Well, I thought I’d write a little bit about all of the films I saw.  Some I watched over a week ago so I can’t promise to recall everything I thought at the time.  And I saw so many, I might get bored.  We’ll see.  A lot of films have taken place between then and now as well as some actual life too, so… with that said, here goes.  Rather than putting photos in here, I am going to link to the trailers (if I can find them) so you can see for yourself what you think you might make of them!  I haven’t watched any of the trailer, so sorry if they’re wrong or anything…!  Errr…

I write in the order I saw them..

Friday 7th October

A Monster Calls 9/10

Please go to see this film when is is released.  It really is something very special indeed.  I was utterly emotionally unprepared.  Particularly by where it gets to by the end of it.

One of the films I saw at LFF was Their Finest which I’ll talk about later.  In said film, a character talks of (something along the lines of) people liking to watch films because they resolve life in satisfying ways, whereas real life is unpredictable and terrible things happen randomly and for no reason.  I found A Monster Calls refreshing because films don’t always speak truths, but this film dares to speak some really painful ones. It is about there being no easy answers and I found a bravery in where it goes to.

A Monster Calls captures how it feels to lose someone close to you in a lingering way, where you know it is coming with such startling truth that even as I think back now (I saw it over a week ago) tears come to my eyes.  It really is a beautiful film.  If I tell you Liam Neeson plays a Groot-esque (but a tad scarier) tree here to help you through grief, I think that really that should be enough to sell the film.  But there is so much more the film has to offer.

Firstly, the artwork and animation in the film are simply stunning.  I can’t describe how beautiful it is (although it is a little redolent of the animation in Deathly Hallows, but with ore colour.)  The film is about a Mother and Son who are artists themselves and I would be surprised if a child were to watch the film if they didn’t feel inspired to make art themselves following it.

But the film itself is simultaneously a coming of age story and about grief and what it is to lose someone.  The real monster in the film of course is Death and it looms large from the start.  Everyone tries to protect Conor from death, as we try to shelter not only children, but everyone if we can from death.  Through the tree and stories he tells, Conor gradually gains a new and fuller understanding of life, death and of his own family.  In a full cinema, I heard many sobs around me because it really is incredibly sad.  And the final story which Conor has to tell… I mean, I have felt that.  And it is a feeling so awful that I have never spoken about it with anyone, ever.  This film really does go to a very difficult place and it gets to a place of such truth by means of storytelling, art, imagination and creativity.  It uses art as a means of addressing pain and as a way through it.  What more could you ask from a film really?

I hope the film does do well. I do worry regarding its target.  I think it is refreshing that it seems to have been made without too much concern for the target audience: concern being only for the quality and truth of the film itself.  At the same time, despite it focusing on 13-year-old Conor and revolving around a tree-monster who tells stories, thus you might imagine it aimed towards children younger than this, emotionally and psychologically this is tough stuff.  I just checked and it is rated 12A.  I’d advise either reading it or looking up the details of the plot if thinking of taking children much younger than this.  Not that it would be too much as all depends on the individual.  There were some children perhaps a little younger than Conor sat beside me as I watched who had clearly read the book already.  It was hard to ascertain how they felt about the film, but I think it got the boy next to me considering that he had enclosed his entire head with his hood by the end of the film.  I believe all films are equal though and I hope many grown-ups go to see this without children too.  It deserves it.

This is a big film with special effects and big name actors and not a single concession with regards to how the film tackles its subject by the end.  It is difficult and beautiful to experience and if you’ve ever lost someone close to you it addresses your darkest feelings at the worst of times.  And, well, I can’t speak for how you will experience it, but I also found it strangely cathartic.

I didn’t talk about the cast, but everyone is great in it.  I have to mention though that Lewis MacDougall who plays Conor is brilliant.

If you want to see a heartbreaking film that deals honestly with the toughest truths of losing someone you love and uses fantasy and art to address truths and pull a grieving child through his pain… here is the film.

I promise I won’t write this much about all of the films!  Or do I….

King Cobra 7/10

From the sublime to the ridiculous?!  Yes, on my first day of LFF I went from a child’s fantasy-monster to help him with grief to a film about the gay porn industry.

It’s harder to write about films that you found fine than those you have a strong opinion on either way.  King Cobra is, I’d say more than fine.  I am embarrassed to confess I think I may have dozed off briefly in it though.  Ooops.  However, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Christian Slater and Garrett Clayton.

The film is based on a true story which I won’t say too much about as why not see it for yourself!  What the film does best is capture character.  There are four main characters (James Franco and Keegan Allen playing the other two – they’re great too in the film) and you get some kind of insight into the inner worlds, drives and emotional experience of all of these characters.

For me, Stephen (Slater) and Brent (Clayton) were the most interesting though.  Stephen is exploitative, yet pitiable.  He’s a pretty repulsive guy really, enticing young boys into the industry and clearly getting his own kicks from it all at the same time.  Simultaneously you feel empathy and sympathy towards him.  And the guy does know what he’s doing when it comes to making a ludicrous, yet popular porn film, it seems.   Slater really does have to do a lot of lechery.  Shudder.  The Director spoke afterwards and said the real Brent hadn’t seen the film yet as he wasn’t happy with artistic licenses they took making it so withdrew any support.  However, I feel Brent ought to be happy as the film portrays him pretty much in a positive light – as ambitious, yet not mean and callous like the rest of the folk here.  There’s a sweetness mixed with drive that makes for a pleasing and amusing little ending to the film.

Overall, the film doesn’t really say enough for you to feel you love it.  It’s just too light.  I mean, as light as a film about gay porn with minors, involving stabbing someone to death and burning things to the ground can be.  Y’know…  Just another Friday afternoon at the flicks.

Can I say, people seemed angry at James Franco in the Q&A afterwards.  Why are you angry?!  It seemed people were angry because James Franco is playing a gay man, but not a nice gay man: a not nice gay man.  As though that means he hates gay men.  I don’t get the logic.  He is producer on this film so surely a big (or even THE?) reason it got made…  If an actor played a load of murderers, would you say he thought all men were murderers?  I just don’t see the logic… Aaaanyhoooo….

Saturday 8th October

The Secret Scripture 4/10

[I cannot find a trailer…]

Oh dear, The Secret Scripture.  Some fine acting here and it all looks beautiful.  There’s certainly no problem in imagining the beautiful Rooney Mara as a lady all the boys desire.  But the actual plot?  Oh my, I found it madly, bizarrely, ludicrous.  It is simply loopy!

Mara plays Rose, who has been locked away in psychiatric care for a long time after (although we discover also before) supposedly murdering her own baby.  Rose has written her own “secret scripture” as in the title in her many years locked away.

At first you’re along for the ride. Here’s Rose: free-spirited and determined to do things her own way in a war-time society in Ireland where everyone knows everyone else’s business and everyone would have ladies know their places and stay in them.  Every man loves Rose’s spirit and beauty and everyone wants her though, including the local priest who drives much of Rose’s fate.

Rose loves Michael (Jack Reynor) though.  He’s gone against the local feeling and has gone off to as a pilot to fight for the British in the war.  At one point, Rose imagines a plane flying overhead is Michael just flying over to let her know he’s OK.  Later in the film, a plane crash lands 20 feet from where she’s living and it is actual Michael.  What are the chances?!  No, I mean really.  What are the chances……  You wouldn’t get odds on it.  It was from this ludicrous moment onwards that I assumed Rose’s account of her past couldn’t be all there was to this story.  Your one true love is not in a zillion years going to crash land in your back garden.  This has to be the account of some severe psychosis or something, surely.  Is Mara going to get to do some really incredible acting here?  When will we get to the big reveal?

The film as well as being set in the 1940’s comes back to current day (ish) with Vanessa Redgrave playing current-Rose and Eric Bana playing an empathetic psychiatrist assessing Rose before she is moved to a new location after decades of being locked away here.

I may as well tell you so you don’t sit there, expectantly, like me.  There is no big reveal.  Rose’s story, as she tells it is, unbelievably, just how things were.  There is a twist at the end that rather than being a shocking revelation, just makes you want to laugh because it is even more ludicrous than the bizarre unreality of Rose’s account.

I mean, I am not sure, but I think I heard some people crying during the film, so clearly not everyone felt the same way as me.  But I just found it absolutely crazy and not in a good way.  The acting is very good, but really there’s no joy in that in a story that felt irritating and stupid to me.  Sorry, film.  Now I’ve written this, I want to mark it lower, but I think for the acting the film deserves 4/10 at least.

Quite simply, bemusing.  I was left simply shaking my head at it.

Manchester by the Sea 10/10

I’ve written more about this, here: My Manchester By The Sea ramble.

If you were thinking I couldn’t possibly have another word to say I didn’t already voice there, think again folks!

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was the first film of its nature I ever saw (not that I’ve ever seen another quite like it since.)  I’ve loved Casey Affleck (and Andrew Dominik) since this time.  The idea he might win an Oscar for it has been the one and only time I was particularly bothered about anything earning an Oscar.  I can’t believe I got to attend a UK premiere of a film of Casey’s. And such a brilliant film too.  I feel so lucky.  Another day, another film full of grief….

I wrote about the film in the above post, but I didn’t say a lot about facts there, so here I’ll say the film introduces us to Lee Chandler (Affleck) as a janitor, doing what he has to: doing a good job where he can, with absolutely no concern for social niceties and no desire to interact with any other human in any way whatsoever.  Lee does his job then sits in front of the telly or at a bar, drinking alone.  He speaks only when he has to.  But after a few drinks, perhaps uncharacteristically given the rest of his closed nature, he likes to start fights.  As though he’s looking for someone to put him out of his misery and bring an end to him.

Lee’s brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies suddenly, but not unexpectedly and Lee is pulled from his one-room existence and forced to return to Manchester By The Sea, a place that was once his home, to inform and then look after his sixteen-year-old nephew.

When people talk of this as a film about grief, don’t get the wrong idea.  Joe’s warmth in life and his absence for those who remain is really felt strongly in the film, even though we never see him except in flashbacks for he is already dead when the film begins.  However, his son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and brother cope with his death as well as could be expected.  I mean, better than you might expect in the main, really.

Remember where we began, with A Monster Calls?  Lee could be a character in one of the Monster-Tree’s stories for sure.  Once upon a time Lee thought he knew it all; had everything worked out.  Life taught him otherwise.  (Oh gosh, this is what happens when you write about 5873 films one after the other!)

Manchester by the Sea is pretty remarkable because none of the characters are particularly remarkable, yet the film reveals inner experience in so sharp and raw a way that you feel it as though the pain is your own and you want to fix it for it hurts you as it hurts them and if you can’t fix it for them you feel like your own life might not be on solid foundations and could also at any moment slip into this abyss.

I don’t think there’s any actor who can do what Casey Affleck does here.  Doubtless, there are many roles he’s not suited for too of course, but in this kind of role.  It’s the kind of performance where you watch another film the next day and the folks in it might be fine or even good but you feel like they’re false after experiencing this.

This film is pure magic.  You want to fix Lee as though his pain were your own.  Sure he’s funny, but if you hadn’t felt this world of pain inside him, you’d probably see Lee as not a guy you’d want to know.  He’s silent, uncommunicative, abrasive and closed.  And after this film, I’ll wonder about people I meet from now on.  Wonder about what brought them to where they are now.

Manchester by the Sea is a harsh but tender look at the worst place life can take a human to.  It isn’t particularly hopeful in its ideas about whether it is possible to ever recover or move on from something unspeakably terrible, yet, bizarrely, at the same time it isn’t entirely without hope either.  I sobbed a lot.  And it manages to do that thing where nothing can be happening, yet everything is happening.  By the end, I kept starting to sob again when a million nothings of things made me think or feel something physically (or emotionally I suppose, but it felt physical) unbearable.

If you want more of my thoughts on this one, I have them aplenty!

Surprise film! Sully 7/10

Wahey! I went to a surprise film!  This was a last minute thing.  To be honest, Manchester by the Sea left me in a place where I felt afraid.  I was staying in a place that was £30 a night in central London and not a hostel.  From this you can perhaps imagine the quality of the room I was staying in.  It was in a dodgy area and when I’d arrived to check in the night before, the police were there in reception as I got there.  I checked in amidst a lovely, altercation betwixt police and non-police-based-human, sort of trying to pretend it wasn’t happening!  Joy!  I’d sat in my dark, smelly room that night and I have to say here the poor staff on reception at this place were proper lovely.  Just one man at night and a lady in the day.  Having to deal with incidents where they have to call the police and they’re the only person there…  Anyway, Manchester by the Sea felt like it had pulled my heart out and squeezed it in an attempt to end it entirely, but more worryingly, it made me feel afraid of myself.  Afraid to go and be alone in this dismal room.

So I got a last minute ticket to see the SURPRISE FILM!  It was Sully.  I’d like to thank Sully, because it was just what I needed.  It keeps your attention and I don’t think it is a spoiler since it is based on a true story to say that it all works out OK in the end.  It is tense and involving and it makes you worry for the characters, but you never worry so much you can’t bear it.  It’s pretty safe.  It isn’t going to change my world, but it was just what I needed at that moment in time to restore me to a psychological location where I was able to return to my dismal life.  Thanks, Sully!

Actually, I’m doing it a disservice: It was very good!  I’d actually rate it higher than 7, but when I compare it with the films I have rated 8, I enjoyed or felt them more, so sorry Sully.  You’re a 7, but rest assured, I like all films I rate 7 and above!  I thought this one was really well done.  I only didn’t rate it higher as I am at a film festival so every film here, I am giving a mark in comparison with the others in terms of how much it made me feel.

The lady introducing the film told us all to stay in our seats as there’d be a very exciting guest on stage afterwards.  Then a Tom Hanks film Directed by Clint Eastwood came on.  We didn’t really think Tom Hanks would be there.  But could we see Clint Eastwood, all of us thought.  Poor Aaron Eckhart.  That said, I saw him in Bleed for This the following day and he really is great there and so different to in this film.

Sunday 9th October

Souvenir 8/10

Gosh, what a pick was this one.  Given my ranting on and on and the fact that I adore Casey Affleck, I am sure it is a surprise to no human that I watched Manchester by the Sea again the next morning.  I had actually felt like it would be too painful to rewatch when I watched first time, but bizarrely I enjoyed rewatching and revelling in the pain.  On second watch I also took the most tentative sense of hope as well from it.

Even so, Souvenir was just what I needed to counter the heaviness.  This is such a sweet film.  Isabelle Huppert plays a lady who works in a pate factory, but decades ago she was a singer in the Eurovision song contest, the same year as ABBA won.  A young boy of 22 at the factory recognises her (his Dad is a fan) and there begins the sweetest love story which works so delightfully because there is a true and warm chemistry between Liliane (Huppert) and Jean (Kévin Azaïs.)

Let’s be honest here, Liliane was never the greatest artiste the world has seen.  She was a young singer in a little pop contest, there more for her beauty and charisma than musical wonderment.  Huppert does all her own singing I think in the film and there is a real charm to it.  Jean acts as her muse.  He enables Liliane to rediscover singing and music and as such, to rediscover life really.  And she’s not brilliant now, just as she wasn’t then, but through being creative again, she discovers living and the world rediscovers her for a time.  And though this love affair, Jean begins to grow from boy to man.

The film could easily veer to sentiment or seem false or one-sided, but the two leads make you feel that the age gap is nothing and there is genuine feeling between these people.  It really is adorable.  By the end of the film, what is left is that you feel genuine feeling between Liliane and Jean.  It is a happy film!

I am NOT a fan of the feel good film.  So I think it says even more that I was with this one all of the way.  If you’re feeling a little sad, this is the perfect film to cheer you.  It is quite simply a joyous little delight.  And you’re sure to leave singing too!

Bleed for This 8/10

OK, so I had about 20 minutes from the ending time of this film to make my train at Euston.  It was possibly a mistake to go see it as I sat through the whole thing, feeling STRESS, but I’m really glad I did see it!

Bleed for This is a boxing drama about Vinny Paz.  Normally in a drama about a real person, you’d have all kinds of focusses.  Perhaps some relationship drama.  Something or other external.  However, Bleed for This doesn’t particularly bother with any of that.  It sets out with Vinny in the late 80’s and it sticks with him through it all.  It is quite a simple film, just about Vinny’s boxing career and an absolutely incredible achievement of him fighting to return to boxing following a near-fatal car crash.

It’s not a showy film, but what it does is it makes you really feel the grit and determination of Vinny. And it doesn’t do it in a big effort of a way with a load of heavy drama.  It is pretty matter of fact with it all.  Viny knows what he has to do,  He does it.  It is a pretty difficult watch at times though.  There was one point in the film when I really thought I was going to faint.  I nearly had to leave the screening, but I could tell that if I’d have stood up right then I would have fainted, so I just slumped in my seat a bit and eventually the feeling passed.  I am not sure quite why it was, since it didn’t happen during an excruciating moment, but a little time after it.  But yes, there are screws in skulls and it feels pretty gosh real! Wah!  Somehow it is harder to watch because it feels real more than there not being anything more gruesome out there if that makes sense?

I was surprised how moved I was by the end of the film.  It made me cry.  It is genuinely inspirational.  Vinny says something about the biggest thing he’d learned having been that it’s simple.  You set your mind on something and you go for it and you get there.  Vinny does that and it truly is inspiring.  It really got me emotional.  And that’s despite my watching in a stressed and not feeling brilliant even by the end state.

The first film I ever saw at LFF (I went once before in 2014) was Whiplash, at 10am one morning.  Interesting that that film with Miles Teller was about drive and so is this.  I don’t think this film has thus far gotten that great a critical reception, but I really, really loved it.  I can’t recall a lot about the film Southpaw now to compare with another recent boxing film, but I do know I liked this a lot more, because I felt engaged, inspired and it got me emotionally.

Just like what Vinny learned, Bleed for This sticks with the simple story and it tells it in a way that is both powerful and where you really feel it.  Great film and great performances.  I recommend.

PS I had to miss the Q&A to catch my train but since I really liked the film, I’d have loved to have heard it.  I saw they were filming it.  Does anyone know if and where I could watch it?  Thanks in advance if so!

Friday 14th October

Their Finest 5/10

[Can’t find a trailer…]

Oh no.  I want to say I loved the film.  The Director spoke after it and she seemed proper lovely.  And there was nothing wrong with the film at all.  Everyone’s great in it and it’s about a strong lady too which is always nice.  I give my rating on this one entirely from a subjective standpoint.  Objectively I’d say it’s maybe 1 or 2 marks higher.  But it is just the kind of story that really is not my taste.  So for me, I’d only rate it this.

Set during the second world war, Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, who initially gets a job writing the ladies lines in propaganda-ish films.  Oh, I feel like I can’t be bothered writing about it.  I mean it’s fine.  It all happens as you’d expect.  There’s a sad little twist at the end.  I couldn’t really tell you why I felt nothing from it.  Bill Nighy, I confess is delightful in it in particular.  But it just sort of happened around me and it was just alright.  I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about it.  Just really not to my taste at all.

I feel I should apologise to you, Their Finest.  I don’t want to say too much as I know it just isn’t my kind of film so I don’t want to be negative about it when it is me, not the film.

Brimstone 2/10

Oh dear.  A bit of an unhappy day at LFF.  Can we just begin with how much does Dakota Fanning in this film look like Marion Cotillard?  SO MUCH!  OK, I got that off my chest!

Unlike Their Finest, which is not to my taste but will be to many people’s, Brimstone is plain bad.  What was everyone thinking?  The most unfortunate element of the film, as I see it is that it is a very serious subject matter (incest and sexual feelings towards one’s own children and grandchildren) but it is handled in a rather bizarre way in which the film initially and at several later points, feels like a horror film where all the terrible things that happen feel as though they may have some mythological cause.  The Reverend (Guy Pearce) from the outset looms like a Vampire (accentuated by his accent – the family emigrated to the US from the Netherlands) whilst Liz (Fanning) wanders the landscape looking terrified, mute and using sign language and I’m thinking it is a very bad version of The Piano.

It’s such a strange film.  It feels like it lasts for about a day.  The structure I suppose works for the story.  But the story just keeps getting more and more awful, yet not in a way where you’re particularly shocked by where it goes.  But indeed in a very gruesome way.

I’m honestly not sure how to talk about the film.  I could talk about Kit Harrington who pops up briefly playing a proper Yee-Haw cowboy.  Don’t take it as too much of a criticism as I saw Kit in a play recently and he was great, but I couldn’t stop giggling at his comedy cowboy here.  And I assume he’s not meant to be particularly funny…?  But amidst all of the horror, I just wanted to giggle.

Almost everyone ends up dead.  It’s blooming miserable.  The reason Liz is mute is pretty grim and The Preacher is more like a Vampire than a human he is such a caricature of evil.  In fact at one point he gets his throat slit but still survives.  I think his throat was just not slit with enough force to kill him, but I think it would possibly have been a more interesting film had he been unequivocally dead and you knew all that chronologically followed this was more metaphorical than literal and Liz was driven to her own destruction due to the terrible events that had been her entire life until this point.

Ho hum.  It’s brutal, intentionally misogynistic, hopeless, gruesome, relentless and not a nice watch and it hasn’t got anything interesting to say that I took from it at least.  I give it 2/10 not 1/10 as I think Dakota is alright….  And the young teenager who plays young Liz (Joanna as she is known then), Emilia Jones  is particularly great.

But really, don’t watch it.  Unless you like to watch women and children (and the odd man too who has the misfortune to get too close to Liz) relentlessly tortured and killed for three hours, with no point at all to it all.

Nocturnal Animals 5/10

I think the cast and crew of this film stayed in the screening and watched it with us.  I think they may be the only people of all the stars of films I attended who did that.  I’m not sure if they did for certain as they didn’t come on stage again at the end, but they all sat down at the start at least and I love that.  Watch your films with us, please.  I’d have thought it’d be lovely to hear the audience’s reaction to your work.  When cast and crew come in, speak for about 10 seconds and leave, I mean, I think what’s the point in your having come at all.  May as well have not bothered with the air fares.  All it achieves is to make us, audience feel even more like the meaningless ants I have seen the film industry considers the general public to be.  Stamp on me!

Anyway, Nocturnal Animals.  It certainly has a couple of jump out of your skin moments.  It is sort of unfortunate in that it is a film which is involving as you experience it as you’re wondering where it is going to end up, but it makes you want to think about it afterwards, and the more you think about it, the more of a sour aftertaste it leaves.

The film begins with lots of naked, red haired, overweight and/or older ladies dancing in a burlesque style, completely naked.  Then they’re all lying on slabs.  Not in a sexy way.  In a way like they look dead.  It is art in Susan’s (Amy Adams) gallery.  She doesn’t think much of it.  It goes on for ages.  And when I think back on the film, I can’t shake the disconcerting notion that this is how this film sees women.  As meaningless pieces of meat.  It is certainly how it uses women….

The film’s main character is in fact Susan (does this make it better or worse?!)  She was married maybe twenty years ago, for two years to Edward.  Back then Edward wanted to be a writer.  Eventually Susan and he divorced.  Susan committed a heinous act.  She implied he was “weak”.  She got her just desserts though because now Susan is in an unhappy marriage and is generally unhappy with her life.  She receives a novel in the post, from Edward.  He’s about to publish it.  It’s called “Nocturnal Animals.”  Edward used to call her his nocturnal animal (she doesn’t sleep much.)  It is dedicated to her.

The rest of the film follows Susan reading the novel a lot instead of sleeping and it seeping into all aspects of her daily life (hence the jumps.)  Jake Gyllenhaal plays Susan’s husband in the past and also the husband in his novel which is filmed.  Isla Fischer though plays the wife in the novel rather than Amy Adams doing this too.  Not sure the reason for this, but there probably is one. …?

I shan’t tell all the details of the novel Edward wrote.  But basically, it isn’t brilliant and given the fact that it involves a character very like Susan herself who is brutally murdered, and Edward dedicated the book to her, it is difficult to ascertain quite what Susan is feeling and why this novel all of a sudden means that Susan decides Edward was the love of her life and she needs him back.  So she’s unhappy.  We get it.  But when your ex sends you a novel he wrote, named with your pet name, dedicated to you, in which you’re brutally murdered and callously discarded of in the first few minutes… why do you want to get back with him again…..???

The story Edward writes is quite odd too.  The husband in the book is just taken along by the cop on all the investigations.  Surely that wouldn’t happen?  I would have thought that at least at first the cops might have been a little suspicious of Tony (the character he plays.)

There are a couple of scenes of Susan and Edward in the past too and they genuinely do look decades younger.  It’s kind of disconcerting… Was it just me?

It’s all just pretty bizarre.  I’m happy those involved watched the film with us and I definitely jumped and was intrigued as I watched, but if it sometimes feels like the film-world sees the general public as ants, I can only assume those who wrote this film see women as the fleas on the back of an ant…?  I dunno…  I could easily have just not understood….???

It’s Only the End of the World 6/10

I saw Tom at the Farm at the cinema and I adored it.  I was so intrigued it lead me to discover the work of Xavier Dolan.  Dolan is the sole reason I discovered London Film Festival was a thing that existed in the first place.  The reason I attended in the first place was to see Mommy in 2014.  I even saw Mommy again at a foreign film festival.  I love Dolan’s work – how he gets you to feel.  I love the melodrama and big emotions but how at the depth he gets at something true.  (The only film of his I didn’t like quite as much was Laurence Anyways.  I still liked it but didn’t feel it quite as much as every other one.)  I think he’s incredibly talented and I adore Mommy, I Killed my Mother, Tom at the Farm and Heartbeats (which even though it is about lust essentially, I still feel something real from it.)

So, I am sad to say that I just didn’t like It’s Only the end of the World very much.  I am really sad to say it.  And when I say it, know that I mean I didn’t like it in comparison to Dolan’s other films.  I wasn’t horrendous.  I just didn’t feel much from it which is totally unexpected when it comes to Dolan.  All of his other films I really feel.

So the film is about Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) a writer who returns home after a 12 year absence to see his family and to tell them he is dying.  In the end he never does this.

What I felt from the film was how Louis wants to be there for his family and wants them to be there for him in an emotional sense.  And his family want Louis to be there in a physical sense.  They’d do anything to encourage him to stay.  They all dress up as if they could dress themselves up as the perfect characters that could keep him here.  Louis listens to everyone, sadly, but unable to really connect.  Home after all this time, memories flood in.  But he can’t stand being here and wants away.

It is like a never ending Christmas day, post lunch, when all the arguing begins in this film.  There is an awful lot of screaming.  Everyone is hysterical and shouts and cries and rails at each other and although there is some nice acting going on, it is hard to feel much from.  Both because everyone is screaming and because nobody is saying anything of much importance or truth.

There are some nice scenes, for example when Suzanne (Lea Seydoux) gives in and does a silly aerobics dance with her Mother (Nathalie Baye) – Dolan can always capture these little family touches.  I liked Catherine (Marion Cotillard) the only (other than Louis, I guess) quiet character – nervous and caring.  The most interesting character I think is Antoine (Vincent Cassel) – also the most prickly and difficult, he is the only character (and this definitely included Louis who I felt I probably understood the least about who he was inside) who you get something of a sense of who this man is as opposed to just how he is acting.  There’s something really sad about Antoine inside and it is like he’s covered it up with this other personality.  He also seemed to me to maybe understand Louis in a way none of the others do or can.

Really though, the only scenes where I felt much were Louis’ memories.  There are not lots of them, but when they impinge, Louis remembers a family picnic or a first lover and it is all colours of emotion, textures and fragments and is almost like you can smell the situation.  The soundtrack swells as memory takes over.

Maybe I just didn’t get it.  I felt how Louis and his family were pulled to each other yet Louis can’t live here (I mean, who could in this hysteria!!?!)  But it’s just not enough.  Dolan’s other films all have some sort of powerful feeling or atmosphere or something I feel deeply.  This didn’t.  At all.

Did all these stars say they wanted to work with Dolan and the project was picked that way rather than being something Dolan desperately wanted to do?  Does the play just not work so well as a film?  Is the play just not that great itself?  Is the film?  I don’t know.  But it didn’t do it for me.

I thank Xavier for being the only person in all the Headline Galas I saw at the Odeon Leicester Square who stuck around after the film and spoke for ages about it with interesting and insightful words.  But I am so sad I don’t adore the film like I do most of his work.  Also, when I think about the number of people outside when Mommy was first screened and compare it with the hoards we had to get through to get in this time it makes me scared to think this may be the first Dolan film some people have seen.

If you saw this and it was your first Dolan film, please watch his others.  Even if you loved this one, I find it hard to envision there’s not some other of his work you’d love more.

Saturday 15th October

Lady Macbeth 9/10

[Can’t find a trailer, sorry!]

The final film! And a great one!  You’ve never seen anything quite like this film.  I almost don’t want to tell you anything at all about it.  Florence Pugh is fierce and incredible.  Cosmo Jarvis has a little bit of the Tom Hardy to him.

Set in the days when a lady belonged to her husband, we quickly see Katherine (Florence Pugh) has a dismal time of it.  Even the way her servant harshly drags a brush through her hair, or painfully tugs at the laces in her corset convey harshness Katherine exists in.  Said servant is also told to watch Katherine so she doesn’t fall asleep before her husband comes to bed.  It all shows Katherine has no life: maybe less of a life than even her servants.

Katherine is always falling asleep.  She loves to be outside.  We’re in Yorkshire and she likes to wander the moors.  But none of the men want to let her outside or to do or be anything at all.

Katherine’s husband likes to get his young bride to undress.  But he never touches her.  One day away goes her husband and away goes his Father and Katherine is left alone with the servants in this sparse abode.  At last, out into the moors she can go.

A new servant arrives, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis.)  He’s a bit feisty.  But nowhere near as feisty as is Katherine.

The film is called Lady Macbeth so you can likely imagine what kinds of things begin to go on from this point.  There is an absolutely adorable little boy in the film at one stage, but don’t get too attached!

With difficult themes and mounting atmosphere, this film really, really works.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I loved it.  I don’t want to say too much.  Watch for yourself, but it is dangerous in the best kid of ways: a dangerous, unique film with fierce, always interesting performances.

I had another film to rush to but am so glad I stayed for the most delightful Q&A I have ever been present for, in which Florence sparkled like a star of true charisma, Cosmo talked about his dead pet cat, Polly and the filmmakers discussed having to wait ages to obtain a horse that died of natural causes and then having to paint said dead horse because it was a brown horse and the dead horse in the film was a white horse.  We all giggled away and kind of forgot about all the DEATH as we heard them talk about chemistry, Victorian soap and not washing before sex scenes due to being METHOD mateys.

A good choice.  Well done me.  Well done folk who made it.

Catch this film!

And that folks is all I saw!  Take from it what you will.  I do not know what I wrote, but I know it is a LOT! Ooof!  Clearly I am no film reviewer so these are just random thoughts as I recall them now.

I once literally ran about a city which is not my home in order to watch the film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints three times in one day. When it comes to film acting, Casey Affleck is the one for me. I love the love he is rightfully getting for his work in Manchester by the Sea, but from my experience Affleck always works from the inside. I don’t think anyone is able to express the internal depth and nuance of a character like Casey. He doesn’t need dialogue or that scene in a film. All he needs is for a character to have something to them in the first place.
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In Manchester by the Sea, wonderful serendipity occurs as an actor who is masterful at conveying internal experience works with a writer and Director creating a film where this is also the focus. The result is life in both its simplicity and complexity. The film takes both the mundane and the utterly tragic and rather than focusing on either, it conveys the impact of life upon people. I found it a very soulful film. With sparse beauty, script, actors and Director coalesce to crush your heart with the characters’ experience.

Manchester by the Sea lets us feel who Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is long before we know why. Affleck is light and understated, doing very little, yet searingly intense at the same time. Lee is a man who has closed himself off from life in every way in order to survive, but all that really separates him from an unspeakable and unfathomable abyss of pain is place. While divulging no plot, Manchester by the Sea focuses on a lead who is (understandably) unable to overcome an event that happened in his past. He has never addressed this event in any way and the only way he has been able to continue to exist following it is to remove himself from the place… and almost from existence entirely.

The film is aptly titled, for place is so important to it. Have you ever felt like you weren’t sure if you’d ever be able to live in or visit some place ever again because it held such memories? I know I have. Unlike Lee, the things that made me feel that way were not insurmountable. But I remember how it felt. Every second back in Manchester by the Sea is threatening: pulling forth memories, and Kenneth Lonergan offers no get-out clause. You crave some kind of resolution for Lee, or at least the vaguest possibility of hope, but such is never offered. For Lee, to go through a barrier to address his past would be self-immolation. mbts3

Sounding miserable? Like life, Manchester by the Sea contains much humour, too. Often it is laugh out loud funny. The absurdity and awkwardness of life in both mundane and tragic times is funny. The characters are often funny. I loved the band practices so much! There’s a warmth of humour to the film and to family interactions between Lee and his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges: so convincing and sharing interesting traits with his Uncle) which I hope everybody has experienced at some time in life with their own family. The chemistry between Affleck and Hedges is perfect and gives so much to the film and I look forward to seeing Lucas Hedges in many films in the future for he’s wonderful here.

At a sad time in my life, I remember wondering how any human made it to old age. So many memories people must have, I thought. How did people bear even more of them? Manchester by the Sea uses flashbacks which eventually reveal what we’ve felt the impact of from the start of the film. You also know there is something to reveal since you see past and present are different. These moments from the past flood in suddenly. They are surely Lee’s memories, coming to him randomly but consistently, as memories do, forcing him involuntarily to remember and so to feel everything he has had to shut himself off from. He cannot afford to allow that, but at the same time he has responsibility and while Lee has closed off all possibilities for the future for himself, perhaps his brother knew that responsibility towards a person Lee will always be connected to is at least one reason for him to continue to exist.

Manchester by the Sea itself spends most of the film in the grip of Winter. Streets are lined with walls of snow and ice, which you feel after a while might be a permanent feature and may never melt. It seems stuck in a time which seems endless and inescapable. But while Spring comes for Manchester by the Sea, for Lee there is no release. Yet, there is another side to the place: a wild sea, and seabirds overhead. Birds always feel free and the life that takes place on the sea also is where there feels the vaguest sense of hope. Lee smiles here once: the first he’s smiled in present time that we’ve seen and so powerful because of the fact.

I personally felt Manchester by the Sea captured depression. A depression prompted by guilt and a persistent grief turned to melancholia, which will never be overcome. Lee has moments when a desire for self-destruction bursts out: violence the only way he is able to articulate his pain, but most of the time he just accepts a semi-existence, aware that this is all there will ever be for him. I also can’t stop thinking about the start of the film where Lee speaks to his nephew, jesting about something along the lines of being the one who has all the answers; who knows the map; who understands it all and knows how to survive. But the thing is, life is wild and humans are fallible. There is no map. There’s more to this, but I think it gives away more than I ought to speak of it if you haven’t seen it!

Manchester by the Sea gets right down to the depths of folk and the broken soul of Lee really destroyed me. I personally loved how this film, so focused on the deepest aspects of experience was scored with so much vocal music (and a fair bit of strings to boot) for what more articulates the soul than this? I also found the purity of the score a perfect match for the rawness and purity of pain. mbts2

Talking about raw, Lee is not the only character who is broken here. Patrick shows surprising resilience given what his character experiences, but Michelle Williams as Lee’s ex-wife, Randi has a world of pain of her own which she conveys powerfully in relatively few scenes which span a decade in Randi’s life.

Manchester by the Sea is a film that I’d be surprised if you could easily get out of your head because it gets down to the difficult depths of what life does to us and how we can undo our own lives and it offers no map out. There are films that can have you sobbing but five minutes after they’re over you’re fine again. This one though lingers days after the credits. It takes its time to break you down (given that the subject matter isn’t happy from the start, it is some time before you’ll need a hanky!) but once it gets going, the tiniest of things kept making me shake with sobs. At the same time, as well as revealing a pain that feels physical even as a mere viewer, Manchester by the Sea gets to this place with warmth and humour and even to its most broken inhabitant, family is what matters.

Imagine how many Lee’s there must be out there. How many people are, for whatever reason, irrevocably damaged? How many people have had to limit who they are? How many people are merely existing? Manchester by the Sea made me want to fix everything and everyone so it was all OK. It made me feel afraid for the future. It felt more like life than art in its conclusion. Though tragic, the film, I felt, is not a tragedy: it doesn’t offer either positive resolution or cathartic release. It just is. It is why it feels almost unbearable at times. But, like life, people endure and it continues, its hurdles never easing, yet hope never completely vanishing either.

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So, like a sleuth, last Sunday I was in London and I found a cinema still showing Ain’t Them Bodies Saints for one last cinematic experience (as if I hadn’t already had enough! …. I haven’t!!)

The film still made me physically ache!  Not just for a bit, but for much of the film. How does it do that when I know it so well now? I also felt strange things about cuts to doors at certain points in the film, which made me sad with significance & foreshadowing.  This definitely suggests I have seen the film too many times.  I am probably inventing the significance of doors.  Everything can have meaning if you’re on a certain wavelength so already feeling?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s just that: we find meaning and odd associations in the strangest of things in real life, so maybe that’s the way in which I felt these door emotions?!  I am crazy.  Yes.

Anyway, back to the event in question: it was a double bill with Mud, which was screened first.  I’m curious, those of you who’ve seen it (not that anyone’ll be reading this!) what do you think of Mud?  Or indeed Ain’t Them Bodies Saints?  The double bill was themed “Lost Souls and Last Chances”.  It fits and I see why the films pair for a double bill.  I’ll get to that…

In any case, before the cinema opened up I glanced up and in the upstairs window there was a teddy bear!

Thus, I imagined his story.  I think he lives in the cinema and when no-one is there, he sneaks down, puts on the films and watches them, rapt.  He imagines the stories the films tell are how real life is and when he goes back to his room upstairs, to lie there, immobile to all observers, really, he dreams of how his life would be were he not a teddy bear, forced to remain inert when human eyes are upon him, watching his films alone in secret.  But although Teddy doesn’t get to love and live out there in the real world, he also doesn’t have to die and nor does anyone he loves.  The only sadness he ever has to experience is the vicarious empathizing with these often flawed, yet mostly romanticisied if not also idealized human-folk on the screen and the loneliness that the knowledge that their world is beyond his grasp brings.…………  I made up Teddy’s story as I was going along and now I am slightly afeared what it may say about me so I think his tale may end there…!!

Before I return to the double bill… So, you do you want to hear about the door(s?)?  I am sure not, but I am going to tell you my thoughts anyway.  My gosh, I could write a thesis on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints by now I’m pretty certain!  Even though I know literally nothing about film.

THE DOORS IN AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS:

The first time (or when I first noticed this door stuff) was when Ruth is singing Blue Jay to Sylvie, lying on the sofa (the same song Bob was singing and humming to the as yet unborn Sylvie just before the moment of the top image from the film and indeed their last time of happiness together).  At this point Ruth knows Bob has escaped and it is the first time we see Bob post-escape: coming out of the woods (like the little horse!) and embarking on his journey home.  I felt sudden whopping (note to self: should use whopping more in general conversation) sadness at that glimpse of door.  I don’t even know if it’s meant to be as I felt or it is just a door!  But anyway.  It’s just this cut to a closed door and I guess I first just thought that I’d not noticed there was a door there then I thought why was there just the door there and then I felt it…?!  Is this odd?

The second time is after Bob has spoken to Skerritt who has told him to stay away from Ruth and he’s angry and says Ruth’d run from the house Skerritt has provided for her as if it were on fire in order to be with him – we see Ruth and she looks towards the door.  I doubt it’s actually the same door, since it goes to the outside, but it’s still a door of her home – it’s an ajar door this time.  She goes out, looks out then closes it.  From first watch this scene always had the vague sensation that Ruth had (as Bob will later say in his own words) sensed Bob’s presence or the strength of his feeling.  Not explicitly, but a tenuous thing…  I don’t know – as though the strength of Bob’s feeling is such that it somehow reaches Ruth and when she sees the door ajar, she feels it and looks out as though perhaps  Bob’d be out there..??  (I don’t wish to imply the film is airy-fairy we all are literally one kinda danglings as it is not, but I still feel this..)

Anyway, this time I was also thinking about it (as I did with door one) in relation to that door we’ll see near the end – prempting the door Bob will eventually come through. As though it’s writ?  And that’s the third door – wide open, blood is on it and it’s where Bob entered the house.  Oh, door, you tragic piece of wood and handles and lock.

I must be literally crazy thinking things like this about doors.  I am sure all films have a lot of doors in them.  Doors, doors, doors.  Or…  is it intended?  Are there lots of other things like this in the film that we don’t notice but subconsciously we feel them and they add to give the film it’s ache?  Because literally for an hour my chest ached, my heart beat faster, my breathing was deeper, slower and at the end my throat hurt with the sadness.  I didn’t sob like the first few viewings, but it likely would have been better if I had done so as without that the ache didn’t leave me and for hours afterwards I kept feeling tears coming to my eyes.  In the end that’s the best I can ever say about a film – that it makes me feel something very strongly.  (As long as it is a thing the film wants me to feel – not for example irritation, haha!!)  And in this case, given the amount of times I’ve now seen it, I don’t know quite why or how it still achieves this..?.  Is it still yearning I ache for?  Still for the characters?   A desire for all fantasy to be able to somehow become real?  I don’t know, but even though I’ve seen it lots now, it still devastated me

So, now I’ll move on to Mud which I’ve seen once before as well.  It was interesting to have these two films together and there are comparisons you can make certainly.  Mud makes me feel a bit sad and frustrated overall though. Having just spoken about how much Ain’t Them Bodies Saints makes me feel highlights even more my problem with Mud: that it doesn’t.  Watching them back to back, for me, did this even moreso as within the first few moments of ATBS I was caught up in it’s feeling.  But Mud?  See it IS enjoyable to watch and a great film in most respects  (comparisons have been made to Stand By Me and that is there in it’s feel) except in what it has to say (which is, surely the only thing that matters!)  It makes me feel nothing and any message I struggle to take from it leaves me feeling rather unsettled at best, piqued at worst and if you look into it feels a little insulting to all ladies. Because first and foremost this film is Ellis’ coming of age tale and what he mostly learns is not to trust any woman as even if they don’t do so via their own malice, they’ll end up being a guy’s downfall.  Anyway.  Sadder still that it’s in essence an indie film (is that the right way of describing it?  I mean by this that you’d think it’d also have a different and open minded viewpoint to put across) and it’s shy of it but not shy enough that you can’t note the metaphors that come to the fore several times between the female of the species and venomous snakes who if you linger too long by, you’re done for.  I mean, if you really want to you can go down this route until it all becomes ridiculous.  Mud’s lame “If you find a girl half as good as you” at the end does naught to undo it all!!  All as Mud and Tom sail off into their freedom.. free, too from those life-shattering females…!!  If it just didn’t highlight it a bit in the way it ends, the way Mud’s women seem intangibly unknowable wouldn’t matter so much and it’s still not an awful thing, but it just leaves an uncomfortable tang to what might have been so much more?

It’s not that it’s view on women pervades the film negatively, but more that it’s just an uncomfortable tinge to an ending that has little meaning at all.  And with no meaning, the film is sort of ruined. A film with no feeling at the end and no message to take away from it is if not worthless then weak no matter how enjoyable it’s been to sit through, how beautiful or well acted.  It is empty.  I don’t mean to be mean to it as I want to like Mud, but why didn’t they decide what they wanted to say with it?  Or did they want to say they world would be better or at least men’d be more content if women didn’t exist?  I mean I could go through every woman in this film or referred to but I don’t have the inclination to do so.  Funny how Mud and Juniper are the main love story in this and you get a lot more told backstory – going back until they were 10 although they too physically remain apart for nearly the whole film.  Yet I never felt love from Juniper to Mud.  And I did from Mud to Juniper at times, but it obviously fell away easily.  You know, it is acted very well though and the two young boys are particularly great.  I feel I am being harsh on it that I feel kind of against it but I don’t know: it is a really good watch, but also frustrating and just sad – sad that it has nothing to say and that the little it does say is pretty depressing if you’re not a man.

Anyway, you could compare the folks in these two films I guess.  There are similarities and differences between Mud and Bob.  Both outlaws, though different as two law abiding citizens are.  Both with a propensity towards lies and fabrications, fantasizing and Romanticising their worlds, though Bob moreso as this defines him.  I could go down pathways here and do this compare and contrast but it’s not that interesting and it’s even less interesting to compare Ruth with Juniper or any of the females in Mud since I can only think it’d reflect more negatively on Ruth than she deserves to try to compare this way.  And to ATBS as let’s face it I have just been a bit uncomfortable with the portrayal of women in Mud, but there is only one woman in ATBS.  Well, and a child.  But then there are few people in ATBS, so…  And it’s a small story where Mud is supposed to be Ellis’ coming of age.  The stories’ needs are different. Anyway….

Let’s end with Ruth though.  I felt her a little differently in this viewing of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.  I kept falling back on that line “Maybe I’m just fooling you all” and so wondering how much exactly she is holding back?  Has she grown up, moved on really from Bob anyway?  I felt it more complex than this from first watch that Bob was still who she felt passion for, and that she did feel a debt she owed to him too, but she knew inside there was no way for them to be together and he posed only danger to their daughter now who she’d protect of course above all.  This time though, I wondered whether Bob didn’t offer her a kind of freedom to be entirely who she is she can’t have without him too.  Bob knows a side to Ruth it is apparent is there (that smile after holding the gun) but which we don’t otherwise see in the film and nor does any other character in the film.  “Maybe I’m just fooling you all.”  Maybe she has to keep up some amount of ruse the entire time in order to protect the life she cares about more than her own.  It’s kind of I suppose in a small way like a sacrifice she makes for Sylvie as Bob made a sacrifice for his love, Ruth and for Sylvie.  I don’t know.  I’m going in silly circles now.  But, is here a sense in which Patrick is a fantasist just as Bob is in seeing “only the good” in Ruth?  In looking upon her and her daughter as though they are angels.  Are we all guilty of this kind of fantasy?  Surely.

And so it leads me back to the ache in the film.  The biggest aspect is for the tragedy you know is coming even on first watch.  The yearning and aching is most of all for the heartbreaking Bob.  But deeper is it for all our fantasies in our little lives and for our realities and and and and and…….?

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“…And then we can forget about words…”

I need to say this before I can too forget about them.

I didn’t intend on using this place to talk about things like this, but I really want to ramble on somewhere where no-one will care if I write aeons of stuff that is really only for myself.  Thus, here I wish to express some of my feelings about this beautiful, aching film.  I am sure no-one will want to read the five squillion randomly ordered words, but if by any chance you happen here, don’t read anything if you haven’t seen the film.  This is not a review and I will say what happens.

Before I get into the film, I wanted to talk about a few scenes that really stuck with me.  I hope in so doing I will further put off anyone who hasn’t seen the film, because it’s not a thing to be talked about but a thing to be experienced in the end.

Scenes:

1. Bob is driving home to Ruth’s.  Behind him is a car with bright headlights (filled, I presume with the ‘bountyhunters’) and the way the lights shine through Bob’s car, for an instant it truly appears that light is shining right through Bob’s skull: it looks like pure light is beaming out of Bob’s eye sockets.  He has become a skull, emanating light.  I guess, without explicitly thinking about why I liked it at the time, it conveys an intensity of his feelings, love and need for his home, Ruth.  At the same time it somehow seems to show Bob dissolving into nothing, as a ghost.  Following this, the other car zooms past.  Bob stops at a stop sign (after first being illuminated in red light), and the music swells as he looks towards home – so close as he now is.  Then, he looks down and recovers himself before bringing himself to turn towards Ruth’s location and the music, as he looks down, stops.  Here, to me it is like Bob’s feelings and thoughts and the music truly are one.  It made me wish for an entire film scored this way: the music directly following a character’s emotion.  I wonder how it would be.  Probably if it was for an entire film it would just distract I suppose.  But here, it was so powerful.  Its sudden drop, falling to nothing, as the world is about to fall away.

2. On perhaps viewing three (I am slow) it suddenly struck me that Sylvie wants a horse for her birthday.  The book Ruth reads to Sylvie throughout the film is about a horse, trying to make his way home, against the odds… essentially like Bob.  If Bob’s story had been made into a book for children this would literally be it.  And then, Bob, when he visits Skerritt picks up a cowboy on a horse.  As he leaves he takes it with him and throws away the cowboy in anger and frustration.  But he keeps the horse.  As I say, on viewing three it was here that it touched me and I suddenly realised this all.  It’s around the time of Sylvie’s birthday and I imagined her receiving this horse from her Daddy.  Afterwards I did an imagine wherein one day Patrick finds Bob’s truck and the horse is still in there and so he keeps it and thus Sylvie one day will own that horse.  And that tiny thought resolved some sort of a happiness in the future or me.  Is that odd?  Anyway.  Given that I could go on about this horse for several paragraphs more you can tell I am likely to yammer on a bit here, haha!

3. Bob talks of how he feels he and Ruth are essentially one person.  This entire “mirror scene” is my favourite dialogue based scene in the film.  It really hit me.  If I knew it, I could quote the whole thing for it’s glory, but then it wouldn’t hold it’s power merely written as it does spoken here.

A snippet:

“And I said ‘Ruth, you can scream at me until your voice is gone, but it doesn’t make much difference because when you’re all done screaming it’s just going to be you and me sitting in a room.’  And she said ‘That’s right, it’s always just going to be the two of us.’”

I found it particularly touching because it starts humorously (yet touchingly even to begin) and becomes something that’s simultaneously grand and Romantic and idealized…. And yet also it expresses something very genuine.  It is here too that Bob expresses Ruth’s restlessness and at the same time conveys how they are both each others’ home.  When he talks of Sylvie knowing him without ever seeing him and Ruth feeling him draw near it is fantastical, mythological, unrealistic.  And yet, is it because he has said it or because it is there that there are times in the film when you do feel characters sense each other?  A time when Sylvie wakes and Bob is indeed close.  Does she sense him?  A time when Ruth hovers at her door… Certainly, Bob feels like this: he is pulled on Ruth’s tide.  To go to Ruth even he must know is not good for him, her or Sylvie, yet he must as it is all he is.  Also, this scene comes soon after the only scene that offers the audience a sudden singular shard of hope for Bob and Ruth: That tiny moment when Sweetie proffers papers to Bob for the three of them – for a fleeting moment you feel a future could be possible.  The only true moment you really feel this in the film.  A film mainly full of much more intangible “what if”s…

4. The final scene. I don’t know what to say about it.

The film…

So, normally, if I have something to say about a film, I can express the essence of it in a few words.  Ain’t them Bodies Saints strength though lies in what it made me feel and feelings can be hard to accurately articulate.  It’s more a feeling than a story.   The biggest feeling that pervades and so probably all I should really say is that particularly the second half has this almost tangible aching to it: the film aches, the characters ache and we ache as we yearn and yearn and yearn for them and for what we know is impossible.

To me, it is simply a film that expresses something I don’t know how to say in words about love, yet just trying to think of it brings tears to my eyes.  And the love draws and pulls as though it were a physical thing, entwining people in an inseparable way.  The film contains this massive, desperate love that binds despite all else.  That’s the best I can say it, but I am unsure whether or not I am just writing words to be honest!  I think it’s also there in a sensuality.  This is evident in the fleeting moments of flashback we have of Bob and Ruth, but also just in the way the film is shot.  In scenes varying from the way nature and music are juxtaposed, to the way characters interact, to the way people even touch – the feel of paper against fingers – even the letters are sensual objects… to the way people are kept in the shadows: we literally can’t even always see the subtleties of their expression.  Yet even light creates mood in the film.  It sometimes seems to diminish characters to shadows.  Sometimes there are scenes where you feel so much when you see no expression at all (for example when Bob discovers his baby girl is born.)  Talk of sensuality, makes me want to briefly say I love how each of the three main characters at one point sings a little.  I don’t know why: like it gives them a warmth and reality and even a poetry?  But yes: there are not many scenes with Bob and Ruth together and not that many words, yet I felt like Ruth & Bob were tied together via invisible bonds.

It’s not a film wherein the actual plot matters too much.  What it tells of are these small characters and small lives, filled with emotion.  It somehow manages to show something so deep about love while at the same time all the characters are in some sense rather ordinary and ineffectual at living.  The story that is told is often the small moments: the things that happen outside of the big events – a film in the cracks.   As much in life is, really I think.  Even that mortal gunfight: it’s scrappy and if it were not so life and death, really it’d be hilarious in it’s ineptitude.

An aside about film and books… (oops…)

What does film have over a book?  If you’re telling a story, in the end it will always be more complex and your characters more fully rounded in a novel.  Image is not a helpful thing in this respect for a film to have as a book allows you to imagine people, scenarios in a way a film tells. And after all your imagination is limitless.  But, I think perhaps the thing is that a great film can create a kind of magic in which it can express deep feeling without needing every word.  Because of how it is acted and because of how it is written and put together.  Thus, if you feel something from a book, you’ve had all the detail so surely you could articulate precisely why you feel how you do, yet a good film can at it’s best get you to feel things you can’t fully articulate.  I knew if I began this I’d stray from the point.

I am LITERALLY crazy…  Loopy like a loop-the-loop.

I mean, I have now seen the film *whisper* seven times, four of which were in one day.  It was only showing in one cinema near me and only for this week so it’s now ended.  Thus, while I was in London I decided to see it MANY times and did literal sprinting about the town in order to do this!  I couldn’t tell you why I did it.  I know I could never watch the same film on a TV even twice in a day and I guess perhaps that’s it: watching a film at the pictures is an experience that can never be recaptured.  You’ll never watch it in such a focused way again.  A film takes you into it in a cinema in a way beyond what it can do on a little screen.  And so to watch it over and over is just like going to that world again.  I sobbed at the end of each of these four viewings on the same day.  I didn’t expect that I would.  Not after being a re-watch on such a scale.  But perhaps my zooming about never gave me chance in the day to fully leave the story, so repeated viewings just felt like a continuation of the world?  I will add that by the final cinema, the lady selling me a ticket did look at me oddly.  My face was likely tear stained.  She probably thought I’d rushed off from some emotional trauma to drown my sorrows…. In a film.  I’ve no idea. The last time I watched many things along the way got to me.  I couldn’t recall them all.  Of course, once you know a film, the sadness and emotion of it is different because you know it.  Yet you still feel it, sometimes mores.

Anyway.  Back to the film…

Bob.

I suppose I still (at least want to) believe in that passionate, encompassing love which is probably daft, but maybe it’s why his tale is so resolutely the heart to me, though apparently it’s not to all viewers.

So, what pervades the film first and foremost is Bob’s love for Ruth.  It is like every fibre in his being draws him to her.  For him, they are one – life without Ruth is inconceivable.  Essentially Bob’s whole story in the film is that of his sacrifice for the woman he loves: he goes to prison for her, thinks of returning to her all the time while there: we can imagine his four years spent thinking of her and his child.  He has nothing else to dream upon.  His love remains strong and unwavering.  It doesn’t occur to him Ruth might’ve moved on (she never would in his imagination.)   Eventually, he escapes to get to her and his child.  And ultimately, he dies for them.  It is hard to feel the truth which is that in this he gives that gorgeous little girl, his daughter a true chance in life.  You want nothing more than for his idealistic vision of a perfect future to be what happens (and I hate happy endings!) even whilst knowing from the start it could never be, while at the same time this end resonates in the way any tragedy ought – with the end that there has to be.  A rightness that you feel.  I guess, at least Bob doesn’t get to become an old, disillusioned man.  At some point he’d surely have to otherwise realize in fullness the distance betwixt his notions about himself and his life and his real self. Perhaps that notion is even sadder.

Before seeing the film I’d imagined a thousand letters from Bob to Ruth conveying his love for her, but really his feelings come more in how he is.  His being shows his love for her.  In flashbacks, the way she is never far from his thoughts and how every action of his is to take him towards her; in what he does for her and to return to her: in the fact that without her he seems incomplete, and he conveys the depth of his feeling in a few stories – moments from their past together, beautiful descriptions of how they are meant to be and he even creates romanticized fantasies of a future in which they could exist.  To him though, they are desires.  Bob speaks of Ruth as though she is a poem.  In another life perhaps Bob would be a poet: compiling words on love and he Ruth and Sylvie would live together happily in the house Bob dreams of.  They have the potential to be that, but that’s not who they are.  But it’s not the words Bob says about Ruth: you just feel his ache for her as though she is part of him.

Because Bob loves Ruth so much, it’s not that I wanted them to reunite, even as I saw it was wrong for Ruth and more especially for their child Sylvie, so I needed it all the more.  The whole second half of the film is suffused with heartbreak and this sense of ominosity for you know this is going to have no happy ending.  But I needed at least Bob to see Ruth again. I could not have borne it had it not happened.  I am very glad it ended with the kind of resolution you get in Shakespearian tragedy rather than with no resolution.  Yes, we see how Bob and Ruth can’t be together, and yet to me, there were few times when I didn’t crave it.  There was such a desperation to that need.  As I said, Bob was the heart of the film for me.

The end…

The sound of just the breathing before Patrick finds Bob…  Even as we knew this was what must be it is prolongued yet further…  When he looks at his daughter at the end.  When Ruth at last reunites for those last few moments.  That heartbreaking flashback: the same positioning – right to the very last pure moment of joy the three of them really had together – a moment filled with Bob’s heartbreaking fantasy: something that not even he can fix the detail of.  It breaks your heart.  I don’t know how to talk about it even.  One thing he says is true – at least for him he and Ruth are one.  And so, if there is hope in the ending I guess it is that for him Ruth is part of he and thus he lives on?  (No solace in stupid words like that!!)

Ruth.

Ruth is an interesting character because she by her own admission closes herself off to a certain amount of feeling following Bob’s imprisonment.  I love her strength and she is a beautiful mix of strength, emotion and understanding.  She is the grown up in the film.  And in a way, her inner life must be the saddest…  If I try to imagine her position – if a man I loved had gone to jail for me, more than anything I would feel utter guilt.  But it is good to see a character like this in film.  In life we all have to close ourselves off to certain things.  There are things about every person that are unknowable.  Ruth is a rather unknowable person in some respects and I feel Rooney Mara is a great actress to convey this as there is that quality to her on screen generally.  I haven’t seen her in much, but I think so in any case.  Ruth is the way she needs to be to exist.  And she displays romantic passion and a freedom with Bob and a deep, encompassing love with her child.  I thought several times about feelings Ruth must have.  People have said her future is more positive at the end of the film, and there is potential light in it, most of all for Sylvie.  I can’t get over the feeling that Ruth must surely feel an awful mix of sorrow, guilt, relief…  guilt….  I speak later of how the fleeting flashback scenes are often like glimpses of memory, and as I recall it’s often Ruth’s memory so in this way I felt an additional insight into her.  I love that although Ruth is grounded in reality unlike Bob, you always feel her love for him.  Incidentally, I’ve not mentioned Sylvie much as I have too much to say, but she is like a veritable angel and I love the relationship with her and Ruth.

The duo..

I feel the difference between Bob and Ruth is not so much in their love (although obviously Bob needs Ruth, while she can live without him and even at the start I think Ruth senses that their love, no matter how strong, is not enough…  Which must be very sad for her) but rather in their view of the world.  Bob is essentially still a boy – he sees how he wishes the world to be.  It’s telling when Skerritt, the ‘father figure’ at the end comments of Freddie and Bob, the little boys thinking they were tough men and when Bob talked of their play as children: I felt a world of them playing at outlaws as kids and when this turned into actual crimes it just being a continuation of this: their simultaneously still thinking of their actions as play and thinking of themselves as the tough outlaws they one played at.  Though in reality, perhaps it is all a lot smaller and essentially petty I suppose (we don’t know the extent of the crimes to comment I guess, but they’re obviously not notorious outlaws!)   Ruth was likely involved in this too, but we see at the film’s start, Ruth is growing up even before her child – she never loses the thrill of holding that gun in her hands, but she says to Bob she doesn’t want to go to prison.  She sees that this is a possible outcome to what they are doing.   Ruth doesn’t romanticize the world like Bob does.  Bob remains a child and he creates vast fantasies about the future and the past and spreads them about as though they were reality.  He can tell Ruth at the start of the film she’ll never go to jail because he loves her but also because in his fantasy of course that never could happen.  It’s not because he won’t let it happen although this is what he ultimately does for her.

Patrick.

Patrick is a wonderfully gentle and understanding character, although I will say that the thing that stood out to me about him was at times I palpably felt his solitude even though it’s never explicitly talked of.  It was that solitude that touched me most about him.  When not being a cop or with Ruth, he is shown alone and when he is alone, it feels alone.  If that makes any sense.  It really resonated.

Patrick and Ruth.

I feel the film very clearly portrays that no matter what else, the passionate love lies between Ruth and Bob.  However, it’s not just safety, protection, adulthood and stability for her child that Patrick offers Ruth.  He offers her a peace inside.  Ruth loves Bob, but her life with him was always restless.  You sense this in the first scene we have of them.  You know it in how Ruth talks of all she has to express to him.  You even sense it in the way Bob talks about her.  Ruth raging against him and him, merely being there.  Makes it sadder.  Maybe there is something adult in this as it is.

Others in the film.

I should say that I loved all of the characters in the film.  I love that they don’t judge each other, they just are.  (Barring perhaps Skerritt….?  He’s the most mysterious character to me: the one I would have questions about if I needed the entire plot as I don’t fully understand all of his actions and feelings.  I don’t want to talk about him as although he is empathetic and intriguing, I feel I know him less.)

There are certain moments with all of the characters where there is such a sense of the feeling in them when not a word is spoken.  Scenes where people just are: sitting somewhere, lying in a bed and yet you feel something from their core.

For all that I’ve expressed about my feelings for them though, in an odd way it is not for the characters you feel as you watch.  Rather you seem to somehow feel as they feel.  Perhaps it is because we don’t know that much about them to overthink things that we just tap into the feelings.  (She says, analyzing every little thing is this post, hahahahaha!!!)

The title

Finally – the title.  I’ve read in places that the title has no logic/sense to it really (although I reckon that’s mostly Casey Affleck being jocular and charming rather than doing serious talkings in an interview.. ;)…), but to me it fits perfectly with how Bob tells his stories and fantasies.  If someone happened upon Bob’s remains or spoke of his “legacy” I dare say  he’d be pleased with the kind of epitaph the film’s title imposes.  It feels like the ultimate mythological epitaph for Bob to me.

Personal connections you feel…

Not so relevant in talk of the film, but significant to me and when a small scene touches you I feel it’s worth mentioning: when Bob whistles to the birds it took me right back to my childhood (Incidentally, I wondered much about that house – where the shoot out happened.  I presume it’s Bob’s Daddy’s farm.  What’s the history there?  Why is it Bob and Ruth spent such time with Skerritt?)  My Daddy always whistled to birds.  He could get birds doing their courtship dances to him on hedgerows and fences.  We’d laugh and he’d carry on, birds (literally) falling at his feet (metaphorically)…

The end of the film

“Ruth: Tell me more about that house.

Bob: I’m not talking to you… 

… It’s big. Maybe a farm.  And it’s old.  It’s older than us.  And at the same time though I feel like maybe I built it.  There’s no telling.  There’s just no telling.”

Although you don’t get as great an insight into the complexity of characters as in some films, the pervading feeling’s the film offers are the direct feelings of the characters: you feel as they (particularly Bob) do.  However, this end adds a further reaching emotion to the film as well I feel.  It’s like a metaphor for the whole film and works on a bigger level.  Bob mythologises his life as he lives it – myths are as old as time and so Bob’s stories are somehow this way too, yet his fantasies are also created by Bob…. Bob’s life is a myth as old as time and at the same time, he created it.  Just like the house he speaks of here.

I don’t know… I can’t properly work it out to explain, but in the end as well as the actual tragedy of the end of the film, there is another layer: a death of fantasy.  The gulf between tragic reality and imagination.  There’s something so powerful I can’t explain in this itself that even when you’ve watched the film several times it still hits home.  I suppose there is something in it that links to all of our lives: our dreams, fantasies and imagination and even links into what film is in itself…??

Anyway, I adored Ain’t Them Bodies Saints due to how it made me feel.  I just want to wallow in it like a gorgeous, doomed memory I want to become a part of (obviously not literally! It’s not the happiest of tales! But still, somehow!)

To give an idea of some of the elements I feel add to the feeling of the film (I don’t fully know what achieves it, but… and now I try to do something more succinct..!?!)

  • The film is beautiful: from the way it is shot which includes as well as beautiful imagery, an oftentimes dusk setting to scenes which seems to link to this dusk setting of the point of Ruth and Bob’s story we are bing told… The film also ends fading to an eventual blackness of the inevitable night in many scenes where bleak events take place; to individual images that seem to hold emotional resonance (one scene of just an empty chair stands out as one example) – Many individual images are like works of art in themselves.
  • It has a tactile, sensual nature: the way characters interact with their surroundings: objects take on a character; the mainly glimpsed moments of Bob and Ruth are very sensual.
  • The way the film is edited – the moments when scenes flit swiftly are like how you recall fleeting memories which makes the fragments take on an additional power – as they’re what’s remembered they take on extra significance and you feel as though you are inside the person who is remembering (usually Ruth’s) head.  It’s very intimate.
  • The way characters seem to sense each other’s approach.  This is never made explicit, but it’s a thing I felt at times.
  • The music adds a great deal to the feel of the film – both it’s presence and when it is absent.  There is a fair amount of the film in silence.  Perhaps it is because of the quality that the music has – an unending feeling to it that when there is silence, other, smallest of sounds stand out.
  • The music itself contains held pedals, undulating strings and notes sustained for long times: the music itself your whole being is waiting to resolve and thus it creates a yearning as the emotion of the film does.  Claps enter and resound with the rhythms of life like a heartbeat or drive the few moments of action.  The music is very entwined in the film: songs and music used by the characters becoming part of the score and continuing and vice versa.  It follows the emotion of the film very closely at times too.
  • Talking of silence, some of the scenes in silence hold such feeling.  I am thinking of where Bob is at Sweetie’s: you almost hear Bob’s thoughts as he lies awake, then goes to seek out the gun…
  • The reminds me of another scene: where Patrick finds Bob’s photo that he dropped exiting Sweetie’s.  You have Bob looking into the window and Patrick is looking at the photo of Ruth and Sylvie that has been part of what kept Bob going for years.  Even though Bob could obviously not know Patrick is looking at this, it feels so intrusive to me.
  • Images repeated – visually, metaphorically – like a cycle for example when Bob and Sweetie drive along the road to dig up Bob’s money is echoed later as Patrick’s car follows the same trail.
  • Themes linking concepts as I’ve gone into earlier in this posts for example Sylvie and her horse – stuff that you’d not explicitly notice at first, but you surely still feel their impact as they’re there in the film.
  • Iconography.  At times, the characters do feel almost as though if you were to reach out and touch them they’d disperse into the air: Ruth and Sylvie’s relationship is so idyllic, literally angelic: with Sylvie cherubic and Ruth sometimes looking like the Madonna; Patrick is the definition of gentility such that he seems almost a cipher to it, and Bob is so consumed by Ruth that she and his daughter are literally his entire world.  This creates the sense that all of these beings are close to the film’s title somehow and adds to the mythic, fairytale nature of the world we are in.

…Ain’t Them Bodies Saints….

….I can’t get it out of my heart.