Film Discussion-December

Trance(2013)

Amid art heist films comes Danny Boyle’s Trance, which with a voiceover introduction into the world of a perfect heist from James McAvoy, draws the viewer in from the first sentence. A host of interesting characters and original plot in the midst of engaging, yet disorientating cinematography produces an effective heist film . Focusing on Simon, an art auctioneer who must undergo hypnotherapy to locate a painting for a gang of thieves, this stars James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson. McAvoy portraying down on his luck art auctioneer Simon convincingly. Vincent Cassel is crime boss Franck, a multifaceted character who may be a criminal but has other sides to him. Rosario Dawson portrays Elizabeth, the witty hypnotherapist who is brought on board to escalate the situation. Known for direction on big titles such as 127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days later Boyle enjoyed working on a twisted story pitting characters against one another, similar to his earlier work on 1994 crime thriller Shallow Grave.

Twist after twist is explored in an interesting world of hypnotherapy where cinematography mirrors the warped characterisation, acting as a vehicle for the plot. Toxic relationships are a key theme in this film, with the sadness of the characters being felt throughout. Somewhat Charlie Kaufmanesque, it provides a unique watch, featuring a classical score which is as chaotic and uncertain as the unravelling plot.

For an enjoyable thriller with interesting characters that will keep the surprises coming, look no further than Trance.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Old(2021)

A film about people rapidly ageing, “How interesting…”, was my initial thought when hearing about Old. However, what ensued was the use of an interesting concept to propel uninteresting characters and lacklustre acting to the film’s end. Rapid ageing coupled with well-used horror elements and beautiful cinematography could not carry this film. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Split, The Sixth Sense) a family on holiday at a resort are directed to a private beach for a day out. Once there they start to experience some changes. This stars Alex Wolff (Pig, Hereditary), Thomasin McKenzie (Last Night in Soho, Leave No Trace), Gael Garcia Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) and Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread, The Colony) to name a few. Inspired by the graphic novel Sandcastle, according to Shyamalan it’s about events escalating so fast that the characters are unable to escape from them.

I couldn’t muster a connection to any of the 2D characters both due to their dialogue, character development and the actors not bringing much range to their performances, perhaps due to the script. Having recently watched Alex Wolff’s performance in Hereditary indicates he didn’t have too much to work with for his character, however, his wide-eyed face of shock was present in a few scenes. Even so, interesting ideas behind the plot offer a refreshing perspective on making the most of life and how the passage of time improves situations. The plot drags attempting to shock viewers with its many twists, along with over the top performances and reactions. It didn’t feel reflective of what this experience would actually be like for the people involved. The horror used in the iconic cave scene was creepy and well done. Panning camera work captures the eerily beautiful yet claustrophobic nature of the beach, the use of baritone, Inception-like sound design setting an ominous tone of entrapment.

A horror film about getting old that would benefit from some character development, Old delivers on effective cinematography, music and horror aspects that bring parts of the film to life. Even so, I would not recommend as the characters and dialogue do not do justice to its interesting subject matter.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Spencer(2021)

Learning that Kristian Stewart would be taking on the role of Diana did not initially inspire much confidence, knowing her eyebrow twitching repertoire in a variety of offbeat comedies and Twilight. Spencer provides a fresh thought-provoking take, authentically describing Diana’s struggles as part of a cold royal family with constant expectations, never managing to escape the public eye. Spencer tells the story of Princess Diana during the time when her marriage with Prince Charles was under strain. Directed by Pablo Larrain (Jackie) this film charts Diana’s emotional journey as she spends Christmas at the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

This has got to be Kristian Stewart’s best film yet which showcases the depth of her acting ability. We believe Diana’s entrapment in this royal household as Stewart creates a sense of empty loneliness making us feel sorry for her as nobody else is on her side. A strained relationship with Charles is evoked through the empty conversations and looks where he only cares about appearances. A necklace of pears is given abundant significance depicting the cracks in the shiny aesthetic prevalent in royal life, masking it’s empty, lonely nature. We very much feel the themes of Diana’s life belonging to others rather than being her own. When she walks into a cafe to ask for directions and is met with blank stares from the people there this reflects the lonely nature of her life as people know who she is but don’t actually see her. The idea that royals have two selves is explored well here, one that the public sees and who the person actually is.

Kristian Stewart brings Diana to life in an array of Chanel costuming that works well with the film’s aesthetics, creating a beautiful work of art. Faultless in its plot and exploration of a character, Spencer is about a royal trying to make her marriage work, whilst trying to maintain her authenticity.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Silent Night(2021)

A few childhood friends meet up for a Christmas party at Nell, Simon and their son Art’s mansion in the countryside is all anyone needs to know going into this film. Providing interesting subject matter whilst creating an awkwardly tense party feel through its dialogue and tone, Silent Night brings novel ideas to the Christmas horror genre. A directional debut from Camille Griffin with a star-studded ensemble cast of Kiera Knightly, Matthew Goode, Lucy Punch, Roman Griffin Davis and Lily-Rose Depp, the story questions how people behave towards one another and the rest of society. It centers on the relationships of the privileged class system in the UK, satirising their behaviour and response when faced with catastrophe.

Camille Griffin cast her children Gilby, Hardy and Roman Griffin Davis in the film which added to it as they already understand each other. Keira Knightly effectively portrays worried mother Nell who won’t listen to anyone thinking that she is doing the right thing, Matthew Goode supporting her as husband Simon. Davida McKenzie brings the most annoying, spoilt child in a Christmas movie to the screen along with the twins played by Gilby and Hardy Griffin Davis. I swear a can of coke has never felt this ominous. Making comments on societal inequity, providing an insightful look into the value of human life this film creates a thought-provoking space for the ideas expressed. Filmed as if you are looking in on a family Christmas in the UK, including all the best elements of Christmas such as dancing, drinks, sparklers and pudding adds authenticity making the situation scarier as this could happen to anyone. The dialogue is sharp, creating an awkward extended family reunion feel to match these Christmas party elements.

Would highly recommend although it does highlight some shocking points about society today which is the most horrifying part of the film . Although I wasn’t fully engaged throughout, Silent Night is a Christmas party joyride that doesn’t really end up where you would expect but is worth the journey anyway.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Feast(2021)

A stylishly beautiful piece set in an idyllic countryside location, this film is literally a feast for the senses with its polished cinematography techniques, choice of costume, effective lighting and an electrifying performance from Annes Elwy. The dinner party thriller has been done time and time again, with entries like The Invitation providing food for thought. This film which is entirely in Welsh focuses on a wealthy family living out in the countryside. The matriarch of the household is preparing a feast and hires Cadi from a local catering company to help her with cooking and serving the food. A psychological slow-burn split into several parts, each dealing with a specific theme in the movie as the plot unravels, I haven’t encountered a psychological horror so enveloping since Midsommar, Swallow or even The Invitation. Directed by Lee Haven Jones, known for work on TV shows The Long Call, The Bay and Doctor Who, he and writer Roger Williams wanted to say something about the world in which we live particularly concerning the use of resources and abuse of the earth. They both wanted to tell Welsh stories to a global audience, Lee Haven Jones inspired by his passion for horror and elevated horror films in the recent years from Ari Aster and Jordan Peele.

A hauntingly powerful performance from Annes Elwy (Cadi) with hardly a word of dialogue spoken delivers a dinner party experience that stays with you. She is an observer in this home that draws you in with her lack of dialogue and air of mystery. The gorgeous countryside house was influenced by Japanese architecture with both Lee Haven Jones and Roger Williams incorporating elements of it(such as the mediation room) within the script to highlight its beauty. The Feast is an array of bright colours , creating a luxurious dinner party location that highlights the importance of the evening going well to this family. Fading shots over current scenes highlight important events occurring before such scenes, adding snippets of understanding to Cadi’s motivations. Aided by a layered classical score that matches the aesthetic, The Feast creates a haunting world that is easy to get lost in. Shards of a shattered wine bottle have never been so horrifying.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hope you enjoyed these reviews and have some new movies to add to your lists. To see what else I’m watching check out my letterboxd diary:https://letterboxd.com/Lily2707/films/diary/

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