Monday 21 August 2017

An inexperience best forgotten

NEVER DULL: Rebecca De
Mornay in 'Mother's Day'
NEVER DULL: Rebecca De Mornay in 'Mother's Day'

FILM REVIEWS, AINE O'CONNOR, HILARY A WHITE, PADRAIC McKIERNAN

Last Night Cert 12: Last Night opens with Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington), a young couple in a silent stand-off in a cab.

In flashbacks, we learn that this is because she thinks he fancies his new work colleague Laura (Eva Mendes). They make up and he leaves on business, with Laura. And while Michael is away, Joanna meets up with an old flame, Alex (Guillaume Canet).

Over the course of the evening, each potentially illicit couple thrashes out the will they or won't theys of their particular pairing. The premise is great: what constitutes infidelity? The concept of the one that got away, what it's like to have a one that got away even though you know you made the right choice -- does indiscretion matter? All interesting issues, but unfortunately first-time director Massy Tadjedin's inexperience shows.

Very quickly, the emphasis on the visual takes over, in the lovely clothes and surrounds but also in film style, the close-ups, long-held shots and jump cuts that are not only unnecessary but distracting. The visual could work if it were an exercise in showing rather than telling -- the territory is, after all, familiar to most -- but here again, the director's inexperience shows. The cast doesn't work well together and seemingly no-one told Knightley to rein it in.

Apart from the absence of chemistry, Knightley's OTT delivery highlights Worthington's near catatonia; perhaps they were trying to compensate for each other. Canet smiles almost pathologically for the first half of the film; Mendes proves most convincing.

Last Night should have been much better, but the script is a bit dodgy, the focus on the visual leaves a potentially rich emotional field unploughed, the acting is just not good and the film feels tedious even though only an hour and a half long.

AOC

Now showing

Senna

Cert 12A

IN 1992, the Formula 1 driver Erik Comas suffered a severe crash on the back straight at Spa in Belgium. Ayrton Senna, the subject of this sports documentary from director Asif Kapadia, was the first competitor to get to him. Negotiating the other cars whizzing past, Senna sprinted to Comas' wreckage, switched off his engine and prevented a fire that would have killed him.

It is amazing that this footage is absent from Senna. It was a moment of selflessness that possibly didn't fit into Kapadia's plans to use archive footage, voice-overs and a beautiful Antonio Pinto score to depict a ruthless Adonis who was hell-bent on success at any cost. This, along with insight into Senna "the man" (all we get are shots of various women on his arm and some commentary on his religious fervour) is one of this stylistically pleasant film's shortcomings.

Nevertheless, the story of Senna "the driver" is well told; his indoctrination into the big-league in the Eighties, his bitter rivalry with team-mate Alain Prost and subsequent dominance as three-time F1 world champion. Perhaps most fascinating is Kapadia's zoom-lens into the mechanisms of the competitive gene, Senna's trance-like state while driving and the rife internal politics of the sport.

The tragedy of his fatal accident in 1994 is amplified by shots of national mourning in his homeland, where public-interview snippets see him revered as "the only good thing about Brazil" by his fellow countrymen. It is understandable that Kapadia should focus on this "lived and died by the sword" pathos, and it does make for an emotive final quadrant. As a celluloid tribute to the man, however, you can't help but feel that some of his complexities have been glossed over.

HAW

Now showing

Mammuth

POST-RETIREMENT angst has proved to be fertile subject matter for movie-makers who place a premium on the creation of thought-provoking and soulful cinema. About Schmidt saw Jack Nicholson's memorable performance as a recently retired insurance executive who finds himself rootless and struggling for meaning. Written and directed by French filmmakers Benoit Delepine and Gustave de Kervern, Mammuth sees Gerard Depardieu's central character explore similar themes.

Problems with his pension entitlements result in the cash-strapped retired slaughterhouse worker Serge Pilardosse (Depardieu) and his supermarket-working wife Catherine (Yolande Moreau) facing a rendezvous with the bread-line.

To prevent this pension nightmare, Gene has to retrieve his various records of employment from a career that spanned 45 peripatetic years and a number of occupations. This scenario sees Serge dusting down his antique Munch "Mammut" motorbike and hitting the road for a nostalgia-laden trip down a memory lane populated with the ghosts of love, loss and eventual redemption.

Edgy writing, exquisite performances and a directorial lightness of touch help deliver a spectacle that is ultimately life-affirming. Depardieu excels in a portrayal that has echoes of Mickey Rourke's turn in The Wrestler, while Moreau also catches the eye as the former's delightfully spiky life partner.

PMcK

Now showing at the IFI

Mother's Day

Cert: 16

REMEMBER the fear mothers could inspire with a wave of the wooden spoon? If so, you should get a kick out of this entertaining horror-thriller from director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, III and IV), who does for adopted maternity what Deliverance did for canoeing.

After a cradle-snatching intro, we're off to US suburbia, where a small gang of young professionals are having a knees-up in their basement. We flash to three flustered brothers speeding along in a car after a botched bank robbery, which has one sibling clinging to life from a bullet wound. The brothers head for their safe house but are incensed to find it now in the possession of said partying suburbanites, following a foreclosure. Suffice to say, they make things very uncomfortable for their new prisoners.

When gang-leading mother (Rebecca De Mornay) turns up with daughter (True Blood's Deborah Ann Woll) in tow, she sets about trying to form an escape plan for her clan. This entails lots of torment and, ultimately, gruesome physical and psychological torture for the hapless victims.

At just under the two-hour mark, Mother's Day is an exhausting experience, one where the sadistic carry-on becomes more wearying than shocking. What lifts it from mediocrity, however, is a tightly wound screenplay that twists and turns, so there's never a dull moment.

The beautiful victims are mere fodder for the slaughter, with the real performances coming from the baddies. De Mornay, who only ever seems to get cast as psychotic, grudge-fuelled women, is suitably unnerving as she flits between mumsy politeness and venomous bloodletting. Warren Kole is all bulging veins and dark urges as the nastiest brother, while Deborah Ann Woll transmits her character's secret conflict effectively.

HAW

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