My Old Lady – LFF Review

My Old Lady

New Yorker Mathias (Kevin Kline) has inherited a large Parisian apartment from his estranged, and now deceased, father. Having driven his life into the ground this windfall comes at a time where a large lump sum are all that stands between Mathias and ruin. Sadly a bizarre French law means that the apartment’s former owner and current tenant Mathilde (Maggie Smith) has the right to live in Mathias’ new property until she dies. On top of this the bankrupt American must pay her a monthly maintenance or forfeit the entire abode. With nowhere else to go Mathias rents a room in his own apartment and lives with Mathilde and her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas) while he judges how long Mathilde has left to live and whether he can possibly sell the place while it remains tied up in the strange Parisian legal bind.

Hilarity ensues.

For the most part My Old Lady features just this cast of three and rarely strays too far from the all important apartment. The plot is driven by plenty of dialogue, the acting is delivered with a little too much vigour, and the machinations of the story get a little contrived towards the end. All of this should scream one thing to you; the theatre. Indeed with its modest headcount, singular setting, and final act revelations My Old Lady does very little to disguise the fact that it started life on the stage in a play by the film’s director Israel Horovitz. When a play is adapted well it can make for great cinematic fare equally as lauded as its original incarnation. When done badly a big screen adaptation can feel stale and unconvincing; the melodrama that was captivating on stage not translating so well on-screen.

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For the most part Horovitz does not seem to have done much to make My Old Lady justify a conversion to film. There is nothing contained within the adaptation that could not have been performed on stage any less easily and the style of direction is one without flair or excitement. It is hard to see what filming his play has added to its story and why he felt the need to do so.

The film, and presumably the play, is perfectly pleasant. Not quite as many laughs as I had been led to expect but a funny and charming story is there to be enjoyed. Maggie Smith gives her trademark performance as a snippy but loveable aging matriarch and is as enjoyable to watch as always. Kristin Scott Thomas gives a tender edge to her role as the indignant daughter and Kevin Kline slightly over-eggs his performance as the boorish American disrupting the lives of incredibly English Parisians. The experience of watching My Old Lady is one of bemusement and mild unrest. Nothing too exciting happens, a few laughs are had, and then it ends without ever fully convincing.

Not a bad film but not spectacular either. My Old Lady is a film to be watched on a rainy weekend afternoon with a blanket keeping you warm.

My Old Lady has a UK release date of 21st November 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

Madame Bovary – LFF Review

Madame Bovary

Growing up in a convent Emma (Mia Wasikowska) was always a little different from the other girls. Whatever she was supposed to be doing Emma would be doing her own way and dreaming of the day she could leave. Madame Bovary starts with Emma getting her wish and marrying country doctor Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes). In theory by becoming Madame Bovary Emma is setting off to live her dream life of luxury and excitement but the reality is much less glamorous. Charles turns out to live a simple life in a modest house with a single servant. He is a kind man but dull and unambitious. While Emma yearns for the bustle of the city Charles is quite content to live out his quiet life in the countryside. Left alone in the house for most of the day Emma soon finds herself becoming less the grateful wife and succumbing to the dual temptations of material goods and extramarital romance.

Emma’s life is lived through the visitors she receives at her house and one of the more frequent faces she sees is Monsieur Lheureux (Rhys Ifans). Lheureux is a merchant who offers to sell Emma her every heart’s desire. From furniture to clothes and from jewellery to silverware there is nothing that Lheureux will not supply the Bovary couple and he happily allows Emma to rack up a mountain of debt. Another face who regularly pops by is Leon Dupuis (Ezra Miller) a young aspiring adventurer. Leon takes a shine to Emma and though she rejects his romantic advances he reawakens her sense of adventure and before the story is told Emma has taken her fair share of lovers. From a humble upbringing Emma learns to live a life of decadence and self-indulgence at the expense of her mild-mannered husband. Naturally Emma can only spend money she doesn’t have, and toy with the hearts of many, for so long before her life starts to unravel around her.

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Much like the titular character Madame Bovary is beautifully presented but mostly empty on the inside. The costume and set designs are sumptuous, detailed, and presumably accurate and the film as a whole is greatly aesthetically pleasing. The acting, led by the always impressive Mia Wasikowska, is top-notch and everyone involved throws themselves into their roles with gusto. The ingredients are all there but the end result is somehow unsatisfying. While being a relatively enjoyable film Madame Bovary never quite manages to find its stride and events seem to plod on rather than move forward. Even when the situation becomes dire for our protagonist it is hard to sympathise because not one of the characters are especially sympathetic.

Emma is a selfish young woman who comes across as spoiled and ungrateful, Lheureux is a greedy, manipulative, and selfish man, and Emma’s various lovers are heartless and weak in equal measure. The only character who might stir up sympathy in the audience is poor Charles Bovary but the wet small town doctor is portrayed as pathetic enough to not really warrant our support. With nobody to root for the stakes never rise and the outcome of the film is difficult to care about. Despite the best efforts from a quality cast the script from Felipe Marino and director Sophie Barthes doesn’t put enough meat on the bones of the story. Though enjoyable enough I just didn’t care about what was going down on-screen.

Madame Bovary is a lack-lustre period drama that is less than the sum of its parts. While I must admit to being unfamiliar with the source text this adaptation leaves solid performances lost in a bland melodrama.

Madame Bovary has no UK release date yet.

BFI LFF 2014

The Drop – LFF Review

The Drop

Tom Hardy loves a good accent and in The Drop he wraps his mouth around Brooklyn as he tackles the role of bartender Bob. Bob works at a bar previously owned by his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) straightforwardly named Cousin Marv’s. Life is mostly quiet apart from when the bar’s new owners, Chechen gangsters, stop by and use it as a money drop. One winter Bob finds life getting a little more complicated than the norm after Marv’s is held up, the Chechen’s demand their stolen money be found and the culprits brought to justice, and Bob finds himself adopting a dog found in the bins of the mysterious Nadia (Noomi Rapace) for plot advancing reasons.

Unfortunately for Bob Nadia’s ex-boyfriend, and the dog’s former owner, turns out to be an infamous tough guy and possible murderer Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts). Making Bob’s life a little more complicated, and this synopsis more convoluted than I’d like, he attends the same daily mass as Detective Torres (John Ortiz) who just so happens to be investigating the bar’s robbery and various other seedy goings on.

As is typical for a thriller nobody’s motives or allegiances can be trusted. Bob is a strong-looking but sweet guy surrounded by suspicious folk. The bar he works at is run by gangsters, his cousin Marv appears to be involved in something sketchy, his new girlfriend has a dark past, a member of his church is suspicious of him, and finally Deeds is actually making unambiguous threats against Bob and his suspicious network. With all this we have a tricky plot set in motion. As various nefarious types scheme against one another it remains to be seen who will end up on top and who was really playing who.

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At the centre of The Drop is another fine performance from Tom Hardy. Despite at first glance looking like just another leading man Hardy has continuously proved himself to be one of the more diverse character actors working today. Rather than repeat a performance in multiple films Hardy prefers to change his physicality and voice to suit each role he takes on. In The Drop he has successfully mastered the Brooklyn accent, to these British ears at least, and adopted a slow and strong style of movement that reflects the gentle giant that is Bob. As cousin Marv James Gandolfini makes his final appearance on-screen. While his performance is solid we aren’t treated to anything we haven’t already seen as his swan song requires a simple Sopranos-lite presentation. Noomi Rapace meanwhile is surprisingly American and sufficiently ambiguous in her mostly thankless role of love interest turned damsel in distress.

Director Michaël R. Roskam has put together an attractive film and brought out assured interpretations from his cast but the script offers nothing too spectacular. Dennis Lehane has adapted his own short story into the screenplay and the result is a perfectly fine if unremarkable thriller. There is tension and confusion for the majority of the film followed by a twist and resolution at its conclusion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with The Drop and its classic thriller style but it offers nothing new and as such fails to stand out.

The Drop is a perfectly enjoyable crime drama set in the murkier neighbourhoods of Brooklyn. Should you choose to see it I have no doubt that you will have a good time but you are unlikely to be chatting about the film for long after leaving the cinema and a rewatch simply feels unnecessary. Good but not great, and certainly not bad.

The Drop has a UK release date of 14th November 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

Men, Women & Children – LFF Review

Men, Women & Children

Jason Reitman’s directorial career was going so well. His first four films from Thank You for Smoking to Young Adult were each remarkable in their own way and it seemed that he could not put a foot wrong. And then he did. Earlier this year saw the release of Labor Day; an out of character romantic drama that showed Reitman trying something a little different and failing in the process. This year he returned to the London Film Festival with a new contemporary family drama Men, Women & Children. The question this film had to answer was, has Jason Reitman got his groove back?

In Men, Women & Children men, women, and children (I’m for the Oxford comma) find their personal relationships sabotaged by an over reliance on technology. Jennifer Garner* is a neurotic mother who monitors her daughter’s every move online, even going so far as to delete messages before they reach her. Her daughter Kaitlyn Dever feels oppressed and uses a secret Tumblr account as her only outlet while starting a sweet offline romance with Ansel Elgort. Ansel has abandoned the school football team in favour of playing online computer games after his mother abandoned him and his dad, Dean Norris, and became more a Facebook friend than a parent. When not worrying about his son Dean is flirting with Judy Greer who manages a questionable modelling website for her celebrity-in-waiting daughter, Olivia Crocicchia. Olivia meanwhile is sexting high school jock Travis Tope who is struggling to find real sex appealing having become addicted to a particular strand of porn. Travis’ parents Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt are failing to connect and so are contemplating exploring online escorts and extramarital affair sites respectively. If that weren’t nearly enough we also have Elena Kampouris who visits thinspiration websites and suffers from anorexia and low self-esteem but she doesn’t fit as neatly into the chain of relationships as everyone else.

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As you can tell from the above there is a lot going on in Men, Women & Children and every storyline involves someone’s life being worse off thanks to the internet. An ensemble drama can work but only when dealt with carefully. In this case the fact that a small group of interlinked individuals are all experiencing some form of cyber woe makes the whole exercise feel inauthentic and implausible. Now might well be the prime time for a film exploring the internet’s effects on human relationships but this heavy-handed attempt at highlighting the possible dangers online is not that film. Jason Reitman wants you to reflect on how you are damaging your own relationships and he will beat you round the head with an iPad until you do. Few films are this preachy and condescending which, having now sat through this public service announcement of a film, is a great relief.

There are moments of charm and humour but they are lost in amongst the endless scenes of characters making bad choices because their modems made them do it. Men, Women & Children is not about the real world or real people. It is Reefer Madness for the internet age and is every bit as overblown and undercooked. In an attempt to add levity to proceedings Reitman has added narration courtesy of Emma Thompson in the hopes that her accent describing sex acts will be enough to soften the rough edges of this melodramatic catastrophe. Sadly even Thompson’s authoritative voice can’t distract from the mess Reitman has made.

No character is given enough screen time to become fully rounded and nearly everyone involved at some point does something so utterly stupid and unrelatable that the audience is left floundering looking for someone to relate to. The minute you think you have found your cypher to guide you through Men, Women & Children they will do something unforgivable or seemingly without motive. The film is unlikely to stop anyone from going online but may well turn people away from going to the cinema again.

Men, Women & Children is misogynist, paranoid, and pretentious. Jason Reitman can do so much better.

*There are too many characters for me to have remembered any names.

Men, Women & Children has a UK release date of 28th November 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

Fury – LFF Review

Fury

It is April 1945 and allied troops are slowly making their way across Germany. The crew of one tank find themselves one man down and rookie soldier Norman (Logan Lerman) joins as assistant driver. Norman is a former office clerk and wholly unprepared for battle. Reluctantly taking on new blood into their tank Fury are Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), Bible (Shia LeBeouf), and the unpleasant duo consisting of Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal) and Gordo (Michael Peña). The job of Fury and its occupants are to move in convoy from village to village evacuating Germans who surrender and killing those that fight back.

Initially Norman is not accepted by his fellow soldiers. His reluctance to kill and desire to surrender or die make him a liability but through the toughest of love his team attempt to turn Norman into a real soldier. Each soldier treats Norman with utter contempt but as they are bonded together through the horrors of war mutual respect is found. As Fury and company moves from village to village the tanks come under attack as our band of brothers is truly put to the test and Norman is given a baptism of fire.

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As war films go Fury is perfectly acceptable but little more. The action scenes are suitable bloody, muddy, and violent as heads, limbs, and other extremities are shot off and numerous soldiers set on fire. Capturing the brutality of war is Fury‘s strongpoint and it does so with gusto, loud noises, and nerve-shredding frenzy. What threatens to weaken the action is the fact that our lead cast are always inside the tank during battles; while explosions and carnage rage outside the five main characters are mostly sitting and shouting. The final battle aside the inside of Fury always felt relatively safe, particularly in comparison to the war zone in the fields outside.

Writer/director David Ayers may have done well at making war seem like a bad thing but he does less well when it comes to making the characters feel like real people. Each of the five is a different caricature and yet their personalities still struggle to maintain consistency. In what seems to be an attempt to add layers of complexity to the characters they all have occasional flashes where they change their attitude completely. This normally takes the form of an unpleasant type suddenly being nice to Norman as if keen to let the audience know that they aren’t all bad really. The dialogue is riddled with clichés, patriotism, and variations on the “war is hell” theme. Despite solid performances, even from Shia LaBeouf, the script lack enough authenticity for the actors to come across as anything but actors.

Fury certainly passes the time and provides plenty of spectacle though not on a scale we haven’t already seen before. It’s hard to know what the film is trying to say and what it has to offer that is not just treading old ground. If we can all agree that war is unpleasant then you can probably give this one a miss.

Fury has a UK release date of 22nd October 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

Night Bus – LFF Review

Night Bus

Welcome to the night bus: a place where tired people returning from alcohol-fuelled nights out inflict their heightened emotions on their fellow passengers. Mild Concern is no stranger to this form of London public transport and I was intrigued to see what kind of film could be spun out from it. Turns out that it’s one that is very like its inspiration: bleak, a bit uncomfortable and filled with annoying characters.

All the action occurs on a bus taking the (fictional*) N39 route towards Leytonstone late on a rainy Friday night. As someone with more than a passing knowledge of east London, the complete disregard for its geography was very distracting. The bus essentially appeared to be circling Stratford and it definitely wasn’t going south, as the driver once claimed.

The film takes the form of dropping in and out on the various passengers and their conversations, and the timeline is fractured and jumbled up. All the typical passengers are there, from arguing couples, to singing drunks, to youths playing music through their mobile phones, to those who just want-to-get-home-with-the-minimum-of-fuss-thank-you-very-much. While occasionally clunky, the dialogue is structured well enough to give a solid sense of what’s going on in so many characters’ lives. Almost all of the performances are pitch perfect – realistic in both dialogue and tone. Unfortunately, as virtually everyone you’re forced to share a real night bus is very irritating, this means so is almost every character in Night Bus.

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There is no plot to speak of, just prevailing themes, and after a while only seeing snippets of the lives of these (mostly unhappy) people feels a bit pointless and sad. There are funny moments, particularly the many ways people who don’t have the bus fare try to get a free ride, but my overriding emotion by the end was sympathy for the bus driver.

Night Bus is a very London-centric film and as such it’s hard to imagine anyone without the same experience having much patience with these characters. As a Londoner myself, it served mostly as a reminder of how good nights out can end in a dispiriting manner; while bad nights out are capped off with almost unbearable journeys. I admire how well the film has represented the reality but this is also its downfall – it’s hard to think of a reason why anyone would want to spend more time on the night bus than they have to.

*The 39 actually shuttles between Putney Bridge and Clapham Junction in the south west and it doesn’t operate a night route.

Night Bus has no UK release date yet.

BFI LFF 2014

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow – LFF Review

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

While I explain the plot of Korean animation The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow I ask that you have faith that I am not making this up.

A satellite is orbiting in space when it picks up a beautiful song. So moved is the satellite that it wants to seek out the source of the melody so crashes down to earth and transforms into a teenage girl with the ability to fly and fire her arms at enemies. Unfortunately the young boy who sang the tune is broken-hearted and has been turned into a cow. This has led to him being hunted down by both an incinerator robot whose fuel is the broken-hearted, and a human villain who uses a plunger to extract the livers of animals.

“How will this robot girl and talking cow survive?” I hear you cry. Fear not. Our dynamic duo have the aid of a powerful wizard called Merlin who has also suffered a transformation recently. Into a roll of toilet paper. I don’t think any film I have seen at this year’s festival has had quite such a tantalising set up and The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is every bit as silly and enjoyable as you might imagine.

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The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is not a film that requires too deep an analysis and I am struggling to think of much more to say than that it was a lot of fun. The visuals are reminiscent of Japanese animation with the style of a low budget Studio Ghibli film. This may not be the most original aesthetic but the plot certainly makes up for this with fresh ideas in spades. While undeniably a children’s film the humour is silly and funny without being too childish. Even the toilet humour has just enough sophistication to be actually funny and not repulsive. I laughed but never groaned and that is all I ask from a comedy.

What this film has in abundance is charm, heart, and magic. The bad guys are truly bad and the good guys are a little bit more complex. Our hero, the young boy in the shape of a cow, makes mistakes and hurts those who care for him but gets it right in the end. The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is endlessly endearing and offers something a little different in familiar packaging.

Go on, indulge your inner child.

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow has no UK release date yet but screens at the London Film Festival on the 18th of October 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

The Great Museum – LFF Review

The Great Museum

Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the world’s largest and most renowned art museums. Between 2011 and 2013 documentarian Johannes Holzhausen filmed at the museum capturing the day-to-day activities of the large art institution as it geared up for the reopening of the Kunstkammer collection. Setting himself the rule of not featuring any works of art unless in the context of the museum’s employees’ work Holzhausen avoided gratuitous shots of art in favour of capturing the minutiae of running the museum, managing the staff, and restoring its works of art. The documentary also lacks any narration or score instead relying on the actions and sounds of the museum to speak for themselves.

If this all sounds a little familiar then you might be thinking of Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery which is also showing at the festival. The two films are definitely related and share a similar style and rule set but where National Gallery failed to keep me engaged The Great Museum succeeded with flying colours.

While spending some time within the exhibition space of the museum Holzhausen only does so when following members of staff as they show people round or plan out exhibitions. The bulk of the time we spend at the museum is in departmental meetings, which I adore, and deep in the museums archives or restoration studios. In the meetings we witness managers debating the aggressive nature of the number 3 as printed on new promotional material and see how different departments feel isolated from the rest of the staff. In the museum’s archives it is revealed just how much art the museum owns that is not on display. Elsewhere we get a detailed look at just how painstaking the work of restorers is and how passionate they get when things do not go to plan. By the end of the film you feel as though you know the Kunsthistorisches Museum and its people. You know the effort that goes into every detail and the little dramas that take place every day.

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While I don’t want to linger too much on Wiseman’s rival film I think that The Great Museum comes out of the comparison well. This film has a more manageable running time of ninety minutes and as such has much less down time and filler. The Great Museum also has a more structured narrative, as much as an observational documentary can, as it follows the preparation of the Kunstkammer from the moment walls are knocked down to reshape the exhibition space to the grand opening of the collection. Finally and most importantly The Great Museum has a much greater variety of personality and roles to explore. We get to see every level of museum staff and how they spend their days; exploring everything from office politics to how pieces are obtained for the museum.

The Great Museum offers a unique perspective behind the scenes of one of the world’s greatest museums. By not including any commentary the audience is allowed to really take in everything we see. The background hum and clatter of the building is all the soundtrack we need. The film allows for subtle moments of humour simply by letting people be themselves in a non-self conscious way. By not asking anyone to speak to the camera Holzhausen allows his subjects to forget the camera is there and behave in an uncensored fashion. In amongst grand works of art people are still human and end up being far more fascinating than any of the artifacts on display.

A fascinating and entertaining documentary which allows its subjects’ personalities to dictate the tone.

The Great Museum has a UK release date of 12th December 2014 and screens at the London Film Festival on the 18th of October 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart – LFF Review

Captivated The Trials of Pamela Smart

In 1990 Pamela Smart’s husband Gregg was shot dead in their home in New Hampshire in what looked like an interrupted robbery. In 1991 Pamela Smart was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to kill her husband. It was shown in court that she convinced her 15-year-old lover and some of his friends to do the deed so that they could be together. The trial ran for 14 days and ended with a guilty verdict. What made this case remarkable was that it was the first trial to be televised and covered in real time by the media from the time the murder was committed to the time Pamela was sentenced. This documentary from Jeremiah Zagar explores the trial and examines the part that media had to play in how she was perceived.

Much as Gone Girl is an examination of a marriage gone wrong it is also a satire on the way in which American news outlets can shape the public’s perception of a murder case and those involved. Just as Nick Dunne was presumed guilty by some members of the media so Pamela Smart was presented as a scheming seductress before the case ever went to trial. This documentary even details just how hard it was for the courts to find a jury of fifteen people who weren’t already prejudiced about the Smart murder such that they could give objective judgement on the case. Considering the case of Oscar Pistorius which continues even right now in the media spotlight this is an important issue with relevance today.

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Captivated slowly and methodically makes the case that whether guilty or not, as this is impossible to ascertain from the evidence provided, Pamela Smart was unable to receive a fair trial in New Hampshire due to the media having already branded her as guilty. In a damning moment the judge actually refuses to have the trial take place in a different state where the story has less notoriety. The presumption is that he did this to maintain the personal publicity the case brought, even fantasising about being played by Clint Eastwood in a possible film adaptation. Clint Eastwood may never have played the judge but both Helen Hunt and Nicole Kidman have played versions of Pamela in different film adaptations. Both of which presumed her to be guilty.

It is not difficult to agree with Captivated about the treatment of Pamela Smart. After being shown an endless stream of clips from coverage at the time, artfully displayed on old television sets, along with modern-day interviews with those involved it is easy to agree with Zagar’s conclusion that with the media frenzy surrounding the trial there was no way for Smart to receive a fair trial and that her sentence was far too harsh as a result. Captivated is a fascinating and disturbing film but drags in places as it labours its point. There is only really one argument being made here and it is made repeatedly for an hour and a half.

Captivated is worth watching as its message is just as relevant today as it would have been back in 1991 as high-profile trials continue to be conducted on TV and in newspapers as much as in the courtroom. Bear in mind as you watch though that the documentary is just as much a part of the media narrative of the crime as the other films it reports on.

Who knows what really happened? As a final twist to the documentary shows, after twenty years not even those involved in the murder are immune from having their perceptions warped by the medias portrayal of the case.

Trust no one!

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart airs on Sky Atlantic on 15th October 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

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.

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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