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Non-Review Review: Unless

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

Unless is a film that woefully over-estimates its own profundity.

Unless is an indulgent, misguided, ill-judged, clumsy and offensive piece of work, a tone-deaf study of upper-middle-class ennui that laments the plight of characters at least two degrees of separation from an individual with an interesting perspective. Unless is a story about vicarious empathy, the tale of wealthy people whose response to horror and tragedy is to assume that they cannot feel true compassion for an individual’s suffering without embarking upon their own existential grief tourism.

Begging belief.

Begging belief.

All of this is compound by a script and direction that are suffocatingly heavy handed. As if afraid that its audience might somehow miss the subtle nuances of this tail of wealthy familial angst, Unless repeatedly trips into slow motion for the most mundane of moments as if hinting at some deeply-buried profundity. The music soars, even when the events of screen do not merit it, leading to a hilarious disconnect between the events happening and the movie’s estimation of them. And everything is ominously signposted, as characters muse endlessly in pseudo-evocative monologues about life.

Unless is, quite frankly, a terrible piece of film.

Norah battle to the strong.

Norah battle to the strong.

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Non-Review Review: Enough Said

Enough Said is a charming little romantic comedy starring Julia Louise-Dreyfuss as Eva. Eva is a divorced parent who finds herself in the relationship with another charming divorcée, navigating the difficulties of dating-after-marriage and trying to come to terms with her daughter’s impending departure to attend college. Through what another character describes as “an unbelievable coincidence”, our protagonist finds herself in a delightfully awkward romantic situation, trapped between two people very close to her.

Enough Said owes a debt to the classic romantic farce – the comedy of errors and manners – but the humour here is a lot more focused and character-driven. Once the plot becomes clear, it seems like Enough Said might devolve into a slapstick comedy about timing and awkward double entendres, but it’s to the credit of writer and director Nicole Holofcener that the film instead remains tightly focused on Eva and the people around her.

Stepping up...

Stepping up…

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Non-Review Review: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is the tensest thriller of the year, no small accomplishment when you consider that director Paul Greengrass and writer Billy Ray are working from a high-profile true story that unfolded across media less than a decade ago. “This story is getting a play here,” a naval negotiator is advised a little over half-way into the film, and it’s hard to imagine that anybody going to see the film isn’t loosely familiar with the events (and outcome) of this Somali pirate attack.

Despite this, Greengrass manages to ratchet up the tension on Captain Phillips, turning it into a high-stakes thriller. Even knowing the inevitable outcome, Greengrass pushes the audience to the edge of their seats, refusing to allow the movie to throttle down from the moment that two unidentified blips appear on the trawler’s sonar screen.

Movie piracy really is bad...

Movie piracy really is bad…

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Non-Review Review: A Late Quartet

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Watching A Late Quartet, you can almost read the text the text of the “for your consideration” letters, advertisements and press releases. This is, after all, the story of a classical music quartet dealing with the fallout when their cellist discovers that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The cellist’s announcement that he will be departing the group causes each of the other three members to question their role in the ensemble, and even where their lives have brought them. It is, very much, an invitation for melodrama, and the script takes up that invitation with considerable enthusiasm. However, despite (or perhaps because of) the script’s decision to embrace that melodrama, A Late Quartet serves as a fascinating showcase for a rather wonderful ensemble.

Music, sweet music...

Music, sweet music…

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Non-Review Review: The Oranges

There’s an interesting film in here, somewhere. The Oranges teases the possibility of brutally exposing the seedy underside of suburban life, as we follow an affair between a married man and his best friend’s daughter, but The Oranges is far too shallow to land anything resembling a killing stroke. The adult cast is composed of talented veterans, but the script doesn’t give them much to do – instead The Oranges treats their children as the focal point, misjudging the talent of young actresses Leighton Meester and Alia Shawkat. It all feels too light, too cosy, and too willing to pick the low-hanging fruit to really create an interesting study of life in the ‘burbs.

Keeping it in the family...

Keeping it in the family…

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Non-Review Review: Please Give

Please Give is an interesting little dramedy, with some very well-observed points and a strong cast. It’s smart, it’s biting and it’s quite funny in places, with its wry commentary on some of the more cynical aspects of the human condition. However, I do find myself wondering why the lead characters, wonderfully superficial and weighted down by various forms of guilt, are really worth caring about at.

No mean Peet...

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