Posts Tagged ‘Father’

It takes a lot of courage to touch a theme as delicate as teenage bullying, and a great amount of talent to do so without fetishising the brutality behind it. After Daniel y Ana (2009) Michel Franco confronts an old leitmotiv, public shame, and does it through the story of Alejandra, a young girl who suddenly loses her mum in a car accident and is forced to move to Mexico City to begin a new life with her dad, a forty-something-year-old chef.

The film’s first twenty minutes unfold at a slow pace, as we follow Alejandra’s efforts to fit in the new environment and integrate in a new circle of friends, until the story hits a turning point: Alejandra is filmed having sex with a friend of hers, and the video is then rapidly shared with the entire student body.

What follows is a dramatic portrait of the repercussions Alejandra will suffer as a result of the moment of intimacy with a boy. Just as fast as they had accepted her within their circle, her friends will repudiate her. They will insult her, humiliate her publicly, cut her hair, force her to drink, violate her, and eventually urinate over her sleeping body – activities which, interestingly, the girls enjoy as much as the boys. Alejandra’s body is degraded and turned into an object of shame. In some fundamental sense, Franco has the teenagers de-humanise Alejandra by sexualising her instead.

There are moments in which the level of abuse she is subject to is so extreme that one wonders whether Franco may have exaggerated his story, for the sole purpose of shocking the viewer. But stories of teenage bullying and sex abuse abound, in which the level of humiliation suffered exceeds Alejandra’s and the victims often resort to suicide as the only possible way out. More than exaggerating then, perhaps Franco is only guilty of showing a social malaise to its full extent.

But even when the camera captures the most atrocious moments of Alejandra’s humiliation, it does it in a way that does not fetishize them. Franco keeps the camera still throughout the entire film, whether it is placed inside the girl’s house, a classroom, a hotel room or a car, as if to document the story.

It is this minimalist, somewhat neutral style that has helped Franco to deal with complex themes (bullying, as in here, or terminal illnesses, in Chronic, and organ trafficking, in A Los Ojos) without being smothered by their weight. Franco’s directing does not add anything to make the story more gruesome or shocking, as the camera merely registers the story for what it is, with a sense of honesty and impartiality.

This does not mean the directing style is not sophisticated – quite the contrary. It takes a great degree of work and study to make sure one sees a movie without feeling the director’s ego behind it. And this is precisely what one senses upon watching Después de Lucia.

Winner of the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes in 2012, Después de Lucia may not be an easy film to see, but it is a necessary watch – a story told with a powerful mix of empathy and ruthlessness.

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For our latest featured short we’re glad to share this year’s Sci-Fi-London 48 hour challenge winner Interlude – made by a creative team called Starcrust – led by London based Cypriot director Savvas Stavrou and produced by Jo Michael. The SFL 48 hour challenge is a competition of exceptionally high quality and it takes no shortage of creativity and technical skill to compete let alone win.

Heading up the other departments are writer Nathan D’Arcy Roberts, Cinematographer Edgar Dubrovskiy, Production Designer Daniel Draper, Editor Robbie Gibbon, Sound Designer Jordan Laughlin and Composer Angus MacRae.

The film brings together the elements to tell a succinct and emotionally engaging story of an inventor attempting to bring his young daughter out of a coma (with the aid of a super cool mechanical snail), whereupon he is interrupted by a visiting civil servant. Stavrou creates an authentic and intense scenario between actors Brian Tynan and Ruby Thomas, laying the groundwork for a bold and troubling conclusion.

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Locke, the new in-car thriller written and directed by Steven Knight, comes from a conversation he had with one of his producers about the difficulty of filming in moving cars. Weirdly, this film seems to confirm these limitations rather than challenge them, despite ensuing technological advancements.

Locke follows an ordinary and perceivably honourable man take a turn for the worst when he decides to drive to London, rather than home from his construction job, having received a call that his illegitimate child is to be born that night. Thus, the film is made up of an almost real-time drive where Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) attempts to salvage his job, wife and soon to be born child over hands-free conversations (with the spectre of his dead father in his back seat.)

While it can often be refreshing to see films take place in a single location (sometimes applying extra pressure on an airtight narrative), unfortunately Locke leaves a lot to be desired in the script department. The dialogue can be clunky and unsubtle metaphors hit the audience over the head repeatedly. Hardy makes the best of it however, performing a normally mild-mannered man, with a thick, booming Welsh accent, who sees his life unravel over the course of a car journey.

Equally though, not all of these segments are poorly written. Despite the heavy-handed metaphors, Ivan’s somewhat sociopathic attempts to soothe and control his increasingly estranged wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) are engaging. Similarly, Ivan’s attempts to guide an increasingly inebriated Donal (Andrew Scott) to do the construction work he’s left behind are highly amusing and a nice respite from otherwise rather upsetting plot points.

However when it comes to the real crux of the matter, Locke falls short of really making any kind of emotional impact. While it’s certainly believable that he doesn’t love the impregnated Bethan (Olivia Coleman), given they only met for a short time, it is not enough to attribute his problems on a meekly written, traumatic relationship with his deceased father. These scenes are a clear weakness of the film, and troublingly, are actually supposed to explain the film’s narrative. While there are believable elements to Locke’s breakdown and this is due to Hardy’s excellent delivery, there is no authentic depth to why any of this is happening.

As a result, the film’s climax lacks punch and feels rushed. It’s a shame, as limiting the drama to behind the wheel is an intriguing concept. Equally, it seems a missed opportunity not to take more advantage of the film’s location outside of the car. A more adventurous exploration into the repetitive visual motifs of the motorway could have been intense and rewarding, but instead it merely dresses the stage.

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