“…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.













“…The Party is an absolute triumph, expertly blending the existential with the at times absurd, in a most thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining film.”

Wayward Wolf.

Sally Potter’s sharp and witty film, The Party – based upon her own screenplay – is a short and snappy affair, yet succeeds in packing all manner of comedic goings-on into its modest 72 minute running time.

Although undoubtedly covering familiar ground, namely, the party from hell – think Mike Leigh’s toe-curlingly marvellous Abigail’s Party for a starting point – The Party, shot in classic monochrome, is in many ways a darker piece than its predecessor .

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Janet. Celebrating a significant promotion within the world of politics, she, and the rock in her life – her apparently dour, distracted husband, Bill (Timothy Spall) – are hosting a get-together for their closest friends.

From Janet’s best friend and steadfast ally, April, (Patricia Clarkson), her husband, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), and Janet’s lesbian friends, Martha (Cherry Jones), and partner, Jinny (Emily Mortimer), to the super-agitated, Tom (Cillian Murphy); a more ill-matched assembly one couldn’t hope to coerce into a single London town house.

But this is the least of Janet’s worries, for very real trouble awaits. Bill, spinning his favourite LP’s with obsessive compulsion, is poised to drop the proverbial turd in the punch bowl with a shattering revelation, derailing Janet’s celebratory soirée, and indeed their relationship, in the process.

Over the ensuing couple of awkward hours, Bill’s untimely divulgement will however prove to be merely the tip of the iceberg. A most inconvenient hidden truth will slowly reveal itself, implicating directly or indirectly just about everybody in the house in some way.

Potter’s piece is initially something of a slow burner, but like a jigsaw, pieces that are initially disconnected and make little sense in isolation, in time begin to form something of a picture. And what a picture it is!

Each of Janet’s friends’ characters are gradually unveiled, and their roles in the unfolding mess soon become clear, but in fairness, even without the fault line that runs precariously beneath these friendships, each individual’s personality alone might well be reason enough to trigger all sorts of fractious behaviour within the group.

The impatient sour-faced April can barely tolerate her incessantly optimistic cod-philosophising husband, Gottfried, and his insistence upon healing and life-coaching those around him, whilst Martha is proving far too calm and mature and not nearly ‘right-on’ enough for her often hysterical and naively idealistic, pregnant partner, Jinny, who is positively repulsed by the very thought that Martha might at some point in time have ever been with a man.

Even before his bombshell, Bill’s withdrawn, morose outlook is not helping matters, whilst Tom – the complete antithesis of this – is a powder keg, about to go off. Concealing a firearm beneath his jacket, and sweating with anxiety, he frantically paces up and down, stopping only for frequent visits to the bathroom to ‘powder his nose’.

And all the while, Janet attempts to be the perfect host. But even she is hiding something.

It’s very painful, it’s highly amusing and hugely farcical at times, with one crisis leading head-long into another, as Janet’s festivities descend into unmitigated chaos and disaster.

Shot entirely within Janet and Bill’s home, Potter’s dialogue-heavy film is the sort of piece that could very easily be adapted for the stage, and I dare say that it was written with that in mind. The cast is tremendous and the performances, right across the board, are unsurprisingly of the very highest calibre. With such a wealth of impressive talent on show, thankfully the temptation for the director to over-indulge any of them in any sort of extended soulful monologues is largely resisted, much to the benefit of the film’s overall feel and flow.

Whether examining our own mortality, the perils of materialism, the complexity of relationships, or our sinking moral values, The Party, is an absolute triumph, expertly blending the existential with the at times absurd, in a most thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining film.













“…it’s no wonder that every man and his dog is bowing, curtsying and generally dribbling in feeble deference, fearful of speaking out of turn or putting a foot wrong.”

Wayward Wolf.

Armando Iannucci’s take on Stalin’s final days, his death and the aftermath, is a predictably comical affair.

Perhaps it’s the welcome presence of Michael Palin amongst the film’s stellar cast that immediately launches one’s brain into full-on levels of Monty Python expectancy, but as  amusing and farcical as the film undoubtedly is, this tale of political turmoil and one-up-man-ship in the wake of Stalin’s passing, is a whole lot darker than one might have assumed it would be.

Then again, we’re talking about a particularly volatile period of history in a Socialist state in which your life was effectively entirely in the hands of a deeply unstable autocratic tyrannical leader, so perhaps that’s not so surprising after all.

In post-War U.S.S.R, it seems that everyone’s sole purpose in life is to ensure that they don’t appear on one of Stalin’s lists. To do so will almost certainly result in a knock on the door and a short while later, a bullet through the head.

Fun times. And so it’s no wonder that every man and his dog is bowing, curtsying and generally dribbling in feeble deference, fearful of speaking out of turn or putting a foot wrong.

The members of The General Committee are no exception, and not exempt from Stalin’s lists and his mafia-esque approach to politics. One moment you’re on the receiving end of copious praise and support, acknowledged as a crucial part of Stalin’s core staff. The next… worm food.

The chief success of Iannucci’s film is his ability to capture the abundant sense of paranoia so successfully. Essentially, there are no good guys in this piece, just an assortment of absolute ‘pieces of work’ intent upon looking after number one at all costs whilst never losing sight of the need to repeatedly praise their ‘great leader’.

No attempt whatsoever is made to even vaguely authenticate the film’s characterisation with faux Russian accents or the like. Instead, the key cast members adopt an assortment of entirely inappropriate vocal inflections. From shrill-voiced uber-sweary American, Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), to brash Yorkshireman, Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs), to ruthless Cockney gangster, Josef Stalin himself (Rupert Friend).

Like one massive game of ‘all change,’ the people of the Union must be ready at the drop of a hat to twist and turn their allegiances accordingly, lest they feel the wrath of a fickle state. But there’s treachery in the air and skullduggery is most definitely afoot. This all makes for a rich and fertile ground in which Iannucci can nurture some comedy gold, and this he proceeds to do. Of course it helps that so much of the film’s highly improbable, at time ludicrous content – that you’d swear had originated only in the mind of the director himself – has in fact already been devised for him, being as his film is based upon actual events.

With gun shots ringing out and bodies a-tumblin’ – frequently preceded by the familiar refrain of “Long live Stalin” (so much for rewarding loyalty) – The Death of Stalin is a darkly humorous full-on farcical satire. Whether this is, all things considered, a wise approach to this particular point in history, is open to debate. And the debates that have arisen since the film’s launch have by all accounts on occasion boiled over, perhaps understandably when one considers the fact that Iannucci’s film in many ways ‘softens’ and down-plays the seriousness of the actions of a tyrant and mass murderer in the sort of way that, let’s face it, would be pretty much unimaginable were the director ever to have considered lampooning, for example, a certain Austrian fascist. Yes, you can just imagine those ‘hilarious scrapes’ now.

We’re lying to ourselves if we deny that literally absolutely everything without exception, should be fair game to be shot at. Of course, we know that this absolutely isn’t the case, and in this particular hypothetical case of potential double standards, it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a shock considering the generally accepted political leanings of the worlds of art and media. It is, however, interesting food for thought, nonetheless.

If it is indeed possible to judge Iannucci’s piece purely on its merits as a feature-length dark comedy, then it’s only fair to say that even though the film’s comedic momentum dissipates somewhat as it moves into its latter stages, by and large, this a dark and disturbing comedy that hits the mark, and spectacularly so at times.




“Garfield and Foy understandably steal the show demonstrating a solid and genuine on-screen chemistry… “

Wayward Wolf.

Considering the subject matter at hand, Andy Serkis’ directorial debut is actually something of an up-beat affair.

Set in the late 1950’s and based upon a true story, Breathe, tells the tale of newlyweds Robin and Diana Cavendish (Andrew Garfield and Clare Foy), whose active and adventurous lifestyle is suddenly turned on its head when Robin contracts Polio, leaving him paralysed from the neck down.

With Diana pregnant the timing could not have been any worse, but, with an impressively large and loyal network of well-to-do friends and family, they can at least call upon their support to help them navigate their way through what will prove to be a most remarkable life together.

Whilst revolving unavoidably around the catastrophic aftermath of such a terrible illness, Breathe is in essence a love story whose multitude of ups and downs are therefore somewhat exaggerated owing to the extreme circumstances in which the couple find themselves as they struggle to adapt.

“I want to truly live,” opines the resolutely optimistic Robin, having overcome an initial bout of depression. Easier said than done considering that his paralysis would effectively have been a life sentence back in the mid-1900’s, not only rendering a patient completely immobile, but confined to the four walls of a hospital ward on life support for the rest of a usually extremely shortened life. If anything, Robin’s hospital environment in England does at least represent some sort of quality of life when compared with the scenes of on-going cutting edge patient care witnessed by the couple on a later visit to a clinic facility in Germany. Rows of patients entombed in clinically stacked iron lungs in a windowless laboratory is a genuinely terrifying site.

Perhaps this immobilised fate would have been too much for Robin to bear had he not been married to Diana, a young lady who proves unequivocally that behind every great man, there really is a truly great woman. Holding their newborn child in her arms, she will not entertain Robin’s initial pleas to be allowed to die, instructing him instead to live.

But it’s clear that being left to whither away in a hospital is no way to exist, and breaking all regulations, not to mention flying in the face of the accepted medical advice and logic of the times, the couple choose to relocate Robin to their new home in the country. Here, he will at least be in a home environment. This incredibly bold move was without parallel in the history of global Polio-related aftercare, but unsurprisingly, fraught with danger.

Serkis’ film adopts a directorial style that swiftly and neatly brushes over the salient points of this tale with little time spent dwelling on what is perhaps perceived to be unnecessary or overly sentimental. One can almost make parallels between this brisk no-nonsense directorial style and the rather stiff-upper-lip attitude and all-round Englishness of the film’s cast.

Almost in contradiction to this, however, Nitin Sawhney’s omnipresent luscious and syrupy score at times positively wallows in the sentimentality of it all, lending the piece a suitably emotional glow.

Decent performances are in evidence across the board. Garfield and Foy understandably steal the show demonstrating a solid and genuine on-screen chemistry, whereas the supporting cast, as good as they may well be, are never more than peripheral to events, and struggle therefore to make any sort of long-lasting impression on the memory.

Breathe is an undeniably poignant film, and though it often treads that precarious line between being emotionally effective and cloyingly mawkish, Serkis’ purposeful direction ensures that it strikes just about the right balance to deliver effectively this sweet and inspiring story of love, patience and devotion between two indefatigable spirits.