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Film reviews: Concrete Plans, Top End Wedding, Asia, Patrick and Uncle Frank

Morning Star critics Van Connor and Maria Duarte review Concrete Plans, Top End Wedding, Asia, Patrick and Uncle Frank

Concrete Plans (15)
Directed by Will Jewell
★★★

THIS intriguing thriller is set in a ramshackle manor house in the remote Welsh mountains, which becomes the hotbed of social unrest, bigotry, xenophobia and class warfare.

Writer-director Will Jewell’s debut feature centres on five builders who are hired by young and entitled landowner Simon (Kevin Guthrie) to renovate the sprawling old building. 

The men are housed in damp and mouldy portacabins and are treated with disdain by Simon, a total snob.

Tensions soon rise between the men as Jim (Chris Reilly), a bigot, takes a fierce dislike to the hard-working Viktor (Goran Bogdan), a Ukrainian labourer. Foreman Bob (Steve Speirs) tries to keep the peace but things spiral out of control when they learn that Simon has no intention of paying them. 

The film explores the inequalities between rich and poor; how the wealthy think they can get away with anything — and do (as Simon plots with his dodgy accountant on how best to avoid paying inheritance tax), while working people can’t.

It is exceedingly violent, gory and a fascinating yet sad reflection of British society today. 

MD

Available on demand November 23

 

Top End Wedding (15)
Directed by Wayne Blair
★★★

 

THIS crowd-pleasing Australian romantic comedy from the producers of The Sapphires is a love letter to aboriginal culture and heritage.

It follows newly engaged Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee), who have just 10 days to get married when they discover that Lauren’s mother Daffy (Ursula Yovich) has gone AWOL in the north of Australia while her heartbroken father Trevor (a standout Huw Higginson) is inconsolable — hiding in his pantry and sobbing to Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now,” which is funnier than it sounds. 

Co-written by Tapsell (The Sapphires) and directed by Wayne Blair (ditto) this is very much a film of two halves. The first is a rocky ride with an uneven comic tone, settling down in the second half as the action moves to the Northern Territory as the pair go on a crazy road-trip in search of Daffy, against some breathtaking landscapes and vistas. 

What this rom-com lacks in subtlety — we know exactly where it’s heading — it makes up for in heart-and-soul, particularly in the last 30 minutes as Lauren embraces her aboriginal roots, driven by a passionate and captivating performance by Tapsell. 

MD

Available on demand November 23

 

Asia (15)
Directed by Ruthy Pribar
★★★★★

WRITER-DIRECTOR Ruthy Pribar brings dramatic thunder to her feature debut and mother-daughter drama, Asia.

Sporting an uncanny resemblance to Lea Seydoux, Alena Yiv is the titular nurse and single mother called on to step up and become the parent she never had when teenage daughter Vika’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate.

Measured and moving yet gripping and suspenseful, Pribar delivers an astonishing drama with a pair of powerhouse performances from Yiv and young co-star Shira Haas. 

Lavish cinematography and sharp, insightful character-writing abound in a tale that pulls no punches and delivers one heck of an emotional wallop.

Raw, unflinching and unmissable, Asia stands firmly as one of the strongest cinematic offerings of 2020. In the English language it would be a prestige picture; in Pribar’s hands, it’s a modern masterpiece.

VC

Available on demand

 

Patrick (tbc)
Directed by Tim Mielants
★★★★

IN ANY other year the adventures of a nudist camp’s handyman embarking on an existential quest to locate his missing hammer might seem strange, yet this Belgian “dramedy” from Tim Mielants holds its own to form one of 2020’s more remarkable efforts.

Having gained fifty pounds for the role, Revenge hunk Kevin Janssens goes shlubby as the eponymous Patrick — his worn, world-weary demeanour masking a volatile mix of repressed  frustration and explosive rage.  

A fascinating performance, Janssens anchors a sublimely kooky debut from Peaky Blinders director Mielants. 

A compelling mixture of playful visual storytelling, quirky auditory punctuation and easily the best use of a nude fight scene in a movie since the first Borat, Patrick will doubtless be too “out there” to satisfy a wider audience. 

Those willing to strip down and take their chances, however, will agree there’s nothing else quite like it.

VC

Available on demand 

 

Uncle Frank (15)
Directed by Alan Ball
★★★★★

HAVING premiered at Sundance before Covid-19, American Beauty scribe and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball returns to our screens with 1970s-set drama Uncle Frank.

Hanging the lion’s share of its appeal on the always abundant charisma of Paul Bettany, Ball’s latest follows the eponymous college professor and his wide-eyed niece Beth on a road trip to the homestead following the death of a gruff and dismissive patriarch (Stephen Root).

A tightly constructed but overtly charming effort, Uncle Frank affords Bettany the playground in which to unleash his career best. Backed up by a wonderful supporting cast — including Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, and the always enjoyable Margo Martindale — Bettany is a tour de force as his journey becomes an emotional one, dealing with long-dismissed trauma relating to his self-discovery as an out-and-proud gay man.

Striking, sincere, and unashamedly heartfelt, it’s a timeless tale that could as easily have been set today — a robust and admirable production that also forms an impressive showcase for young It star Sophia Lillis as Beth.

As much about the destination as the journey, Uncle Frank makes for terrific company, and shouldn’t be missed.

VC

Available on demand 

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