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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.Nov.22

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir-scr Charlotte Wells
prd Mark Ceryak, Amy Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski
with Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Sally Messham, Brooklyn Toulson,Spike Fearn, Harry Perdios, Ruby Thompson, Ethan James Smith, Onur Eksioglu, Kayleigh Coleman, Kieran Burton
release US 21.Oct.22,
UK 18.Nov.22
22/UK BBC 1h42

london film fest

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corio and mescal
Writer-director Charlotte Wells' ambitious filmmaking elevates a rather thinly developed story into something provocative and haunting. Like a David Lynch movie, its emotions wash over the audience inexplicably, adding a sense of impending doom to a sunshiny vacation getaway. And Paul Mescal's textured central performance adds a gut punch. So while it's a bit frustrating that nothing seems to happen on-screen, there's clearly something momentous taking place somewhere.
Around the turn of the millennium, 20-something Calum (Mescal) takes his daughter Sophie (Corio) on holiday to Turkey for her 11th birthday. Clearly close, they relax in the sunshine and shoot silly footage with their new video camera, while Calum gently asks Sophie how she's getting along with her mum. In between hanging out around the pool together, Sophie makes friends with Michael (Toulson), a boy her age, as well as a group of older teens who fascinate her. By contrast, Calum drinks a bit too much, does tai chi and buys an expensive rug.
All of this is seen through a fractured lens, as an older Sophie (Rowlson-Hall) revisits these memories in a swirl of nostalgia and something else, possibly grief, anger or regret. Wells' approach is less to tell a story than to reveal a series of emotions. So scenes roll along in a slice-of-life way, revealing snippets of the trip this father and daughter take together. This is played with a smile, and a witty sense of realistic humour, but Oliver Coates' gnawing musical underscore, plus suggestive camerawork and editing, hint that something awful is coming.

Mescal and Coirio have terrific chemistry as a young dad and his knowing child. They are often more like friends than parent and child, so the interaction bounces back and forth between them with neither really in charge. Their teasing banter is infused with the adoration they have for each other, and the ease with which they shift into serious conversations is beautifully played. Meanwhile, Mescal adds the darker undertones in between the lines, occasionally offering a more extended glimpse.

Using flickers of imagery, video clips, photographs and starkly intense cutaways, Wells seems to want the audience to fill in the narrative blanks from our own experiences, so it's likely that each viewer will have a different emotional response to this film. And some will be annoyed that what's on-screen only suggests something devastating without bringing things to the expected pay-off. Still, as an example of the power of skilled filmmaking, this is an impressive feature debut.

cert 15 themes, language 14.Nov.22

Enys Men  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
Enys Men
dir-scr Mark Jenkin
prd Denzil Monk
with Mary Woodvine, Edward Rowe, Flo Crowe, John Woodvine, Joe Gray, Loveday Twomlow, Callum Mitchell, Dion Star, Amanda Rawling, Morgan Val Baker, Isaac Woodvine
release US Oct.22 nyff,
UK 13.Jan.23
22/UK Film4 1h31

london film fest

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Cornish filmmaker Mark Jenkin takes on local folklore with this seriously offbeat horror movie set on an uninhabited island. With almost no dialog at all, the film carefully builds an unnerving ambience that's loaded with freaky implications as well as some colourful historical details. Jenkin shoots this on grainy 16mm, creating fantastic colour-soaked images that vividly capture a sense of how isolation can mess with your head.
In 1973 on an island off the coast of Cornwall, a wildlife volunteer (Woodvine) makes daily observations of a rare flower perched on a cliff. From her ivy-covered stone cottage, her routine expands to dropping a rock in a well and interacting with both the apparition of a young woman (Crowe) and the island's prominent Bronze Age standing stone, which seems to watch her. Running low on both tea and fuel for her generator, she anxiously awaits the arrival of a boatman (Rowe) with supplies. But time seems to be slipping out of her grasp.
The Cornish title translates as Stone Island ("men" is pronounced "mane"), and Jenkin is tonally evoking memories of nasty primal movies like The Wicker Man. For this woman, events are beginning to spiral out of chronological order, messing with her perception of what's happening. Indeed, crowds of long-gone residents appear around her, including members of a religious colony, singing children, a lifeboat crew and a team of miners. Their expressive faces offer unexpected emotions and unsettling challenges. All overseen by this standing stone.

With so little dialog, Woodvine's expressive face caries the film almost as if it was a silent movie. Her reactions are subtle but graphic, revealing her surprise and terror at the inexplicable things happening around her, from lichen growing on her flowers (and on her own abdominal scar) to appearances from various people around her, real and imagined. Her only real interaction is with Rowe, when he drops by with supplies, and he adds his own offbeat feelings as everything seems to be coming unglued.

Elemental films like this appeal to the viewer on a subliminal level, so Jenkins' genius decision to eschew dialog or any obvious plotting pays off beautifully. This allows bigger themes to emerge where we least expect them to, touching on the tension between humanity and nature. Fans of more obvious storytelling may have trouble hanging on for the ride, but those who go with this will be incrementally chilled to the bone as the movie progresses. And they'll have a lot of fun along the way as well.

cert 15 themes, violence, sexuality 27.Oct.22

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
dir-scr Fridtjof Ryder
prd Henry Richmond, Louis Paine, Fridtjof Ryder
with Rory Alexander, Mark Rylance, Kathryn Hunter, Eleanor Holliday, Shaun Dingwall, Nell Williams, Alexander Lincoln, Sebastian Orozco, Jake Gwilliam, Reinhild Beuther, Jeremy Dunleavy, Penelope Wildgoose
release UK Oct.22 lff
22/UK 1h22

london film fest

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rylance and alexander
Infused with moody atmospherics, this dark and insinuating British fairy tale has a densely wooded setting and characters who are driven by past events they may not fully understand. Using inventive, sometimes experimental filmmaking, writer-director Fridtjof Ryder keeps the tone otherworldly from the start, evoking a primal emotionality and ancient pagan rituals. But the storytelling is so loose that details of the plot feel just out of reach.
After leaving a psychiatric hospital, am unnamed young man (Alexander) returns to his rural home village near Gloucester. Family friend Dunleavy (Rylance) takes him in and gives him back his old job as a mechanic. But his mother (Holliday) has gone missing, and this young man is haunted by everything he sees, especially after visiting a surreal nightclub with a group of local guys. And he can't explain why he can't work up the nerve to see his old friend Toby (Orozco). Perhaps it has something to do with the incident that saw him institutionalised.
Beautifully shot in deep hues, with gravelly voices whispering ominously poetic voiceovers, the film has a dreamy ambience that's mesmerisingly beautiful, and more than a little unnerving. Dialog is deliberately offhanded, offering glimpses into the person speaking, rather than details about their lives or connections. Flashbacks gradually reveal an experience this young man had in the forest as a young boy. And there's a young woman (Hunter) who has also gone missing, complicating his sense of reality.

In the central role, Alexander makes this young man deliberately inexpressive, even as it's clear that he's dealing with some very deep emotions. His interaction with others reveals things he's thinking and feeling, even as the actor skilfully keeps everything tightly bottled up. His perspective informs everything on-screen, so other characters are far less defined. Rylance is superb as the chatty, caring Dunleavy, who snaps into moments of riveting lucidity. But his Britishness keeps him from expressing his own deeper feelings.

There's a tendency while watching this kind of film to see each scene as some sort of puzzle piece that needs to fit neatly in with the others to create a clear picture. But Ryder seems to be creating a more elemental narrative that reveals details in the feelings themselves, plus the occasional burst of highly charged information. That said, there isn't much about the plot that comes into clear focus, and while the filmmaking is lovely, the story remains inaccessible. Where it goes may be strikingly played and expertly shot, but it doesn't have much emotional impact.

cert 15 themes, language 11.Oct.22

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