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Non-Review Review: On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach is a messy and awkward adaptation of Ian McEwan’s story, adapted by the writer from his own work.

McEwan’s source material might be better described as a “novella” than as a “novel”, with the writer describing it as such and the book generating some small controversy when shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Indeed, the film strains when it tries to extend the novella’s core idea out into a feature-length film, often struggling to find focus and to hold its attention. The result is a very uneven piece of work.

Love on the rocks.

However, On Chesil Beach provides an intriguing mess of interesting ideas and solid performances. Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle cannot hold the film together, but provide a set of interesting characters that provide the closest thing that the film has to a throughline. The film works best when it is willing to focus on these two characters together, when it moves away from its free-association aesthetic towards something more concrete.

On Chesil Beach never quite coheres into a fully-formed film, often feeling more like a televison movie or a stage play than a theatrical release. Still, there is something interesting playing beneath the surface, often lost in heavy-handed writing or awkward segues.

It ain’t no picnic.

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Non-Review Review: Lady Bird

Lady Bird is a sweet and charming little film, one anchored in two great central performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.

Lady Bird is relaxed and casual, a story of teenage anxiety unfolding at its own pace without any tangible sense of stakes or scale. Lady Bird is a refreshingly quiet and sincere movie, one that captures a lot of the listlessness associated with youth, the obliviousness to the reality of the outside world, the struggle to define a unique identity. For all the film is anchored in its Californian surroundings, Lady Bird is a universal coming of age story.

Blessing in disguise.

Like its protagonist, Lady Bird is smart and wry, if a little directionless and unsure of itself. However, the movie works in large part because of the decision to build its emotional core around the relationship between the eponymous character and her mother. Ronan is phenomenal here, but Metcalf is just as able to match her co-star. Both actors deliver raw and genuine performances that perfectly capture the push-and-pull of any real-life familial dynamic.

Lady Bird is perhaps a little too eccentric and a little too whimsical in places, drawing its supporting cast in broad strokes and leaning a little too heavily into stereotypes of adolescence, but the film has a warm and beating heart that sustains it for its ninety-three-minute runtime.

Bye, bye, birdie.

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Non-Review Review: Byzantium

Byzantium is visually stunning and thematically fascinating, a thoughtful and well-constructed vampire tale from the director of Interview with a Vampire. Neil Jordan’s latest bloodsucking epic might lack a narrative cohesion and take a while to get going, but it’s still an interesting exploration of the genre. Jordan has a wonderful skill for composition, and his flair ensures that the story of two ageless female vampires always looks breathtaking, even if the story does take a while to get going.

Talk about running red...

Talk about running red…

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Non-Review Review: The Way Back

The Way Back is an impressive technical accomplishment. Peter Weir has repeatedly demonstrated that he really is one of the very best directors working today, and that he’s a deft hand at establishing mood and atmosphere. The Way Back, the story of a prison escape from the coldest depths of Siberia, is packed with beautiful vistas – from mountains snuggled in clouds to endless desert to icy tundras – and it’s also efficient and effective. However, it seems to spend so much time on the scenery that it almost forgets about the characters.

They got snow where else to go...

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Non-Review Review: Hanna

A special thanks to the guys over at movies.ie for sneaking us into an advanced preview screening.

If ever there was an odd choice for an early summer release, I think Hanna is it. Directed by Joe Wright (the guy who brought you Atonement) and starring an Oscar bait cast including Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett (with solid support from Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams), Hanna is the story of a teenage assassin set loose upon the world after a life spent in the wilderness. If that cocktail doesn’t sound crazy enough, Wright sets the movie as a fairy tale.

What’s genuinely astounding is how frequently these elements compliment each other, even if there are a few moments where they seem at odds.

Joe Wright takes a shot at directing an action film...

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Non-Review Review: The Lovely Bones

There are somethings you can’t put a positive spin on. The rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl is one of those things.

A little too lovely...

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