LFF 2018 Day 8 – Madeline’s Madeline | The Fight | Angelo

We’re in the final sprint now, not long to go. Before you know it this blog will regrow its cobwebs and my Instagram will revert from me bragging about the films I’ve seen to me bragging about the plays I’ve seen. Until then, there are film to discuss.

Madeline’s Madeline

Madeline’s Madeline is indefinable, indescribable, and a bitch to write about. The focus is on Madeline (Helena Howard), obviously, a teenager who struggles with her home life but thrives when rehearsing with her improvised theatre troupe. At home her mother (Miranda July) struggles to relate to or control a daughter whose mind works in a different way to her own. At the theatre she looks up to the leader, Evangeline (Molly Parker), who starts to use Madeline as her creative crutch.

Writer-director Josephine Decker infuses parts of the film with a dreamlike quality as we see Madeline’s world through her eyes. The result is a film that may not be telling us the truth all the time and that contains scenes that some might find pretentious. You have been warned. This is a film involving an improv theatre troupe after all.

Theatre nonsense and dreamlike qualities aside this film has three complex female characters at the forefront; each brilliant played to imperfection. The real revelation is Howard who, in her first professional acting role, becomes the film’s anchor and has to both act and act at acting. Howard is a phenomenal talent and allowed me to put aside my initial trepidation at being told, “You are not the cat, you are inside the cat”, and instead let the emotions of the film pull me in.

A masterpiece or low-key pretentious? Maybe both.

Madeline’s Madeline screens at the festival on 17th, 19th, and 21st October.

The Fight

Jessica Hynes has always been a major writing talent but often gets forgotten, especially when people are talking about how much they love Simon Pegg’s Spaced. At last Hynes has fully struck out on her own with a film she has written, directed, and stars in.

With the title of The Fight and promotional images like the one above it can be easy to mistake this for a film about a boxing champ, or at the very least focus on someone learning to fight. Whether this is a deliberate misdirect or not it’s far from the truth. The Fight is actually about the everyday fight to raise your children, deal with your parents, reconcile with your mistakes, and occasionally to learn to box.

Hynes plays Tina, mother of three, daughter of two, and wife of one. Her parents (Anita Dobson & Christopher Fairbank) are perpetually on the verge of breaking up and her eldest daughter is struggling with a bully at school. Stuck in the middle of various conflicts it is up to Tina to keep everyone, and her sanity, together.

The Fight has an easy charm and a healthy dose of sentimentality that thankfully never tips over into tweeness. Far from the mum-turns-boxer story I had been expecting I instead got a humble tale of family, humanity, and a tiny bit of boxing too.

Almost criminally engineered to get tears out of you by the end.

The Fight screens at the festival on 17th, 19th, and 21st October.


Angelo is a film told in three acts; intrigue, tedium, and nausea. In 18th century Vienna an African slave boy is plucked from a line up to be raised in high society as an experiment and an oddity dubbed Angelo.

In the first act we see Angelo taught the ways of his new world. He learns languages and instruments and is dressed in fine clothes so that he can be paraded at parties. In the second act we see Angelo as a young adult, starting to question his identity and wanting to step out on his own. In the third and final act we see something I will never forget, something that had me recoiling physically in my seat.

Prior to that Angelo is relatively placid. The film is two hours of quiet scenes and painfully long shots. Perhaps this is to highlight the tedium of Angelo’s life but it brought out audible snoring from one critic sat behind me.

Angelo is a singular creature, much like Angelo is treated in his high-class world. The film is admirable but at no moment enjoyable. To enjoy the film would feel like a betrayal of its central character. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s something you want to experience or not.

I gave a similar hesitant recommendation for director Markus Schleinzer’s last film Michael back in 2012. You have been warned.

Angelo screens at the festival on 17th, and 18th October.

Hungry Hearts – LFF Review

Hungry Hearts

It all starts so sweetly and optimistically there’s no way you will see the end coming. Hungry Hearts begins with a meeting in a single shot between the two leads as they become trapped in a tiny bathroom cubicle together. Romantic cinematic convention dictates that any two people who meet in such adorable circumstances are destined to be together forever and so that is how I assumed this film would end. How wrong I was.

After meeting in a toilet Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) are soon living together. When Mina is faced with moving back to her native Italy Jude quickly impregnates and marries her, trapping her in New York indefinitely. After their wedding Mina starts to have nightmares and sees a psychic who tells her how the unborn child inside her will be an indigo child; a pure child sent down from above. This plants a seed in Mina’s head and once the baby is born she strives to keep him clean by imposing a strict vegan diet. The birth of their son drives a wedge between Jude and Mina as Jude struggles to get close to the child and ensure he is getting the nutrients he needs and Mina spends months cooped up inside growing ever closer to her baby.

Hungry Hearts 2

From its indie romance feel at the start Hungry Hearts slowly evolves into a horror in the style of Rosemary’s Baby. Instead of a mother expecting a demon child there is a mother who thinks her child is so special that she herself becomes a monster and threatens her child’s safety. I might have been expecting a romantic drama but what I got instead was a dread filled feature of unrelenting tension and fear for each character. There are no doubt feminist debates to have over the representation of the monster mother but if we put those aside we are left with a gripping and surprising romantic thriller on an intimate scale.

Rohrwacher is perfect as the initially frail but adorable Mina who soon turns into a dangerously protective figure. There are many moments when it is impossible to tell what Mina might do next as Rohrwacher gives her a frenzied look of love and fear; two emotions that lead to limitless unpredictability. Driver as Jude gives another powerful nuanced performance. Driver oozes sensitivity but his body is also powerful and a violent outburst always seems to be lurking just beneath the surface.

Italian director Saverio Costanzo has crafted a tough drama that starts sweet but ends with an explosive and unpredictable final act. Hungry Hearts is a film of slow evolution in tone and genre as romance turns to mistrust and comedy turns to drama. The resulting film is not necessarily pleasant but it is skillfully put together and altogether frightening.

Not one to watch when you’re expecting.

Hungry Hearts has no UK release date yet but screens at the London Film Festival on the 14th, 16th, and 17th of October 2014.

BFI LFF 2014