Calvary

In a film that pits the dark cramped confines of the confession box against the vast open landscape and indeed in a film titled Calvary, place and space were always going to be important. The sweeping shots of the sublime Irish countryside and the deserted outstretch of beach, which represents the film’s ‘Calvary’ provide the antithesis to the insular and claustrophobic village life in which everyone knows everyone. In Calvary John McDonagh has created a mesmerising picture of the religious man, and the film’s comic interludes allow him to explore the complex religious ideas and implications of the Catholic priesthood in a way that is nuanced and measured.

“Killing a priest on a Sunday. That’ll be a good one.” In an unapologetic punch of an opening sequence, a man confesses to Father James Lavelle the sexual abuse he suffered as a young boy at the hands of a priest. His choice of revenge is not to kill a bad priest, and the one in question is dead already. No, instead he chooses to take providence into his own hands and as a result Father James is given a week to set his affairs in order.  In a reversal of dramatic irony, he admits to his superior that he knows who it is who is going to kill him, but the audience doesn’t. What follows is an introduction to the possible suspects as the audience frantically attempts to match the voice to the character. In typical McDonagh style, this bleak plotline is balanced with black comedy and the script delivers this contrast between the hard-hitting and the humorous with typical aplomb, never allowing the comedy to alleviate the emotional impact.

The daily rounds of the priest bring us into contact with each of the ensemble cast, and each of their tales of woe. But instead of enlisting the help of Father James, the village seems hell bent on parading their sins in front of him, and the oppressive nature of this environment, which seems only to mock, makes it hard for him to maintain his composure. Not that Father James is portrayed as a perfect character, he is a priest with integrity certainly, but, as we slowly piece together, one who has as much to beg forgiveness for as anyone else. Brendan Gleeson’s turn as Father James manages to bring out every aspect of this complex character and deliver them with a force that will set the audience reeling. We knew he had a talent for comic timing but it is the emotional weight that Gleeson brings to this central role that makes it something breathtaking.

From the off, Father James is set up as the Christ-like figure of the film. Calvary plays on this idea of sacrifice and suicide and, recovering from an attempted suicide herself, James’ daughter describes how Christ was included in a list of famous ones. “I think thatthere’s too much talk about sins and not enough talk about virtues,” Father James tells his daughter on the Sunday his death is pencilled in at. For a film so intent on finding sin in every character it seems strange to lament the lack of consideration given to virtue. But perhaps this is the very question the film ponders. In the end though there is no need for the film to lay out explicitly what it is exploring as indeed it is the tight interweaving of so many ideas that makes it so enthralling.

There always seems to be something very physical about a religion that regularly takes in the blood and body of its saviour, and Calvary takes this idea and runs away with it. The visceral and the physical take centre stage in a film where religious symbols are mingled with butcher’s carcasses, adultery, suicide and cannibalism. These in turn give way to the raw and elemental, in which the earth, sea and fire take in and destroy the man-made.

Calvary is a film of huge breadth and the absolutely perfect balance between the black comedy and the tragedy gives way to an intricate and harrowing drama. It is a layered character piece with each story pulling you in a different direction, making you question and re-question constantly. The film hangs heavy on you. It will invade your mind and make you return to it again and again to re-live the thought provoking yet hilarious story. To feel again the powerful sense of emotional disquiet, and to wonder again at the beauty of a piece that can make you do both those things at the same time.

Starred Up

Starred Up shares many of the qualities we have come to expect from the gritty British prison drama. But with the interesting father/son relationship at its core and a stand out performance from Jack O’Connell, there are many things about this film that make it worth a watch.

The film follows Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) as he is ‘starred up’ (having been moved to adult prison despite being only 19) and ends up in the same wing as his estranged father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn). Eric ends up here due to his excessively violent nature, something which we become a party too very early on in the film as Eric almost fatally beats up someone trying to give him a lighter. The result being that Eric finds himself in solitary confinement, and strikes a bargain with the prison guards that he can go back to the wing as long as he attends group sessions headed by Oliver (Rupert Friend). Many ups and downs follow; there are still outbursts of violent rages but the group sessions get steadily better until Governor Hayes, who we gradually realise is the real criminal of the film, wades in.

This has all the conventions of a gritty prison drama and for most of the film it does play out that way. But the central father/son relationship means that the film is not unremitting; at times it actually lets up and despite the violence it is not pessimistic.  The film gently balances the extreme violence against the budding friendships and progressive group therapy and although it is not got any of the sentimentality of an against all odds success story, there are small rays of hope in the form of human relationships, the friend, the lover, the father.

For the most of it Starred Up is ambivalent to its central character and while it does not shy away from portraying the violent nature of Eric, it does not encourage you to hate him. As with many films of a similar genre, the film plays out like a Greek tragedy, and akin to someone like Achilles, it is Eric’s bursts of anger and pride that become his fatal flaw. The film owes much to O’Connell’s portrayal of said character, and the depth at which he tackles it is overwhelming. Always appearing to be seething beneath the surface and overflowing into fits of terrifying anger and maniacal laughter, it is a full-bodied performance which gives the audience insight and empathy into what could have easily been an alienating protagonist.

The supporting roles are equally brilliant, with Ben Mendelsohn doing what he has proven to do so well in the past few years, where we have seen him as scarily and violently unpredictable characters.  Starred Up also sees Rupert Friend doing what he does best and in his role as Oliver, the volunteer prison psychologist, he is both approachable and meek, whilst at the same time managing to convey the tough underside that lurks beneath.

It may not be the first of its kind, but there is something to be said for a prison drama that puts human relationships first. The gritty realism is mingled with the familial bonding, allowing two people to reconnect despite dire circumstance. The result is a film with a soft inner to its tough outer shell, and with the knockout performance from Jack O’Connell, Starred Up well and truly delivers.

Under the Skin

The science fiction use of the alien-human interaction always carries the weight of its metaphorical significance. Jonathan Glazer’s appropriation is no exception, and Scarlett Johansson’s seductive foray into humanity allows for some introspective soul searching of our own.

Although there is no explicit mention of the extra- terrestrial, the eerie opening sequence which results in Scarlett Johansson undressing an immobile Scarlett Johansson sets our otherworldly alarm bells ringing. That, and the complete absence of anything resembling a recognisable human emotion. The first half settles into a repetitive pattern as Laura, the alien Scarlett Johansson drives around Glasgow on the lookout for men to lure to her home. What happens then is an eerie sequence in which the house we entered has fallen away and left us in pitch black unfamiliar surroundings, in which Laura glides over what the men sink and disappear into. The uneasy sequences are all set up in the same way and after the initial shock of what takes place, are always accompanied by a feeling of dread, as, by an unfortunate twist of dramatic irony, the audience knows exactly what is about to happen. Completed with a truly enthralling animated sequence, which sets every hair on your body on edge, the whole set up is unsettling, not least because it is jarringly juxtaposed with a world which looks and sounds so familiar. Glazer gives us an alien who shops in Republic and Claire’s Accessories, who offers to drive people to Tesco and who rides the bus. The contrast of the banal and familiar with the extraordinary series of events she causes and the ever present chilling soundtrack creates an atmosphere so mesmerising and strange that for days afterwards it will creep up and tap you on the shoulder.

The second half of the film breaks out of this pattern and after a Lacan style moment in which Laura becomes aware of her own reflection, she abandons the safe haven of her van and the populated city to venture out into the wild Glaswegian countryside on her own. During her incursion into human interaction, she experiences both the best and worst that humanity has to offer. Set against the jaw-dropping backdrop of the natural and sparsely populated landscape, Glazer questions the natural state of mankind as we see Laura fall into situations which both give you hope, and make you despair about the state of man.

Under the Skin belongs to Scarlett Johansson; she carries us through the film and despite the sparse dialogue, has the audience hanging on to her every move. We watch in horror as she lures these men to their desperate fate, but gradually will her to run faster as in the end the roles are reversed and it is she who falls foul of her kindness to strangers. The whole film is a truly immersive experience and the consistent and reoccurring soundtrack never lets up, keeping you constantly on the edge of the confusing awestruck and horrified state that it creates.

Intriguing from start to finish, the film is a dazzling yet unrelenting exploration of everything that it means to be human. Under the Skin reminds you of the power and majesty of a cinematic experience which takes you so far out of yourself that when you look down on a world that you thought you knew so well, it seems very very away. 

Stranger by the Lake

Alain Guiraudie’s thriller about a lakeside cruising spot is a magnificently staged, hour and a half of nerve shredding drama. It is a piece which owes as much to its surroundings as it does to its leading man and the scenic setting does nothing to alleviate the edge of seat tension that Guiraudie creates in this depiction of love and desire.

Stranger by the Lake tells the story of Franck as he visits a cruising spot on the edge of a lake and becomes attracted to one of the men he sees, Michel. Despite the fact that he witnesses said man drowning his previous lover, Franck continues to pursue a relationship with him. Although the crucial event takes place early on in the chronology of the film, the pace remains slow throughout and lulls you into a false sense of security. Despite the murder of someone, life settles immediately back into its familiar rhythm. The contrast between the horrific death and the beautiful surroundings it took place in adds to this feeling of unease, as something far more sinister lurks beneath the edenic scene.

Indeed, in this claustrophobic pastoral, the lake almost becomes its own character. It has the power to bring about the death of someone and it is at its shores that all manner of life takes place. In the same way that we never leave the lake area, the only soundtrack to the film is the sounds of water, rustling trees and insects. Equally the passing of time is marked by the images of the car park and each new day sees Franck pull up in his car, denoting his return.

The end result is a beautifully shot slow moving atmospheric piece, wonderfully exploring the entanglement of death and desire. It feels at times like it takes a while to get going, and despite a dramatic event early on, the action remains minimal. All this however contributes to the uneasy dramatic irony, and very slow build up which makes the ending what it is. Stranger by the Lake ratchets up the tension for the end and leaves you wanting more making it worth every nail-biting second.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

If Wes Anderson remade The Great Escape I don’t think it would look dissimilar to what we get with The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s a crime caper like no other which involves murder, art theft, mysterious letters, prison breakouts, an assassin on the loose and a dead cat. Set in the fictional eastern European state of Zubrowka, the film depicts the lives of Zero Moustafa and Gustave H, lobby boy and concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel respectively, in 1932. During this time, one of the hotel’s regular guests is murdered, the contents of her will are in dispute and Gustave is convicted. All of this with the background threat of a fascist military incursion and the threat of war. As the end credits tell us, the film channels the spirit of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and Anderson is certainly playing with narrative techniques as we are distanced from the action through different means of storytelling. The film begins with a girl looking at a statue of an ‘author’ and opening a book entitled ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, we then see the author in question discussing what it means to be a writer and how he in turn came to write this story. We then see him in the 60s travelling to the Grand Budapest Hotel which has fallen into disrepair, where he meets the proprietor of the establishment, one Zero Moustafa. It is finally through Moustafa that we hear the thrilling story of his first experiences of the Grand Budapest in 1932.

The film’s central character is Ralph Fiennes’ utterly fabulous Gustave H whose charming nature is one of the main reasons the hotel is filled every season. He targets rich, blonde, vulnerable women. Why blonde? ‘They just always were’. Fiennes’ performance is thoroughly charismatic, and laugh out loud funny. In the face of his demeanour, the audience is reduced to one of his rich ladies and you cannot help but completely warm to him. Despite the fast paced dialogue, every word flows smoothly and surprisingly Fiennes’ comic timing is perfect. Desperately clinging onto the inane rules and order of the established Grand Budapest, a world which we are told ‘departed long before he entered it’.

Along with Fiennes the film is full of a flurry of cameos from anyone and everyone who has worked with Wes Anderson before. Bill Murray’s obligatory presence is there of course, Owen Wilson is onscreen for what feels like no time at all, and Lea Seydoux’s character appears and is gone again in the blink of an eye. Although brief, the familiar faces bring fits of joy de vivre to the film and adds, if more were needed, to the Wes Anderson touch. In contrast, newcomer Tony Revolori appears in nearly every scene. His turn as the Grand Budapest’s new lobby boy and Gustave’s protégé is central to the film and the dynamic between his deadpan watchfulness and Ralph Fiennes’ effeminate charm fuels the entire piece.

Incorporating what he learnt from the making of Fantastic Mr Fox Anderson seamlessly incorporates a similar style of animation in order to add to the fairytale feeling of The Grand Budapest Hotel. It means that the chase like nature of the whole scenarios and the incredible range of transportation taken, (train, car, motorbike, skis, sledge and cable car) feel closer to an episode of Wacky Races than Gone in 60 Seconds. Although this gives the aesthetics of the film this childlike manner, the context of the situations is by no means benign. In true Anderson style the threat of something far more sinister is masked by comedy and cartoon like visuals. As we find ourselves in Eastern Europe in 1932 with some form of militarised force slowly advancing, the detached and relentlessly optimistic nature of the main characters does not detract from the promise of future emotional trauma. Indeed something similar is already paralled in Zero’s account of the war which led him to the Grand Budapest, and although the reaction to it is decidedly funny, it is nevertheless a poignant moment. The film is filled with such moments and although laugh out loud funny from beginning to end, it does not lack in emotional content.

Thrilling, tense, romantic, The Grand Budapest Hotel ticks all of the boxes for an entertaining romp, taking tips from any of the classics of the genre. The characters are eccentric, the dialogue witty and moving at a million miles an hour and the plotlines are impossibly ridiculous. It is a curiously uplifting story and is everything we have come to expect from Wes Anderson and more.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Anyone who thought that the recent resurgence of the vampire genre was on its way out, hadn’t counted on Jim Jarmusch wading in with his eclectic take on it. Only Lovers Left Alive is Jarmusch’s lightheaded and moody homage. It is tale about love and timelessness with a backdrop of vampires and is built around the undeniable chemistry between the two leads Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Although the word ‘vampire’ is never specifically mentioned, it is clear that this is the subject matter, from the blood drinking, the references to the Middle Ages and the fact that the film takes place entirely at night. Oh, and the small matter of some of the characters being bitten. The story is slight and put simply follows two vampires in love, who are reunited by Tom Hiddleston’s suicidal tendencies. The appearance of Ava, Tilda Swinton’s sister causes a slight upheaval, and after her departure and clearing up her mess, they retreat back to Tangiers, where the film began.

Names become very important throughout the film, Tom Hiddleston is Adam and Tilda Swinton Eve, a reflection of the timelessness and insular nature of the pair. The film is full of these knowing winks and Adam and Eve’s passport identities range from Daisy Buchanan to Stephen Daedalus. Jarmusch has even gone so far as to make a vampire Christopher Marlowe a character in the film, played by John Hurt, which of course means once again dredging up the question of authorship between Shakespeare and Marlowe. Although an issue we should now leave well alone, in this film it is used to portray Jarmusch’s ideas about the nature of art, its immortality and the fame it brings with it. This name-dropping is at times excessive, but it is all done very self-consciously and firmly tongue-in-cheek. The question of famous figures is one that occurs again and again, and despite the assertion from Adam that ‘I don’t have heroes’ his wall of portraits would beg to differ.

The film is set entirely in the dark and involves an awful lot of sleeping. This makes for a very drowsy aesthetic and makes the audience lightheaded. The setting of Detroit adds to its eerie nature and as Adam and Eve drive around the city at night we see how much of a ghost town it has become and makes the perfect home for this reclusive, nocturnal creature. The film centers around the dynamic of the two protagonists and both performances make the film what it is. Tilda Swinton is the perfect choice for this role as a ghostly vampiric character. She completely embodies the image of a pale creature wandering around Tangiers in dark sunglasses, and looking achingly cool and ethereal, lounging in Moroccan gowns. In contrast, Tom Hiddleston may not have seemed the obvious actor for the role, but clearly his stint as Loki has left its mark. Only Lovers Left Alive sees him once again donning the long black locks and brooding looks that made him such a great baddie in the first place. Now as a suicidal, romantic vampire who used to hang out with Byron and Shelley, he is wonderfully bleak and moody, complaining about the ‘zombie shit’ that humans have created.

It is by no means a flawless film and for many the languor and anachronistic flamboyance of the central characters may teeter on the cusp of self-indulgence. But Jarmusch’s knowing nod to the genre brings out the ridiculous and humorous nature of it and the film is highly enjoyable. The chemistry between Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton is incredible to watch and highlights of the film include moments when they are simply sitting together, or dancing. The mood is created through movement and the glances between them. The whole effect is an incredibly heady, atmospheric experience, which is a fun watch; just make sure you don’t go into the film sleepy.

The Royal Tenebaums

The Royal Tenenbaums has always been, and still remains, Wes Anderson’s masterpiece. The domestic drama of one dysfunctional family is eccentric yet curiously mundane, but always humorously and irrevocably wonderful. Anderson may be considered among the Marmite directors and the stylised aesthetic may grate on some viewers. But drenched in this post-modern detachment and full of humour of varying maturity levels, The Royal Tenenbaums is Anderson at his peak; witty, charming and when all is said and done, incredibly heartfelt.

The film follows the Tenenbaum family, its three genius children, self -confessed ‘arse-hole’ father and quiet mother, from a childhood of success into adulthood where the weight of this hangs very heavy on their lives. It is not dissimilar to Salinger’s Glass family who were famous whiz kids on a radio show on whom the pressure of early stardom leads to suicide and depression. Indeed the influence of Salinger is etched in every syllable of the dry and deadpan dialogue. The children become depressive adults and all move back into the comfort of their family home as their ‘dying’ father attempts to reconnect with them all.

It is a huge ensemble piece and every actor is invaluable in their role. Gene Hackman’s Royal is central to the story and somehow manages to be sympathetic, despite faking cancer and shooting his own son with a bb gun. The story is about him trying to find redemption, and despite his many wrongdoings, you do eventually see the best in him. It is also interesting to see a new side of the likes of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, as Anderson’s brand of humour is worlds away from the juvenile comedy they have been unfortunately associated with.

It’s an homage to Salinger’s angst and detachment with divorce, suicide, drug addictions and a dead dog. But, in the same way that Royal Tenebaum is a softy at heart, we only need to dig a little way into the film to find its sentimental side. The dry humour and seemingly cold demeanour is not a lack of emotion, but it simply finds a different way of expressing it. The distancing from events becomes the only way to deal with what unfolds. Chaz (Stiller) spends most of the film in a state of highly strung neurosis, sending his two boys to the gym 16 times and week and has them crunching numbers for his business. Yet the moment he is laid bare, and admits to his father ‘it’s been a rough year’, is poignant and honest. This is hugely characteristic of the film, and although it is covered by a thin veil of humour there is no lack of emotional content. The film is perfectly balanced between the stylised aesthetic and dry humour but in the face of actual and tangible emotional situations.

It probably shouldn’t work, and certainly not everyone will find scenes of a blood covered suicide victim funny. Yet somehow it does, and the blend of dry humour and existential crisis works perfectly to create something truly magnificent.

Her

If there is one thing Spike Jonze’s past feature films has taught us, its that he has well and truly mastered the knack of shooting into direct sunlight. His films are all awash with this dappled but fierce light, and Her is no different. Set in a very near future where all the windows are huge and numerous and the curtain market seems to be in decline, the light is given precedence and as a result the visual effect of the film is mesmerising.

The film centres around Theodore Twombly, a melancholic man who writes other people’s love letters for them, and is in the process of divorcing his wife. Introverted and antisocial, he purchases a new operating system with more advanced artificial intelligence. The OS, or Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) as she asks to be called begins to bring Theodore out of himself and encourages him to have fun again, as the two become closer their man to computer relationship becomes one which resembles that of two humans and eventually it becomes romantic.

The content of the film is interesting as it hits very close to home. The near future depicted is very near indeed and the images of commuters wandering along talking to their operating systems rather than engaging with each other, is not so different from a typical rush hour tube journey. As Theodore opens up to the people in his life and informs them that his new girlfriend is a computer, only the minority are shocked. Indeed as the OS technology develops it becomes increasingly common for people to be in these human OS relationships. Amy Adams’ character becomes incredibly close friends with her OS and she and Theodore bond over these relationships. In this way, although the relationship is certainly difficult and out of the ordinary, the film does not dwell on the external perceptions, but more about the internal ins and outs of the relationship itself. This is a romantic film, and occasionally does slide into something which is overly sentimental. The happier parts of the film are sickly sweet and although they are pulled back into the realm of something meatier, they are there and it is at these points which the film falls down.

Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly is wonderful, as he always manages to be. Despite beginning the film as a dejected and distant character, you immediately warm to him and the lack of emotional closeness becomes vulnerability rather than anything unsympathetic. Amy Adams is equally good and she mirrors Theodore’s emotional pattern just a few steps behind him.

Although it sometimes veered into the sentimental Her was generally a melancholy piece about the loneliness of living in the age of technology and the painfulness of human relationships. What Spike Jonze does really well is to encapsulate a mood onscreen rather than pummel the audience with a ‘message’. This film created an atmosphere rather than an hard hitting message which is far and away the most effective way of making sure that we come away from Her with a lot to think about.

Dallas Buyers Club

They didn’t have the money or time to make this film, (the script for which has sat on the back-burner for nearly 20 years) and it’s therefore a miracle that it has even found its way to our screens. It was shot in 25 days, with only a percentage of the budget originally planned and using only available light. But you know what; this may have been the films saving grace. Instead of the overblown, schmaltzy, inspirational drama that this could have been, what you get in Dallas Buyers Club is a downplayed and subtle piece which lets the material and the performances speak for themselves.

Dallas Buyers Club just toes the line between truth and fiction in its re-creation of the story of Ron Woodruff, a straight cowboy who is diagnosed with HIV and starts importing unapproved medication in order to prolong his life. The Woodroof of this film is racist and homophobic and he starts to sell drugs and then membership to other victims of HIV out of purely opportunistic motives. The opening sequence shows Ron as a womanising, gambling, cowboy whose disgust at Rock Hudson’s life choices is clearly vocalised, and this is the Ron we continue to see. Equally, his friendship with Rayon, a cross dressing Jared Leto is formed because of its benefit to business and only towards the end of the film does this attachment feel anything like real friendship. There is no light bulb moment or anything akin to a grand turning point. What we see instead is the reality of the lives of two people who have been thrown together in a really grim situation. The film could have easily done something very different, but does not pander to the more emotional parts of the narrative. Much of this film is heartbreaking, but not because it is overly sentimental or we are emotionally manipulated in that direction, simply because of the nature of the story itself.

It is clear that this is a story about people and the two key performances elevate the film to something extraordinary. The name Matthew McConaughey has taken on a whole new definition in recent years. He has surprised everyone and been on a steady incline since he returned to our screens in his McConaissance, but Dallas Buyers Club sees Matthew McConaughey reach new heights. His performance of Woodruff carries such emotional weight without any attempt at eloquent speeches or grand gestures. The man we see in Dallas Buyers Club is a cowboy, through and through. Whether or not this is true of the real Ron Woodruff, it works.

Jared Leto’s character Rayon could not be more different. Cross dressing Rayon is Woodruff’s way into the gay community and at first their relationship is nothing more than business. Jared Leto is unrecognisable, not only because of the weight loss; the entire performance is truly immersive. Even in men’s clothing there is no trace of Leto’s usual fabulous glossy locks, he looks like a sick man, struggling to hold it together. Both actors do something special in this film, this is without a doubt a story about people so they drive it, we don’t need a drawn out goodbye to feel the loss of the character, the embodiment of them does that well enough.

Although the film is certainly not perfect it is nevertheless a remarkable watch, even if for the main performances alone. It is unfortunate that many of the minor characters, particularly those in the role of ‘baddies’ are very two-dimensional and clichéd. We already know whose side we are on here, they did not need to make that clear by turning the pharmaceutical reps and doctors into people with only one bad emotional state. Luckily they don’t take up much screen time and the lack in quantity of developed characters is more than made up for by the quality of the main two.

Nothing was overplayed; it didn’t need to be. The performances drive the material and the subject matter speaks for itself. It is emotive simply for what it is, and the truly remarkable performances by Leto and McConaughey are all it needs to elevate Dallas Buyers Club to the touching and important piece it is.

An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty

I went into this film believing myself to be about to witness an interesting a thought-provoking semi-animated, art-house dissection of a relationship. What I instead got was one and half hours of arrogant, self- indulgent ‘interesting’ camera shots with so little emotional depth that it made Mean Girls look like The Seventh Seal. Before the opening credits had even finished rolling I had lost interest and by a minute in I had a headache due to all the edgy shaky camera work. Terrance Nance, (director, writer, actor and subject) may have successfully experimented with standard narrative structure and content, but failed to create a piece which was remotely engaging, or indeed anything which was not therefore to inflate what already seems to be an overly large ego.

An Oversimplification of her Beauty loosely tells the story of Terence Nance’s attempt to turn a platonic relationship into a romantic one. He uses a short story entitled ‘How Would You Feel’ inter-cut with the main feature and reaches into his past failed relationships, presumably to bulk out what is a very stretched tale. It uses different narrative devices including animation, and semi-documentary footage to tell its story, clearly attempting at something bold. True, the animation at times looked very nice, despite confusion about what it was depicting. But overall the continual changing of styles and indeed story meant that there was never enough focus in one area for us to become attached to. It merely left me confused and disinterested.

This film could have been trying to say something real, but whatever that was, it was never made clear to me. In the end it was a pretentious, self-indulgent mirage of a film. Just naming a list of ‘emotions’ in their semantic form will not make me feel them, and despite the very long list, they failed to read out the one which summed up my watching of this film; bored.