Film reviews 25.01.2024
Andrew Haigh continues his meteoric rise as one of the most exciting writer/directors working in Britain today. His highly acclaimed debut feature WEEKEND was followed by the award winning 45 YEARS and now his adaptation of the mystical Japanese novel “Strangers” by Taichi Yamada rates amongst the best of the year.
Haigh sets the action in contemporary London and follows the story of Adam (Andrew Scott), a solitary man living on a high rise building in the centre of the city. The building, which looks like Centre Point, appears to be almost deserted apart from a friendly but mysterious neighbour called Harry (Paul Mescal). There is an immediate attraction between the two men, but Adam seems to be more preoccupied with his writer’s block at present rather than getting to know better his attractive neighbour. One day he decides to go and visit his suburban childhood home to confront memories from the past, but to his surprise his parents (Jamie Bell & Claire Foy) are still there and appear to be exactly how he used to remember them when he was young…
The acting is superb – Scott is very persuasive as the lonely man seeking affection from a stranger and shares a tremendous chemistry with Pascal. Jamie D. Ramsey’s moody cinematography captures the tone and mystery of the piece most effectively.
A truly moving piece worth experiencing on the big screen!


Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize novel was first brought to the big screen in 1995 by Steven Spielberg with Whoopi Goldberg in the role of Celie Johnson. Walker’s powerful story was later turned into a stage musical back in 2005 and now this musical version is adapted for the screen by Blitz Bazawule.
The story, which spans through decades, follows Celie (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi), a poor African America girl in rural Georgia in the early 1900’s. She is abused and raped by her father Alphonso (Deon Cole), who gives away her two children before he marries her by force to a farmer called Mister (Colman Domingo)…
The male characters are verging on the stereotypical, but the compelling story is not just about men. It highlights the solidarity and tenderness of women for each other and against the violence of brutal men.
Fantasia Barrino is excellent as the grown-up and long-suffering Celie, who eventually finds affection and love in Taraji P. Henson’s Shug Avery. It is a strong production superbly photographed but the mostly unmemorable musical sequences seem to delay the action rather than progress it. Still, it is worth seeing just for Barrino’s moving performance alone!


An impressive feature film debut from television director Jamie Childs, whose distinct vision makes this thriller quite watchable, even though his screenplay needs more clarity and refining. He sets the action in a coastal town of Northeast England and follows the story of Jack Dawson (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an ex-military and motorcross champion, who returns home to look after his brother when their mother dies. He agrees to pick up a package in the North Sea for an old friend Silas (Joe Blakemore) but soon after he begins to deeply regret his decision…
It is a fast-paced thriller superbly photographed and with great use of sound. Jackson-Cohen, last seen as the love interest in EMILY, makes a credible and highly watchable action hero. It is slick and stylish but the confusing, not fully developed script fails to deliver the goods which is a shame because Childs is a genuine talent.


Thomas von Steinaecker’s brilliant documentary celebrates the life and career of the great German director Werner Herzog and is screening at the BFI Southbank as part of a major retrospective season of his work called “Journey into The Unknown: The Films of Werner Herzog.”
Herzog first came to prominence in the sixties with such films as SIGNS OF LIFE (which was made in Greece) and EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL and along with Wim Wenders was one of New German Cinema pioneers. His groundbreaking films AQUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GODS and FITZCARRALDO were the cinematic events of the seventies and were celebrated for their epic vision and imagery. But once Germany began ignoring the daring genius of this man, Herzog found a new home and career in the States making tremendous films such as GRIZZLY MAN and RESCUE DAWN.
This essential project includes interviews with many actors and collaborators as well as clips from his work and is a must for any film lover!


Werner Herzog’s 1974 masterpiece is also screening during the “Journey into The Unknown: The Films of Werner Herzog” at the BFI Southbank. It is based on the true story of Kaspar Hauser (Bruno S.), who one day suddenly appears in the middle of the town square of Nurenberg, Germany in 1828. He is hardly able to walk and holds a letter in his hand, which claims that his name is Kaspar. His background remains a mystery throughout the years, and he becomes a curiosity to society, in similar fashion to THE ELEPHANT MAN.
It is an intriguing story superbly executed by Herzog.


The title may suggest a weird B-movie, but this is a brilliant epic fantasy adventure that will blow your mind. The original title is FREAKS OUT and the story is a cross between X MEN with Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS with a touch of Fellini’s LA STRADA.
The time is 1943 and the place Rome – a circus performance is suddenly interrupted by German planes and their bombs. Soon after the chaos Israel, the leader of the group is arrested and is loaded on a lorry amongst many Jews. But four of his fellow circus performers have superpowers and are prepared to put their own lives on the line to bring him back. Meanwhile, a psychotic Nazi officer is after the four performers for his own hellish circus…
Gabrielle Mainetti’s brilliant film is superbly produced and is executed with flair and with many thrilling set pieces. The acting is excellent, but it is Franz Rogowski, as the mad Nazi, who threatens to steal the movie!


Mark Wahlberg is well known for his action as well as comedy roles. This likable comedy adventure has a bit of both. He plays Dan Morgan a loving husband with three children, who is now working as a car salesman. However, dark secrets from his past begin to soon catch up with him. He used to work as a highly accomplished government assassin and now his past enemies begin to track him down…
This is basically a road movie – Dan packs his family in a minivan and heads for Las Vegas. It is an enjoyable film with a fun premise, even though we have seen many films where the protagonists hide their true identity from their families, like TRUE LIES for instance. The action is well balanced with comedy even though the scatological humour occasionally leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
British director Simon Cellan Jones delivers the goods, aided by a strong cast that also includes Said Taghmaoui, Maggie Q and Johnny Coyne in key roles. (Apple +)


Maite Alberdi’s heartbreaking documentary is a work of great dignity and grace. She previously directed one of my favourite films THE MOLE AGENT and she now follows the story of Augusto and Paulina, an inseparable couple for 25 years.
Augusto Gongora used to be one of Chile’s most prominent commentators and television presenters covering many of his country’s historical events including Pinochet’s brutal coup in 1973, which murdered the democratically elected President Allende. For the last eight years Augusto has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but his beloved partner Paulina Urrutia puts her acting career on the side, and spends all her time by her man hoping to help him regain some of his precious memories.
It is a beautiful film, obviously very sad, but also a celebration of love and its power to heal.

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