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Film round-up: January 17, 2019

MARIA DUARTE and ALAN FRANK review Beautiful Boy, Mary Queen of Scots, London Unplugged, and Glass

Beautiful Boy (15)
Directed by Felix van Groeningen
★★★★

UNLIKE Ricky Gervais, whose every performance tends to recall his supremely irritating character from The Office, US TV Office star Steve Carrell has proved to be a far better and far less self-adoring actor.

Here Carrell is moving and utterly credible as David Sheff, a father in the US battling to save his teenage drug-addicted son Nicholas (Timothee Chalamet, magnificent).

He appears to have it all – actor, artist, athlete, editor of the school newspaper and high grades – but faces destruction through his addiction to meth, leaving his father fighting to save him and his family.

Based on the best-selling memoirs by journalist David Sheff and his son Nic, this vivid and riveting screen adaptation by Luke Davis and Belgian director Felix van Groening is emotionally authentic that grips as hard as any fictional story and never relaxes for a single shot.

Van Groeningen’s decision to rehearse for two weeks before filming — common in Flemish productions — pays off handsomely in the delivery of this potent and deeply moving true story.

Alan Frank

Mary Queen of Scots (15)
Directed by Josie Rourke
★★★

THE BATTLE in Mary Queen of Scots between two powerful women asserting their regal positions in a sexist patriarchal society raises issues that still resonate today.

Based on Dr John Guy's book Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, this epic drama provides a fascinating new look at Mary Queen of Scots (Saoirse Ronan) and her relationship with her English cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie).

The film suggests that left to their own devices the two monarchs, who were politically astute and were fighting similar battles against their male counterparts/enemies in their own royal courts, would have reached a workable compromise.

Ronan gives a powerhouse performance as the Catholic Mary Stuart who returns to Scotland from France to reclaim her rightful throne at 18. The newly widowed Queen of France discovers that Protestants have gained control of her homeland, led by the powerful and outspoken John Knox (David Tennant on wild form) who believes a female monarch is an abomination and against the will of God.

Robbie is equally phenomenal as Elizabeth who is under mounting pressure to marry and produce an heir.

Theatre director Josie Rourke's impressive debut feature is a rich and complex tale of two women who played men at their own game which culminates in their imagined meeting — they apparently only corresponded by letter — in a barn among billowing sheets

It is a stunning looking film which captures the beauty of the gloriously wild Scottish landscape and which portrays Mary Stuart in a refreshing new light.

The battle for gender equality, though, is still a work in progress.

Maria Duarte

London Unplugged (15)
Various directors
★★★★

WITH its short films directed mainly by a female-led talent pool of emerging film-makers, London Unplugged is a unique and fascinating portrait of modern Londoners. It deservedly won over audiences when premiered at last year’s East End Film Festival.

Supervising writer and producer Nick Hopkins scores strongly by vividly melding the work of film-school graduates, first-time directors and emerging writers whose short dramas are linked by footage of real-life athlete Bianca Richards running across London from east to west, exploring areas from Stratford to Kew Gardens during her epic journey across the city.

Issues raised in the brief but mostly compelling segments include explorations of housing, asylum and finding meaning and connection in a brutal capital, with the film-makers revealing the realities for ordinary people living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

There are effective contributions from such star names as Juliet Stevenson, Imogen Stubbs and Bruce Payne but, to the credit of all concerned on both sides of the camera, London Unplugged is ultimately led as much by its strong and involving story lines as by mere star contributions.

AF

Glass (15)
Directed by M Night Shyamalan
★★★

EVER since his critically acclaimed The Sixth Sense, M Night Shyamalan has always been ratjher hit-and-miss. Despite that, his films have always been unique, wonderfully surreal, thought-provoking and in the case of Unbreakable ahead of the curve.

 

Shyamalan delved into the superhero film genre years before it became fashionable and box-office gold and Glass is the long-awaited final instalment of his comic-book hero trilogy which he embarked on two decades ago.

 

Set three weeks after the end of Split, Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) and his multiple “alters,” nicknamed The Horde, have snatched four cheerleaders to feed to The Beast while security guard-turned-vigilante David Dunn (Bruce Willis), alias The Overseer, is hunting him down.

 

The pair end up in a psychiatric institution alongside Dunn's nemesis Mr Glass (a cracking Samuel L Jackson) under the care of Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a specialist in the delusions of grandeur of people who believe they are comic-book heroes.

 

It's sheer delight to see Willis and Jackson together again continuing where they left off. But it is McAvoy who knocks it out of the park once more, playing 20 different personalities, including a professor of Japanese cinema, a Spaniard and Irish twins.

 

Comic-book fans will have a field day dissecting Glass's exploration of the superhero mythology in all its minutiae. But the twist in the ending is head-scratching and poses more questions than it answers, spoiling what is otherwise a bold and riveting cinematic ride.

 

MD

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