Friday 19 October 2018

Movie reviews: Michael Inside, Love, Simon, Wonderstruck and 120 BPM

Michael Inside (15A, 96mins) 5 stars

Love, Simon (12A, 110mins) 4 stars

Wonderstruck (No Cert, IFI, 116mins) 3 stars

120 BPM (16, 143mins) 4 stars

Ex-cell-ent: Dafhyd Flynn stars in Michael Inside
Ex-cell-ent: Dafhyd Flynn stars in Michael Inside

Paul Whittington

Paul Whittington reviews this week's other big releases.

Michael Inside (15A, 96mins) 5 stars

I liked Frank Berry's 2014 debut feature, I Used To Live Here, but Michael Inside is a huge step up and establishes the writer/director as one of our most accomplished film-makers. Berry spent almost two years talking to former prisoners and workshopping their experiences into his final script: his film is grounded in these stories and is part of the social realist tradition exemplified by the likes of Ken Loach.

Dafhyd Flynn is Michael McCrea, a young man from a tough Dublin estate whose life could go either way. His father's in prison, but with the help of his grandfather Francis (Lalor Roddy), Michael has thus far avoided following in his dad's footsteps. But when a friend asks Michael to mind a bag of cocaine for him, he says yes - a decision that will change his life forever.

Michael ends up getting sent to Mountjoy, where he must adapt to survive. Moe Dunford gives a compelling turn as a charismatic older prisoner who befriends Michael but has ulterior motives, and, meanwhile, his poor grandfather has been targeted by the drug gang.

Michael Inside shows how easy it is for kids from disadvantaged areas to be drawn into crime. It's moving, emotionally gripping and every scene has the ring of truth.

Love, Simon (12A, 110mins) 4 stars

On the face of it, Love, Simon sounds like your average teen romance. A boy who feels that no one understands him falls for a mysterious stranger he corresponds with online: will the real person live up to all this expectation? You've heard it before, but the big difference with this film is that Simon is gay.

Simon Speer (Nick Robinson) comes from a loving family and is a popular student at his high school. But he's preoccupied by his secret sexuality and has no idea how he might go about breaking the news to his friends, let alone his parents (Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner). A metaphorical gun is put to his head, however, when an unscrupulous student decides to blackmail him.The clever thing about this thoroughly winning romcom is that it sticks to the rules of its genre, right down to the cloying music and obligatory schmaltzy climax, and uses them to demonstrate a truth that should be obvious: all love stories are essentially the same.

Wonderstruck (No Cert, IFI, 116mins) 3 stars

American film-maker Todd Haynes can be brilliant, but blows hot and cold. I was not as keen as some on his bravely experimental 2007 Bob Dylan biopic, I'm Not There, but his last film, Carol, was nothing short of perfect. Wonderstruck, however, is more of a mixed bag.

Adapted by Brian Selznick from his own novel, the film slowly ties together two troubled childhoods. In 1977, a recently orphaned boy called Ben (Oakes Fegley) runs away to New York in search of his missing father. Meanwhile, in 1927, Rose, a lonely deaf girl (the excellent Millicent Simonds) escapes the influence of her overbearing father and comes to Manhattan to find a famous Hollywood actress.

There are lots of strong ideas in Wonderstruck, like the touching notion that the arrival of talking pictures is about to exclude Rose from the only true communal experience in her life. But the links between the stories seem tenuous and the overall enterprise feels contrived.

120 BPM (16, 143mins) 4 stars

And finally, a word about 120BPM, an ambitious French drama set in the early 1990s and charting the lives of those in the firing line of the Aids epidemic. Incensed by what they perceive to be official foot-dragging and anti-gay prejudice, a group of mainly HIV-positive militants gather for noisy planning meetings that evoke the band-standing of Danton and Mirabeau.

And for these would-be revolutionaries, the stakes are just as high, their guillotine a merciless disease that medicine is powerless to effectively treat. It's a funny, heartbreaking film, a little too long perhaps, but wonderfully evocative of an intense chapter in recent Parisian history.

Also out this week: A Quiet Place 5 star movie review: 'A note-perfect horror film that sticks to its own fantasy logic'

Irish Independent

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