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Tense, beautiful, understated film about bereavement
In the UK, this movie was pitched as a fairly upbeat take on a family's recovery from the sudden death of the mother. Instead it is a painful and ultimately touching exploration of the strategies people use for coping with grief, loss and intense guilt.

Unlike other people who have left comments on IMDb, I found this a tense, gripping film. There may be little in the way of physical action but this is because the entire drama is played out at a psychological level. The youngest daughter is overwhelmed with guilt and self-loathing at having inadvertently caused her mother's death. The oldest daughter's fury at her sister over the death leads her to reject the younger girl through increasingly cruel behaviour, while her own grief leads her into ever-more dangerous situations. The father is so wrapped up in his own pain that he is unable to communicate with his daughters, missing all the clear warning signs of trouble despite his clear love for them.

This film is one of the most touching and true-to-life portrayals of bereavement I have seen. It is extremely understated but that makes it all the more powerful as it feels so real. The dramas are the small dramas of everyday life - a teenage girl staying out beyond curfew, a young girl missing for a few hours, a man's meaningless flirtation with a younger woman. As in real life, these feel tremendously important when they happen but generally mean nothing and have no lasting effects. Although these small dramas usually lead nowhere, Winterbottom builds them up to reflect the magnitude of feelings inside his characters.

I can see why people might find this film slow-paced but for me this was not the case. The psychological drama and pain of the characters more than compensated for the lack of physical action - and it was flawlessly acted. If you are interested in human relations, particularly family relations and grief, this is well worth seeing.


The Emperor's New Clothes
My advice would be don't waste your time with this film.

Large chunks were clearly meant to be ironic but much was also meant to be more darkly realistic. The result was a wildly veering mish-mash of genres which the director failed to navigate successfully.

Overall, the film felt like a mix between a 1940s melodrama and a 1970s made-for-TV two-part series, with a loathsome central character.

Two people in our group of 20 loved the film, so it must have something going for it. The rest of us were desperate for it to be over from about 20 minutes in. At one point, the main character gets sick, and from behind me and beside me I heard simultaneous mutters of "please die" and "thank god". That was exactly how I felt.

I am sure the film was making all kinds of comments about art, literature, characterization etc etc but it all went sailing over my head. Driving home, I said as much to my flatmate, and he paraphrased Bill Hicks to me: "The film was bad. Don't get suckered into believing it actually saying something complex and clever. It was bad. Leave it at that and walk away".

Fun with Dick and Jane

Truly atrocious
Jim Carrey is a particular brand of humour and I personally think he's a great actor (Eternal Sunshine, for example).

However, this movie is presumably intended to be nothing more than a Jim Carrey vehicle, so be aware straight off that if you don't think his style of comedy is funny, you will sit stony-faced throughout this film, as it has NOTHING else to recommend it.

Even if you do like Carrey's comedy, I am not sure you will find this film amusing. I went to see it on a Saturday night at 10:30pm and the audience was definitely ready to laugh. They giggled throughout the trailers, which weren't particularly funny, but when it came to the film, stony silence. I think it raised about five genuine laughs.

The problem with the movie is it doesn't know what it wants to be. It can't make up its mind whether it's going for slapstick or serious. If it were stupid throughout it could be forgiven but (I'm guessing) it's also trying to make a point about the relationship between the two central characters.

The strong point of the film is the hold-ups, and there was plenty of potential here. But these didn't start until about halfway through and remained largely undeveloped. Meanwhile, you have to sit through the first excruciating 40 minutes as the couple's life deteriorates.

Four separate groups walked out of this film while I was there, and if my flatmate hadn't asked me to keep away from the house (his girlfriend having just returned from a month-long vacation!), I would have done the same. And in my entire 25 years of movie going, I have done that just once before.

Ti amo in tutte le lingue del mondo

Silly if harmless
The first scene of this latest venture from Leonardo Pieraccioni (who directs and stars) bodes well but it goes downhill from there.

Giliberto is a 40-year-old gym teacher in a Tuscan high school. One of his students, 17-year-old Paolina, has a crush on him and hounds him relentlessly, threatening to accuse him of sexual harassment if he doesn't go out with her. Meanwhile. Giliberto has met the woman of his dreams, the stunning vet, Margherita. Complications ensue.

This film is harmless but really quite silly. Why Margherita is in love with Giliberto is not entirely clear (although we are treated to endless close-ups of Margherita playing with animals). Another bewildering point is why Giliberto puts himself in such repeatedly compromising positions with Paolina. Furthermore, the female characterization is weak and one-dimensional, with characters that seem little more than eye-candy.

That said, the fairly sympathetic character of Giliberto himself is nicely developed. The strongest point of the film is probably the touching portrayal of Giliberto's relationship with his stuttering brother Cateno, extremely well played by Giorgio Panariello.

Overall, a harmless way to pass an hour and a half, but you come out feeling like there might have been better ways to spend the time.

Fanfan la Tulipe

No work of art, not a total disaster...
If you don't go in expecting too much, this film is a pleasant way to pass some time. It is certainly no great work of art. Didn't see the original so can't comment on that score. Furthermore, don't really speak French (although enough to understand that Italian subtitled version missed large chunks of dialect), so Cruz's reportedly bad accent was lost on me. It is undoubtedly clichéd, lacking in any original ideas or concepts, and has gaping plot holes.

However, that said, it has no pretensions of being anything more sophisticated than what it sets out to be. My advice would be to enjoy it for what it's meant to be: fun, swashbuckling, mildly amusing entertainment with two luscious-looking stars. In fact, just watching Perez and Cruz alone make the whole thing worthwhile.

Au secours, j'ai 30 ans!

:Light, yet touching romantic comedy about friendship
Three childhood friends, who moved to Paris as young adults, are now in their early 30s. Beautiful Kathy, who has a fear of involvement, has won herself a reputation as cold and hostile to men. Despite her attraction to Romain, she keeps pushing him away, terrified of getting hurt. Tara, living with an emotionally abusive man, turns to food for comfort. Yann is the only one of the three who seems to have a satisfying emotional life, deeply in love with his boyfriend Alfredo.

Then one day, Yann is diagnosed with cancer, forcing all three friends to reconsider their lives. Things start to change....

For some reason, this film has received a low rating on IMDb, which it in NO WAY deserves. It isn't a heart-rending work of genius but deserves to be judged within its own genre, as an occasionally touching, feel-good film about romance & friendship. It's well-acted and the storyline trots along nicely, keeping you entertained. Perhaps its weakest point is its occasional foray into sugaryness - but then it's a romantic comedy, and certainly isn't as sickly sweet as Amelie or your standard Hollywood fare. The friendship between the three leads is very well played.

Don't expect miracles but it's a more than enjoyable way to pass 90 minutes. I thoroughly recommend it.

Garage Olimpo

Beautiful, hard-hitting film exploring torture in Argentina
This is a powerful, hard-hitting film, depicting the experience of a 'desaparecida' in Argentina at the end of the 1970s. Garage Olimpo examines how 18-year-old Maria copes with a sustained period of imprisonment and torture. One of the most disturbing elements of the film is its exploration of the bond and unexpected power plays that develop between Maria and one of her captors, Felix. Director Marco Bechis deals with the complexity of human relations unflinchingly - asking the viewer to consider the real nature of a range of human responses and experiences: love, hate, attraction, power, sex, sadism, kindness and the almost visceral need for basic physical and emotional contact. He typically heightens the impact of his subject matter through understatement and contrast. This can be seen in his use of sound for example, in which he sets up a ping-pong game or relentlessly upbeat song on the radio as a backdrop to scenes of implied violence. Bechis similarly avoids any direct shots of violence, using the captors' chillingly matter-of-fact attitude or the painstakingly slow build-up to the door closing on a torture room to let the viewers' imagination run riot. This approach is echoed by the cinematography, which after Maria's arrest is largely confined to the undergound network of cells and torture rooms where the prisoners are kept. Bechis uses this framework of restricted vision and heightened sound to reflect and convey the prisoners' experience. This is an unforgettable, disturbing and beautiful film, that sticks with the viewer long after the credits have rolled.

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