Four Star Rating

“Who knew that the work of a hitman could be such an ethereal experience?” – Wayward Wolf.

Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (YWNRH from hereon in), is a remarkable film based upon the Jonathan Ames book of the same name, chronicling the exploits of hired hitman, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix).

Through many a sequence of flashbacks we build up a picture of the tormented mind of this rather monosyllabic and withdrawn character. Be it through an upbringing of family abuse and violence or from the harrowing times that he spent in the military, Joe is clearly a man haunted by his past.

Back on Civvy Street, he takes care of his dementia-afflicted mother with the earnings from his work as ‘hired muscle’. On the instruction of those that require his services – frequently high profile or influential people – he is tasked with tracking down and rescuing missing girls from the unfortunate circumstances into which they have either been forced, or somehow now find themselves.

But the hiring of Joe’s ‘talents’ is very much a last resort.

Though apparently well paid for his services, he seems hell-bent on some sort of personal crusade to clean up the wrong-doings of society. Hammer in hand, his methods are crude and frequently brutal, but never less than effective.

YWNRH is a film that is at once both violent and beautiful, yet these two apparently disparate states somehow sit together well here, interwoven into one innovative and dream-like whole.

Who knew that the work of a hitman could be such an ethereal experience?

Stylistically speaking at least, YWNRH is a little reminiscent of Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore’s under-rated 2014 offering, Blood Cells, but it’s the over-riding parallels with Taxi Driver that are inescapable here. That said, never does Ramsay’s film ever feel derivative or in any way indebted to Martin Scorcese’s seminal 1970’s classic. A familiar narrative this may well be, but in Ramsay’s hands it feels fresh and original.

Whether it’s through capturing scenes of violence via the restricted view of an in-house CCTV security system, or deliberate directorial decisions to ignore an actual act of brutality in favour of immediately cutting to its blood-drenched aftermath instead, YWNRH feels like innovative, impactful film-making. And it’s Ramsay’s ability to switch so effectively between scenes of thought-provoking subtlety and pronounced graphic violence – and at times combining them both together – that makes the piece so genuinely affecting.

Joaquin Phoenix is perfectly cast as Ramsay’s scar-riddled brooding anti-hero. A man whose propensity for explosive violence would seem to be as much a cathartic process in reaction to the madness that plagues his mind, as it is a gut reaction to the appalling immoral injustices that he encounters regularly through his work.

If there has to be a slight criticism, it’s Phoenix’s at times almost unintelligible delivery given his character’s tendency to mumble his way through most scenes. Needless to say, taking a bullet to his cheek/mouth during one particular ‘work-related’ scuffle does little to alleviate this particular enunciation issue. It does however make one wonder whether anything crucial, narratively-speaking, gets missed during Joe’s occasional verbal exchanges. But this is but a minor gripe, and it’s very much the visual and the visceral that are King here.

Finally, a brief word for the man of the moment – sonically-speaking at least – Jonny Greenwood, who yet again nails his brief with a menacing and at times challenging soundtrack that on one level brings to mind some of the best of Cliff Martinez’s pounding analogue synth-driven work that so brilliantly accompanies the films of Danish Director, Nicolas Winding Refn.

Above everything, YWNRH is highly memorable cinema with Phoenix’s performance in particular searing itself indelibly into our minds, unlikely to be forgotten in any sort of hurry.

Fine, fine work from the Director of We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Ratcatcher. But that was only to be expected.











Three Star Rating

“…being no particular expert in linguistics and dialects myself, the Russian-infused spoken English within Frances Lawrence’s Red Sparrow, does at least get a tentative pass from me.” – Wayward Wolf.

Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow affords Hollywood’s golden girl, Jennifer Lawrence, another good opportunity to demonstrate her considerable talents in films of a more serious nature. Those with keen memories will realise that this is a revival of the Lawrence / Lawrence partnership which was ultimately so successful through their work together in the Hunger Games franchise.

Whilst Jennifer Lawrence understandably remains a massive box office draw, and thus a staple of many a huge grossing popcorn flick, the last couple of years or so has seen a marked maturity not only in her choice of role, but in the performances that these roles have consequently produced.

In my own very humble opinion, of course.

Coming on the back of both David O. Russell’s 2015 outing, Joy, and Darren Aronofsky’s breathtaking thriller, Mother, Red Sparrow sees Lawrence portraying a famous ballerina turned Russian Intelligence operative.

On sustaining a career-ending injury, Dominika Egorova (Lawrence), is given no choice by her rather shady uncle but to enrol into ‘Sparrow School’, very much against her own volition. Here she will learn how to use her body and femininity to devastating effect in the pursuit of acquiring classified secrets and information for her country.

But Red Sparrow – based upon the novel of the same name by Jason Matthews – is by no means a straight forward piece, offering a very involved twisting narrative, and frequently wrong-footing us as it goes.

It’s a tense tale of espionage, surveillance, counter-surveillance and double agents, and for a high budget mainstream release, it has to be said, it’s surprisingly gruesome fare.

Amidst all of the cut-throat cloak and dagger skullduggery, Lawrence positively excels as the seductive femme fatale, tasked with targeting C.I.A agent, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), with whom she soon finds herself romantically involved, further muddying the film’s already narratively murky waters.

Kowtowing somewhat to the mainstream, most Russian-spoken dialogue is offered in English with a whole variety of takes on what constitutes this at times most brooding of accents. This has, by all accounts, been a bone of contention for many, but being no particular expert in linguistics and dialects myself, the Russian-infused spoken English within Frances Lawrence’s Red Sparrow, does at least get a tentative pass from me.

Certainly there were no moments of teeth-clenching, toe-curling cringe-worthiness that I was ever really aware of.

And I’m sure Mr Lawrence will sleep easy with that news.

Considering the genre, it’s safe to say that this is not a film of the calibre of some of the classic spy thrillers of yesteryear. Red Sparrow perhaps has most in common with the James Bond classic, From Russia with Love, only far more gritty in its realisation. But without doubt, it makes for an at times revivifying experience, not least because of the refreshingly female-centric angle that it takes on this oft-visited genre.

Possibly not a film that will live exceptionally long in the memory, but with a twist in its tail, Red Sparrow definitely achieves what it sets out to do, and gets a lot more right than wrong in the process.

An at times dark, but always entertaining thriller.












Four Star Rating

“Daniela Vega Hernández produces a subtle performance conveying both hurt and inner strength – perfectly encapsulating her feelings of painful isolation.” – Wayward Wolf.

There has been a considerable raising in the profile of – and support for – transgender folk in recent times. A new wave of social justice / identity-driven politics has seen to that, resulting, in some parts of the world, in considerable debate and turmoil surrounding the implementation and mandatory use of new personal pronouns and the redefining of gender in general.

It has become a complex and somewhat tetchy issue for many.

In timely fashion comes Sebastián Lelio‘s critically acclaimed tale of unjust prejudice and enduring love, A Fantastic Woman – a film which deservedly took the Best Foreign Picture Oscar at the recent Academy Awards.

Transgender waitress and cocktail lounge singer, Marina (Daniela Vega Hernández), is living a fulfilled life with her lover, the significantly older, Orlando (Francisco Reyes), with whom she shares an apartment and a German Shepherd dog named Diabla.

Considering the propensity for Marina’s gender status to attract unwanted animosity, on balance life seems relatively good and secure for her.

Orlando’s sudden death, however, positively wrenches the carpet from beneath Marina’s feet, leaving her not only to mourn the loss of the man that genuinely seemed to love, understand and respect her, but to now tackle the future head on, shorn of the protective safety net and veil of ‘respectable normality’ that her relationship with Orlando afforded her – to some extent at least.

As far as Orlando’s close family and friends are concerned, now that he has gone, Marina is to be denounced. A persona non grata.

For Marina, this is to be a bleak and hurtful journey.

Indeed, Marina’s experience throughout Lelio’s film is frequently punctuated by examples of the prejudicial attitudes of people who are either disgusted by or too embarrassed at the very thought of having any sort of association with a transgender person, seeking to sweep the whole sorry affair under the carpet and airbrush it from memory in the process.

Such associations are, after all, not how they would choose to remember their ex-husband, brother, father or friend.

With only the support of her considerate work boss and a singing coach (Sergio Hernández), who truly believes in her – and a man in whom she clearly has great trust and respect – it’s difficult at times to watch such a lost soul gamely swimming against an overwhelming tidal wave of negativity. Increasingly, the hateful weight of this crushes Marina’s resolve, driving her ever deeper into a particularly dark place in her life.

Marina’s infrequent ‘visualised’ recollections of Orlando scattered throughout the film are at once both mournful and hopeful; reviving in her mind something that was beautiful, genuine and true and that serves as a reminder for her that happiness is possible, even for the most railed against of lives.

Daniela Vega Hernández produces a subtle performance conveying both hurt and inner strength – perfectly encapsulating her feelings of painful isolation. It’s a performance that positively insists upon (and gets) our collective empathy without ever resorting to melodramatics to do so.

Additionally, A Fantastic Woman boasts a soundtrack that is undoubtedly a major component of the film’s success.

Matthew Herbet’s understated score together with a choice selection of suitably emotive pieces perfectly support Lelio’s at times hard-hitting film. Perhaps most notably is the wonderfully evocative Pink Floyd-esque strains of The Alan Parsons Project’s Time, which exquisitely enhances one particularly tender scene of intimacy in the film’s early stages.

A Fantastic Woman is an ultimately hopeful film, beautifully realised and naked in its honesty. It lays bare the social and societal implications of what it means to be ‘different’ within a fearful and intolerant world, and more importantly the personal drive and determination that it then takes to overcome such oppression.












Three Star Rating

“…based purely on the quality of its [Oscar] opposition, I suspect that multiple nominations will be as good as it gets for this quirky coming-of-age tale.” – Wayward Wolf.

Greta Gerwig’s first foray into directing, Lady Bird, has apparently attracted significant interest amongst the Oscar nominations committee.

Not for me.

That’s not to detract at all from what is undoubtedly a strong directorial debut, but based purely on the quality of its opposition, I suspect that multiple nominations will be as good as it gets for this quirky coming-of-age tale.

Then again, what do I know?

Perhaps predictably, the film’s leading lady, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), is both strong-willed and a little bit ‘different’. Considering Gerwig’s own acting career to date, this should come as no surprise to anyone that’s familiar with her work.

Gerwig’s film is something of a tick list of teenage angst in all of its myriad forms, from losing your virginity, dating the guy that turns out to be gay, dating the guy that’s far too self-absorbed to notice you, ditching that penniless geeky best friend of yours for a richer more beautiful and popular model, to ‘flunking’ your school grades thus jeopardising your future career prospects – it’s all here folks.

But whilst on first inspection it may seem like the story board to a ropey piece of throw-away teen trash, Gerwig’s film manages to transcend the apparently disposable to produce an at times profoundly moving film which delves emotionally far deeper than it would at first appear. And it’s Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalfe), and more latterly with her father, Larry (Tracy Letts), that truly adds meat to the bones of this piece.

Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother in particular is erratic and highly strained. Two strong-willed characters they most certainly are, constantly at loggerheads with one another.

In response to her daughter’s somewhat unrealistic lofty ambitions to attend a high-brow New York College, Marion quips that she’d be better off just leaving school, signing up for city college, going to jail and then signing up for city college again.

Marion is the mother that only wants the best for her daughter, determined that she should learn from her own mistakes in life, yet her well-meaning motives come across as distinctly lacking in compassion and seem to dismiss Lady Bird’s own feelings and ambitions out of hand.

Her father on the other hand is an open and caring parent in whom Lady Bird can confide and receive the affection that her mother is either unwilling or unable to give.

Saoirse Ronan puts in a tender performance as the confused teen lead. Timothée Chalamet continues his recent good work with his portrayal of book-bound wannabe libertarian, Kyle, but it’s the welcome return of the wonderful Laurie Metcalfe that possibly impresses most.

Lady Bird is a tale of umpteen trials and tribulations. Girl versus the world on a teenage voyage of discovery. But as much as anything, it’s a film examining just what it takes to achieve our goals in spite of at times overwhelming odds and negativity.

It’s engaging and amusing in places, and all perfectly likeable.

It’s just no Oscar winner, but there’s no shame in that.






Four Star Rating

“No less impressive is Bruno Delbonnel’s absolutely beautiful cinematography, which positively shimmers through its artistic use of silhouettes and subtle lighting techniques.” – Wayward Wolf.

Darkest Hour examines the rise to power and early Prime Ministry of Winston Churchill. Churchill (Gary Oldman), is portrayed as being far from an establishment line-toeing ‘yes man’ – unlike existing Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) – who, if the exaggerated handkerchief waving and heightened levels of vitriol emanating from the House of Commons are anything to go by, has clearly lost the confidence of both his own party and the entirety of the political opposition.

Chamberlain will resign and his party will then move quickly to choose a successor, in the interests of both the existing government, but more pressingly, to ensure that a strong level of leadership exists during war time.

Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) – the party’s unanimous choice to succeed Chamberlain – surprisingly declines the offer. Step forward then one Winston Churchill. A less popular choice within his own party, once couldn’t imagine. Perceived to be something of a renegade and a loose cannon, the government is loathe to appoint him, but appoint him they ultimately do, only to soon regret the folly of their decision.

Whereas Jonathan Teplitzky’s 2017 effort, Churchill – featuring a similarly commanding central performance from Brian Cox – paid greater attention to Churchill’s faltering psychological state and the relationship that he shared with his wife and all-round pillar of strength, Clemmie, Joe Wright is more concerned here with Churchill the politician, as he sets about his work like some kind of force of nature, ruffling feathers as he goes with his dogged determination that Britain should not compromise and surrender to a tyrant that threatens the long-term freedom of the peoples of Europe.

Joe Wright’s film is hugely impressive in many ways. Most striking of all – and every bit the headline-grabber – is Gary Oldman’s absolute tour-de-force performance as this mostly unshakeably single-minded of first ministers. It should be noted though that Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill’s less decisive quieter moments of self-doubt are as equally worthy of praise as his portrayal of the call-to-arms, rebel-rousing speeches for which Churchill is so well known and revered.

No less impressive is Bruno Delbonnel’s absolutely beautiful cinematography, which positively shimmers through its artistic use of silhouettes and subtle lighting techniques. Perhaps most notable of all though is the imaginative and innovative staging and choice of shots. It’s as clear as day here that this is truly the stuff of Oscar nominations.

If there’s to be one criticism it’s perhaps the inclusion of a scene in the film’s latter stages which I’m fairly confident is the stuff of fiction, in which Winston Churchill goes on something of a fact-finding / soul-searching mission.

Changing the habit of a lifetime, he rides the London Underground to Westminster rather than being ferried about by a personal driver. Whilst doing so he engages in a number of conversations with understandably shocked and bewildered passengers in an attempt to gauge the thoughts and feelings of the general public with regards to the increasingly desperate scenario confronting them all – the very real possibility that the allies will suffer defeat during the early exchanges of World War II.

No matter how heart-felt and useful a scene this may well be with which to portray Churchill as being ‘truly a man of the people’, I’d argue that it is also rather out of place within the context of the film as a whole. It all seems like something of an ill-fitting after thought, and threatens to undo some of the excellent work that has preceded it, though I appreciate that this will of course be entirely subjective.

Nevertheless, don’t let this minor quibble distract from what is otherwise an absolutely stupendous piece of film-making, beautifully and lovingly put together with direction that successfully blends the artistic with the popular.

Despite its dependance upon heavy dialogue and weighty subject matter, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour nonetheless remains easily accessible and absolutely simmers with emotion.

One of the finest biopics for many a long year.




Three Star Rating

“A grisly fable come watery fairy tale. A sort of E.T for adults if you like, just not as good…” – Wayward Wolf.

A strange aquatic entity has been captured in South America’s Amazon region and has been transported back to a top secret research laboratory in the U.S.

In this establishment works Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute cleaning girl assigned, along with her good friend Zelda (the predictably typecast Octavia Spencer), to maintain the cleanliness of the particular room in which the mystery Amazonian creature is housed, and it’s not long before a strong connection bordering on amorous devotion develops between Elisa and this watery web-foot.

But this is not exactly a petting zoo. The mysterious species has been brought there for scientific reasons. In a bid to gain some advantage over the Soviet space programme, the U.S government wishes to study this creature’s remarkable breathing mechanism.

Overseeing the logistics of this operation is cattle-prod wielding psychopath, Colonel Richard Strickland (another reliably villainous performance from the excellent Michael Shannon), a man severely lacking in empathy, a trait that he all too readily demonstrates through his constant ill-treatment of the aquatic subject.

But having lost two fingers – and subsequently having had them sewn back on again – in an altercation with the creature, Strickland then attempts to convince the powers-that-be to perform a vivisection on it.

And with the very real possibility that this amorous amphibian could be snatched from Elisa’s arms, it’s clear that an immediate plan of action is required.

But the clock is ticking…

The Shape of Water when boiled down is a surprisingly straight forward affair considering who’s sitting in the director’s chair. A grisly fable come watery fairy tale. A sort of E.T for adults if you like, just not as good, with a possible tip of the hat towards Beauty and the Beast, for good measure.

The narrative may be suspiciously simple, but the film serves as a visually pleasing vehicle through which to explore various themes of love, acceptance and tolerance, amongst others, and there are some fine performances, from Sally Hawkins in particular, lending the piece a high degree of credibility.

Though largely restricted to sign language, looks and gestures, it is Hawkins’ on-screen relationships with the most prominent people in her life, namely Zelda, Strickland, and most notably of all, her artistic gay next door neighbour, Giles (Richard Jenkins), which really bring this tale alive.

Giles, much like Elisa, seems to suffer from a crippling lack of self confidence, but their shared empathy and hopelessly romantic dreams help them both muddle through life’s struggles together.

Guillermo Del Toro’s film has a dark yet playful feel to it; a necessary approach considering the fairly preposterous premise of a physically romantic liaison between a mute girl and, what is essentially the creature from the black lagoon, which, visually-speaking at least, seems to have been Del Toro’s clear influence here.

It’s an interesting piece and not without its positives, but ultimately one that I couldn’t successfully engage with on any sort of meaningful level, and it wasn’t for the want of trying.

The Shape of Water fails to really make any significant waves – a pleasing enough ripple in a garden pond, more like.








Three and a half Star Rating

​”It’s a poignant tale made additionally so given the recent untimely death of Jóhann Jóhannsson, the Icelandic composer whose score predictably beautifully embellishes James Marsh’s heart-felt piece…” – Wayward Wolf.

When I were but a wee slip of a lad I was whisked here and there all over the City of London by my quite frankly incredible Grandma. She seemed absolutely hell-bent on introducing me, my sister and two of my cousins to just about every last historical landmark on the map. Always one to stress the importance of history upon us.

One such landmark was The Gipsy Moth IV yacht. It stood land-locked for just over thirty years in Greenwich, London, alongside the Cutty Sark tea clipper – a lasting testament to Sir Francis Chichester who, aboard this fine vessel, had become the first ever yachtsman to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe, stopping just once en route out of absolute necessity.

A year or so after his heroics, Sir Francis was to throw down the gauntlet to the next generation of yachtsmen. The challenge was simple. Was there anyone that could single-handedly circumnavigate the globe, but do so without stopping at all?


James Marsh’s film, The Mercy, paints a picture of Donald Crowhurst, the much loved husband of Clare, and the father of three children on whom he dotes. Quite why this man was so drawn to Chichester’s challenge is perhaps never truly revealed, but being a keen weekend sailor himself, and with a strong background in engineering, Crowhurst is confident enough that he’s up to the task. Afterall, as he himself suggests – albeit from the security of dry land: “if you know how to sail, then circumnavigating the globe just requires one to keep on sailing for an extended period of time…” – or words to that effect.

There is of course some logic to such an opinion, yet, whether this is just a show of bravado or not, in the context of his proposed voyage, it is undeniably something of a naive statement. Nonetheless, Crowhurst seems determined, and sets about not only building his own trimaran, but kitting it out with a number of gadgets and devices of his own invention.

Bringing financial sponsorship and press interest on board brings a greater degree of professionalism and realism to the project, but the unforeseen set backs are numerous and not only delay Crowhurst’s departure – and thus his chances of winning – but result in ever greater financial burdens. With his family’s house and possessions now in jeopardy should he fail, this amateur sailor’s predicament is becoming increasingly precarious.

With nagging doubts now racing through his mind, a boat that’s barely fit for purpose, and having painted himself into a corner through his considerable financial obligations, Donald Crowhurst nevertheless makes the bold decision to proceed regardless.

The Mercy, whilst at one point threatening to become some sort of heroic sea-faring yarn of derring do – bringing to mind Robert Redford’s dramatic 2013 solo vehicle, All Is Lost, in the process –  in fact takes an unexpected turn (unexpected that is for those that are unaware of the story).

A couple of months into his journey, Crowhurst becomes increasingly aware that, all considered, any attempts to continue would be akin to suicide. Drastic times so often call for drastic measures and against his better judgement and moral values he makes the unthinkable decision to fake his ‘progress’, relaying a sequence of impressive reports at strategic intervals back to HQ, all the while seeing out the days in relatively calm waters. A far cry from some of the perilous waters of the Southern Hemisphere.

James Marsh’s film does a fine job of contrasting the guilt, chaos and both physical and mental sufferance of Crowhurst’s doomed voyage with the rose-tinted perceptions – and therefore heightened expectations  – of his family, the community in which they live, and the local (and later national) press who positively lap up each and every false statement of achievement that Donald ashamedly wires across – digging himself further and further into an ever expanding hole in the process.

Firth’s portrayal of this desperate man is sincere and at times commanding. With the weight of the world upon his shoulders, and realising that he’s simply way too far out of his depth now to consider turning back, his ultimate descent into disgrace and madness borders on heartbreaking.

Rachel Weisz’s portrayal of his loyal suffering wife is sweet and tender yet quietly powerful, and David Thewlis and Ken Stott both weigh in with reliably solid, believable performances as a local press hack and Crowhurst’s chief financial sponsor, respectively.

It’s a poignant tale made additionally so given the recent untimely death of Jóhann Jóhannsson, the Icelandic composer whose score predictably beautifully embellishes James Marsh’s heart-felt piece, and whose score for the duo’s previous outing, The Theory of Everything, had in fact picked up a Golden Globe award. Just recognition of a brilliant composer whose passing is a massive loss both to cinema and the world of music in general.

The Mercy, as much as anything, conveys something of a moral message centring around the need to be true to oneself and the ones that we love, lest we suffer the psychological implications of straying too far from such a path.

Contrary to the conclusion that Crowhurst is ultimately believed to have arrived at, nothing is ever quite so bad or quite so irredeemable, that it can’t be forgiven or overcome.

At least that would be the conclusion most likely arrived at by the sane and the rational.

The hallucinatory mind of a man racked by guilt and having been alone at sea for way too long, on the other hand, is another matter altogether.








LOVELESS (Nelyubov)

Four Star Rating

“…Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). A helpless pawn stuck in the middle, condemned to try and make some sense of the never ending spiteful bickering of the two people he most depends upon.” – Wayward Wolf.

Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Loveless starts as it means to go on. A sequence of stark lingering shots of a snow-covered unforgiving Russian winter.

These images are actually quite beautiful in isolation and arguably offer only a hint of the pervading mood of downbeat misery that is soon to follow.

Don’t be put-off however by such an apparently down-cast summary.

Zvyagintsev’s film is in fact a brilliantly observed study of the most negative aspects of a failed relationship, made all the more harrowing through the involvement of a child, the couple’s young son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). A helpless pawn stuck in the middle, condemned to try and make some sense of the never ending spiteful bickering of the two people he most depends upon.

Alyosha’s parents – two fine performances full of conviction by Maryana Spivak (Zhenya), and Aleksey Rozin (Boris) – have both found new partners and long to bring the curtain down on their sorry, loveless marriage, and ‘start again’ – as it were. They have become two eminently unlikeable characters. Zhenya, an angry (primarily at herself), highly irritable individual obsessed with the comforting distraction of her mobile phone, and Boris, who whilst frequently drawn into exchanges of vitriol with his wife, is a somewhat withdrawn man, distancing himself as much as possible from any contact with either Zhenya or Alyosha. 

It’s a relentlessly toxic environment, made worse still by the parents’ apparent lack of concern as to the affects of their self-absorbed sniping, upon their young son.

Unusually for such a predicament as this, neither parent makes any attempt to curry favour with the child; quite the opposite in fact. The fight, it would seem, is for who’s not going to take custody. Alyosha is seen as an inconvenience, a mistake that never should have happened, and his parents have absolutely no qualms about voicing such hurtful opinions in full earshot of the distressed youngster.

It’s no wonder therefore that the day soon arrives when the young lad grabs his school bag and makes a bolt for the door, never to return. And such is the self-centred attitude of his parents, neither of them even notices this for almost two days.

But is this actually genuine neglect of an impressionable youngster, or more likely the inevitable comeuppance from their high-stakes psychological games?

Two films sprung to mind whilst watching Loveless: Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s 2015 Ukrainian film, The Tribe – a film similar in its mood and sense of helplessness that focuses on a run-down boarding school for the deaf in which harsh life lessons are dished out with depressing regularity. But perhaps of more direct relevance is Joachim Lafosse’s 2016 mournfully awkward relationship drama, After Love (L’Économie du couple), a film which whilst being almost exclusively – and excruciatingly for that matter – downbeat, does at least offer, for the most fleeting of moments, a rare olive branch of hope and potential redemption.

Zvyagintsev’s film on the other hand makes no such concessions. In fact, the Director seems determined to walk his audience, almost in real-time, through every last awkward moment of not only the couple’s frequent fights, but of their increasingly desperate and forlorn attempts to track down their absent son, whether that be through a vague lead offered up by Alyosha’s friend, or a visit to Zhenya’s appalling mother. “Stalin-in-a-skirt” indeed.

The outlook is grim, and there’s a lingering sense of just ‘knowing’ as rescue parties comb their way through surrounding woodland and derelict buildings, to no avail. All the while, the warring couple barely utter a word to one another. Certainly there’s no sense of galvanised togetherness, if only in the interests of the greater good.


Loveless is an open-ended, consistently powerful film with an underlying message suggesting that if we don’t address and learn from our own deficiencies, our troubles have a nasty habit of ultimately coming full circle.

It’s bleak, it’s brutal and it’s hard to watch, but it’s equally hard to ignore.


Three Star Rating

“…[Ngoc Lan Tran]…though adding some chuckles for a while, is a character that quickly grated and had me wondering at exactly what point I’d personally have snapped and hurled her off the nearest tall building.” – Wayward Wolf.

The trailer for Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is by its very design a concise, punchy, witty sales pitch, yet it barely hints at the overly-long, bloated offering that the film somehow manages to ultimately become.

That’s actually probably a little harsh, and it’s only fair to therefore acknowledge that this Matt Damon-driven piece is actually a very watchable – and for the most part enjoyable – quirky piece of cinema that on balance sufficiently entertains.

Somewhere in Norway, scientists have finally perfected the process of physically shrinking human beings in order to reduce the impact of their wastefulness of the earth’s resources, not to mention reducing their carbon footprints and generally making the world a better place for everyone to live in.

Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), just so happen to be living lives that are in need of radical change. Struggling to make ends meet, Paul in particular is becoming more and more convinced by the growing trend of downsizing that he sees occurring around about him. Being something of a conscientious environmentalist himself, he is keen to do his bit for the planet, but more importantly he’s aware that by downsizing, he and his wife could dramatically transform their life of struggles almost overnight. Successfully convincing Audrey that this is the way to go, the couple agree to undergo the irreversible procedure which will reduce them both to barely the size of an iPhone.

Needless to say, this is a massive decision in their lives, and having made an advanced purchase of a huge shiny mansion in ‘Leisure Land’ – a sort of miniature utopian ‘Floridian’ retirement world – Paul steps forward to be the first to experience that shrinking feeling. Audrey, on the other hand, gets a bad case of the last minute wobbles and unceremoniously backs out, leaving Paul, not only now a mere fraction of his wife’s size, but more importantly all alone to navigate this brave new world.

It’s an unexpected and bitter blow, but this is only the start of a number of incidents that are set to radically transform his life.

Alexander Payne’s film has much going for it, but crucially it suffers from a number of critical flaws.

At two hours and fifteen minutes in duration, it’s certainly arguable that Downsizing could greatly have benefited from losing thirty minutes or so from its elongated running time. This is particularly apparent considering the film’s tendency in its latter stages to meander off, almost rudderlessly at times, into a rather tagged-on and unnecessary Tolkein-esque world of hemp clothes-wearing, ‘Totnesian’ type bongo-playing hippies and Eco Warriors. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it’s certainly some leap from the film’s initial premise and rather symptomatic of the film’s inability to maintain a simple, strong and coherent narrative.

It’s also true to suggest that the concept of downsizing, whether fictional or not, unavoidably raises a whole multitude of questions concerning its feasibility and the logistics of the procedure, yet the film seemed to raise far more questions than it was ever able to answer in this respect, again detracting somewhat from the narrative.

Nonetheless, leaving apparent logistical inconsistencies aside, the film regales a perfectly watchable tale of one man’s journey from anxiety-riddled husband to relatively carefree singleton thanks to the influence of Paul’s noisy new neighbour, Dusan (Christoph Waltz), a socialite and man of leisure, for whom life is one big elaborate party.

And then there’s the introduction of one-legged Vietnamese love interest and all-round shouting machine, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), who, though adding some chuckles for a while, is a character that quickly grated and had me wondering at exactly what point I’d personally have snapped and hurled her off the nearest tall building. That said, Ngoc’s initial pushy persuasiveness is found to be masking a big-heart and an admirable selfless attitude, putting just about everyone else’s interests ahead of her own.

Perhaps the biggest bugbear of all though is the film’s omnipresent environmental message. It’s all very commendable and all of that, but Alexander Payne seems determined to bludgeon us into submission with it at every conceivable opportunity; something which quickly becomes tiresome. Anyone would think that the film industry had some flavour-of-the-month agenda to peddle to the masses, or something?

Hollywood? Surely not!

Downsizing, though clearly a flawed film of diminishing returns, just about manages to deliver – to a point at least. And if one can suspend one’s critical faculties for a couple of hours or so, it’s a film that still makes for an enjoyable enough viewing experience.


Four and a half Star Rating

“Much will rightly be made of Daniel Day Lewis’s stupendous performance, which only serves to emphasise just what a massive loss he will be to the big screen.” – Wayward Wolf.

If this is indeed to be Daniel Day Lewis’s final foray into the world of cinema, then Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is a fittingly fine piece in which to take his final bow.

Right from the off we are made aware that Reynolds Woodcock, a highly successful renowned maker of elegant, timeless dresses, is a rather fastidious man. A confirmed bachelor by his own admission he is instead married to his work, something that he lives and breathes in every waking moment of every day.

A brief but much needed escape to the coast introduces Reynolds to Alma (a nicely understated performance from Vicky Krieps), a young waitress in a local tea room. Reynolds, clearly smitten and keen to waste neither time nor opportunity, seizes the chance to not only invite Alma to dinner, but to have her model one of his dress designs. And Reynolds’ softly-spoken effusions are ultimately more than enough to convince the impressionable young lady to come and live with him in his elegant London abode.

And so begins Alma’s initiation into the some what self-centred, tunnel-visioned world of Reynolds Woodcock. But far from being yet another lackey destined only to dance to the beat of her master’s drum, Alma will come to be his muse, his lover and most interestingly of all, his greatest challenge.

Whilst on paper Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is a slightly unsettling period piece infused with darkly comedic overtones, the overpowering impression is of a film that is both masterfully crafted and sublimely beautiful in every respect.

Much will rightly be made of Daniel Day Lewis’s stupendous performance, which only serves to emphasise just what a massive loss he will be to the big screen. Lewis’ nuanced portrayal of this critically demanding and fussbudgety – yes, that’s fussbudgety – character is intense to say the least, as are the relationships and interactions that he ‘builds’ with those around him.

Reynolds’ relationship with his omnipresent sour-faced assistant, Cyril (a superb performance by the wonderful Lesley Manville), is particularly revealing and built solidly around routine and dependability. For a man so independent of thought and action, Reynolds is surprisingly indecisive without Cyril’s much valued input and calm assurance on all matters, even having a tendency to slip into temporary states of insecurity and self-doubt in her absence.

Cyril on the other hand tolerates her employer and his rather trying idiosyncrasies, but no more than that, and Reynolds knows not to cross her. Years of service to this at times unreasonable dressmaker make her best placed to understand his numerous whims and demands; and she is all too sure to pass on the pearls of wisdom that she’s unearthed along the way with sage words of advice to an initially confused Alma, with whom she shares something of a strained relationship.

“There’s altogether too much movement for breakfast time,” opines a disgruntled Reynolds – or words to that affect – in reaction to Alma’s involuntary slurps, chomps and general noise making at the breakfast table, leading her partner to suffer yet another episode of chronic noise over-sensitivity, bordering on Hyperacusis.

But such an obvious achilles heel will be something that Alma comes to use to her advantage in response to Reynolds’ sometimes callous and hurtful remarks, and will lead the couple into a dysfunctional phase of their relationship based around an unhealthy cocktail of power, envy, control and sado-masochism.


It’s a constantly fascinating encounter.

Adorning Paul Thomas Anderson’s stunning work is Johnny Greenwood’s luscious and no less impressive score, the main theme from which being a recurring, highly memorable melodic contrary motion piece which creates a spell-binding mood of romanticism, refinement, and splendour. The perfect accompaniment.

Sadly, it’s also the type of score that is all too rare in modern film making.

Phantom Thread has been positively inundated with Oscar nominations in as many as six different categories. I’m certainly not going to argue with that sentiment.

Don’t be surprised to see this hugely impressive film amongst the eventual winners. It’s that good.



Four and a half Star Rating

“Sometimes it’s through having a total disregard for political correctness, and indeed not overly concerning oneself with the possibility of causing offence, that the most memorable cinema is created” – Wayward Wolf.

Sometimes it’s through having a total disregard for political correctness, and indeed not overly concerning oneself with the possibility of causing offence, that the most memorable cinema is created.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (Three Billboards from hereon in), is the work of writer and director Martin McDonagh, and is very much a case in point.

Never one to shy away from the controversial, McDonagh’s past work includes the likes of In Bruges and Seven Psycopaths. These two films alone should provide more than a hint of what to expect from this, McDonagh’s latest dark, warts-and-all tale.

Frances McDormand portrays Mildred, a woman consumed with bitterness, living with a prevailing sense of injustice, and understandably so. Her daughter had some time previously been raped, brutally murdered and her body burned, somewhere on the outskirts of town. In Mildred’s eyes the police have made little or no attempt since the incident to bring the perpetrator to justice – whoever that may be.

Driven by her ongoing frustrations, Mildred takes it upon herself to rent three disused billboards on a small stretch of road just outside of town. Emblazoned upon them is a series of hard-hitting provocative messages designed to induce some form of reaction from much respected local Police Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), a man that Mildred, rightly or wrongly, perceives to have neglected his duties.

But this is small town America, and Mildred is fully aware that this is going to open one big can of worms. Not only do her actions agitate the local police force, but unwittingly she has targeted her frustrations at a dying man. It’s water off a duck’s back for thick skinned terminal Cancer patient, Willoughby, but the same cannot be said of his colleagues and the majority of the townsfolk who have been suitably irked by Mildred’s actions. There is a collective opinion that she has been overly callous towards a man that just so happens to be held in rather high esteem ’round them there parts’, and is considered to be the very glue that holds the Ebbing community together.

And so begins something of a war of attrition between Mildred, Willoughby and pretty much the entire town in which she lives.

Being made aware of Willoughby’s state of health you’d think would then be sufficient grounds for Mildred to reconsider her actions and back down gracefully, but it only serves to strengthen her resolve. If nothing else, she is one hell of a stubborn lady.

McDonaugh’s film excels on so many levels, most notably though through the richness and depth of its wonderful characterisation.

McDormand is full of no-nonsense bluster and attitude portraying the film’s splendidly cynical anti-hero, unafraid to give ‘both barrels’ to officers of the law and Catholic priests alike.

Sam Rockwell, whilst cast somewhat to type, is superb in his nuanced portrayal of Dixon, a work-shy, anger-filled bigoted small-town Police Officer, exhibiting all of the psychological traits one would surely associate with a forty-something still living at home with his red-neck mother. Yet despite all of this, Dixon’s life will come to be forever altered when he walks, quite literally, through the fire, on the way to his own Damascene conversion.

And then there’s Woody Harrelson. His portrayal of Willoughby is both weighty and full of charm. This is a man who not only rises to McDormand’s challenge, but more importantly, seems to enjoy the ensuing game that it brings.

The interplay between these and indeed all of the cast members is detailed and convincing, thanks to both the plethora of talent on show and the sheer quality of McDonagh’s writing. His multi-layered screenplay is gritty, witty, profoundly emotional, suitably inappropriate and thoroughly believable, with razor sharp dialogue to boot.

And it goes without saying that be it through deeply awkward scenarios or foul-mouthed rants, the blackest of humour abounds throughout in the director’s trademark style.

Three Billboards is a beautifully judged piece that takes time to consider emotional pain, the idea of retribution, anger, selflessness, sadness and to some extent at least, redemption. It’s also a film concerned very much with the here and now, resisting the temptation to gratuitously portray and dwell upon the heinous crimes of the past. Instead it brilliantly weaves the present day lives, needs, fears and aspirations of an entire community together into one engaging, complex whole.

Martin McDonagh has created a film here in which every act is as important as the last and indeed the next. Nothing here is peripheral. Everything is integral.

Wonderfully provocative, this is an instant classic.


Four Star Rating

“Spielberg’s film is an absolute masterclass in tension and suspense” – Wayward Wolf.

“The press is for the benefit not of the governors, but of the governed…”

Never a truer word spoken, though a hugely debatable sentiment within today’s rather one-eyed, less than transparent media, I’d suggest.

I’m sure I’m not alone in welcoming the return of the master of popular story telling, Steven Spielberg.

His latest piece, The Post, chronicles the uber-tense set of circumstances leading up to the enormously brave decision by the ‘Free Press’ to publish a huge number of leaked documents revealing successive U.S Governments’ cover up of the truth behind the Vietnam War.

Daniel Ellsberg, an American military journalist stationed in the thick of the combat, returns to his homeland determined that the U.S Government’s on-going thirty year deception of its public should no longer be allowed to continue, and makes the bold decision to make available reams of classified national defence information to The New York Times, who in turn proceed to publish many of the files.

This is indeed a courageous move for both Ellsberg and The New York Times, but one which will soon be closed down by way of a court injunction.

Meanwhile, the new Editor of The Washington Post, Ben Bradlee (a slightly darker role for the usually squeaky clean Tom Hanks), is determined to make a splash for his paper, and despite the injunction hanging over all of the country’s press, when opportunity presents itself, he is undeterred and decides, against much legal advice, that The Washington Post will show no reluctance in publishing more of this classified content.

This is all well and good, but Bradlee’s decisions must be approved by not only a board of directors, but more importantly, by the paper’s slightly reluctant owner, Kay Graham (a top drawer performance from the ever reliable Meryl Streep).

Such a predicament will inevitably lead to much hand-wringing and soul searching.

Set to the backdrop of civil unrest and a rapidly swelling anti-war sentiment amongst the people, Spielberg’s film is an absolute masterclass in tension and suspense. Not only is this a race against the clock, but a test of nerve and one big collective wrestle with morality. Very much a case of the people versus the State.

We only have to look at the more recent actions of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden for their ‘so-called-treachery’ against their respective Governements, to know that anarchy, the distrust of authority and the quest for justice are very much alive and well in modern society, but the revelation of The Pentagon Papers (as the leaked Vietnam files were to become known), was, in 1970, a somewhat unprecedented action, and one that raised the moral dilemma: To whom must one be more dutiful? To the people, or to one’s own Government?

This painfully awkward scenario is quite brilliantly captured by the cast, but in particular through the performances of Hanks, and especially Meryl Streep.

Streep’s portrayal of Kay Graham is one of a woman who initially, despite being the Paper’s owner – albeit by default – seems to lack authority amongst her peers, and the courage of her own convictions in such a male-dominated environment. However, over the course of the film, she gradually grows into the role and the responsibility that it entails, and in the face of huge opposition by much of her paper’s board of directors, she wrestles gamely with her own conscience, all too aware of the potential implications, to ultimately come to what she feels to be the right decision.

It’s a superb, nuanced portrayal of a gradually empowered woman who never sacrifices principles to gain authority.

Spielberg once again teams up with legendary composer John Williams, whose score is bold and influential, yet never overpowering. Just another example of the pair’s perfectly complimentary partnership in film.

The Post is a piece that examines morality and just what it means to uphold the Constitution of the U.S.A in the face of potential severe national threat, and it’s all done with Spielberg’s trademark energy, heart and quite brilliant characterisation.

A must see.












Four Star Rating

“Just when it seemed that Ridley Scott’s decline had become irreversible, along comes All the Money in the World” – Wayward Wolf.

The last five years or so have not exactly been what you’d call ‘vintage’ years for one of the big screen’s favourite directors. I’d even go so far as to suggest that it’s now in the public’s interest for his films to be preceded by some kind of warning:


From the man that was bang on track with classics such as: Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator, the last few years have seen the Ridley Scott Express somewhat derailed thanks to a succession of hugely disappointing offerings.

Prometheus, The Counsellor, Alien: Covenant and the admittedly half-decent The Martian (loved the first half, hated the second) – each, in its own way, has been as underwhelming as the next.

But as the old sport-related adage suggests: form is temporary but class is permanent, and you can’t keep a good man down. Just when it seemed that Ridley Scott’s decline had become irreversible, along comes All the Money in the World.

Based upon the extraordinary true story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, it tells of his mother’s bullish attempts to convince the boy’s billionaire Grandfather, John Paul Getty (the superb Christopher Plummer), to loosen his purse strings a little and stump up the $17 million ransom being demanded by John Paul Getty III’s Italian captors.

But John Paul Getty is stubborn and something of a complicated character, and prising the money from this man’s overly-tight grasp will prove to be much easier said than done.

Much as Governments will typically refuse to succumb to the demands of terrorists, John Paul Getty, whilst having no problem in publicly admitting to the deep love that he feels for his Grandson, seems suitably unperturbed by the young lad’s plight. Instead, time rolls on and even the grisly spectacle of a part of his Grandson’s ear materialising one day in the post, is insufficient to force the stubborn billionaire’s hand.

All the while, John Paul Getty III’s mother, Gail Harris (the excellent Michelle Williams), and Getty’s own head of security, Fletcher Chase (a nice turn from Mark Wahlberg), do everything within their power to not only track down the kidnappers, but more importantly, to attempt to convince John Paul Getty to part with what is after all, a very small fraction of his overall fortune. It soon becomes clear, however, that John Paul Getty will only ever consider adhering to Gail’s wishes upon a certain condition; one that would ultimately snatch Gail’s son away from her own parental control.

All the Money in the World is a prime example of Ridley Scott being a superb director for the big occasion. He’s never been one to shy away from the memorable, the dramatic, the tongue-in-cheek or the big show-stopping scenes. And in this latest big budget crime caper, one scene in particular will have you positively squirming in your seat. But such attention-grabbing antics only serve to positively enhance, not distract in any way from the film’s captivating narrative.

Whereas many of Scott’s recent outings have had the tendency to slide into the realm of the poorly-scripted and the cliché-riddled – in essence a tendency to sell out to the needs of the mainstream – All the Money in the World does no such thing.

With well judged attention paid to the psychology of the unfolding scenario, Ridley Scott succeeds in sustaining a high degree of intrigue, knowing exactly when to ramp up the suspense levels, and more importantly resisting – mercifully – the need to resort to any sort of naff Hollywood closing flourish.

This is a fine, captivating film which achieves that tricky balance between popcorn and fine story telling. In other words, this is every bit a Ridley Scott film – done well, and one, consequently, that should appeal right across the board.






Three and a half Star Rating

“Sorkin’s film is a slick affair that chugs along nicely in sprightly fashion…” – Wayward Wolf.


Is she now?

Well I never.

Welcome to another year of film reviews and comment from yours truly. And I’m delighted to report that 2018’s off to a highly entertaining start with Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game.

One of the many great things about the cinematic experience is that it introduces us to stories that are so much larger than life – or at least the lives that most of us ever experience – that you’d struggle to believe that they could ever happen, let alone actually did.

One such story through which we may all vicariously live (for two hours and twenty minutes at least), is that of Molly Bloom, the brains and guile behind an exclusive ultra high-stakes poker game that blossomed under her canny guidance,on both sides of the USA.

The FBi conduct a dawn raid on Molly as she sleeps. Quite why such a heavily armed team of officers is required to apprehend a single unarmed female is not apparent at this stage, but something serious is clearly afoot. We then proceed to back track a little in time. Molly is a determined professional competitive freestyle skier whose life, owing to one bad accident, is about to veer off in directions that she could never even have imagined.

Molly (a terrific turn from Jessica Chastain), is plucked from the relative obscurity of ‘working the tables’ in an exclusive night club, designed to drain the cash from those with sizeable wallets and limitless egos. She therefore finds herself working in an administrative job for a rather obnoxious entrepreneur.

It’s pedestrian work, to say the least, but one of her responsibilities is the running of an exclusive weekly poker game for her new boss and his ‘who’s who of wealthy Los Angeles movers and shakers’ friends.

It’s a steep learning curve for Molly, but a role that she seems to have a natural talent for, absorbing everything with sponge-like efficiency and attention to detail.

Sensing however that her unreasonable employer is readying himself to unfairly swing the axe and dispense with her talents, Molly, confident that she is now sufficiently well versed in all things poker, makes the bold move to go it alone, ‘seizing’ the lucrative weekly card game from her ex-boss in the process.

No longer a smokey back room get-together, Molly’s version of the weekly poker game will dramatically morph into something altogether more glamorous and lucrative for all, hosted in the rather grandiose surrounds of the penthouse apartment of an exclusive Los Angeles hotel. But with all of this new found glitz and glamour will come all manner of problems. Stabbed in the back by one of her customers, Molly’s game quickly moves on to New York, but soon begins to attract players with dubious backgrounds and dangerous connections. And once the unpredictable and unpalatable cocktail of drugs and the mafiosi become involved, things just become way too difficult to sustain and control, leaving Molly’s game to quickly descend into a downward spiral from which it can never recover, leaving Molly to face the music with the authorities.

Sorkin’s film is a slick affair that chugs along nicely in sprightly fashion, a momentum that only really tends to dissipate (probably necessarily), during the film’s protracted scenes of lengthy dialogue between Molly and her lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba).

It should be said that even with the ‘helpful?’ on-screen graphics illustrating exactly what it is that we are apparently watching, I must confess to having been suitably befuddled by much of the card game action, most of which came across as nothing but a confusing flurry of rapid-fire edits of cards, chips, blurred hands and concentrative – bordering on anxious – faces. Admittedly, sitting right at the front of my own particular screening certainly didn’t help me gain any sort of much needed perspective on things.

It goes without saying that a rudimentary appreciation of the game of Poker would have been extremely beneficial here, though not crucial to the general understanding of what was occurring, especially considering much of the card game action, and indeed the narrative of the film in general, is accompanied by Molly’s own clear and concise narration.

Jessica Chastain is absolutely excellent as Molly, Idris Elba convinces as her self-assured lawyer and legal guide, and Kevin Costner is an interesting and on balance I’d say successful piece of casting, portraying Molly’s father, Larry, a man that Molly has spent her entire life either rebelling against or trying to impress, yet an emotional chasm is very evident between the pair. As far as Molly is concerned, nothing she does is, or ever has been good enough for her father.

As with any larger than life rise and fall / boom and bust story, we can only ask that it entertains and is executed in such a way as to keep us intrigued from start to finish.

And Molly’s Game does precisely that.


The Wayward Wolf Annual Film Awards – 2017:

WWAFA Wolf Image 2017

Well, didn’t 2017 just fly by, folks?

And with the spectre of death looming ever larger over each and every one of us, the Wayward Wolf is here once again to make some sense of it all by picking over the bones of the year (just gone) in film, with the…

2017 Wayward Wolf Film Awards (The WWAFAS)!

76 (that’s SEVENTY-SIX) films were viewed on the big screen this year, one more than in 2016, and it has to be said that the standard was mind bogglingly good at times. So good in fact that there’s virtually nothing in it between the top ten entries. Indeed, picking the best film was harder this year than in any of the preceding four or five years that I’ve been doing all of this reviewing malarkey.

I should also acknowledge that there were a few choice films released in 2017 which seem to be have received all manner of rave reviews yet somehow slipped through my net for one reason or another, such as: God’s Own Country, Happy End, I am Not Your Negro, Good Time to name but four. Do bear this in mind then before bemoaning their lack of inclusion!

Lastly, you’ll notice that there is an absence of a Best Documentary category this year. Despite having seen any number of them on television during the year – including some magnificent serialised OJ Simpson and Vietnam documentaries, not to mention the brilliant Jim & Andy – unusually (for me), I’ve barely managed to see any on the big screen during 2017. Hopefully that’s something that can be rectified in 2018.

Don’t forget, it’s only films viewed in a cinema by yours truly – with a 2017 UK release date – that have been considered in the final reckoning.

And so, without anymore to-do, it’s on with the show…


This Year’s WWAFA Categories:

1. Best Soundtrack

2. Best Foreign Language Film

3. Best Actress (Lead or support)

4. Best Actor (Lead or support)

5. Worst Film

6. Best Film

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Best Original Soundtrack:


The Top Five: (in descending order):

5. It’s Only the End of the World  – Gabriel Yared

4. Jackie – Mica Levi

3. A Ghost Story – Daniel Hart

2. La La Land Justin Hurwitz

But the winner is…

1. Hans ZimmerDunkirk

As excellent as many other soundtracks have been in 2017, this year there was a clear winner. Hans Zimmer’s superb score is a precision piece of work complimenting magnificently Christopher Nolan’s epic vision of war. I’ve seen this relationship described as perfectly symbiotic, and truly it is. A superbly powerful emotionally charged soundtrack and a thoroughly deserving winner.

 dividing line

Best Foreign Language Film:


The Top Five: (in descending order):

5. It’s Only the End of the World

4. The Handmaiden

3. Raw

2. En Man Som Heter Ove (A Man Called Ove)

But the winner is…

1. Toni Erdmann

Sandra Hüller’s subtle performance is absolutely spot on in Maren Ade’s wonderful film which fuses “a mostly subtle strand of comedy with an underlying melancholia in this absorbing tale of a disfunctional father/daughter relationship.”

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Best Actress:


Narrowly missing out on the top five in 2017, it’s only fair that we acknowledge the following brilliant performances:

Florence Pugh and her gloriously conniving performance in Lady MacBeth.

Teresa Palmer’s excellent portrayal of a girl held captive against her will in Berlin Syndrome.

Jennifer Lawrence’s breathtaking adrenalin-charged performance in Mother.

Sandra Hüller’s splendid performance in Toni Erdmann.

And Clare Foy, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman for their roles in Breathe, Wonder and Jackie respectively.


The Top Five: (in descending order):

5. Tatiana Maslany – Stronger

4. Viola Davis Fences

3. Annette Bening Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

2. Ellie Kendrick – The Levelling

But the winner is…

1. Isabelle Huppert – Elle:

A reassuringly superb performance from Huppert as “a woman whose experiences earlier in life have resulted in something of a twisted psyche…”
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Best Actor:


Some truly memorable performances in 2017, and it would be remiss of me not to mention the handful that narrowly missed the cut:

Andrew Garfield had quite the year when you consider that his superb performances in both Silence and Breathe weren’t even his best performances of the year!

Terrific performances also from:

Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger, Michael Keaton in The Founder, Geoffrey Rush in Final Portrait, both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name and Jamie Bell in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, whilst Vincent Cassel’s rage-fuelled performance in It’s Only the End of the World was also a big highlight.

The Top Five: (in descending order):

5. Jim Broadbent – The Sense Of An Ending

4.  Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project

3. Casey AffleckManchester By the Sea

2. Andrew GarfieldHacksaw Ridge

But the winner is…

1. Denzel Washington – Fences:

An absolute masterclass from the ever impressive Denzel Washington, one part of a hugely impressive ensemble cast.

 dividing line

Worst Film:


As was the case in 2016, there were reassuringly few poor films this year (at least this was the case with regard to the films that I saw, personally), and so, as with last year, there are just the three worst film entries in this particular category…

The Top Three: (in descending order):

3. Hampstead

2. Alien Covenant


But the winner is…

1. Denial

There are almost certainly umpteen more ‘conventionally’ awful films from 2017 than Director Mick Jackson’s Denial – a film which may well boast the likes of Timothy Spall and Rachel Weisz amongst its impressive cast, but sometimes it’s simply a film’s totally one-eyed unbalanced approach to its subject matter that’s enough to infuriate sufficiently and earn it the ‘not so’ coveted, Worst Film WWAFA.

Denial is most definitely one such film.

 dividing line

Best Film:


Ten absolutely tremendous films, but there can be only one winner…


The Top Ten (in descending order):

10. The Handmaiden 

9. La La Land 

8. Fences

7. A Ghost Story

6. Raw

5. En Man Som Heter Ove (A Man Called Ove)

4. Toni Erdmann

3. Mother

2. Manchester By The Sea


But the winner, and Wayward Wolf Film Of The Year for 2017, is…


1. The Florida Project

It was always going to take something special to pip the rest to the post this year, and Sean Baker’s wonderful The Florida Project had all the right ingredients to do just that. Enchanting, moving and uplifting… “as poignant and wonderful an observational slice-of-life tale as you’re ever likely to see.”


So that’s it for another year!

It only remains to wish everyone an excellent 2018 and to leave you all with the full and final 76-strong, Wayward Wolf film list for 2017.


Ciao for now.

The Full 2017 Wayward Wolf Film List (in order of preference):

1. The Florida Project

2. Manchester By the Sea

3. Mother

4. Toni Erdmann

5. En Man Som Heter Ove (A Man Called Ove)

6. Raw

7. A Ghost Story

8. Fences

9. La La Land

10. The Handmaiden

11. Lion

12. The Sense of an Ending

13. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

14. Certain Women

15. It Comes at Night

16. The Founder

17. Lady MacBeth

18. American Made

19. The Party

20. A Monster Calls

21. Dunkirk

22. Get Out

23. The Red Turtle

24. It’s Only the End of the World

25. Elle

26. Moonlight

27. Call Me By Your Name

28. The Levelling

29. Blade Runner 2049

30. Berlin Syndrome

31. The Lost City of Z

32. The Beguiled

33. Gifted

34. Wind River

35. Stronger

36. T2 Trainspotting

37. Breathe

38. Hacksaw Ridge

39. Baby Driver

40. Wonder

41. Churchill

42. Alone in Berlin

43. Hidden Figures

44. Mountain

45. The Glass Castle

46. Mindhorn

47. Final Portrait

48. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

49. The Death of Stalin

50. Hell on Earth

51. The Ritual

52. Murder on the Orient Express

53. Detroit

54. Logan (Noir)

55. The Belko Experiment

56. Jackie

57. Their Finest

58. Life

59. War for the Planet of the Apes

60. Silence

61. Borg vs McEnroe

62. IT

63. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

64. Kong – Skull Island

65. Tiszta Szívvel (Kills on Wheels)

66. The Secret Scripture

67. Ghost in the Shell

68. Suburbicon

69. Jigsaw

70. Colossal

71. The Snowman

72. Power Rangers

73. Fai Bei Sogni (Sweet Dreams)

74. Hampstead

75. Alien Covenant

76. Denial


“…Tatiana Maslany’s depiction of Erin Hurley is one of genuine sentiment and a warm almost tangible sense of goodness.”

Wayward Wolf.

In many ways, Stronger is one of those ten-a-penny ‘triumph over adversity’ films that have been such a mainstay of cinema over the years.

However, what separates David Gordon Green’s tale from most are the superbly powerful performances of the film’s principal characters.

Owing to Jeff Bauman’s erratic nature and inability to turn up when he’s meant to, his relationship with Erin Hurley is something of an on and off affair. At the time in which Erin is due to run the Boston Marathon, their relationship is firmly in the off position, yet Jeff is clearly still obsessed with ‘his’ girl-next-door, Erin, and in a chance meeting at their local bar, Jeff, in a grand gesture aimed at winning her back, not only encourages the bar’s many patrons to sponsor Erin, but vows himself to cheer her on at the finish line.

Home-made banner in hand, for once Jeff just about sticks to his word, but it’s a decision that will dramatically change his life forever as he falls victim to the cowardly bombings of April 2013.

Surrounded by many well-meaning friends and family, in theory Jeff has the support network in place to help him overcome his disability. But with his alcoholic mother and good-time friends’ better judgement so frequently blighted by the bottle – not to mention having to live in a tiny room in his mother’s pokey apartment that is entirely unsuitable for the needs of a a disabled person – it soon becomes apparent that if Jeff is going to have any chance of coming to terms and indeed being at peace with his now drastically changed existence, it’s going to have to be down to him.

If it weren’t for Erin, that is.

Erin, a girl so sweet and caring, will prove over time to be an absolute rock of dependability, ensuring that Jeff’s road to some form of recovery may not be quite so fraught with problems after all.

Little is made of the actual bombings themselves in Green’s film, with only a hint of politicising events or finger pointing at suspects. Instead, the focus turns to Bauman’s psychological struggles in coming to terms not only with his disability, but with the expectation of a city positively tripping over itself to laud him as being some kind of hero, to be wheeled out in public at every given opportunity.

“Boston Strong” is the mantra of the city’s people as its population closes ranks and comes together in the face of adversity.

But Jeff’s life fast descends into a circus of celebrity revolving around rather anodyne acts of flag waving at Bruins matches or tossing first pitches at Red Sox games, not to mention a proposed visit to Jeff’s home from the TV Queen of all-American sentiment, Oprah Winfrey.

It’s understandably all too much.

The one ray of light throughout though is the wonderful Erin. But Jeff’s innate unreliable nature combined with the psychological scarring of recent events threatens to undermine everything good that this girl undoubtedly brings into his life.

Stronger boasts decent support performances most notably from Miranda Richardson who is a good piece of casting as Jeff’s well-meaning but troubled alcoholic mother, Patty, but it is the film’s leading pair who predictably steal the show.

Jake Gyllenhaal is tremendously visceral in his portrayal of Jeff Bauman whilst Tatiana Maslany’s depiction of Erin Hurley is one of genuine sentiment and a warm almost tangible sense of goodness. Together the couple demonstrate the most solidly believable on-screen chemistry as they attempt to navigate their way through the most harrowing scenes of tension and heartbreak.

Just how much of David Gordon Green’s film has been embellished for cinematic purposes only Jeff and Erin themselves will know, but as a cinematic spectacle, Stronger stands alone well as an engaging, thought-provoking film absolutely brought alive by way of some truly memorable performances.









“…if we’re judging Murder on the Orient Express upon pure entertainment value alone, it’s only fair to say that this Kenneth Branagh adaptation is something of a success.”

Wayward Wolf.

This 2017 version of the Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express (MOTOE from hereon in), seems to have received a rather mixed bag of reviews since its release. Certainly having on board (literally in this case), such a who’s who of acting royalty, demonstrates a certain confidence by Twentieth Century Fox that this weighty cast of A-listers would be sufficiently alluring to transform this well known who dunnit from being merely potential TV fodder into something of a big screen epic.

And if we’re judging MOTOE upon pure entertainment value alone, it’s only fair to say that this Kenneth Branagh adaptation is something of a success.

Branagh himself heads the cast, portraying famous Belgian detective Hercules Poirot. Like many of Agatha Christie’s heroic lead characters, Poirot proves yet again to be something of a jinx; his very presence unsurprisingly coinciding with a murder. In this instance it occurs aboard the luxurious Orient Express train en route from Turkey to Paris.

Only a limited number of passengers are booked to travel on this particular journey, however, all of whom instantly become suspects in the murder of one Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), found dead in his sleeping quarters having been stabbed repeatedly.

Ratchett’s shady past is then slowly revealed by those that knew him, a past that more than justifies such a potentially retaliatory action; something that he had in fact made known to Poirot himself, that he was rather fearful of.

With Ratchett’s grave fears proven correct, and with all suspects aboard the train unable to flee the scene of the crime, it is once again down to Belgian’s famous bloodhound to sniff out the truth in this particularly gruesome case of murder.

When one thinks of Poirot, one probably thinks of David Suchet’s long running portrayal on the small screen. Whether that is to be considered the pinnacle of all things Poirot-related is of course open to debate, and there are many far better qualified than I to cast their judgement. Regardless of this, Branagh, it should be said, is excellent in his own portrayal, depicting Poirot as a fastidious stickler for both detail and equilibrium in all things; personal traits that will come to be severely tested in the course of time.

In support, Judi Dench plays the sour-faced Princess Dragomiroff, with Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt) – a lady of few words – her companion and dog carer.

Johnny Depp is decent enough as Ratchett, though his mumbled American drawl gets a little lost amidst the ambient din of a chugging steam train.

Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe and Michelle Pfeiffer more or less complete an all-star line-up of egos, something that Director Branagh will have been tasked with containing during the film’s shoot. Though given his admirable thespian credentials, there would arguably have been no-one better suited to that particular task.

Blessed with Haris Zambarloukos’s stunning cinematography, a quality cast, an overall keen eye for the small details, and a healthy dose of humour thrown in to boot, Branagh’s adaptation of MOTOE, whilst not necessarily adding anything particularly new or revolutionary in its vision, is nevertheless one worthy of both its place on the big screen and more importantly, of the Agatha Christie novel itself.




“…thanks to some genuinely excellent performances and a director’s unashamed mission to absolutely yank upon our collective heart strings, Wonder is an absolute lip-wobbler of a feel good film.”

Wayward Wolf.

Earlier this year, Marc Webb’s sassy, touching drama, Gifted, told the story of a highly intelligent precocious young child who had been home schooled up until a certain age. Her father was then adamant that she should be ‘unleashed’ into the real world in order to improve her social skills and to learn how to integrate with other children.

A child so intellectually advanced yet socially inept was always going to struggle to fit in and it’s therefore no surprise when her integration proves to be fraught with complications.

The similarities between Webb’s film and Stephen Chbosky’s latest offering, Wonder, are obvious and plentiful.

Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), is a young lad with severe facial disfiguration. He too is somewhat gifted – in the field of science – and has been home schooled by his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts). She has made the brave decision to now enrol Auggie in school in order that he too may have the opportunity to assimilate with others of his own age.

It’s a courageous step for all concerned given Auggie’s special circumstances and knowing how cruel children can be at that young, impressionable age, and one that Auggie’s father, Nate (Owen Wilson), is understandably unsure about.

Nevertheless, the young boy, shielded within the security of his favourite astronaut helmet, is encouraged to take the plunge. Predictably, life’s lessons come thick and fast for the poor wee thing, weighing heavily not only upon Auggie’s vulnerable young shoulders, but upon those that love and look out for him too.

If we’re being brutally honest, there’s very little by way of originality in Stephen Chbosky’s film. This is a familiar story of not fitting in, and all of the assorted trials and tribulations that go along with that. Lessons, however, will be learned and ultimately the director is keen to relay an entirely positive message, and to say that, is really not to give away anything that you wouldn’t already have suspected.

Far from being a predictable cliché-ridden waste of everyone’s time, however, thanks to some genuinely excellent performances and a director’s unashamed mission to absolutely yank upon our collective heart strings, Wonder is an absolute lip-wobbler of a feel good film.

Naturally, Auggie’s story is very much at the forefront of things, but Chbosky also weaves in a number of the support characters’ own stories into proceedings as explanation for why they have come to be how they are, and act like they act. This is a nice idea in theory, adding a little depth to the characterisation, though it should be said that it only partially works here, and one or two of these character biographies are so short and unrevealing that they might as well have not been included at all.

It is the side story of Auggie’s older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), however, that is most pertinent. A young, well-adjusted girl whose life has understandably been one of constantly having to play second fiddle to her brother. Auggie’s many years of surgery and continual need for attention and reassurance has left Via feeling as though she is a bit of an after thought for her parents. A simmering resentment is therefore never far from the surface whenever she and her mother are together, and even any shared plans that they may have to spend dedicated quality time together are never more than one Auggie-related phone call away from being unceremoniously aborted.

But such is life in the Pullman household.

Original it may well not be, but thanks to some beautifully played key roles, Wonder cannot help but hit the mark. Julia Roberts in particular blends both strength and tender maternal concern quite beautifully and with great sensitivity. Jacob Tremblay – so convincing in 2016’s Room –  demonstrates that the trajectory arc of his career continues to rise in one direction only, and a special mention should be made for Izabela Vidovic, whose portrayal of Auggie’s sister, Via, is one of subtle depth and know how.

With films like Wonder, and Gifted before it, there is aways a danger that they may slip on the treacly mess of their own over-sentimentality. But whilst there is no doubt that Stephen Chbosky is unafraid to slap on his own brand of emotional emulsion, thick, and with numerous coats, the end result is a film so finely glossed and beautiful, it’ll bring a lump to your throat.

Though admittedly that may just be the paint fumes.






“It’s big, it’s bold, fairly nonsensical in places, but crucially pretty faithful to the requirements of the franchise.”

Wayward Wolf.

From informative wording rising up shakily over a star-speckled screen (you’d have thought they might have sorted all such text-related jitters by now considering today’s super slick digital technology), to the triumphant opening fanfare of John Williams’ seminal theme, it can only mean one thing, folks. That’s right, it’s time for another thinly-veiled religiously over-toned lesson in good and evil by way of everybody’s favourite intergalactic science fiction box-ticking franchise.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SW:TLJ from hereon in), is upon us, and receiving a considerable amount of thumbs-up activity it would appear.

But is this Rian Johnson-directed two-and-a-half-hour epic fully deserving of all such lavish praise being bestowed upon it?

First and foremost, it’s important to establish one simple truth: directing any Star Wars film is akin to wearing a strait jacket, such are the restrictions under which any director must surely operate. There is a certain level of expectancy amongst your typical Star Wars-viewing public, a formula away from which one can not veer significantly, and a check list containing  any number of core requirements that must be met before any level of personal influence and input can be injected into or stamped upon proceedings.

I’d imagine.

In fairness to Rian Johnson, his Star Wars directorial debut probably ticks enough boxes and sufficiently grooms enough executive egos to keep those that matter sufficiently happy.

There are return outings for the franchise’s two newest stars, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and  Finn (John Boyega), along with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who, in spite of his undoubtedly wonderful abilities as an actor, remains the worst piece of villainous casting in living memory. Just what were the Star Wars powers-that-be thinking?

We are also treated to a reclusive, grizzlier and somewhat wiser Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and an inexplicably large amount of computer generated Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) imagery, including an amusing incident in which, following an attack on her ship – in scenes reminiscent of the opening credit sequence of the 1960’s science fiction classic, Lost In Space – she tumbles arse-over-tit out of a spaceship into the great black beyond before being fished back in once again like some sort of cosmic carp.

Whilst it’s a nice homage to the late Carrie Fisher’s memory, quite what such an excessive amount of this CGi wizardry actually adds to the film as a whole, is debatable to say the least.

There are very limited and fairly forgettable roles for Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro, and a predictable smattering of bizarre mechanical and other worldly entities and critters – both new and old, including an unexpected cameo from Yoda himself – to keep everyone happy.

Certainly no expense has been spared in fully furnishing this latest instalment with a wide variety and excellent quality of characters, yet once again I arrive at the conclusion that there is still yet to be a Star Wars movie that succeeds in creating and developing characters of any sufficient depth or substance, and certainly none that one can fully engage or empathise with – perhaps with the exception of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo character. Talking of which, Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of pilot Poe Dameron evokes welcome memories of Solo, and it’s no surprise therefore that Poe is easily the most convincing character in SW:TLJ.

As for the plot, it’s a fairly simple affair. Aren’t they all? Essentially it’s a tale of rebels on the run. “Tom & Jerry in Space” is one particularly harsh summary that I’ve heard, which, give or take a side story or two, is actually probably a fair assessment.

It’s big, it’s bold, fairly nonsensical in places, but crucially pretty faithful to the requirements of the franchise, and if the blue light sabre-wielding fella sat behind me – hyper-ventilating with joy like an over excited spaniel on glimpsing its favourite squeaky toy – is the measuring stick here, then it’s fair to say that SW:TLJ is nothing short of a triumph. Then again, listening to the opinions of those attending a screening on Star Wars opening night probably doesn’t guarantee the most impartial of reviews.

Balance this against my own predictable apathy towards all things Star Wars and subsequent conservative assessment of them, and the true measure of Rian Johnson’s big budget blockbuster almost certainly lies somewhere in-between.






“…the film boasts some impressive height-perspective shots of wide-eyed lunatics free-climbing their way up hundreds of metres of sheer rock face.”

Wayward Wolf.

Director Jennifer Peedom’s documentary, Mountain, is an impressive piece. An unassuming film embellished with only a very sparse smattering of voice-over supplied through the husky tones of one Willem Dafoe.

That said, to label Mountain a documentary is perhaps stretching the truth somewhat. A ‘meditation’ or ‘appreciation’ would perhaps be more appropriate.

It’s a fine combination of sweeping footage of various mountainous vistas taken from all over the globe, set to the stunning music of Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Additionally, a masterfully curated selection of some of history’s most powerful orchestral music is used to great effect here, culminating most fittingly with the Adagio movement from Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.

Beautifully shot throughout, it’s hard not to be in total awe and reverence of the sheer scale and imposing nature of these sprawling ranges – the results of millions of years of plate tectonic and volcanic activity.

Peedom’s film, whilst never preachy or particularly intrusive, touches upon the affect that these colossal masses of rock have had upon the human psyche over time. Initially believed to be the domain of either Gods or Monsters, life at the foot of these gigantic monoliths was considered hard enough without people ever feeling any need to tempt fate by exploring their giddy, perilous heights.

The confirmation of Mount Everest as being the world’s highest peak, however, lay down the gauntlet to many an intrepid explorer, and once finally ‘conquered’ by Hillary and Norgay in 1953, the floodgates positively ruptured with regard to man pitting his wits against not only nature’s highest challenge, but indeed against every mountain range the world over.

Mountaineering suddenly became something of an obsession, no longer to be considered the past-time of the foolhardy or clinically insane.

Talking of insane, the film boasts some impressive height-perspective shots of wide-eyed lunatics free-climbing their way up hundreds of metres of sheer rock face – footage that left me frozen to my seat in terror, questioning just exactly how much has really changed with regards to the perceived mental state of the climbing fraternity.

Perhaps most sweaty palm-inducing of all though was a section devoted to extreme sports, following a variety of thrill-seeking wack jobs in their assorted attempts to free dive / parachute / bike or off-piste ski themselves into certain oblivion, often simultaneously outrunning avalanches in the process.

Madness! Yet utterly enthralling.

Whilst those of us that have had any sort of fascination with mountains and mountaineering over the years may not necessarily learn anything new from Jennifer Peedom’s film, Mountain is however a stunning, heart felt ode to their breathtaking majestic beauty, and a stark reminder of humanity’s sheer insignificance; dwarfed in their very presence.




“Suburbicon is a rather disjointed hotchpotch of ideas and concepts, like a mis-matched outfit thrown together by an owner racked by indecision whilst going through something of an identity crisis.”

Wayward Wolf.

I’d love to wax lyrical about the merits of a George Clooney-directed film based upon an original Coen Brothers script with all of the sort of gushing praise that those particular ingredients should probably warrant.

But I can’t. It’s just not possible. And considering that I was entirely convinced by the film’s superbly enticing trailer, this therefore represents something of a significant disappointment.

Suburbicon is a tale of dark deeds and whole-scale unrest that occurs on an idyllic housing development in 1960’s America. It follows the exploits of up-standing pillar of society and middle-class family man, Gardner Lodge (a fine performance from Matt Damon it should be said), whose life is suddenly rocked by the death of his disabled wife; an event instigated by a couple of ne’er-do-well hoodlums whilst carrying out a bungled burglary / hostage scenario at Gardner’s family home.

Friends and relatives understandably all rally around during such troubled times, and Gardner decides that in the interest of maintaining some sort of home-life stability, his wife’s identical twin sister, Margaret, should move into the family home for a while.

But things are not quite what they seem in this land of neatly-kempt lawns, white picket fences and twitching curtains, and with the cat threatening to bolt clean out of the bag, Gardner’s life begins to unravel, descending ultimately into outright chaos.

The basic premise of Clooney’s film is a fairly simple one – a tale of dodgy insurance claims and bungling mafiosi, and whilst it’s perhaps not a tale representing any great sense of originality, it certainly contains sufficient substance and intrigue from which to fashion something perfectly watchable.

Certainly Suburbicon‘s cast all put in dependably solid performances. Damon, as mentioned already, is excellent and is ably supported by Julianne Moore in her twin roles as both Gardner’s wife (Rose), and her twin sister (Margaret). Credit too to Oscar Isaac and his portrayal of wily insurance claim investigator, Bud Cooper, which is something of a highlight.

Yet, in spite of such a stellar cast, mysteriously, Clooney’s Suburbicon succeeds only in underwhelming, bringing to mind Ridley Scott’s 2013 hugely disappointing, The Counsellor. It too was a film boasting an impressive who’s-who of top acting talent with a big name director on board, yet ultimately absolutely stank the gaff out.

Suburbicon is a rather disjointed hotchpotch of ideas and concepts, like a mis-matched outfit thrown together by an owner that’s racked by indecision whilst simultaneously experiencing something of an identity crisis. And I’m still trying to work out the true relevance of the the story’s race-related sub-plot which felt both peripheral and largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Add in the usually reliable Alexandre Desplat’s dreary omnipresent score splashed lavishly and unnecessarily all over the place, and Clooney’s film – one which threatened to be something of a devilishly dark comic romp, on paper – is one that’s probably worth giving something of a wide berth.











“…just how did he become this petty harbinger of headaches, and what does the future hold for this archetypal grumpy old man?”

Wayward Wolf.

If Peter Bradshaw’s rather dismissive review in the Guardian is anything to go by, A Man Called Ove is, and I quote: “…not very funny, not very sad, not very believable, and not very interesting.”

That’s not very favourable really, now is it, Peter?

More pertinently, it’s a truly baffling point of view that’s had me scratching my head.

Fortunately, I was not party to Mr Bradshaw’s peculiar conclusions prior to viewing this particular piece of Swedish cinema – conclusions that appear to have been arrived at whilst simultaneously tumbling down Alice’s rabbit hole, I should add.

Obviously it’s all subjective and there are no right or wrong answers here, but far from being the poor excuse for a film that Mr Bradshaw insinuates, Academy Award-nominated A Man Called Ove – based upon Fredrik Backman’s novel of the same name – is in fact, I’m delighted to inform you, a soulful, witty, wonderfully engaging piece. And whilst we’re in the business of overdosing on superlatives, let’s throw warm-hearted and life-affirming into the mix, too.

As for believable? Well, yes and no, but that’s hardly a critical factor when one considers that cinema is by its very nature a means of escape, frequently calling upon us to suspend our collective sense of disbelief. But let’s be clear here, A Man Called Ove is not in any way shape or form a film whose content defies belief in such a manner as to ultimately risk spoiling our enjoyment of it.

But enough with the tub-thumping and attempts at balance redressing.

Hannes Holm’s film – originally released in Sweden at the tail end of 2015, but only given its limited UK release this year – tells the story of Ove (a wonderful turn by Rolf Lassgård), a man who has always been socially awkward, bordering on the autistic in some ways. But over the years, owing to tragic circumstances, that awkwardness has since morphed into unconfined anger and misery.

Adhering to a strict daily routine, he patrols the grounds of the gated neighbourhood in which he lives, making note of any fool-hardy transgressors of the community regulations that he had helped to initiate during his time as Chairman of the neighbourhood committee. The fact that he no longer holds such a prestigious title and that the community tends to unwittingly flout his rules, is just one more trigger for multiple bouts of po-faced bitterness on his part. Regardless, Ove remains resolute, and continues to rigorously enforce ‘the law’ for what he perceives to be the good of the community.

But just how did he become this petty harbinger of headaches, and what does the future hold for this archetypal grumpy old man?

Ove’s back story is gradually revealed by way of a meandering narrative, initially through the series of flash-backs that he experiences during each of a number of unsuccessful suicide attempts, but latterly through the unlikely friendship that he develops with his Iranian-Swedish pregnant neighbour, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars). She, together with her boisterous family, are unknowingly the sole reason that Ove has yet to shuffle off this mortal coil, unable as he is to complete the ‘simple’ process of taking his own life without their unwelcome yet timely interruptions.

It is true that Hannes Holm’s touching tale, when broken down into its constituent parts, is probably a fairly routine and familiar one. A man, unable to cope with the accumulated sadness in his life and seeing little or no reason to go on, gradually, through a varied set of circumstances, manages to come to terms with the prospect of actually ‘living’ once again, thanks principally to the kindness of people that are able to recognise a good man with a good heart, even when it’s obscured by a particularly miserable demeanour.

For want of a better term, you would probably classify A Man Called Ove as something of a feel-good movie with stylistic parallels and general inspiration drawn from the sort of sentimental – bordering on slightly schmaltzy – Hollywood formulas that have unearthed such big screen favourites as Forest Gump; films that, if we’re deeply honest with ourselves, we probably love all the more for that very reason.

Rest assured though, Hannes Holm’s film, whilst certainly guilty of being whimsical at times, never comes close to achieving any sort of off-putting saccharine-overload.

Genuinely touching in places, A Man Called Ove is a witty, poignant and effortlessly charming tale.

One of the hidden gems of 2017 in fact.





“…airborne vehicles swoop in and out of the huge neon-lit monolithic tower blocks from which [these] holograms emanate, visually bringing to mind Rupert Saunders’ 2017 offering, Ghost in the Shell.”

Wayward Wolf.

There is a school of opinion that I’ve been made aware of a number of times since the release of Blade Runner 2049. It’s one that suggests the film is overlong and drawn-out, with a bloated sense of self-importance. Now, that’s a pretty harsh assessment in anyone’s book and not one that I necessarily agree with, yet it’s not entirely a mystery as to why such an exaggerated conclusion might have come about.

At getting on towards three hours in duration, Denis Villeneuve’s epic sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece, Blade Runner, is certainly in no rush, and clearly not concerned with your average curtailed 2017 attention span, and other such modern phenomena.

There is also a propensity for Blade Runner 2049‘s early exchanges to veer towards technological overload at times with the director positively wallowing in gadget and technology porn, leaving us in no doubt whatsoever that this is a point in time in which there have been absolute quantum leaps beyond what would be considered high-tech in 2017.

Less prevalent is the incessant rain of Blade Runner, now largely replaced by an overcast, desolate and arid climate over which hangs a smog so thick you could cut it. Perhaps an indication of a planet whose raised mean temperature has ultimately led to water becoming something of a scarce resource?

The future Los Angeles cityscape that has been conjured up here is one in which holographic advertisements for everything from major corporations to virtual call girls reach out and interact with the public. And airborne vehicles swoop in and out of the huge neon-lit monolithic tower blocks from which these holograms emanate, visually bringing to mind Rupert Saunders’ 2017 offering, Ghost in the Shell.

In amongst this rather soulless, gloom-sodden backdrop we are introduced to the story of  ‘K’ (an appropriately dead-pan performance from Ryan Gosling), a replicant working for the LAPD, who, on successfully executing a mission to ‘retire’ one of the few remaining rogue replicants, stumbles upon the remains of a female replicant buried beneath a nearby dead tree. This in itself isn’t necessarily news-worthy, but the fact that the replicant appears to have died during caesarean childbirth having obviously been pregnant – an impossibility according to mainstream scientific thought – clearly is.

Such a scenario presents the possibility of a hugely volatile situation unfolding, deemed potentially explosive enough to cause great conflict between humans and replicants, and K is therefore instructed by his superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), to track down the replicant child that had been born and eliminate it and all evidence that it had ever existed.

Blade Runner 2049 is noticeably built around a strong narrative, the slow and considered execution of which is very much to the benefit of the piece, building an introspective, mood-heavy work that offers its viewer ample time to consider and reflect upon the film’s myriad themes, not to mention opportunities to grapple with the film’s finer, slightly more cerebrally-taxing plot points.

Perhaps most impressive is its ability to elevate itself above 90% of any science fiction that has ever been committed to celluloid, by demonstrating considerable heart. Nowhere is this better exemplified than by way of K’s touching, if slightly unconventional relationship with his holographic other half, Joi (making full use of the seductive charms of Ana de Armas). Essentially, we’re talking about an android dating a moving picture here, yet Villeneueve successfully convinces us that such a scenario can be considered to be much more than just that, painting a picture of trust, intimacy, and dare I say it, something bordering on love? Not just a sequence of high-tech mechanics.

Joi’s frequent appearances are heralded by strains of Peter’s theme, from Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Such a sonically beautiful interlude, no matter how brief, is a nice touch, and a refreshing reminder from within such a cold impersonal landscape, of the true essence of humanity and of genuine emotion; not to mention a nod no doubt to the enduring longevity of real works of art.

And talking of music: though lacking the soaring sonic themes of its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 – through the efforts of both Benjamin Wallfisch and the ever reliable Hans Zimmer – has at least tipped its hat to those sumptuous sensual swelling synth sounds of the magnificent Vangelis original, producing a soundtrack that, whilst unexceptional, at least offers some degree of continuity between the two films, and hence a reassuring familiarity.

Gosling, Wright and De Armas are joined in a strong cast by Jared Leto who puts in a powerful turn as Niander Wallace – a character that I felt a little more could have been made of – and naturally Harrison Ford is brought back in for a cameo role, reviving his portrayal of Rick Deckard, a move which thankfully proves to be far more than just a fleeting contractual obligation, with his character carefully and convincingly engrained into the film’s nuanced narrative.

It’s been 35 years now since Blade Runner first hit the big screen, and to even have attempted to create a sequel that does justice to the revered original was something of a bold move. The fact that Denis Villeneuve’s dystopian vision, whilst by no means perfect, not only doesn’t sour the lingering memory of one of the all time greats but proves to be a very fine film in its own right, is testament to the work of an excellent and courageous director.







“Yorgos Lanthimos’ psychological thriller is something of a fable, rich with metaphors and mythological parallels.”

Wayward Wolf.

For those of you that have seen Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous outing, The Lobster, the rather eery stylistic approach of his latest piece, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, will be all too familiar.

With unnaturally stilted delivery and distracted, truncated conversations, the characters go about their roles in the most ‘wooden’ manner that you could possibly imagine.

Of course, that’s actually all part of the set-up here, and considering Lanthimos’ film boasts the likes of Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell among its number, it’s highly unlikely that any such wooden aspersions could possibly relate to the actual acting ability of the excellent cast. But it certainly all makes for another odd, yet intriguing outing from the Lanthimos stable – one which takes care to examine such themes as guilt and responsibility, as well as the biblical concept of an eye for an eye.

Top surgeon, Stephen Murphy (Farrell), carries with him a terrible burden. A botched surgery some years earlier – whilst apparently under the influence of alcohol – had resulted in the unfortunate death of a man. With a wife and two lovely children to support, it’s important that Stephen does not allow the burdens of his past to drag him down and dictate his life. Yet every so often the guilt seems to eat him up. These pangs of remorse always seem to coincide with the frequent occasions that he spends in the company of a teenage boy, Martin (Barry Keoghan). Whilst it initially appears that Stephen may have taken the boy under his wing, adopting some kind of career mentor role, the truth, and rather unnerving reason for Martin’s virtual omnipresence in Stephen’s life gradually becomes apparent, and increasingly, by way of some rather strange and sinister goings on, it leaves the beleaguered surgeon to deal with a classic case of Hobson’s choice.

Whatever you might make of Lanthimos’ film – and the response that I’ve encountered has been varied – there’s no doubting that thanks to its unusual direction, a warped (in a good way) sense of fun, characters bordering on the robotic, and all-round levels of disturbing oddity, The Killing of a Sacred Deer effortlessly burns its way into the old grey matter, and stays there.

Arguably most memorable of all though is the film’s stunning cinematography; superbly strong enduring visual imagery that can probably best be described as minimal meets clinical. Scenes shot within the confines of the hospital walls are particularly visually arresting, making strong use of a restrictive almost monochrome palette, and little or no room is given to the relative comfort and reassuring warmth that bold colours would bring.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ psychological thriller is something of a fable, rich with metaphors and mythological parallels. A truly dystopian vision that devilishly pokes at our most deep-seated fears, and straddles the divide between dark, inappropriately jocular, and absurdly disturbing.

Above everything though, The Killing of a Sacred Deer offers a stark reminder that ‘true happiness’ is only ever a temporary state of events, and that we’re all never more than a brief moment of misfortune or negligence from having it, and everything that it represents, come crashing down around us.

In this case, the ultimate, self-inflicted souring of the American dream.


“If I’m honest, the bar of expectation that I’d mentally set for Jigsaw was not exactly towering above me – the giddy height of a croquet hoop would be more apt…”

Wayward Wolf.

Back in 1999 I recall sitting po-faced through an utterly unremarkable film that seemed interminable in its apparent nothingness. Not one to write anything off easily, at least until a fat lady has sung or the credits have rolled – and considering some of the cinematic dives that I used to frequent, there was probably an equally high chance of the former occurring – I stuck to the task manfully, and was amply rewarded for having done so.

The film? The Sixth Sense. A movie that was ultimately knitted together brilliantly by way of a twist at its conclusion that every man and his dog – bar me of course – claimed to have seen coming from an absolute mile off.

But what does this have to do with the latest chapter in the Saw franchise, I hear you ask? Well, in case you need it spelling out for you… that’s right, there’s a twist at the end of Jigsaw. There, I’ve said it. Have I spoilt it for you?

Before you bemoan my lack of tact, I guarantee you this: When you’re sitting through the aforementioned formulaic gore-fest, feeling as though you can’t go on, just going through the motions, tallying up the body count of umpteen two dimensional characters that you give not one shiny shite about and whom in some grizzly manner or other, have met their untimely demise, there will come a point when you’ll actually thank me for bestowing that particular nugget of information upon you. For against all odds, there is actually a reason to stick with Jigsaw.

Don’t get me wrong, this is no Sixth Sense and far from a The Usual Suspects – and I unrepentently reference this most excellent of Kevin Spacey-led films. I’m on a roll you see, and let’s not be rewriting film history now – but the final ten minutes of Jigsaw at least prove that its writers, Pete Goldberg and Josh Stolberg, saw fit to attempt something beyond the sort of linear prosaic banality that so frequently accompanies first sequels, let alone the eighth outing of a tired old horror franchise.

Directors Michael and Peter Spierig, on the other hand, engage in what can only be termed as ‘flying by the seat of your pants direction’, as they absolutely rattle through proceedings at break-neck pace, eager to get to the conclusion it would seem, almost as though the bulk of the film’s content is something of a crushing inconvenience for them. In so doing, barely a moment is spent generating any worthwhile sense of suspense or terror, or indeed developing any of the characters and examining their varied back stories – which are, within context, in fact far more than just meaningless personal portraits, and rather integral as to why it is that they’ve come to find themselves entombed, bucket on head, at the business end of one of John Kramer’s (Jigsaw’s) warped games.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not worth worrying about too much, a little like 80% of this film, and in all honesty, to examine the remaining 20% of it would be to give the game away. So I’ll just leave it at that.

If I’m honest, the bar of expectation that I’d mentally set for Jigsaw was not exactly towering above me – the giddy height of a croquet hoop would be more apt – but it’s only fair to say that the Spierig brothers’ film somehow digs deep, summons its inner Sergey Bubka, and hauls itself over this most minimal of hurdles…






“Thanks to his parents’ considerable influence, Elio’s life is one full of art and culture, not to mention a liberal attitude towards life in general.”

Wayward Wolf.

Watching Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name instantly had me casting my mind back to Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 masterpiece, Blue is the Warmest Colour, and whilst the two films stand at polar opposite ends of the human sexuality spectrum, the similarities between them are nevertheless plentiful and obvious. Most notably, both films have rightly been lavished with much deserved praise since their respective releases.

Set in the dreamy tranquility of small village life in 1980’s Italian Lombardy, Call Me By Your Name – based upon an acclaimed André Aciman novel – tells of the sexual awakening of seventeen-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), whose leisurely summer spent engrossed in his favourite pastimes – namely reading, swimming and transcribing music – is disrupted by the arrival of Oliver (Armie Hammer), a confident and charming American intern who has travelled to Italy in order to spend the summer months helping Elio’s father – a Professor in Greco-Roman studies, played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

Thanks to his parents’ considerable influence, Elio’s life is one full of art and culture, not to mention a liberal attitude towards life in general. Though seemingly happy enough idling his holiday away flirting with local girl and good friend, Marzia (a sweet turn by Esther Garrel), the tall American’s arrival on the scene is something of a head turner for young Elio, in a manner that he has never experienced before, and it soon puts into perspective exactly what his dalliances with Marzia had been – nothing but the horny fumblings of an inexperienced teenager.

Before long Elio and Oliver are getting to know each other better through their shared appreciation of summer outdoor pursuits, and in doing so, Elio is soon awakened to the true nature of his own sexuality.

But such carefree unstructured halcyon days they never last, and come summer’s end, Elio may well have experienced the giddy rush of first love, but must also face the crushing inevitability of heartbreak.

In some ways, Call Me By Your Name seems to exist in a sort of dreamy alternative reality. Exquisitely shot, it captures quite beautifully those sun-drenched peaceful, seductive Northern Italian summers when time and schedule bend and flex indeterminately and are of little importance. For Elio these are the unforgettable times in which initial shy lingering glances magically transform into steamy embraces and where new ‘innovative’ uses are found for the ripest of low-hanging orchard fruits!

In Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, Guadagnino’s film boasts two actors demonstrating the most natural of on-screen chemistry, and whose burgeoning relationship develops into something intense and crucially, thoroughly believable.

Whether one connects fully with the subject matter of Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age drama or on just a fleetingly curious level, it is indisputable that Call me by your Name is a film whose soulful illustration of awakening love, passion and desire is one that effortlessly crosses all barriers and divides.












“Sadly, Rex’s Glass Castle is merely symbolic of a fertile imagination, of wonderfully elaborate gestures, but ultimately represents nothing more than unfulfillment and crushing disappointment.”

Wayward Wolf.

Take a good glug of Captain Fantastic, add a dash of The Waltons, then sprinkle in something rather unsavoury, to taste. Give it a good old shake now, and what do you have?

The Glass Castle, that’s what.

OK, that’s a bit of a naff sweeping summary, and possibly a little unfair in insinuating a certain degree of unoriginality, but the influences are certainly there to be seen in Destin Daniel Cretton’s entertaining tale based upon a true story of alternative lifestyles and the perils of the bottle.

Rex (Woody Harrelson), is certainly a one-off. A righteous man and a dreamer, he fills his young family’s heads with fantastic tales and with a line of knowledge plucked straight from the University of Life’s main syllabus. Racked by poverty brought about through his (and his wife’s) insistence on living a non-conformist alternative lifestyle, the aforementioned University of Life is pretty much the only educational institution that any of their children are ever likely to attend.

Nevertheless, they are quite a happy troop, living free, and in doing so they all make a stand against a system that so appalls Rex and his wife, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). That said, from time to time Rex swallows his considerable pride and takes employment where he can find it in order to provide for his family. These are undoubtedly the good times, full of fun, happiness and optimism for the future – a respite from the relentless hardship of self-sufficiency and the soul-sapping grind of poverty. But any such times prove to be unsustainable, relatively short-lived, and always finite.

Rex waxes lyrical about his grand plans to find the perfect plot of land and to then build his family a magnificent Glass Castle upon it, in which they can all live a wonderful life. Such lofty aspirations are all well and good and an easy sales pitch to sell to a young impressionable family, but with the passing of time and with his children becoming young adults, the difference between Rex’s dreams and cold reality are gradually laid bare. Even if the land can be found and the materials somehow acquired, Rex’s ongoing battles with alcohol addiction always seem to render any such plans redundant – a mere pipe dream. Sadly, Rex’s Glass Castle is merely symbolic of a fertile imagination, of wonderfully elaborate gestures, but ultimately represents nothing more than unfulfillment and crushing disappointment.

Amongst Rex and Rose Mary’s children is Jeannette (Brie Larsson), very much the  spokesperson amongst the siblings. She has listened for years to her father’s distracting tales of wonder, but has now finally reached breaking point. Sick of the alcoholism, threatening behaviour and constant broken promises, she vows to fly the nest against her father’s wishes. She is not the first to do so, and she will not be the last.

Destin Daniel Cretton’s film, whilst being a very watchable piece, does however have an overriding feeling of being something that we’ve seen before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly shouldn’t take away from some fine performances. Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Rex is both captivating and often visceral and raw (in a good way). Naomi Watts is assured in her portrayal of Rex’s loyal wife, Rose Mary, a lady who seems resigned to honour some sort of invisible contract of dutiful servitude to her man and his impossible fantasies, whilst Brie Larsson puts in a strong performance as Jeannette, a girl who is ultimately torn between the innate bonds that she has to her hopelessly idealistic bohemian family, and the life that she ultimately chooses to live beyond these shackles; one that is so completely contrary to her father’s deep-seated beliefs.

If there is fault to be picked in Cretton’s piece, it is the metamorphosis of Harrelson’s character from unorthodox, happy-go-lucky Dad, to alcohol-rinsed threatening monster. This may well have been the case, but this process of character deterioration is unconvincing here, and leaves one presuming that maybe there is in fact some missing segment of this film that ended up on the cutting room floor.

Even with the alcoholism, the occasional violent outbursts and the general downward spiral into despair, it still takes a big old leap for the imagination to consider Rex as being anything other than a bit of a hopeless case, down on his luck, and certainly not the sort of ogre that would ultimately have convinced every one of his poor hard-done-by children that they simply must flee his life-controlling tyranny, at all costs.

All things considered though, The Glass Castle gets far more right than wrong and serves to provide a perfectly watchable and emotionally engaging tale of family bonds and the disabling hold that they can so often have over us.









“Annette Bening is mesmerising as the enigmatic actress with the twinkle in her eye but whose star is now on the wane…”

Wayward Wolf.

Paul McGuigan’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (FSDDIL from here on in), is a proper weepy, chronicling the final years in the life of Oscar-winning actress, Gloria Grahame.

Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), is a young up-and-coming actor from Liverpool who lives in a boarding house in London. It just so happens that the actress, Gloria Grahame, is temporarily residing here too whilst she ‘treads the boards’ in the theatres of the capital and beyond, and when the two meet one day, an unlikely romance quickly blossoms.

Whilst Gloria is all flirtatious winks and alluring Hollywood magnetism, it’s clear that she is decidedly insecure in herself, as time will reveal. Whilst understandably enchanted by her considerably younger lover, she is ill-at-ease with the sizeable age difference that exists between them, and can be quick to anger with regard to this.

Nevertheless, theirs is a relationship built on far more than superficiality or shifting sands, and though it’s probably fair to surmise that Peter offers her both the adulation that she craves and the opportunity to wind back the clock and once again live in a bubble of self-congratulatory fantasy, it is a genuine bond of love that develops between them, and the two actors play out their romance cross two continents – the very stuff of Hollywood dreams.

But of course every great romantic story often gives way to tragedy, and it will be Grahame’s unmentioned recent flirtation with serious illness, that will soon come to determine the ultimate course of the couple’s union.

FSDDIL switches back and forth over a two or three year period in the late 70’s / early 80’s, and in doing so, is able to gradually fill in the detail of the couple’s time together. Most noticeable is that McGuigan’s piece feels very focused at the expense of any unnecessarily distracting peripheral events; focused that is upon its two chief protagonists, and a core supporting cast whose parts may, in some cases, be only fleeting, yet nonetheless always feel wholly integral to the story’s narrative.

Subsequently the film’s rather scrutinous approach to characterisation results in a thorough, satisfyingly rounded, three-dimensional examination of its actors, and in doing so, builds tremendous levels of emotional intensity and involvement for its audience.

Of course, you can relentlessly scrutinise your actors through a camera lens all you like, but without that necessary stardust, you’re on a hiding to nothing, and so it’s fortunate that FSDDIL boasts a cast at the very top of their game.

Annette Bening is mesmerising as the enigmatic actress with the twinkle in her eye but whose star is now on the wane, whilst Jamie Bell is all openly-emotive raw energy and enthusiasm, portraying Grahame’s considerably younger lover.

Julie Walters, needless to say, is reliably marvellous as Turner’s mother, Bella; the archetypal Northern, working class mum and the very glue that holds the Turner household together through trying times.

Bening will rightly receive many plaudits for her portrayal of Grahame’s final years, but it’s important that we recognise Jamie Bell’s part in it too. His is an emotionally engaging performance of some maturity and possibly his finest to date.

With a nicely curated soundtrack of sympathetic score and choice songs from the era, and a brave directorial decision to name check the better blue footballing half of Liverpool over the city’s unmentionable red namesake –  something that had me scrutinising the closing credits for evidence of some form of Bill Kenwright involvement – Paul McGuigan’s FSDDIL is a beautifully realised romantic drama of some weight and distinction.

The WWAFAS 2017: Shortlist (provisional)

ww-2016-awardWith 2017 fast drawing to a close, the WWAFAS (Wayward Wolf Annual Film Awards) committee (the voices in my head) has drawn up a 20 strong provisional shortlist for the best film of 2017…

The nominees are based upon films with a 2017 UK theatrical release date.

And the top 20 nominees – as of November 11th – are as follows:

In no particular order…

  • The Florida Project
  • Mother
  • American Made
  • A Ghost Story
  • En Man Som Heter Owe (Full review coming soon)
  • Dunkirk
  • The Red Turtle
  • It Comes at Night
  • The Handmaiden
  • Raw
  • The Sense of an Ending
  • Lady Macbeth
  • Certain Women
  • The Founder
  • Fences
  • Toni Erdmann
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • A Monster Calls
  • Manchester By The Sea

So, as we enter a time of year traditionally associated with Oscar-nominated film releases, I’d imagine there’s a fair chance that we could see some changes to that list before December 31st.

But just who will be walking away with this year’s Best Film WWAFA?




“Bewitching, hugely rewarding, and far more Minnie masterpiece than Mickey Mouse…”

Wayward Wolf.

It’s hard to impress upon you just how mesmerising a piece Sean Baker’s The Florida Project truly is.

With a fairly free and easy approach to scripted dialogue, it’s shot in a quasi-documentary style predominantly from the perspective of a six-year-old girl and her mischievous young scallywag friends, observing the various ins, outs and general goings-on at a budget motel during one hot Florida summer.

Just a short hop from Disney’s Magic Kingdom stands the Magic Castle motel. Inexplicably purple in colour and clearly cashing in on its neighbouring Disney namesake – as one unfortunate honeymooning couple will discover, much to the bride’s horror – this motel, partially suited to folk who are just passing through and priced out of staying in the main Disney resort area itself, but more pertinently, offering no-frills temporary housing to some of the very poorest families in the Kissimmee area.

One such ‘family’ is single mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), and her precocious, ‘smart-mouthed’ daughter, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince).

Financially-speaking, neither Halley nor any of the kids’ parents are able to even contemplate caving in to the considerable allure of nearby Disney World. Instead, the children swap Magic Kingdom for Magic Castle and the plethora of garish, vulgar eateries and stores that constitute its immediate surrounds, creating whole worlds of adventure for themselves in the process – the way kids do.

Very much left to their own devices each day by parents that are either unable or too busy to spend time with them, the kids have become cocky and a little feral, roaming about at will, causing havoc with the locals with their own line in bare-faced, yet rather endearing cheek. And if they’re not antagonising the locals, they’re bothering Bobby (Willem Dafoe), whose job it is to perform the daily fire-fighting act that is managing The Magic Castle motel.

A real little madam she may be, but Moonee is really the least of Bobby’s daily problems. From illegal soliciting, theft and violent altercations to predatory paedophiles, The Magic Castle is something of a magnet for society’s wrong ‘uns and their unsavoury behaviour. And though his guests may not always be fully aware of it, Bobby ensures all such potential crimes and misdemeanours are dealt with, but more importantly, that the little tearaway terrors – so often the bain of his life – are kept safe from harm; a fact that guests are quick to forget amidst the yelling and general ‘ball-busting’ that inevitably ensues when Bobby comes a-knockin’ on rent payment day.

The Florida Project illustrates not only the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots, but also between the hardships experienced by parents living on the breadline, and the carefree innocence of their offspring. Most crushing of all, however, are the moments when these two disparate states of being unavoidably collide; when fantasy must make way for harsh reality. Such predicaments are sadly never far away.

With Willem Dafoe as good as he’s been in years, and young Brooklynn Prince producing a performance of such joyful natural exuberance, Baker’s film positively brims with life-affirming goodness.

Bewitching, hugely rewarding, and far more Minnie masterpiece than Mickey Mouse, The Florida Project is as poignant and wonderful an observational slice-of-life tale as you’re ever likely to see.