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CINEMA Film round-up

Reviews of Gunda, Dream Horse, After Love, The Killing of Two Lovers, Flashback and Land (PG)

Gunda
Directed by Victor Kossakovsky
★★★★

IF YOU have ever contemplated whether or not animals are sentient beings, then this haunting and mesmerising film, following the lives of a real-life mother pig, a flock of chickens and a herd of cows, will reveal all.

Shot in black and white and devoid of dialogue, commentary and a music track, Victor Kossakovsky’s (Aquarela) new documentary is nevertheless an extraordinary and compelling watch as it takes experiential cinema to its most stripped-down form.

The first 20 minutes of the film focuses on its obvious Norwegian star, Gunda, as she gives birth to around a dozen piglets — it was hard to keep count — who were fierce in their battle to get one of her teats, even though they couldn’t even open their eyes yet.

You observe their inquisitiveness, curiosity and playfulness slowly growing, though their feeding frenzy is brutal to see. The look of love and resignation on Gunda’s face is heart warming, while her obvious confusion and bemusement at her betrayal at the end is heartbreaking.

It is her story that you end up being the most invested in as the chickens and the cows feel like unnecessary filler.

You really need to experience this on the big screen and certainly go in with an open mind.

MD
In cinemas

Dream Horse (PG)
Directed by Euros Lyn
★★★

THIS rousing and crowd-pleasing comedy drama is based on the inspirational true story of a Welsh woman who decided to breed a racehorse with the help of her local community.

It is spurred on by a compelling performance by Toni Collette (who nails the Welsh accent) as Jan Vokes, a supermarket worker and bartender, who recruits her husband Brian (Owen Teale) and local accountant Howard Davies (Damian Lewis) to help her set up a syndicate of local people to make her dream a reality.

They name the horse Dream Alliance, who grows to become a true working-class champion by proving to be more than a match for the multimillion-pound racehorses he competes against — beating them at their own game.

From a script by Neil McKay, director Euros Lyn delivers a classic heart-warming story of triumph against adversity and one which inspired and united a Welsh community. Though it feels very formulaic, it ends on a cheesy but emotional rendition of Tom Jones’s Delilah, belted out by the whole cast and their real life counterparts.
Frankly this is the kind of joyous film that we all need right now, after the awful 14 months we have had.

MD
In cinemas

After Love (12A)
Directed by Aleem Khan
★★★

A MIDDLE-AGED woman who converted to Islam on marrying her husband discovers, after his death, that he has been leading a double life in France in this powerful and devastating debut feature by writer-director Aleem Khan.

In a state of shock Mary Hussain (Joanna Scanlan) decides to travel from her home in Dover to Calais to confront Ahmed’s (Nasser Memarzia) French mistress (Nathalie Richard), but she uncovers more than she bargained for in this tragedy of errors.

This isn’t just about a loving wife in her 60s being betrayed by her husband in such an awful deceitful fashion — it is about a woman trying to grapple with her loss of identity. She gave up herself and her religion to marry him. She also learnt Urdu and immersed herself in her husband’s Pakistani culture and way of life, only to find that her marriage was a lie.

It is a complex and layered drama in which everyone involved is a victim.

MD
In cinemas

The Killing of Two Lovers (15)
Directed by Robert Machoian
★★

GOD Bless the Child director Robert Machoian returns to feature films with a dash of Jeremy Saulnier-esque desolation in this bleak, unyielding character drama, The Killing of Two Lovers. Clayne Crawford and Sepideh Moafi star as the Utah couple attempting to move on from the collapse of their marriage and the resulting havoc wrought upon their family.

Crawford — troubled star of the short-lived Lethal Weapon TV show — offers up a shining benchmark-performative for his repertoire here; his taut vulnerability and incandescent rage equally masterfully dealt. And masterful, indeed, is a word almost worthy of solely surmising The Killing of Two Lovers. Almost.

Sadly, it does also come along with a bewilderingly dull screenplay, Machoian spectacularly dropping the ball on the “writer” element of his writer-director role.

It’s undeniable that Machoian knows what he’s doing behind the lens. However, he appears to lack the ability to interestingly convey precisely why he’s doing any of it — a shortcoming that proves troublesome for a downbeat drama about familial and marital collapse.

Machoian is too fixated on neat imagery and tight framing for that though, and — though cinematographer Oscar Ignacio Jimenez’s visuals are truly jaw-dropping — they are not enough to carry a woefully deficient script.

VAN CONNOR
In cinemas

Flashback (15)
Directed by Christopher MacBride

ORIGINALLY saddled with the cumbersome moniker The Education of Fredrick Fitzell, TV’s Teen Wolf Dylan O’Brien takes another swing at becoming an actual thing in movies with Flashback, a muddled sci-fi mystery hash-up that plays as a sort of Gen-Z riff on The Butterfly Effect.

Funnily enough, O’Brien’s more than established himself in recent years as the Ashton Kutcher to Logan Lerman’s Topher Grace, and, to his credit, his lifeless monosyllabic delivery does genuinely suit the pompously self-insistent dystopian tone that Flashback is running with.

That feels more than a little accidental, however, with the overall production design and actual “filmmaking” at work suitably mid-tier enough in quality that writing problems quickly become comparatively glaring.

A mystery without investment is merely a series of conversations, and when they’re conversations as dull as one had with Dylan O’Brien, all bets are off that you’ll stay awake to the end.

VC
In cinemas

Land (12A)
Directed Robin Wright
★★

ISN’T that typical? You wait who knows how long for a movie about a disenfranchised and lonely woman going off-grid and fending for herself and two come along at once. Which only adds insult to injury for Robin Wright’s coma-coercingly dull Land, considering the one we got first at least won Best Picture. This one’s a dash more Wild meets Eat, Pray, Love however, as first-time director and star Wright’s Edee attempts to rediscover life among the glorious vistas of the US north-west, picking herself up a handy and conveniently dashing mountain man pal, played by Demian Bichir, along the way.

Wright’s directorial hand proves decently solid, her chemistry with Bichir reasonable enough, and Bobby Bukowski’s stunning capture of Edee’s new world is a definite high point. What this passion project lacks however — inexplicably — is passion. Come for the self-reflection, stay because you nodded off and didn’t leave.

VC
In cinemas

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