Tuesday 17 September 2019

Film of the week: It Chapter Two

Cert: 16; Now showing

The evil clown Pennywise returns to torment the grown-up members of the Losers' Club
The evil clown Pennywise returns to torment the grown-up members of the Losers' Club
Thank You Come Again
Matthias Schoenaerts in The Mustang

It was always on the cards that 2017's It would follow the format of the 1990 miniseries (directed by Tommy Lee Wallace) and split the Stephen King tome into two parts. The "gory Goonies" saga made box office history, meaning a confident air accompanies this suitably hairy conclusion to the clown-horror romp.

After a gruesome murder 27 years after the events of the first film, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one of the "Losers' Club" to remain behind in Derry, recalls the other members, all of whom have grown up and scattered as far away from the painful memories of childhood and the monster they battled then.

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Bev (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone), and Stanley (Andy Bean) all converge once again for a showdown with the child-eating creature who manifests as Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard).

The ensemble cast picks up the tight youthful dynamic of the first chapter and brings the characters into the complex waters of adulthood, all the while splitting them off to face their own personal skeletons in the cupboard. The theme of childhood traumas dogging you into later years is as obvious as, well, a dancing clown, as is the idea that you can never outrun them.

Led ably by Chastain, Hader and McAvoy, the ensemble cast are the core of this franchise and it succeeds on the chemistry that runs through the plot's elaborate group-therapy session. Belts of humour drop (usually from Hader) to relieve the dour tension, while King himself cuts a grizzled cameo in one scene, evidence perhaps that he has given his blessing to Gary Dauberman's screenplay.

When we return to the 1986 timeline, the young cast (Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, et al) remind you of the good work they did in making us invest in these characters in the first outing. As for Skarsgard, his revision of Tim Curry's Pennywise has an iconic air to it that won't do coulrophobes any favours.

What works against Andy Muschietti's follow-up is its near-three-hour run time, a monstrous thing in itself even when we take into account the 800-odd pages of the 1986 source novel that needed to be covered. ★★★★ Hilary A White



Cert: 18; Now showing IFI

In a prescient piece of programming at the IFI, this Swedish/Danish sci-fi by first-time directors Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja, who also wrote the screenplay, is based on a possible scenario for when we finally make Earth uninhabitable.

Though based on Harry Martinson's 1956 poem which considered life after nuclear war, it is perhaps even more relevant now. So maybe we should file this one under sci-fi horror.

Focusing more on the human than the science, it has something of the Iliad or Canterbury Tales about it - and a wonderful lead character pulls it all together.

Mimaroben (Emelie Jonsson) works aboard the Aniara, a giant space cruise ship which makes the three-week trip from Earth to the new colony on Mars. Space debris knocks them off course and destroys the ship's steering. In a bid to achieve crowd control, the captain (Arvin Kananian) says the voyage will take two years now instead.

Mimaroben is a charming, adaptable and eternally upbeat character - a fulcrum around which other characters and events can revolve as a new society evolves, complete with power structures, gender and sex issues and religion.

The concept seemed inherently horrific - but the story they weave from it worked really well for me. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor


Thank You Come Again 

Thank You Come Again

Cert: 18; Selected cinemas

A foul-mouthed sex comedy set largely inside the environs of a Dublin city adult shop, Thank You Come Again sets out without any notions of transcending the grubbiness of that setting. Even though its screenplay makes room for blood diamonds discovered in a vibrator package and young priests struggling with celibacy, it keeps its feet planted in sticky, tawdry filth aimed at eliciting naughty whoops.

This devotion to cause, not to mention the apparent struggles that had to be overcome to complete this no-budget outing, are things to be admired about Stephen Clarke Dunne's film (co-written with star John Sweeney). Also deserving of praise is the unpaid cast who admittedly give the project lots of welly (including the late Steve Harris, who died tragically during production).

Sadly, there's little else to recommend this shrill mess of pubescent humour, misogynist undertones, mean-spiritedness, and yellow-pack production standards. ★★ Hilary A White


The Mustang

Matthias Schoenaerts in The Mustang

Cert: 15A; Now showing 

This week's other redemption story is an unusual and interesting one. Wild mustangs still roam the US, their numbers dwindling but some are used in training programmes in jails. The Mustang, directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre who co-wrote with Brock Norman Brock and Mona Fastvold, is set in a Nevada jail where anti-social inmate Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts, below) becomes a participant in the Mustang programme run by Myles (Bruce Dern).

Predictable without being predictable - it's a redemption story. However it has elements that take you by surprise, it unfolds slowly but very surely around Schoenaerts's fantastic performance. The characters are well-written, some of the actors are real inmates and it was shot in the actual prison. Moving but not mawkish, it feels original and I liked it a lot. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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