exact amount of appropriate time. Laura Dern’s fast-talking and bold performance as Nicole’s divorce attorney may at first appear as slightly over-dramatic, but you soon come to associate the importance her character has on the relationship with the stress that Charlie and Nicole are put through – the perfect status as a supporting role. Similarly, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta perform as lawyers which Charlie consults on separate occasions, and whilst they do successfully serve a clear narrative purpose, they also are more symbolic in demonstrating the type of attitude that Charlie has towards Nicole, depending on the time in which he approaches them. Whilst Alda’s ‘Bert Spitz’ is relatively introverted and more comforting, Liotta’s ‘Jay’ is far more harsh and upfront with Charlie, and it’s interesting to watch Baumbach delicately place such characters within the narrative when appropriate.

Baumbach’s direction within ‘Marriage Story’ is both delicate and subtle, whilst also allowing for moments of sudden breaks within the diegesis. His ability to allow a scene to flow smoothly until one small moment – a cupboard door hitting a character or simply a word out of place – can change the entire direction of the scene, is exacted perfectly, and allows for a balance between immersion within the narrative and the audiences own personal interactions being applied to the story that is told.

Such change within scenes can definitely be credited in part to the film’s editing and score. With the music by Randy Newman, who is forever immortalised for his contributions to the world of ‘Toy Story,’ the film maintains a touching and personal story within the sound that is brilliantly applied to moments of the film which require it. As well as this, ‘Marriage Story’ was edited by Jennifer Lame, who has previously worked on films such as ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Manchester by the Sea,’ which both feature editing that excellently furthers the complexion of the narrative. Therefore it is no surprise that Lame’s ability to convey emotion with such talent is also applied to ‘Marriage Story’, and the result is a film which draws in the viewer and tells its story in the most complete way possible.

There isn’t a single moment within Baumbach’s latest release that feels unnecessary, and ‘Marriage Story’ tells such a human story that it’s hard not to continue thinking about it days after the film has finished. Go and watch it on Netflix, and if you have the opportunity to see it a cinema near you then even better, but either way, make sure you find some time to experience the most compelling film of this year.