The Lobster – LFF Review

The Lobster

In a world much like our own being single has become tantamount to a crime. Anyone finding themselves unattached through divorce, death, or simply unsuccessful dating must go to The Hotel. There they have 45 days to find a partner, essentially someone who shares one distinct trait with them, or be transformed into an animal of their choice. The Hotel is run by Olivia Colman who gives lectures on why being in a couple is a good things and how it might prevent you from dying or being raped. The message here is clear; if you are single you might as well not be human.

Out in the forests hides an outcast group who cannot live in polite society anymore. This group is known as the Loners and are led by a militant Léa Seydoux. In this group being in a couple is the ultimate betrayal and even kissing or flirting are punished violently. Independence is the only valuable attribute and each Loner is even expected to dig their own grave in case they die. Running away to join the Loners is your only alternative if your time runs out at the Hotel and you want to keep your human face.

Our guide through this peculiar world is David (Colin Farrell) who reluctantly checks into The Hotel at the start of the film with his dog-shaped brother in tow. He has 45 days to find himself someone with a matching distinguishing feature or he will find himself transformed into a lobster; the logical form to choose for his post-human years. Inside the hotel he is joined by a limping man (Ben Whishaw), a woman who has nosebleeds (Jessica Barden), a man with a lisp (John C. Reilly), a woman who loves biscuits (Ashley Jensen), and a heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia). All of them, barring perhaps the heartless woman, are desperate to find whatever passes for love in this world. Meanwhile out in the woods the likes of Michael Smiley and Rachel Weisz do their best to be friendly but not flirty and evade capture from The Hotel’s residents. The cast is crammed with a fine selection of British actors and it is a great endorsement that director Yorgos Lanthimos chose to make this film in the UK rather than the US.

The Lobster 2

Yorgos Lanthimos has brought his distinctly dry humour to his first English-language feature. As you can presumably tell from what I have described the film forms a scathing satire on the modern world of dating and selecting a partner out of desperation based on the most trivial of compatibility criteria. Every line spoken in the film in done so in a completely deadpan manner making the more absurd dialogue seem sane and turning mundane conversation surreal. I got the distinct feeling that Lanthimos has looked at the world, found it ridiculous, and wants to show us the insanity he sees.

The Lobster is an incredibly funny and smart film. It takes the norms of our societal rituals and expectations and blows them up to be seen for the madness that they really are. The film has a lot of clever ideas and humorous moments and is a pleasure to watch but struggles when trying to thread a plot through all the metaphor. This being a film about love it can’t resist having a love story rear its ugly head. The romance in question is sweet but the insistence on deadpan delivery dampens any emotions. That said the muted nature of the romance adds to the general mood and message of the film so is far from out of place.

The Lobster will provide you plenty of chuckles and a few wry knowing smiles and is a unique confection from one of our most creative modern filmmakers. Once you’re in sync with the film’s unique rhythm you’ll be lost in its world.

Lobster screens at the festival again on the 15th October but sadly has sold out. Luckily it is released on the 16th anyway so not to worry.

Grand Central – DVD Review

Grand Central

Gary (Tahar Rahim) is a young man looking for a job, somewhere to sleep, and people to connect with. With no qualifications to his name Gary starts working at a nuclear power plant and living with his fellow workers. By day he is risking being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation but by night he finally has a community to share his time with. His colleagues may be rough around the edges but they are good company and you need to be able to rely on one another when working in such a dangerous environment. Before starting his new job Gary is introduced to the symptoms of radiation poisoning by his co-worker Karole (Léa Seydoux) who jokingly gives him a passionate kiss while her boyfriend Toni (Denis Ménochet) watches and laughs.

It would seem that Gary has finally found everything he is looking for but that wouldn’t make a satisfying drama now would it? After one particularly sexually charged car ride Gary finds himself flung into a passionate affair with Karole. What started as a one-off develops into something a little more as Gary falls deeper and deeper in love with his friend’s girlfriend. As the intensity of his passion rises so does his recklessness as Gary ignores protocols at the power plant that ensure his safety but might separate him from the object of his desire. It is unclear what will be Gary’s ultimate downfall; his dangerous job or his dangerous love life.

Grand Central 1

Director Rebecca Zlotowski has created a film of simmering tension and an atmosphere in which the audience is constantly unsure of when the house of cards will come tumbling down. In the harsh industrial setting of the power plant Gary and his coworkers are covered from head to toe as any exposed skin increases the danger of radiation. When Gary and Karole are together they are completely exposed but in the fields where their affair takes place everything feels completely safe. Back at camp the two lovers are clothed but vulnerable; in danger should their indiscretion be discovered. Only when the pair are alone together can the audience relax as any other time death and discovery are a misstep away. Their love for one another is simple, primal, and somehow naive and innocent. In amongst tall grass and away from the dangers elsewhere Gary and Karole can be themselves and feel safe with one another. A relationship forged in passion turns tender and all the more intimate.

Seydoux and Rahim are a superb pair. Both give layered performances that allow them to behave foolishly without losing sympathy. Seydoux are Karole gives a particularly conflicted performance as a woman in love with one man but in lust with another while Rahim plays Gary as a man driven almost mad by desire. Grand Central as a result is a tense and sexy drama about how quickly one can become infected by love for another and how decisions made in the height of passion may not always serve you well. At times a little over the top and humourless Grand Central is nonetheless incredibly watchable and a great display of modern French filmmaking.

Grand Central is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 10th November 2014.

BAFTA Rising Star Nominees 2014

Bafta Rising Star Nominees 2014

This year’s BAFTA Film Awards will be presented on the 16th of February and there is one award in particular that never fails to catch my attention; the Rising Star Award. The unique nature of the award is that the winner is voted for by the public and this is both intriguing and to the awards detriment. The award will sometimes go to the nominee with the biggest fan base or highest profile rather than an up and coming talent that could really do with the encouragement.

Yesterday BAFTA announced the five nominees as selected by a panel of industry experts and I’m here to pass judgement on them and see who I think should win.

Dane Dehaan

Dane Dehaan
Dehaan first grabbed my attention with his Season 3 role in Gabriel Byrne’s dialogue heavy TV epic In Treatment as the troubled teen Jesse D’Amato. Since then he has perfected the role of troubled genius in films such as Chronicle and Kill Your Darlings. Dehaan managed to ground the supernatural Chronicle and make it all the more real by putting in a truly threatening performance. I may not have enjoyed Kill Your Darlings but it certainly wasn’t Dehaan’s fault. His next major appearance is taking over the role of Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (a casting spookily predicted by Stephen on this blog) and I for one am quietly excited. As someone with some solid but low-key performances under his belt and more mainstream fare up ahead I can easily see what makes Dehaan a candidate for the Rising Star Award.

Will Poulter

Will Poulter
Oh Will, where did it all go wrong? Six years ago Poulter debuted in the adorable British film Son of Rambow directed by Garth Jennings in which Will played the role of Lee Carter. Since then he has taken on a few TV roles, appeared as Eustace in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and acted in the critically acclaimed Wild Bill. Most recently he has undone all that good work by helping to make the atrocity that was We’re the Millers. Sorry Will but I really can’t get past that film.

Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Nyong’o has a 100% flawless record of five-star films by virtue of the fact that her sole cinematic release to date is the, as yet unreleased in the UK, 12 Years a Slave. In this future Oscar winner (trust me) Lupita plays a young slave woman who is separated from her child and suffers the worst brutality seen in the film. As an attractive young woman she suffers from the amorous advances of her “owner” and the jealous rages of his wife all while grieving for her absent child. Nyong’o’s performance is striking and heartbreaking and I’d say she deserved this award if I didn’t already think she was on her way to the Best Actress Oscar instead.

Léa Seydoux

Léa Seydoux
Léa Seydoux has been working solidly in French cinema since 2006 and made a few appearances in high-profile American fare including Midnight in Paris, Inglourious Basterds, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. What has really brought Seydoux to everyone’s attention is her supporting role in the epic love story (and my favourite film of 2013) that is Blue is the Warmest Colour. Much as I loved her performance in the film I can’t help but think that her co-star Adèle Exarchopoulos is more deserving of a position on this list. Exarchopoulos carried the film on her shoulders and has a much less developed CV than Seydoux. All that said I am very excited to see where Léa’s career goes next particularly with her role in the remake of La belle & la bête coming up later this year.

George Mackay

George Mackay
Sadly, despite his recent role in the Proclaimers musical Sunshine on Leith, I have no idea who George Mackay is. Perhaps this anonymity makes him the perfect nominee for an award aimed at encouraging a burgeoning career or perhaps I just need to widen my cinematic horizons so that an actor’s entire career doesn’t pass me by again. Sorry George!

For me the winner has to be Dane DeHaan. Despite having a good crop of films behind him DeHaan has not yet become a household name and has put in a series of solid performances in smaller films. The others in the list have either risen too much in my opinion or made one bad film with Jennifer Aniston that i can’t get past. Not naming any names obviously. George Mackay prove me wrong, I’ll be sure to watch How I Live Now when it comes out on DVD.

Disagree with me? Of course you do! Have your say by voting over at the Rising Star Award page.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour – LFF Film Review

Blue Is the Warmest Colour

Much has been said about Blue Is the Warmest Colour, so here’s some more… Since winning the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival a lot of controversy has been stirred up around the working conditions of cast and crew and a little too much focus has been put on the fact that the film features extended lesbian sex scenes. Disagreements and sex make for good headlines but don’t necessarily make for good films and that is what we are looking for here. Behind the headlines is Blue Is the Warmest Colour actually any good?

In a word; yes. In two words; hell yes! Blue Is the Warmest Colour is the story of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) a young girl at school who is just discovering her own sexuality and place in the world. We follow her through a brief relationship with a boy and through her first same-sex relationship with the dazzling and blue-haired college student Emma (Léa Seydoux). Across the three hours of the film we see Adèle grow from child to adult as she learns the hard way just how fantastical and painful love can be.

With such a long running time we are able to get fully immersed in Adèle as a character and see her entire world. The relationship between Adèle and Emma is beautifully realised from their initial meeting and tentative conversations, through their more passionate moments, and past the time when relations are more strained. Emma is an artist surrounded by creative and cultured friends while Adèle’s dream is to be a teacher. While Emma pushes Adèle to be fulfilled through writing she is simply content to be fulfilled in their relationship. Adèle is someone who loves with every fibre of her being and is happy to be defined by her relationship, and yet ashamed to admit to it) making it all the more difficult when that relationship is struggling.

Yes the film does feature some extended lesbian sex scenes. The scenes are beautiful, raw, and passionate and do a lot to showcase the progression of Adèle and Emma’s relationship. It is not as if the film is skimping on devoting time to other areas of their relationship in favour of some titillation. We see every aspect of their relationship and infinitely more time is dedicated to exploring their relationship outside the bedroom as in it but sex is an important part of their relationship and in the three-hour expanse of the film it would be bizarre to not feature it. Does the sex need to be quite so explicit? Perhaps not but I did not find it jarring within the context of the film.

Everything about Blue Is the Warmest Colour feels natural, real and truthful. Watching this excellent cast directed by Abdellatif Kechiche you do not feel like you are watching a contrived situation; nobody seems to be acting and the dialogue does not feel scripted. Adèle is a fully realised human being and is played with immense prowess by the relatively inexperienced Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Some commentators have their criticisms of Blue Is the Warmest Colour as to its levels of exploitation and authenticity and I can only review it as a straight male. What I saw was beautiful in every way. This film is so much more than a handful of sex scenes, it is an intensely intimate character study.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour screens at the festival on the 17th October and is in UK cinemas on 15th November 2013.

BFI London Film Festival 2013