Endings, Beginnings - Now streaming Amazon Prime;
In certain respects, Drake Doremus's romantic drama, Endings, Beginnings, is remarkably authentic - and that is exactly what works best and worst about the film. There are three very good performances carrying it and a lot to like in this Fear of Flying for millennials. However, it could, should work better than it does and have a broader appeal. As it stands, it's only going to really resonate for people who have been in the particular boat.
Daphne (Shailene Woodley) has abandoned her job and long-term boyfriend and gone to live in her sister's pool house, claiming to be at an existential crossroads. Her friend (Kyra Sedgwick) suggests being single for a while to discover who she is and what she wants, and no sooner has Daphne committed to a sober, single life than she meets two gorgeous men who both want her and who are also best friends.
Frank (Sebastian Stan) is a beautiful, slightly creepy bad boy; Jack (Jamie Dornan), is beautiful and sensible long-term material - and speaks in his Belfast accent, which is great. Unsurprisingly Daphne's celibate resolve fades fast and the attentions of two men, while thrilling, prove confusing. In terms of relationship politics, the film is jam-packed with interesting ideas. At first glance Daphne is just one of those people who can't be single - her self love is lacking so she needs someone else to love her - but there is more to her than that, and the film also takes in issues around accepting responsibility, issues with your mother and a very subtle but effective #MeToo strand. Hence the Fear of Flying comparison.
The dialogue, much of it improvised, is realistic and so too is the pace. Life does just plod along without a nice arc, but these things don't necessarily always make for great impetus in the film. There is also an issue around Daphne's appeal: the plot hinges on it but despite Woodley's best efforts, in the beginning Daphne is mopey and annoying. It is easy to judge Daphne's behaviour, which is food for thought in itself, but that is a distraction from what is more interesting in the film, and the likeability factor exacerbates this.
To run with the metaphor, it fails to fly, but overall I did like it: its topics are ones that appeal to me and the performances are good. ★★★ Aine O'Connor
Cert Club; Curzon Home Cinema
The Dardenne brothers have carved a career in Europe as proponents of piercing social realist dramas that go behind the curtain of characters we might pass on the street.
Young Ahmed turns their gaze on a modern anomaly in Franco-Belgian society, namely the radicalised, and what it looks like close up when a suggestible mind has been got to.
Making his debut, Idir Ben Addi plays Ahmed, who is entering his teenage years in a Belgian town. We aren't given any extensive debriefing on what has led Ahmed to take up with a local hard-line imam and become so zealous that he refuses to shake the hand of his female teacher (Myriem Akheddiou). What we do see at home is his widowed mother at her wits' end as he scuttles into his bedroom for prayers and judges her on her Western lifestyle choices.
When Ahmed botches a jihad attempt on his teacher, he is put in juvenile detention. There, his poisoned world-view proves dogged.
While nabbing the Dardennes a Best Director wreath at Cannes, Young Ahmed is perhaps a little brisk and neat for such a large and messy subject. At the same time, the unadorned style the brothers customarily employ is highly effective at conveying how the mundane can be infected by this ideological virus. A hard-hitting, if slight, portrait. ★★★ Hilary A White
Cert G; now showing
The Cold War never went away, it just swapped espionage and 'big red buttons' for animated films based on Hans Christian Andersen tales.
Russia's Wizart animation studio released the first of its Snow Queen films in 2012, a year before Disney's Frozen came for your children. Since then, the franchise has added two more instalments to the brand, each expanding in scope and doing enormous business in several territories by never outright refusing to piggyback on Frozen's runaway success.
This fourth outing, released into a world where young people now have Let It Go at the click of a Disney+ button, will hopefully be seen by its target demographic, as it is thoroughly fit for purpose.
Magic is becoming taboo, with embittered King Harald banishing anyone with magical powers to the Mirrorlands. Gerda's trinket shop is at risk, as are her magical friends and family. To save the day, she will team up with the Snow Queen for an elaborate adventure populated with a robust array of characters and top-drawer fantasy animation. Parents really can't go wrong here. ★★★★ Hilary A White