Monday 22 April 2019

Film of the week: Apostasy

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Siobhan Finneran, Sacha Parkinson and Molly Wright in 'Apostasy'
Siobhan Finneran, Sacha Parkinson and Molly Wright in 'Apostasy'

Although writer/ director Daniel Kokotajlo's debut feature focuses on Jehovah's Witnesses, it is a much broader study of religion and faith. Subtly underplayed, both by the actors and the director, it avoids melodrama at all costs and thus highlights the issues around what it takes to be an ardent follower of any faith, something which proves extra fascinating to non-believers.

Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) is a single mother to two daughters, Alex (Molly Wright) who is about to turn 18 and Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) who is a little older. Ivanna is deeply involved in the Jehovah's Witness community in Oldham, a devout and serious woman who has brought her daughters up to be the same. Alex has chronic anaemia and, against the wishes of her mother and church, was given a blood transfusion as a newborn. Medical advice is that she needs another but Alex refuses, largely because of her mother, part of whose campaign involves showing her a book featuring all of the children who have died for the same reason. Alex is also constantly trying to make up for the sin of transfusion she had at birth and has become the ideal JW teenager.

Her sister, however, has some doubts and when both young women face different dilemmas they cope with less doubt than Ivanna whose crisis of faith proves more difficult than anything else.

A former Witness, Kokotajlo's insight is fascinating and, although it isn't a flattering portrait, it is much broader than a critique of one faith. It looks at faith, ritual, free will, fundamentalism and gender inequality. Jehovah's Witnesses are hardly the only religion where men make rules for women. Heavy viewing, but very effective. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation

Cert: G; Now showing

After bowing out of the franchise, director Genndy Tartakovsky decided on a return to the Hotel Transylvania helm following a vacation he was treated to by his in-laws that involved being stuck on a cruise liner with them in cramped conditions. If anything is going to revive imagery of undead bloodsuckers and groaning ghouls, that probably will. 

And so Tartakovsky - co-writing here with Austin Powers scribe Michael McCullers - sends his assortment of gothic horror stock characters off on a voyage. Dracula (still voiced by Adam Sandler) is worn down from running the famous hotel for monsters, so doting daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) arranges the ocean excursion, bringing werewolf Wayne (Steve Buscemi), Vlad (Mel Brooks), et al. All is reliably odd on board as the gang mingle with the other supernatural guests and find mishaps and weirdness among the usual facilities. Drac, however, is in a fluster over Captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), who he's fallen head over rafter-swinging heels for, but who may not be a good sort herself.

The elasticated, spasmodic animation takes a little getting used to but there is a fair whack of dotty humour to enjoy here, some of it particularly naughty and likely to be lost on younger children. Generally, bringing a franchise "on holiday" is a dead giveaway that ideas are running thin, so this is probably a fine time for the Hotel Transylvania coffin to be nailed shut. ★★★ Hilary A White


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