DVD Review: Beyond the Lights

“Do you want to be a runner up, or do you want to be a winner?”

Gugu Mbatha-Raw may be tearing up the stage in Nell Gwynn at the moment but by rights, she ought to have been dominating cinema screens in last year’s Beyond the Lights, baffling sent straight to DVD here after a botched US cinematic release. Quite why this is is beyond me, aside from speculating that those responsible for such decisions thought that it wouldn’t appeal to audiences, presumably because of its perceived innate BAME focus.

But like all great stories, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film far exceeds the world it depicts, emerging as a hugely affecting modern romance full of sharp commentary about what passes for celebrity in the 21st century. Mbatha-Raw plays Noni, a budding singer winning awards as a featured artist before her first album has even dropped but whose experiences thus far in the music industry lead her to try and take her life. Saved by a policeman, Nate Parker’s Kaz, facing his own pressures from a family who dream of a political career for him, a relationship sparks that forces them to face their mutual demons. Continue reading “DVD Review: Beyond the Lights”

DVD Review: I Give It A Year

“Is it possible that some people just aren’t supposed to be married”

Joseph Millson having a threesome and Jane Asher swearing are the main high points in Dan Mazer’s I Give It A Year, a film that could do with a whole lot more. The sheen on Nat and Josh’s whirlwind marriage has worn off a little, leaving them facing serious questions as they approach their one year anniversary. With former loves reappearing, new current attractions popping up and friends and family placing bets on whether they’ll make it to the landmark 12 months, the odds seem unlikely.

Which adds up to the film’s major problem, a distinct lack of any real dramatic imperative in hoping that Nat and Josh stay together. Rose Byrne does her best with a thanklessly constructed part who seems solely designed to frustrate Rafe Spall’s hangdog novelistic intentions but as the film opens with a fast-forward through the heady days of early romance, we’re not left with anything to convince us that we should be rooting for them to actually make it to a year, hell, even the end of the film! Continue reading “DVD Review: I Give It A Year”

DVD Review: The Politician’s Wife

“Why do you think it is always Conservative politicians who end up in these kind of sexual scandals?”

The list of actresses that I just LOVE is ridiculously long and seemingly grows by the day, but Juliet Stevenson has long been on there and a discussion with a colleague just before I popped off to see Happy Days reminded me that one of my earliest memories of her work was in 1995’s The Politician’s Wife, which due to the lovely folk of 4OD, one can watch at one’s leisure. And so I did. And whilst there may be a hint of the rose-tinted glow about it, I have to say I really enjoyed delving back into the story.

Set in a Conservative administration largely inspired by the heady days of John Major’s Back to Basics campaign, Minister for Families Duncan Matlock finds himself mired in tabloid scandal as his affair with ostensible researcher Jennifer Caird is exposed to all and sundry. Devoted wife Flora is left in shock, at first by her husband’s dalliances but then by the revelation that several party grandees knew long before she did and so she plots a calculated revenge with help from some unexpected quarters. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Politician’s Wife”

Short Film Review #23

  My Dad the Communist from Tuyen Do on Vimeo.

It is tempting to see My Dad the Communist as something of a neat companion piece to Chimerica, featuring a Benedict Wong character responding to the events of Tiananmen Square in a completely different way but in truth, they are separate beasts and the only real thing linking them is the dearth of complex Asian-related stories on our screens and stages (although things do seem to be changing, slowly). This Lab Ky Mo film focuses on a typical British-Chinese family who work in a takeaway (where else?!) – Tony has lived all of his life in the UK yet his father has remained stubbornly, inscrutably Chinese in his behaviour, rarely uttering anything at all or showing any affection to his wife or son.
 
A car accident involving the older man motivates Tony to look back on his 20 year life and reflect on the rare moments that his dad did speak, realising the huge significance of those events, and the ones where he didn’t, imagining the parental figure he craved. Mo utilises the fantasy flashback several times to great effect, we really get a sense of being caught up in Tony’s reverie and it is really quite moving. Wong is customarily excellent as the taciturn father, Siu Hun Li is also strong as the son trying to do things differently, not least with his own new wife, an expressive performance from Tuyen Do.  

Continue reading “Short Film Review #23”

DVD Review: An Ideal Husband

“Sooner or later, we shall all have to pay for what we do”

Oliver Parker’s first Wilde adaptation was this 1999 film of An Ideal Husband, with Rupert Everett leading the cast as Lord Goring. What is remarkable now though is the casting of both Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore who now boast nearly 10 Academy Award nominations (and 1 win) between them so this proves a great opportunity to catch them both just at the point where their careers were going stratospheric.

Sir Robert Chiltern’s security as a politician and respected gentleman comes under threat when the devilish Mrs Cheveley, a school-time enemy of his wife Lady Gertrude, attempts to blackmail him into voting a particular way in Parliament as she has evidence of past misdoings. He turns to his friend and eternal bachelor Lord Goring for assistance, who is currently avoiding the keen attentions of Robert’s sister Mabel, as he was previously engaged to Mrs Cheveley but the plot to extricate him has unintended consequences. Continue reading “DVD Review: An Ideal Husband”