Friday 30 September 2016

Cinema review: My Name is Emily - a film with great heart

Cert: 12A. Opens April 8

Published 04/04/2016 | 02:30

George Webster and Evanna Lynch hit the road in 'My Name is Emily'.
George Webster and Evanna Lynch hit the road in 'My Name is Emily'.

Simon Fitzmaurice has said he is a fan of voiceovers, which, when done well, can "approach the sublime". No surprise then that it is with a voiceover that his feature begins. Sixteen-year-old Emily (Evanna Lynch) is submerged in a bath, the voiceover explaining her belief, and I paraphrase, that life is something you live fully or hibernate through until death comes.

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And it seems as though she is weighing up which path to follow. As she ruminates, we get flashbacks from her life, her birth and very being, which pitched her father (Michael Smiley) into existential silence and then illumination, and the patient love of her mother (Cathy Belton), which was snuffed out too soon.

Emily's present sees her living in a foster home in Dublin where even great kindness cannot lessen the loss she is feeling now that her father is in a psychiatric facility. She and her father never adhered to society's rules, but now she finds herself not adhering to them, alone and in a new school. A boy called Arden (George Webster), also a bit of an outsider, sees something special in Emily and persists in his initially fruitless pursuit of her. His doggedness wins him a place on her runaway roadtrip and together they head off in his granny's yellow Renault.

Fitzmaurice's achievement as the first person with motor neurone disease to write and direct a feature has been well documented. He started off typing with his hands and, as his physical functions were lost, he finished with iris recognition software. This is a sweet story with philosophical moments, very much in an indie style. It's been nominated for several Iftas, including for Seamus Deasy's cinematography, and it is a really nice-looking film. Although it might be a little esoteric for some tastes, it's a film with great heart. 3 Stars

 Áine O'Connor

Midnight Special

Cert: 12A. Opens April 8

Writer/director Jeff Nichols makes his biggest film yet with this engaging story that raises more questions than it answers. As in his previous works, like Take Shelter, the film is set in smalltown America and it begins in the middle of a story, but it’s not the story we instantly assume it to be. Two shifty looking blokes, Roy (Michael having-a-golden-moment Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) watch news coverage about the disappearance of an eight-year-old boy. They have the boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) in their blacked-out hotel room, but as night falls they bundle him into an old Chevy and drive off.

Alton is wearing swimming goggles and goes quite willingly, clearly sharing a bond with Roy.  Lots of people are looking for the child, but Roy and Lucas will stop at nothing to deliver the boy, who is like no other human, first to his mother (Kirsten Dunst) and then to an unspecified rendezvous.

Atmospheric and clever, Midnight Special is, potentially, as much allegory as story. It is about the unknown, power, fear, love and belief. It is a rich story, so some elements don’t have the space to emerge, like why is Texas State Trooper Lucas so utterly devoted to this cause? What happens to change Paul’s mind? And the ending is definitely the stuff of post-movie pint discussion. There’s lots to like in this original, atmospheric and well-crafted and delivered movie. 4 Stars 

Aine O’Connor

Victoria

Cert: 15A. In selected cinemas

From Tarkovsky to Iñárritu, the extended single take has been used to great aplomb in cinematic storytelling, as either an exploratory device or a way of inflating tensions and kinetic energies. For Hanover director Sebastian Schipper to film each of Victoria’s 138 minutes in a single shot is a feat of film-making — but only a part of the reason the film will stand out when the end-of-year lists are being totted up.

This adherence to real-time parameters infuses all the activities of Schipper’s small cast with a tactile quality. The titular Victoria (Laia Costa) is a Spanish twenty-something leaving a sweaty Berlin nightclub as dawn breaks in the city that truly never sleeps.

She bumps into chatty and charming Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his three pals. The two parties hit it off and decide to kick on for further revelry along the quiet streets.

That Victoria doesn’t speak German becomes increasingly prominent as her four new friends show signs of a devil-may-care attitude to the law. In tandem with this is her growing fondness for Sonne, and when the night ends with him asking her to drive the getaway car in a bank robbery, she wades in up to her knees to be an accomplice.

It’s the kind of situation parents of young holidaymakers must dread but Schipper pads out the premise with a Teutonic nose for logic.

If Victoria is being a silly girl, there is a reason for it. This feeling of things getting out of hand is played out with an unforced momentum thanks to the running time and Schipper’s unbroken, unflinching eye on the course of events. Costa excels under what must have been a demanding shoot. 4 Stars

Hilary A White

Dheepan

Cert: 15A. Opens April 8

French writer/director Jacques Audiard has made some highly regarded films, best known perhaps is A Prophet, often touching on both violence and integration of immigrant communities in France.

In Dheepan he goes back a step further to the remarkable circumstances that lead the main characters to France in the first place. Sivadhasan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) is a Tamil Tiger fighter who, sensing nothing but bad coming down the line, decides to try escaping Sri Lanka. In order to do so, he has to become a dead man, Dheepan, and hastily cobble together a family in a refugee camp, a ‘wife’, Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and a nine-year-old ‘daughter’, Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby).

They arrive in Paris and Dheepan is made caretaker on an estate peopled mostly by non-native French and struggling with gang and drug issues. Dheepan, pictured left, makes the best of it, but Yalini is slower to integrate and the film does a great job showing the difficulties of integration. Things change via her position as carer to an invalid (Faouzi Bensaidi), which gives her an in with gang leader Brahim (Vincent Rottiers). But dynamics change in the sham family and in the outside world and violence is hard to shake.

The film has a gentle but determined pace but its real strength is the actors, each of whom delivers something extra to well-written roles. I’m not sure the third act flashpoint works too well, but this is an engaging, interesting and beautifully observed story. 4 Stars

Aine O’Connor

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