10 months after the rape and murder of her teenage daughter Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) decides to put up three posters on unused billboards outside her town. These billboards confront the local police, in particular the much loved police chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) angering his idiotic deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) and the townsfolk. What proceeds are unforeseeable darkly humorous scenes between Mildred and all who get in her way.
The film is good, crisply written and performed by the three leading actors, with McDormand being nominated for a best actress Oscar. However the content is over reliant on the main protagonist’s story and as a consequence fails to explore the racial issues which the film makes fleeting references to. This, in my opinion is careless, and will not sit well with many in the audience. Mildred is amoral, we get that, but the plot’s halfhearted mention of racism and police brutality seems like a very shallow accessory used to decorate the plot rather than establish any kind of dialogue.
Nonetheless, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is worth watching. It is very funny and will have you laughing with out question one minute and teary eyed the next.
At 2 hours 35 minutes, the longest Star Wars installment, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is utter edge-of-your-seat action adventure and you will be captivated for the full running time. With much more slapstick comedy the film also seems to target a younger audience and other than it’s political fantasy there is a lot to keep children engaged. As if spacecrafts and extraterrestrials weren’t enough!
The film has two parallel narratives which merge unpredictably in the film’s penultimate scenes. Rey, introduced in The Force Awakens, has found Luke Skywalker on a scarcely inhabited island and she is determined to learn the ways of the Jedi. Thus the first part of this story deals with her trying to convince him to take up his lightsaber and take to the rebellion. Meanwhile, Leia is trying to escape the First Order in a space battle that sees both sides loose ships from their arsenal.
The characterisations in The Last Jedi are truly excellent, with Adam Driver portraying the complicated and strangely likable villain Kylo Ren with plausibility and John Boyega as Rey’s infallible faithful friend Fin. The stand out performance, however, goes to Star Wars veteran Mark Hamill who portrays our conflicted hero, Skywalker, with both adroitness and humility.
I would definitely recommend this film as one of the more accessible episodes in the franchise. Not only is it funny and action packed but it is also a visual ode to the very elegant Princess Leia following the death of Carrie Fisher in 2016. An absolute must see!
If I told you that this film was about a gay man from the Miami housing projects, his drug addicted mother and his friendship with a local drug dealer what would you expect? Dark imagery, gratuitous scenes of sex, drug abuse and violence? Probably. However this film is not typical or is it stereotypical of the people it depicts. Instead it is a beautifully shot, delicate, very thoughtful and thought provoking look at sexuality, masculinity and the moments that shape us.
Based on the semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin Mccraney it explores the coming of age of Chiron in three acts as he progresses towards adulthood. His mother, played by Naomi Harris, is addicted to crack and through this neglect he meets and befriends local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Chiron is an outsider, he is chased by local boys in the film’s opening and viciously bullied as a teenager and although he grows into a muscled adult who can defend himself he is vulnerable throughout.
The most explicit scene in this film is between a man and a women yet the film explores gay masculinity and sexuality. It does this through inference, using gesture codes and sound in a way which is sensitive and sincere.
The cinematography in Moonlight is beautiful. The frames are filled with colour and light which reminds the audience that this story unfolds in sunny Miami and the shot types and angles capture the characters’ emotions, vulnerability and point of view.
I went to see the film at the Ritzy in Brixton with my sister, who, as I am, is full of praise for this artistic piece of moving image. After the film there was a Q & A with the director Barry Jenkins, who says that he was given full artistic freedom on the film, and playwright Tarell Alvin Mccraney. Here is an extract from the discussion.
With 14 Oscar nominations, La La Land is a triumphant musical about Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist, and aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone). The story line focuses on the changing states of their relationship while they seek out their dreams in Hollywood.
Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have received much praise for their performances and it is well deserved. Ryan Gosling is utterly charming as the dexterous Sebastian and his tender looks draw the audience in closer and create empathy.
I loved this film, the colours, the characters and the chemistry between the leads but the best thing about La La Land, much as I expected, is Justin Hurwitz‘s musical score, holding the narrative together, keeping the film’s pace and making the audience relate to and revisit the protagonists’ journey.
Hunt for the Wilder People is a comedy about the adventures of 13 year old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennisson) and grumpy middle-aged Uncle Hec (Sam Neil) following the death of Ricky’s foster mother and Hec’s wife, Bella. The film concentrates on the main characters’ friendship, which goes from dysfunctional to brotherly over its 101 minute running time. In the backdrop is a calamitous manhunt by the Child Welfare Sevices, the police and eventually the army.
Hunt for the Wilder People does not take itself too seriously and works both as a family film and one that is targeted at an adult audience.
Neil and the rest of the supporting cast give a witty and entertaining performance, but the real star of the film is Dennisson, who is utterly hilarious as the gangster obsessed wild child and manages to steal every scene that he is in. I would highly recommend this film.
My Old Lady is a comedy drama about a troubled American, Mathias (Kevin Kline), who inherits his father’s apartment in Paris only to discover that it is inhabited by 90 year old ‘viager’ Mathilde (Maggie Smith) and her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). The viager system for buying and selling apartments means that Mathias will not get the apartment until Mathilde dies, and that while she is alive he must pay her €2400 a month.
Recovering alcoholic Mathias is broke and homeless and Mathilde allows him to stay with her in exchange for his watch. Whilst there he plots to sell the apartment to a wealthy lawyer, upsets Chloe and secretly sells and pockets money in exchange for their precious vintage furniture.
He is obnoxious and yet through the retelling of past experiences is able to eventually bond with the pair.
This is a sophisticated film with a complex and entertaining storyline that though meanders to a somewhat predictable end, remains engaging and funny throughout.
Anyone who classes themselves as a true friend will know of my interest in the stories and experiences of the African-Caribbean diaspora and my penchant for period dramas, thus it will be of no surprise that I went out of my way to see this film.
Inspired by a painting of Lady Elizabeth Dido Lindsay, Britain’s first black aristocrat, Belle explores the social conventions and hypocrisies of 18th century England.
The film was written by black British writer Misan Sagay and directed by Amma Asante and boasts a sterling cast of accomplished actors such as Tom Wilkinson and Miranda Richardson as well as relative newcomers Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid; all of whom contribute to making this film a real gem.
The film, I hope, symbolises a move amongst those in the British media to portray the lives of black Britons before 1948, although the British film industry need to pull their socks up and tell us the stories of The Empire Windrush generation too.
Belle is an excellent British film and one that I would expect to become a classic. As well as an alluring love story it addresses race, gender and class inequality in the 1700s.
The painting, by an anonymous artist, that inspired the screenplay, now hung at Scone Palace in Perth, Scotland, the family seat.