Social Sheffield Film Editor, Natasha Edgington, picks the top three films screening in Sheffield, Mon. 20 – Sun. 26 Feb. 2017
1. – I, Claude Monet (2017) – – – (U) (Showing at Showroom on Tuesday 21 February at 8:30pm)
[Genre: Documentary/Art History. Dir: Phil Grabsky. Starring: Henry Goodman. Language: English]
Phil Grabsky and his company Exhibition on Screen are well-versed in the field of cultural documentaries. This month, they bring their latest piece I, Claude Monet to selected cinema screens. Exhibition on Screen’s philosophy is to make art more accessible, by delivering comprehensive documentaries on various artists, exploring their lives, influences and collections of work. Comprised from the vast resource of over 2500 letters and other private writings, Grabsky depicts Monet in a humane and palpable light. The film paints a portrait of his innermost plights; his battle with loneliness, mental illness and thoughts of suicide. Also presented are the fancies that saved him, catalysing a positive way of approaching the world, specifically his love of gardening. His vast collection of works worshipping the botanic, boosted an appreciation for the natural beauty in everyday encounters. The filming is stretched across Europe, covering the locations integral to Monet’s work, including the very spots where his visions came to fruition. I, Claude Monet presents an intimate and stirring look at one of the most illustrious art figures of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
See the trailer: I, Claude Monet (2017)
2. – The Fits (2015) – – – (12A) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Anna Rose Holmer. Starring: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Antonio A.B. Grant Jr., Lauren Gibson. Language: English]
Coming of age dramas featured heavily in last week’s picks, and this week is no exception with Anna Rose Holmer’s debut The Fits. Toni is an eleven-year-old tomboy on the cusp of puberty, spending her after-school hours training in the boxing gym with her older brother. After peering through the window of the sports hall, she sets her eyes on the all-girl dance troupe The Lionesses. Battling with an alien force compelling her to femininity, Toni leaves the comforts of the gym for the female-driven subculture. One day an older member of the troupe succumbs to a bout of unexplained convulsions, which steadily begins to spread amongst the group. The Fits is about the tentative journey of adolescence and the anxiety of competition. The theme of identity charges the narrative, studying the many facets of our personalities that only emerge dependent on our environment. Who we are alone and who we are in the classroom or office are wholly contingent, and Anna Rose Holmer beautifully captures this. There are some really interesting accomplishments in The Fits, namely in its production. Much of the film’s dominant atmosphere is achieved through Paul Yee’s introspective cinematography and the exciting and innovative music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (Christine, Enemy, Martha Marcy May Marlene). It varies from avant-garde clarinet flutters to rhythmic hand clapping and stomping, transcending scenes in to a form of hypnotism. The culmination of the visual and aural aesthetics imbues it with a New Wave feel, suggesting elements of mystery and the weird. It must be noted that the use of dialogue is restrained here, allowing for the aforementioned aesthetics to fill in with the storytelling. A contemporary coming of age drama steeped in atmosphere and wonderment, The Fits beams with its originality.
See the trailer: The Fits (2015)
3. – The Cat Returns (2002) – – – (U) (Showing at Showroom on Saturday 25 February at 1.00pm)
[Genre: Anime/Adventure. Dir: Hiroyuki Morita. Starring: Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Judy Greer, Chizuru Ikewaki, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Aki Maeda. Language: English/Japanese]
Having worked as an animator for Studio Ghibli in the previous decade, Hiroyuki Morita’s The Cat Returns was the studio’s second release not directed by legend Hayao Miyazaki. This light-hearted adventure unfolds with teenager Haru saving a cat from oncoming traffic on her way to school. Unexpected events begin to happen, her garden suddenly overgrown with catnip and school locker bursting with mice. She is awoken one night to find a procession of cats at her home, led by the Cat King who asks for Haru’s hand in marriage to his son. Guided by a kind voice only she can hear, Haru heads to the Cat Bureau to seek advice, only to be whisked off to the magical Cat Kingdom. For Studio Ghibli veterans, their films nicely settle in to one of two categories. The first are their mature, emotive dramas, which have seen some recent additions with The Wind Rises and When Marnie Was There. The second, and arguably their wider-loved category, are their fun and vibrant tales such as My Neighbour Totoro and Ponyo. The Cat Returns certainly applies to the latter, a splendid escape for all audiences regardless of age. The hallmarks of Studio Ghibli’s imaginative animation are proudly on display, especially when transported to the Cat Kingdom. There are subtle, underlying themes on harnessing your own identity, amidst adolescent pressures to fit in and adhere to trend. Frequent soundtrack collaborator Joe Hisaishi took a step back for this release, allowing for Yuji Nomi’s positively wonderful compositions to fill the scenes. The Cat Returns is a charming, feline-filled adventure that continues to deliver that feel-good factor.
See the trailer: The Cat Returns (2002)
– – – PREVIOUS EDITOR’S PICKS – – – STILL SCREENING IN SHEFFIELD – – –
20th Century Women (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Mike Mills. Starring: Annette Bening, Lucas Jade Zumann, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup. Language: English]
From Mike Mills, the director behind the poignant Beginners comes meditative coming-of-age drama 20th Century Women. Taking place in the summer of 1979, mid-50s Dorothea lives with her teenage son Jamie, and boarders Abbie and William in Santa Barbara, California. Each of the characters have had their own hurdles in life to overcome, some still powering through them. Having had Jamie later in life, Dorothea feels like she is struggling to raise her son, feeling inadequate in her ability to connect with the new generation. In the kitchen one day, Dorothea asks Abbie and Jamie’s slightly older friend Julie if they would help enrich his worldview with their own experiences. This framework allows for each of the well-rounded characters to have their own presence on screen. Giving them the opportunity to express their musings via. voice-over (a Mills signature), whilst the camera plumbs in to their memories and deepest reservations. Political change permeates the narrative, and so Mills uses cultural signifiers throughout to evoke the characters’ wavering nostalgia. The soundtrack acts as a timeline of the characters’ lives; Dorothea’s youth being ‘20s jazz from Benny Goodman to Fred Astaire, and 1979 punk rock from Germs to Talking Heads. In particular, the punk-laden soundtrack suggests that this is an inherently personal film to Mills. An autobiographical account of his adolescence, shaped by the hands of sagacious women. A tender celebration of human connection and solidarity, 20th Century Women shows that relationships are integral to social progression.
See the trailer: 20th Century Women (2016)
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Odeon)
[Genre: Drama/War. Dir: Mel Gibson. Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Vince Vaughn, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving. Language: English/Japanese]
Mel Gibson makes his directorial comeback with Hacksaw Ridge, an old-fashioned albeit bloody war drama based on true events. Andrew Garfield takes the lead as U.S. army medic Desmond Doss, a Christian man who enrols for service during World War II. Desmond soon causes ripples as he refuses to bear arms due to his Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. The film is divided in to two parts, beginning with his early stages of training, meeting future wife Dorothy, and outlining the disadvantaged upbringing which led to his state of beliefs. The second half sees him thrown out of his comfort zone and on to the frontline of the Battle of Okinawa. Writers Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan masterfully weave emotionally searing moments with turbulent battle scenes, achieving a good balance particularly in the latter half. Two raging struggles charge the narrative forward; the war itself, and the wrestle to retain faith amid bloodshed. As to be expected from Gibson, the battle sequences are far from sugar-coated. They are well-choreographed and will appeal greatly to fans of the genre. While the savage and unflinching nature of these scenes may be too lurid for some, they accurately depict the reality of war, especially from this period. An engaging war narrative with classical direction, Hacksaw Ridge marks a respectable return for Mel Gibson.
See the trailer: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) – – – (12A) (Showing at Film Unit, Sheffield Students’ Union, Western Rd, S10 2TG on Friday 24 February at 7:30pm. Tickets £3, book online or pay at the desk)
[Genre: Comedy/Drama. Dir: Taika Waititi. Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata. Language: English]
For those of you suffering the autumn blues, I have just the remedy. Heartwarming and uplifting, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a real gem. A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle (Sam Neill), who go missing in the New Zealand bush. Excellent casting choices forge a credible bond between the two. The pair’s dynamic draws comparisons to Disney Pixar’s Up. Taika Waititi masters the best child performance of the year in Julian Dennison. Audiences of all ages will be catered for by the screenplay’s clever humour. Fun and quirky editing also compliments the story’s upbeat feel. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a delightful comedy adventure, guaranteed to raise the spirits.
See the trailer: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
The Innocents (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Film Unit, Sheffield Students’ Union, Western Rd, S10 2TG on Saturday 25 February at 3:30pm & 7:30pm. Tickets £3, book online or pay at the desk)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Anne Fontaine. Starring: Lou de Laâge, Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza. Language: French/Polish/Russian]
This harrowing tale casts light on the many women whose lives were and are affected by war, in this instance focusing on World War II. Infiltrated by soldiers, nuns in a Polish convent are assaulted, leaving seven with child. The nuns seek help from a French Red Cross doctor, beseeching her discretion to avoid shame and scandal. The Innocents is a moving true story, strengthened by its powerful thematic grounds. Ingmar Bergman fans will feel at home with the film’s dialogue on faith and theology. The cinematography by Caroline Champetier is absolutely breathtaking, a true visual splendour. She also achieved this in kindred film Of Gods and Men, and Leos Carax’s extraordinary Holy Motors. Director Anna Fontaine honours the sensitive truth of The Innocents with dignity and poise.
See the trailer: The Innocents (2016)
Jackie (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Odeon, Showroom)
[Genre: Drama/Biography. Dir: Pablo Larraín. Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt. Language: English/Spanish]
Tackling another political biopic from an unconventional angle, Pablo Larraín (Neruda, The Club, No) depicts Jackie in the wake of husband John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Taken from Noah Oppenheim’s highly sought after screenplay (Steven Spielberg once debated its acquisition), the film respectfully portrays Jacqueline Kennedy’s battle with grief under the spotlight. Opening with the pivotal event, the camera observes Jacqueline through the many invasive public appearances that ensued after. Larraín’s blend of nonlinear flashbacks and interview-style sequences with present day offers a little more depth to the subject’s sorrow. Memories are so often drawn to the surface during our dark moments and this is achieved tastefully. This is undoubtedly Natalie Portman’s best performance in recent years, portraying a gradually crumbling persona shrouded by sartorial finery and poise. Portman’s steely performance has garnered some criticism, though she has executed the role appropriately. Her anguish may be barely detectable, but there are moments where her barriers falter. With Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) leading production and Under the Skin composer Mica Levi serving an intense string-driven soundtrack, the final result is utterly resplendent. Jackie is a depiction of how prominent figures must reinvent versions of themselves to maintain self-preservation during tragedy.
See the trailer: Jackie (2016)
La La Land (2016) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, Odeon, Showroom)
[Genre: Musical/Romantic Comedy. Dir: Damien Chazelle. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J. K. Simmons, John Legend. Language: English]
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land sets the precedence for contemporary musicals, giving the genre a much-needed rejuvenation. Crazy, Stupid, Love co-stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite and take centre stage in this sensational feature. The film opens with jazz pianist Seb and aspiring actress Mia stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam, which explodes in to a glorious routine on a four lane overpass. Their paths fail to cross during this sequence, and Chazelle teases this during the beginning, evoking the poetics of great movie (and real life) romances. When boy finally meets girl in serendipitous circumstances, their compatibility is undeniable. Both are dreamers and perfectionists, largely unappreciated in a city made of fleeting stardom. But all good things come to an end, and ultimately they must decide what is important – dreams or love. Damien Chazelle has achieved a visual masterpiece, invoking the majesty of classic Hollywood musicals and forging his own interpretation. The kaleidoscopic splendour of the imagery is its most breath-taking aspect. Shot on 35mm celluloid, the camera pirouettes through the film in sweet reverie. Chazelle takes inspiration from Jacques Demy’s French ‘60s musicals The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort, and celebrates legends Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. The two leads captivate with equally remarkable performances, and are a true joy to watch on screen. With music being a primary concern of Damien Chazelle (his last feature being the highly-acclaimed Whiplash), one wonders what genre he will tackle next. Tantalising the senses with its lavish pastel hues and compelling chemistry, La La Land is an idyllic escape from the January blues.
See the trailer: La La Land (2016)
Lion (2016) – – – (PG) (Showing at Cineworld, Odeon, Showroom)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Garth Davis. Starring: Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham. Language: English/Bengali/Hindi]
Fresh on the film circuit, Garth Davis’ Lion is a dramatisation of Saroo Brierley’s non-fiction book A Long Way Home. Having previously worked with Jane Campion on her series Top of the Lake, Davis is not a total newcomer to the medium. The remarkable story sees a five-year-old Indian boy Saroo becoming inadvertently separated from his family, after he climbs aboard a closed train only to wake days later miles away from home. Saroo is thronged in to an unknown environment and must use his instinct to navigate life amongst the bustle of Calcutta’s streets. Years later and unable to forget that cataclysmic moment of his youth, twenty-five-year-old Saroo played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, Skins) strives to locate his biological family using the technological advances of Google Earth. It is hard to gloss over the fact that this is a Hollywood production, drawing in big names guaranteed to reap attention. Two of Hollywood’s finest actresses Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara bolster the film with credible performances, though are sadly hindered by clichéd and underwritten roles. The real star of the show is the young Saroo performed flawlessly by non-actor Sunny Pawar. His inimitable naturalness is magical, evoking Subir Banerjee’s performance in Satyajit Ray’s childhood classic Pather Panchali. Nonetheless, while it straddles familiar territory and fails to bring anything exceptional to the table, the source content of Lion is still an interesting discovery to make.
See the trailer: Lion (2016)
Manchester by the Sea (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Odeon)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Kenneth Lonergan. Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Ben O’Brien. Language: English]
Playwright turned director Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature Manchester by the Sea is a work of humanist magnificence. The film opens with Lee (Casey Affleck), a solitary handyman living in Boston, who returns to his eponymous hometown after his brother suffers a heart attack. Passing away upon his arrival, Lee delivers the heart-wrenching news to his sixteen-year-old nephew Patrick, and begins to effectuate the funeral preparations. An arduous journey lies ahead for Lee for several reasons. Assuming the role of Patrick’s guardian is no easy challenge, and even more so is the confrontation of his haunted past – the reason he fled home many years ago. Kenneth Lonergan hones a profound portrayal of the grieving process, which will pack a punch for many viewers. It must be said that the screenplay and dialogue is exceptional, relying little on brazen acts of Hollywood melodrama. Sombre moments are undercut with streaks of dark humour, which balances the tone appropriately. The film boasts standout performances by all cast members. Casey Affleck is believably subdued as Lee, and Lucas Hedges is sublime as Patrick, the teen masking his grief behind a sardonic façade. Manchester by the Sea is a quietly devastating drama, of overcoming plaguing sorrows that cause many to despair. A strong Oscar Awards contender, watch this space.
See the trailer: Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Moana (2016) – – – (PG) (Showing at Cineworld, Odeon)
[Genre: Animation/Adventure. Dir: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams. Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison. Language: English]
Disney continue to pave the way for modern animation in their latest delight Moana. Taking us to warmer climates in contrast to their previous box office hit Frozen, the directors behind Aladdin and The Little Mermaid weave a vibrant fairy tale, incorporating Polynesian folklore to the tapestry. Amidst the tranquil island of Motunui lives Moana, the sole heir to a chief in a long line of sea navigators. When the crops begin to wither and the island’s fisherman unable to catch any fish, the Ocean seeks her help in what will be a life-changing quest. She learns that the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) has stolen the heart of the island which keeps its life flowing, and so she embarks on a voyage to return it home. Centring around a headstrong and independent female lead, Moana indicates the positive direction Disney is taking the franchise. Alongside Mulan, The Princess and the Frog, Brave and even Frozen, Moana has given girls and boys a respectable role model to aspire to. It must be said that it is a beautiful film to look at. This is the crème de la crème of digital animation; skin and hair have palpable texture and dimension, whilst the luscious water and foliage almost flow through the screen. Adventurous, heart-warming and funny, audiences of all ages will be swept away by the splendour of Moana. Make sure you stay seated until after the credits roll.
See the trailer: Moana (2016)
Moonlight (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, Showroom)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Barry Jenkins. Starring: Ashton Sanders, Alex R. Hibbert, Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris. Language: English]
Exploring the journey many black men raised in marginalised communities face, director Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight delivers a coming-of-age drama unlike most others. Divided over three time periods, the film charts the life of central character Chiron and childhood companion Kevin, observing the pivotal moments that shaped their course. Adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the film begins with Chiron (aptly nicknamed Little) at ten-years-old during a particularly vulnerable period of his youth. A nuclear family with home comforts is but a mere fantasy for Chiron, who lives with his substance-addicted mother in a deprived Miami neighbourhood. Due to his dysfunctional home life he is an easy target for bullies, and finds little sympathy from his mother who is often absent. Chiron finds an ally in the local Cuban drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who helps him escape another assault by taking him home to his girlfriend Teresa. Sensing he is without familial security, Juan and Teresa take him under their wing, their home becoming Chiron’s sanctuary. Jenkins’ starkly realistic portrait of the African-American upbringing is a tender, heart-wrenching and profound experience. The carefully-written screenplay avoids the tropes of “disadvantaged” stereotypes; despite his criminal activities Juan is a paternal, nurturing figure and there is more to Chiron and Kevin’s friendship than meets the eye. James Laxton’s refined cinematography mirrors the emotional fluctuations of the narrative, echoing the aesthetic glory of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai. Having already won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture (Drama), the film is set for further success with nominations in the upcoming Academy Awards and BAFTA ceremonies. Moonlight is a truly beautiful character study, covering themes of race, sexuality, class and love.
See the trailer: Moonlight (2016)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld)
[Genre: Action/Sci-Fi. Dir: Gareth Edwards. Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen. Language: English]
Already reaping ecstatic responses from hardcore fans, this instalment to the Star Wars franchise is destined to be a success. Director Gareth Edwards brings Rogue One: A Star Wars to cinema screens this December with his tale of the Rebels who stole the Empire’s plans for the Death Star. He manages to introduce a completely new story laden with original characters, whilst honouring the traditions of the original trilogy right down to the creatures, wardrobe and screenplay. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) plays the spirited rogue searching for her theoretician father (Mads Mikkelsen) after he was taken by the cunning Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). She forges an alliance with a band of misfits and together they set out to find their place in the galaxy. Boasting an impressive cast, Donnie Yen (Hero, Ip Man), Riz Ahmed (The Night Of, Four Lions) and Forest Whitaker (Platoon, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, Phone Booth) illuminate the film with a surprising mix of diversity. From the exhilarating opening scene to the blood-pumping third act, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers an exciting new chapter to science fiction’s beloved universe.
See the trailer: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Toni Erdmann (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Comedy/Drama. Dir: Maren Ade. Starring: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl. Language: German/English/Romanian]
A critics’ favourite among the festival circuit, German-Austrian release Toni Erdmann is a somewhat unconventional familial comedy. It won the FIPRESCI award for Best Film at Cannes Film Festival and is nominated for the upcoming Academy Awards and BAFTA Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. After the death of his dog, retired piano teacher Winfried pays his high-flying executive daughter Ines a visit in Bucharest, Romania. Armed with his usual roster of practical jokes, Winfried is met with a cold reception from his daughter, who regards his visit a hindrance. The focus on her career detracts from the bonding time Winfried had hoped for, and is instead eager for his departure. With the help of a wig and set of oversized false teeth, Winfried reinvents himself as life coach Toni Erdmann, and heads toward Ines’ corporate world once more. Director and screenwriter Maren Ade has done a sterling job at capturing the office landscape that Ines navigates. The awkward, observational comedy is guaranteed to raise laughs, particularly at the familiarity of the interchanges. The performances by Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek are highly commendable. Thoughtful, tangible and life-affirming, Toni Erdmann is a glorious unexpected comedy that will knock things in to perspective. Hollywood could take a leaf or two out of Ade’s book.
See the trailer: Toni Erdmann (2016)
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