LFF 2019 Day 8 – Judy & Punch | First Love

My penultimate day at the festival was a bit lacklustre. I managed two perfectly fine films before escaping to go home and watch El Camino for fear of spoilers.

Judy & Punch

For anyone who spent their childhood watching crude puppet shows filled with spousal abuse will find a lot of familiar elements in Judy & Punch. The sausages, baby, and crocodile are all accounted for but writer-director Mirrah Foulkes does her best to augment the story with a feminist twist.

Set in Australia (I think) at some point in the distant past Punch (Mirrah Foulkes) is a big fish in a small town. Along with his long-suffering wife Judy (Mia Wasikowska) he runs a once feted puppet show and dreams of being scouted to headline a show in the city.

From this starting point the film brings in public stonings, women being banished as witches, and the aforementioned spousal abuse. Judy & Punch is set at a time when you would rather your wife be hung as a witch than be accused of being different yourself. The world created is well fleshed out and feels lived in but the tone the film takes with its content is bizarre. The synopsis bills the film as “darkly comic” but I found the wild swings from unpleasant acts of violence to pantomime hard to take.

To feel the emotional weight of the film we have to take the violence seriously. But in taking the violence seriously the comedy falls flat. This cognitive dissonance pulled me out of the film and had me cringing when I should have been laughing.

Added to the tonal discomfort the film was pleasingly building to a climax that never arrives. Instead the plot resolves itself too neatly as events suddenly come to a close without much excitement. I ended up leaving the cinema feeling unfulfilled and unsure of what to make of what I had just seen.

An intriguing take on a familiar tale but too inconsistent to have any real lagacy.

First Love

The fact that this marks director Takashi Miike’s 103rd film in a 30 year career signals that it might not be his magnum opus. That said First Love is a slickly made film that doesn’t want you to take it seriously as it romps through Tokyo with bullets and blades flying. From the moment a decapitated head rolls out of an alley and a mobster places a knitted cosy on the hilt of his sword you know what kind of film you are getting.

Flying around the periphery of the film is a plot to steal drugs from the Yakuza. Naturally this does not go to plan and assorted gangsters, assassins, and miscellaneous thugs are pulled into the fray in a chase across Tokyo that culminates in a bloody battle in a hardware store. In the middle of all this are an innocent pair caught up in the action thanks to chance and the mistakes of others.

Leo (Masataka Kubota) is a young boxer who has just received some devastating news that causes him to act out of character and intervene when he sees Yuri (Sakurako Konishi) in trouble. Yuri has been held captive by the Yakuza to repay her father’s debts and in helping her Leo pulls them both into the mailstrom that the drug heist has caused.

With the mayhem set in motion the audience doesn’t have to do much besides sit back and enjoy the show. First Love is pure entertainment without any deeper message to try to find. While the violence here is more that in the previous film the overall cartoonish nature of the film allows for uncomplicated enjoyment.

First Love is an uncomplicated thrill ride that doesn’t ask to much of you provided you don’t as too much of it. I had fun.

LFF 2019 Day 7 – Earthquake Bird | Pink Wall

Day 7 and I cheated on the film festival. After having my patience tested in the morning I jettisoned myself away to watch Joker and… Thankfully I don’t have to write anything to add to the conversation around that particular film. Then it was back to the festival to screening chaos and confused delegates.

Earthquake Bird

Prior to the screening there was a lot of buzz around Earthquake Bird. Wash Westmoreland has adapted Susanna Jones’ award-winning debut novel for the big screen and Alicia Vikander is starring as a Japanese translator in a Tokyo-set thriller. Expectations were high! And oh, how they missed the mark.

Vikander plays Lucy, a bland interpreter who meets bland photographer Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi) and falls in love. All is going well until she also befriends the near-bland American Lily (Riley Keough). Lily has moved to Japan for a fresh start but is reluctant to learn the language or do anything to fit into her new surroundings.

Lucy is burdened by being Lily’s conduit to Japanese society and before long is extra burdened when Lily goes missing and Lucy becomes the main suspect. Add into the mix some random childhood flashbacks, the occasional foreboding conversation, and a few incongruous thriller cliches and the result is a mess. And not even a fun mess.

Earthquake Bird has a simple Girl on the Train style plot that is clumsily told in the least interesting way. Instead of foreshadowing we get clearly signposted twists and instead of characters to invest in we get cardboard cutouts. The cast involved are much better that the performances they are able to give here and the fact that the film lacks any tension or intrigue shows that the blame lies elsewhere.

One to add to your Netflix list and never get round to watching.

Pink Wall

Seeing Pink Wall after Joker was probably a mistake because by that point I was not in the right frame of mind for a tender, intimate portrait of a relationship.

Tom Cullen plays with film-making styles as he makes his directing debut. Armed with Jay Duplass and Tatiana Maslany as his leads Cullen takes us through six periods of a relationship as we hop into different years of the main duo’s time together as a couple. For each period Cullen adopts a different visual style, playing with aspect ratio in a way that heightens distance or intimacy rather that distracting from the rest of the film.

Duplass and Maslany are compelling leads and rarely does one or the other leave the screen. Working in a clearly improvised style they bring a huge amount of authenticity to their roles as two Americans in London falling in and out of love. We get to indulge in their first meeting as they stay up all night talking, watch them navigate the war zone of a dinner party, take sides as they fight outside a pub, and witness their inevitable downfall.

There is nothing artificial to be found in Pink Wall but whether you enjoy yourself or not will largely depend on how endearing you find the couple in question. Like sitting near a couple in love on a train the film often thrusts you into a world of pet names and in jokes which will either have you giggling along or rolling your eyes in frustration. The bitter soul that I am, I sadly fell into the latter camp.

I admire what Cullen has attempted with Pink Wall and can’t fault Duplass and Maslany but sadly found myself getting annoyed with the characters they collectively created. That said I can’t wait to see what any of them do next. Good film, bad blogger.

LFF 2019 Day 6 – Official Secrets | An Easy Girl | I am (Not) a Monster

Day 6 was a mixed bag at the festival until I was pulled out of my cinematic malaise by Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian, director of I am (Not) a Monster. She greeted delegates at the screening of her documentary and presented each of us with a double vinyl imprint of the film. Explaining that she was trying alternative ways to get people to turn up and see independent films, and new ways to distribute them, I lost all the cynicism that had built up in me earlier in the day.

Onto some cynicism…

Official Secrets

Keira Knightley stars in the true story of Katharine Gun; a former GCHQ operative who leaked a classified memo about the USA’s attempt at manipulating a UN vote on whether a war with Iraq would be legal. Gun acted in the hopes that she would prevent a war and instead opened her and her husband up to the threat of imprisonment and deportation. And as for stopping the war…

Official Secrets is a great education into why Tony B-Liar is considered a war criminal (by some) and why Ellen DeGeneres chatting to George W. Bush is such a sensitive topic this week. The film lays out the role of GCHQ, the way the war with Iraq was launched, and all manner of political details that I was ignorant of at the time. A documentary could have delivered the same info but people are more likely to listen if Keira Knightley is doing the talking.

Sadly the film is little more than educational. Everything else about the film is purely functional. The dialogue efficiently delivers exposition with every line but without any flavour or personality. Alongside Knightley is a plethora of Britain’s finest; Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Ifans, and Matthew Goode amongst others all turn up briefly to play their part but for all the big names there are no characters.

Official Secrets is a solid drama retelling some of our recent history with clarity. For cinematic artistry you might want to look elsewhere.

An Easy Girl

Naïma (Mina Farid) is a 16 year-old growing up in Cannes. Her summer was supposed to be spent working in the kitchen at a nearby hotel and helping her BFF prepare for an audition but that all goes out the window when her cousin arrives in town. Sofia (Zahia Dehar) is a revelation for Naïma; she is confident, free from worry about the opinion of others, and rarely seen in an outfit that is opaque.

After catching the eye of a yacht owner (Nuno Lopes) and his right-hand man (Benoît Magimel) both woman and girl are indulged with fine dining and boating excursions. The cost of their luxurious lifestyle is paid for at night by Sofia while Naïma watches on in adolescent awe.

Nobody in An Easy Girl reacts with surprise to this mutually beneficial arrangement. The supporting cast are more likely to roll their eyes than widen them at the sight of young Sofia descending to the lower deck of the yacht with an impatient older man following behind her. What makes this subject matter a bold choice for a film is that one of the world’s best known film festivals takes place at Cannes and is infamous for having a secondary industry in “yachting”. Give that a Google.

Add to this the fact that actress Zahia Dehar brings along her own Google-worthy underage prostitution scandal and An Easy Girl becomes a document of a world that exists in parallel to our own.

Naïma is the heart of the film and our eyes in the world. At a point in her life where she is trying to determine her future she is tempted to embrace the potentially glamorous lifestlyle of the cousin she idolises. Meanwhile the mundane life she has briefly left behind lies waiting patiently for her back on shore.

With sharp dialogue and sun drenched visuals writer-director invites you to look upon Sofia and decide for yourself, is she “an object or a work of art?”.

I am (Not) a Monster

After being ambushed by director and central figure Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian at the start of the screening we were then treated to 90 minutes of her ambushing various figures around the world. Ben Hayoun-Stépanian is a woman on a mission. She wants to speak to experts about her philosophical hero Hannah Arendt and find the origin of knowledge so that she can pack it in her suitcase and take it back to her students at the tuition free college The University of the Underground.

The resulting documentary is made up of a broad cast of characters all extolling what they believe knowledge to be, where it comes from, and what it is worth. She meets figures including the Lord mayor of Sheffield, a member of Pussy Riot, Noam Chomsky, and a Japanese robotics expert. Each bring their own eccentricities and perspective on the world and can’t help but be swept up in the human whirlwind running the show.

I am (Not) a Monster is a celebration of the active pursuit of knowledge, of debate and discussion, and is a madcap journey around the world in the company of a passionate modern-day Socrates.

I knew very little of Hannah Arendt going into this film and if I am honest I am none the wiser. What I did get from the documentary was an exhilarating time spent with smart thinkers who offered up their philosophies to be accepted or denied.

A bracing documentary about the origins of knowledge.

LFF 2019 Day 5 – Portrait of a Lady on Fire | Heart | The Two Popes

For Day 5 of the festival I visited the 1760s, returned to South Korea, and then spend two hours in the company of two popes. I also wound up sat next to Mike Leigh for the third film which wasn’t distracting at all… I am pleased to report that he has excellent cinema etiquette; no whispers, phone light, or loud snacks from the master of British cinema.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

It is 1760 and Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is summoned to a small island near France to paint the portrait of Lady Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) so that it might be sent to her future husband in Milan. The only catch is that Héloïse does not approve of her upcoming nuptials so Marianne must act as a companion and paint her subject in secret.

Set over the span of just two weeks Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows the hesitant and secretive friendship between the two women as they evolve from subject and painter to something much closer. Amazingly for a period drama (any drama?) this is a film with nearly exclusive female cast that not only passes the Bechdel Test but spectacularly fails the Reverse Bechdel Test on all counts.

The absence of men allows the film to explore the muse and artist relationship with the fresh perspective of the female gaze. The film revels in female beauty without ever feeling exploitative, saving me some hand-wringing. It also allows for period details unique to female-only environments; eye opening aspects of day to day life are hinted at that I would never have even bothered to wonder about.

At its heart is a simple story; that of two women’s tentative steps towards one another. It is told through two stunning central performances and with shots of extreme beauty both in composition and subtext.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a gorgeous, romantic experience filled with beautiful imagery and aching longing.


Jeong Ga-young is the most exciting voice in South Korean cinema right now. Without the hype, or budget, of Park Chan-wook or Bong Joon-ho she is carving a niche that sits alongside, and possibly in response to, the more intimate works of Hong Sang-soo. I was lucky to see her previous film Hit the Night at last year’s London Korean Film Festival and Heart acts a great companion piece and continuation of her body of work.

As in her previous film Jeong has placed herself at the center of this film. She plays a version of herself; a young director who has an affair with a married man and then plots to make a film inspired by their realtionship. The fourth wall is never directly broken but the Jeong’s character happily explains the motivation for making the film to a prospective actor within the film itself. Heart is not just a narrative film, but director Q&A and dramatised behind-the-scenes feature to boot.

Jeong is a filmmaker who is comfortable to play with the form. Heart plays with metaphor, genre tropes, and the basic expectations of a film. It is smart, witty, and sexy. This version of South Korean life is rarely captured on screen. Nothing is sanitised or glamorised and Jeong is not afraid to show herself in an unflattering light.

As someone who is a Hong Sang-soo fanatic, I am excited to finally hear the woman’s side to the story.

The Two Popes

If I were to be dismissive I could describe The Two Popes as nothing more than two men pontificating about the Catholic church for two hours. But I wouldn’t necessarily be wrong…

Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce play Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis respectively. The latter has travelled to the Vatican to hand in his resignation as Cardinal. Unfortunately the sitting Pope refuses to even discuss his resignation and instead they spend days debating issues of the church, exploring Francis’ controversial past, and drinking a healthy dose of red wine. The results of these talks are spoiled in the films own title and via a cursory Google of either of the lead characters.

Hopkins and Pryce brilliantly capture the character of their familiar roles. Both ably tackling numerous languages and ornate costumes as they portray two famous men of God. While the film is majority dialogue-driven the magnetism of the leads does not let the experience get stale. The more lively their conversation the more lively the camera gets as legendary director Fernando Meirelles goes to great pains to bring energy to endless scenes of two old men talking.

Overall I enjoyed The Two Popes and learned something in the bargain.That said, it isn’t a film I will ever watch again and will be impressed if I remember it next week. Let’s see how well it does when it lands on Netflix at the end of the year.

LFF 2019 Day 4 – House of Hummingbird | Made in Bangladesh | Jojo Rabbit

Another international day as I toured Seoul in 1994, modern-day Bangladesh, and Germany in 1945. Turns out life is universally hard everywhere all the time.

House of Hummingbird

While Our Ladies go on a raucous day trip to Edinburgh in Seoul a teenage girl named Eunhee (Park Ji-hu) is having a very different childhood. In a cramped apartment she lives with a sister who brings her boyfriend back to their shared bedroom, a brother who beats her regularly, and parents who fight and make-up on a repeated cycle.

Over 140 minutes we live with Eunhee as she navigates the roller-coaster of adolescence. We watch as friends and romance drift in and out of her life, health scares rise and fall, and her family dynamics border on unbearable. We see the occasional flares of hope as Eunhee makes meaningful human connections, and share in her despair when loved ones let her down. Throughout it all Eunhee remains as a constant, unable to do anything but weather the storm.

This is Kim Bora’s debut film as director and she has made an intimate epic. Over the landscape of a few months in on child’s life her film explores so much. The film is long but somehow could have been half or twice the length. Like life House of Hummingbird doesn’t have a neat, finite plot. Instead it comes with the sense that Eunhee exists outside the parameters of the film and we are only glimpsing a part of her story.

A tender story that shows us a rich picture of South Korea with no filters. The running time might test the patience of some but I could have gone for another round.

Made in Bangladesh

Shimu (Rikita Shimu) is a machinist at a clothing factory in Bangladesh. She works all day, and occasionally all night, to pay the rent and support her unemployed husband. In a given day she will touch thousands of garments and earn less in a month than those basic t-shirts will sell for.

Following a fatal incident at the factory Shimu finds herself as the unlikely leader of a unionising movement in her factory. As Shimu tries to gather evidence and rally support to create a union she clashes with her exploitative employers, nervous friends, and her husband who would rather she kept a lower profile. The fight for basic worker’s rights is often a literal one.

Far from the English films that share this synopsis Made in Bangladesh is light on comic relief and moments of rousing triumph. Shimu’s journey is not easy; it is filled with slow administration, conflict with real consequences, and no promise of a happy ending. As a result it isn’t particularly enjoyable to watch. A pathetic thing to say given to subject matter but there we go.

Made in Bangladesh should be eye-opening to any Westerner with little interest in the providence of their wardrobe. The film feels authentic but also a little inert and lacks a real climax.

Jojo Rabbit

What draws attention when it comes to Jojo Rabbit is the striking visual of writer-director Taika Waititi playing Hitler while trying to make us laugh. Thankfully there is more to Jojo Rabbit than meets the eye, and a lot less Hitler than you might expect. That said, every time a swastika appeared onscreen various parts of me clenched up.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) lives in Germany with his devoted mother (Scarlett Johansson) during the final year of WWII. Jojo is a devoted member of Hitler Youth and is passionate, if ill-informed, about the Nazi cause. His mania for the Third Reich extends so far that his imaginary friend is a chirpy, encouraging version of Adolf Hitler himself. Jojo and Hitler’s relationship is put to the test when Jojo discovers that his mother is secretly hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their house.

Confronted with both his mother’s secret political leanings, and the reality of an actual human Jewish girl, Jojo starts to question the beliefs that define him.

And this is a comedy!

Waititi mines laughs through his silly portrayal of Hitler and the overall depiction of Nazi’s as bumbling oafs in a Wes Anderson-style version of Germany. Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, and Alfie Allen play three slapstick Nazi officers while Johansson is left to bring heart and humanity to the film as the World’s Best Mum Ever™. Throughout the film the audience I was in roared with collective laughter as the horrors of Nazi Germany were undermined by witty lines, comic set pieces, and general gurning.

And then just when we were all relaxed and laughing at Hitler & co. Waititi would pull the rug out and make painfully clear the real horror that the Nazi war machine wrought. Jojo Rabbit is a laugh riot until you are hit in the gut. The gasps of surprise were just as audible as the guffaws.

Jojo Rabbit walks a fine line between satire and distaste but ultimately I think it lands on the right side. I was expecting to laugh, and I certainly did, but I wasn’t expecting to be moved too. Tentatively I’d called the film a success but I have to admit there’s a part of me wondering why they wanted to make it in the first place.

Second guessing yourself every time you laugh can be exhausting.

LFF 2019 Day 3 – Luce | The House of Us | Babyteeth

Day 3 and I decided I couldn’t stomach the queue for Jojo Rabbit so took a less mainstream route. The result was a look at racism in liberal America, childhood in South Korea, and a heady mix of disease and love in Australia. Each film explored family ties; be they biological, adopted, or found.


Tim Roth and Naomi Watts are a white liberal hand-wringing couple who adopted a former child soldier (Kelvin Harrison Jr) and worked hard to rehabilitate them into the ideal young American complete with a new name that they can actually pronounce. At his high school Luce is the star athlete, star pupil, and all round shining star. So far so good.

The one character Luce doesn’t get on with is his English teacher played by Olivia Spencer. She holds Luce up as an example to other black students while at the same time questioning whether he really is perfect as he seems. Could there be something more complicated behind his perfect smile?

The film tricks us into second guessing which of Luce or his teacher is the good guy as their perspectives start to diverge. The real message of the film is ultimately spelt out to us; to be accepted in a predominantly white society a black student has to take on the role of either saint or monster with no space in-between.

Kelvin Harrison Jr holds the film together as the code switching Luce. His expression can always be read two ways and he calmly guides us through plot contrivances so we don’t worry too much about the workings.

A restrained thriller which only loses its grip towards its conclusion, Luce is an enjoyable and smart look at middle-class America that wears its theatrical roots on its sleeves. Its not the subtlest film but gets its point across.

The House of Us

All Hana wants is for her family to sit down and enjoy a meal together or, better yet, go one a weekend trip to the beach. Instead her parents work hard all day and argue all evening while her older brother avoids any group family interaction as best he can. While plotting a way to reunite her family Hana befriends two younger girls. The girls are also lacking in family department; their parents live and work at a distant resort and have left the pair at home to show potential tenants their flat.

Hana now has two missions to complete; she must keep her parents together and help stop the girls from losing their home.

The House of Us relies on three stellar performances by the young trio Na-yeon Kim, Sia Kim, and Ye-lim Joo. Despite their age and inexperience, or perhaps because of it, they perform with no artifice or pretension. The film feels incredibly authentic as we watch the three form their own tiny family unit and pursue their missions with gusto. Despite much of the adult drama happening off screen we get a sense of dramatic irony; knowing how futile their efforts will be but buying into it in the moment.

Writer-director Ga-eun Yoon seems set to be the Korean Kore-eda. She brings to life the intimate world of childhood that we all used to inhabit. Somehow she has made a film about family strife without resorting to histrionics or indulging in kitchen sink misery. All the while taking us down to the children’s level and coaxing some amazing performances out of pre-teens.

An uplifting story of families falling apart and children living their lives regardless.


Milla (Eliza Scanlen) lives in a beautiful mid-century modern house with devoted, messy parents (Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn). On her way home one day she meets and immediate falls for the troubled Toby (Toby Wallace). Her parents grit their teeth and try to tolerate the new addition to their lives because Milla is suffering from an unnamed disease of unspecific severity. And so follows almost two hours of complex characters bumping off each other as they try to navigate their lives as individuals and as a family.

The plot to Babyteeth is unfocused and has a habit of meandering. Plot points and characters pile up along the way and many are left unresolved. But for some reason none of this mattered to me. I love this film. I love its knowing chapter titles and random diversions. I love the way each character feels unique, real, and lived in. And I absolutely love that house.

First time feature director Shannon Murphy has created a world so authentic that I can’t help but follow along with whatever the film throws at me. Throughout the film I found myself laughing out loud, wiping away tears, and at one point I got the good film tingle all down my spine.

What else can I say? Superb.

LFF 2019 Day 2 – The Lighthouse | Monsoon | Wounds

Day 2 saw one of the festival’s big draws match high expectations and completely surprise, a sedate internal drama nearly lull me to sleep, and a Netflix horror fully live up to its reputation.

The Lighthouse

Like a vintage episode of Round the Twist, The Lighthouse follows bizarre events in a remote lighthouse. After creeping the world out with his debut The VVitch Robert Eggers returns with another distinct cinematic vision and an experience like no other.

That’s how The Lighthouse feels; more experience than film. An art-house roller coaster that is exhilarating to watch but lacks the emotional depth that made its predecessor so compelling.

From the beginning the audience is met with the jarring combination of a form that suggests an austere auteur and content that feels closer to a fever dream. Shot on black and white film with an almost square frame and a long opening act with almost no dialogue; The Lighthouse presents itself as the sort of film the casual cinema-goer would assume film snobs watch at film festivals. Beyond this however one of the first utterances we hear is a fart, some of the most beautiful shots involve piss and shit (no other words will do), and by the end the images veer towards the deranged.

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe take ownership of their roles as assistant and lighthouse keeper respectively. Through admirable facial hair they chew on their dialogue and both bring an intense physicality. As storms lash the tiny island they inhabit, waves of distrust, madness, and seagulls flare up between the two men. What unfolds has to be seen to be believed, and even then it is up to you what you take from it.

At the end of almost two hours of constant escalation I was left with numerous indelible images and the aftershocks of a score that literally vibrated my whole body. There’s a reason this film is being raved about; it is an experience I won’t forget any time soon.

Not since Annihilation have a music and a lighthouse combined to such exhilarating ends.


Hong Khaou’s debut Lilting was a deeply personal story told in a beautifully restrained film. He returns with another deeply personal story told in such a restrained tone that after The Lighthouse it felt almost static.

The recently ubiquitous Henry Golding stars as Kit; an Englishman returning to his birthplace of Vietnam to scatter his parents ashes and try to find himself in a land he can barely remember. With his parents now both deceased Kit is looking for a connection to some kind of heritage but finds Vietnam a remote and changed place. What few memories he has no longer relate to the county he finds himself in.

Despite forging new relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial) the film is mostly about Kit as an individual. We are forced to read his face to access an internal monologue we cannot hear as no narration is offered for easy understanding. Kit is often seen contemplating his surroundings and the film does not dispense much in the way of exposition; all dialogue is minimal and naturalistic. The film as a result is almost meditative; something to be gently absorbed rather than assaulted by.

At times Monsoon felt impenetrable and verged on lulling me to sleep. Somehow is skirts just past inertia to be a beautiful poetic experience about one man’s open ended quest to find a place in the world.


Well now… what to say about Wounds? Armie Hammer stars as Will; a bartender who seemingly stumbles into someone else’s horror film. After picking up a stranger’s phone in a bar he finds himself, and the 2-dimensional characters around, pulled into some kind of demonic summoning that leads to a smattering of body horror, bugs crawling all over, and a Ring inspired video.

The majority of characters in Wounds are so disposable they aren’t even disposed of properly. Instead they reach the edge of the narrative and simply fall off. The only character with any form of arc is Will who doesn’t so much slowly descend into madness as suddenly trip over into insanity. Armie Hammer does his best with what little he has to work with while Dakota Johnson and Zazie Beetz both suffer severe character neglect.

Relying mostly on jump scares and the occasional gross-out moment Wounds approaches horror tropes from a different angle but doesn’t know where to take them. The dialogue is bizarre and the plot meandering. The audience had a few good laughs however.

Best line of dialogue? “He looked murdered.”

LFF 2019 Day 1 – Our Ladies | Bacurau | The Girl with a Bracelet

Day 1 of the festival for me started on a high and ended on a whimper. I also had to delete a tweet after accidentally breaking an embargo. Things can only get better from here!

Our Ladies

Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos was last seen at the National Theatre and in the West End in the guise of a riotous musical play called Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. A few years on and we are treated to a big screen adaptation under the helm of veteran director Michael Caton-Jones.

The ladies in question are six members of a catholic school choir. It is 1996, the choir is set to perform in Edinburgh and the ladies plan to turn the day trip from their small port town into a raunchy drink fest. Taking place over one day we follow the ladies as they talk themselves up, fall down, and try to talk their way into as much booze and adventure as they can handle.

Despite themes of religion, teenage drinking, and female promiscuity Our Ladies has no desire to preach to us. The ladies antics are not always safe or advisable but we revel in their brief window of freedom rather than frown at how they choose to spend it. Grown men and their weakness for the promise of a young girl’s attention are laughed at rather than shown as a sinister threat. Our ladies are always in control of the situation, if not themselves.

The fresh-faced cast brilliantly bring a diverse group of characters to life. Each confidently juggles the persona their lady projects, and the one she keeps hidden beneath.

Our Ladies is a delight. It shows being a teenager in all its messy glory and celebrates the constant clash of expectation and reality that life can bring. A new British classic has been made.


Bacurau has something it wants to say, and makes sure it gets its message home. Dressed up in the trappings of an exploitation horror (?) is a stark message about the way white westerners, and Brazil’s own elite, exploit and dismiss the rural population.

Through the eye’s of Teresa, homeward bound for her mother’s funeral, we discover the small rural village of Bacurau. The village is filled with curious characters; gangsters, pimps, and a lone exasperated doctor. Bacurau is a proud place, a museum dedicated to local history takes pride of place while the church is used for storage. Before too long strange occurrences befall the isolated hamlet. At first Bacurau can no longer be found on any map, then all phone signal is lost. With the village cut off from the wider world the arrival of outsiders hints at trouble to come.

Over a loose running time of over two hours Bacurau takes its time setting out its stall. We spend a lot of time getting to know the setting and its population before the film slowly hints at broader plots at play. When things kick off we are rewarded with the base, but fulfilling, thrills of extreme violence and stark nudity. The nudity used to add humanity to the locals, and the gore to add a level of farce.

Thrills aside Bacurau is all about its message. A lot that happens could be followed by the work “literally” as metaphors are writ large and the subtext is plain for anyone, even me, to see. How well the message and delivery work together is open to debate. For someone unfamiliar with the issues at hand it was easy to me to get my cheap thrill while acknowledging a wider issue was being addressed.

The success of Bacurau is not for me to judge. In this film I am definitely the baddie.

The Girl with a Bracelet

Lise is in court accused of the murder of her best friend two years ago. As her personal life, attitude, and sexuality are picked over by legal professionals Lise sits stoic in her seat. At home she squabbles with her younger brother like normal, the only clues to her wider troubles are the electronic tag on her ankle and her brothers request to have her room if she goes to prison.

These are the two views we are given of Lise in The Girl with a Bracelet. We see her in court and hear only of the past events through sparse evidence given. When it comes to Lise’s life out of court we are only shown her present day reality as her family deals with the possibility of her being found guilty. What I found myself desperately wanting to see was any objective truth about what happened between Lise and the deceased. Any glimpse at the truth so I could decide for myself what happened. But that was not to be.

This film is less interested in the whodunit that often surrounds a cinematic murder. Instead it prefers to explore the way a young woman is treated by society, specifically when being judged. Lise was a sexually active and experimental teenager. As information is drip fed to us via proceedings we see Lise judged less on evidence and more on a gentle character assassination.

Again we have a film with a message. A message similar to Our Ladies but without the subtly. As we are shown everything via the court case we see everything without emotion or full context and often the film’s message is delivered in full, without ambiguity, by the defense council.

The Girl with a Bracelet is a well made courtroom drama but holds back so much it lacks tension or drama.