A world of dark impulses hides in plain sight in the luminous landscapes of Jersey. A serial killer is about. This does not stop Moll (Jessie Buckley) from roaming freely. Her icy mother (Geraldine James) does not seem too concerned about her daughter’s safety, yet very concerned with controlling her.

girls always happyGirls Always Happy was a breath of fresh air during a Berlinale which has featured a remarkable number of downbeat stories. It’s an accomplished film. It presents an original point of view about how to lead a life, in a changing society which still remains restrictive about a young woman’s place in the world. The film was nominated for Best First Feature Award for its director (and lead actress), Yang Mingming – a strong contender which deserved to win.

song of graniteThe stark landscapes of Galway, on the West coast of Ireland, form the backdrop to Song of Granite. It’s an elegantly understated, and original, documentary about a remarkable life. Joe Heaney, the now long-gone but much loved sean-nós singer, who died in 1984, is celebrated here again after a spell of obscurity.

A deliciously funny romantic comedy, I Got Life is a reminder that with love and determination, there’s always hope. In the picturesque seaside town of La Rochelle, Aurore (Agnès Jaoui) is having a bad day. Pre-menopausal hot flushes, a husband who’s decamped to have babies with a young woman, a sleazy boss, and a newly pregnant daughter – everything is conspiring to overwhelm her. This could go all Ken Loach and pear-shaped.

The re-release of The Magic Flute, part of the BFI’s Ingmar Bergman centenary celebrations, is a joy and a delight. Filmed for Swedish television in 1975, the film soon gained international critical acclaim. Since then, it has become regular festive television fare. It is wonderful to see it again on the big screen.

Mozart’s opera is probably best remembered for its duets, repeated motif of a chirrupping flute, and cascading peals of glockenspiel. There’s love, in its many guises: romantic, lustful, embittered and disenchanted. In counterpoint, high drama, darkness and treachery wreak havoc. Steadfast love eventually triumphs. It’s a gorgeous story. The music is ineffably delightful.

Walk With Me carries within its heart a quiet note of brotherly love. When filmmaker Max Pugh’s brother became a Buddhist monk, over ten years ago, Pugh attended the ordination. It left a profound impression on him. Years later, Pugh and fellow filmmaker Marc J. Francis were invited to make a documentary about the community his brother had joined, Plum Village. The village is a Zen Buddhist community and meditation centre, founded by the Vietnamese poet and spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, and his monastic disciple Sister Chan Khong.

Mayhem reigns wherever Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), an irrepressible six year old, leads her friends. She is a little tornado of mischief, and has an answer for everything. Whatever trouble she concocts, her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) stands up for her.

Pull back, and the reality of their home is revealed. Moonee and Halley live in poverty in a cheap motel in Florida, just off a busy highway. The motel is called the Magic Castle. A lure for unsuspecting tourists, and a long-term dormitory for the dispossessed. In the distance, Disney World – the Florida Project.

In a series of elaborate set-pieces, Cate Blanchett speaks glorious, declamatory words, fragments of manifestos.

It starts with a spark, in darkness. A fuse burns elegantly out of focus to the words of Marx, Tzara and Soupault. Who is Soupault, one might ask. Well – a Dadaist turned Surrealist; 1920s. And so starts a daisy chain of intellectual and artistic movements, in no particular date order.

What better way to start the New Year than with a bracing dose of existential fear and trembling?

The BFI kicks off its Ingmar Bergman centenary celebrations with the revival of Bergman’s 1966 film, Persona. Deeply absorbing, it is another of the director’s lavishly symbolic films, playing with the ideas of artifice, the self, and imbalances of power.


A lyrical, bittersweet tale, Youth is set against an epic background. It starts in the dying days of the Cultural Revolution, continues on the frontline of the Sino-Vietnamese War in the late 1970s, and ends sometime in the 1990s, in a China transformed by Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms.

A wild night in New York starts calmly enough. In a psychiatrist’s office, a young man, Nick (Benny Safdie), speaks haltingly.  He is being assessed for cognitive function. It becomes obvious, that his capacity for understanding the complexities of the world is limited.

The big camera close-ups on his face amplify his discomfort. He is about to explain something about himself, something that maybe he shouldn’t, when peace is abruptly shattered. A young man, rough, wild, angry, erupts into the room and drags him out.  His brother, Connie (Robert Pattinson, almost unrecognisable). He is agitated. Frenetic. The two brothers rush out – and go rob a bank.

An elegy to football past... Shankly: Nature's Fire

My review at Cinemazine.co.uk