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On this page: AT THE END OF THE DAY
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last update 20.Jun.18
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At the End of the Day
dir-scr Kevin O'Brien
prd Kevin O'Brien, Teresa O'Brien
with Stephen Shane Martin, Danielle Sagona, Tom Nowicki, Chris Cavalier, Susan Mulholland, Emily Davis, Paul Saulo, E Mani Cadet, Betty Jeune, Melissa Malone, Oli Lyons, Jace Greenwood
martin release US Jun.18 dwf
18/US 1h58

At the End of the Day Snappy, energetic filmmaking and a superb sense of irreverence add a sharp edge to this religious-themed comedy-drama. There may be some rather touchy elements in the premise, but filmmaker Kevin O'Brien keeps things honest, never taking a cheap shot at anyone's beliefs. But he also confidently punctures the lie that it's possible to love the sinner and hate the sin.

After his marriage collapses, psychologist Dave (Martin) takes a job teaching at the Christian university in Florida where he studied, working with old mentor Gordon (Nowicki). In his first class, he's challenged about why God hates gay people. Looking to acquire land for expansion, Gordon sends Dave to infiltrate the LGBT group that wants to develop it into a homeless shelter. And even though he's innately reluctant, Dave finds them more honest and truthful than he expected. The question is how he tells the group's straight coordinator Alyssa (Sagona) that he's not actually gay.

There's a genuine likeability among the characters, especially the lively members of the LGBT group. Meanwhile, the script continually tackles big issues like the true nature of homophobia and bigotry that hides behind faith. There are also potent references to hate crimes, and a running theme about vulnerable teens who were thrown out of their families because of their sexuality. There's a clear sense that Dave is in for an education here, learning that there's no such thing as a gay agenda. And that Christianity is about love, not labelling.

With his uncanny resemblance to Ryan Reynolds, the charming Martin remains engaging all the way through the story, even when he's up to something devious. He does a great job balancing Dave's flippant sense of humour with his more thoughtful journey, discovering valuable new textures in his life while confronting things he always believed without question. Side characters feed into Dave's journey in a variety of clever ways, although none become terribly complex people in their own right.

Even if it's rather overlong, there's a sense that O'Brien has made this film from his experience, as the characters and observations all feel strikingly truthful, genuinely grappling with a complex issue many churches treat simplistically as black or white. "All you do is answer the questions," one student says. "You never ask any!" This is a story about finding the courage to question traditions that just might be biased and downright wrong. The film's knowing, sensitive approach is complex and important.

12 themes, language, innuendo
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Eaten by Lions
dir Jason Wingard
prd Hannah Stevenson
scr David Isaac, Jason Wingard
with Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Asim Chaudhry, Johnny Vegas, Vicki Pepperdine, Kevin Eldon, Sarah Hoare, Natalie Davies, Tom Binns, Nitin Ganatra, Stephanie Fayerman, Phil Ellis
aakeel and carroll release UK Jun.18 eiff
18/UK 1h39


Eaten by Lions A snappy, funny script makes this one of the more entertaining British independent comedies in recent memory. The story may be a little loose, threatening to come off the rails in the final act, but the characters are engaging, with quirks that provide plenty of solid laughs. If filmmaker Jason Wingard had made a bit more of the underlying premise, it might have been a classic.

Omar and Pete (Aakeel and Carroll) have been living with their grandmother (Fayerman) in Bradford since their parents had a safari mishap (see the title). So when Gran dies, their harsh Aunt Ellen (Pepperdine) and hapless Uncle Ken (Eldon) take them in. But they really only want Pete, who is white and disabled. Feeling unloved, Omar sets off to find his biological father in Blackpool, and Pete tags along. On this adventure, they meet a wacky girl (Hoare) and her even nuttier uncle (Vegas). And they discover that Omar has an enormous Muslim family.

The film's light tone and crackling wit keep things brisk. Omar and Pete are a superb double act, connected by a wicked sense of humour. Omar is a guileless teen on a mission to discover his roots; Pete needs a frame to walk and uses his disability as a smokescreen to get what he wants. Both are amusing twists on stereotypes, and their messy sibling bond makes them even more likeable. This works even when the gags are stretched, most notably with another cliche-breaking character in Omar's vampish cousin Parveen (Davies), who pretends to be painfully shy.

Aakeel and Carroll hold the film together with strong chemistry, realistic rivalry and clashes underscored by deep affection. They're surrounded by scene-stealers: Chaudhry as Omar's hilariously childish biological father, Vegas as an eyebrow-raising innkeeper, Pepperdine as the blithely cruel right-wing aunt, Binns as an amusingly fake fortune teller, Fayerman in flashbacks as the attitude-filled Gran. The sparky Hoare makes a slightly off-kilter love interest for Omar; Davies is more fun as Pete's romantic foil.

With so much going on under the surface, it's a shame that Wingard and Isaac never manage to dig into the themes. Amid the general slapstick silliness, there could have been some vivid observations on identity, multiculturalism and growing up. But these things are all muted, pushed aside for another bit of mayhem as the story grows increasingly chaotic. So it's a good thing that the dialog is genuinely hilarious, and the people worth rooting for.

15 themes, language, violence

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Pin Cushion
dir-scr Deborah Haywood
prd Gavin Humphries, Maggie Monteith
with Joanna Scanlan, Lily Newmark, Loris Scarpa, Sacha Cordy-Nice, Bethany Antonia, Saskia Paige Martin, Chanel Cresswell, Aury Wayne, John Henshaw, Isy Suttie, Nadine Coyle, Bruce Jone
newmark release US Sep.17 ff,
UK 13.Jul.18
17/UK 1h22

venice film fest
Pin Cushion With its stylised approach and deliberate quirkiness, this film is a bit tricky to take at face value. But writer-director Deborah Haywood keeps the story dark and intense, following mother-daughter outsiders who are trying to find their place in the world. What happens to them is rather brutal, as they struggle to maintain optimism in the face of bigotry. This gives the film an important topical kick, but it's not easy going.

Arriving at their twee new home in small-town England, Lyn (Scanlan) is worried about letting teen Iona (Newmark) go to school. But Iona is looking forward to making new friends, quickly befriending nice guy Daz (Scarpa). She is also intrigued by mean girl Keeley (Cordy-Nice) and her cohorts Chelsea and Stacie (Antonia and Martin), who adopt her into the group. The question is whether she realises that they are still mercilessly teasing her. Meanwhile, Lyn represses the fact that her only friend (Cresswell) is actually just a spiteful neighbour.

Haywood blends a fairy tale sensibility with a cute-cluttered British aesthetic. Lyn and Iona live in a colourful world overrun with ceramic figurines, mussed-up hair and mismatched clothing and furniture. Both are trying to fit in against the odds, never noticing that people are simply not accepting them. It's an intriguing way to explore the fear of others, although this mother and daughter's wilful ignorance makes it difficult to sympathise with them.

Both performances are superb. Scanlan is particularly good, adding a yearning helplessness to Lyn's every decision. She wants to protect her daughter, and would rather be considered an isolated freak than lower her standards. Meanwhile, Newmark gives Iona a nerviness that's intriguing, especially as she tries to fit in with those around her. She's a quick study, but not fast enough for the vultures around her. Both of these women are in way over their heads, and each is starting to realise that.

Depicting these women as "simple" is a problem, as they never feel terribly authentic. There's no explanation why they're so naive, and their past is dismissed in a throwaway comment from Iona that's clearly fantastical. There's also no exploration into the roots of the cruelty their new neighbours heap upon them, simply because they're a bit weird. And while the film plays with issues like social media and misogyny, it never quite grapples with them either. Instead, it's an internalised drama that fascinates and occasionally shocks, but never quite moves us.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
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dir Stevie Cruz-Martin
scr Daniel Monks
prd Daniel Monks, Stevie Cruz-Martin, Gemma Hall
with Daniel Monks, Caroline Brazier, Scott Lee, Sian Ewers, Isaro Kayitesi, Jaimee Peasley, David Richardson, Troy Rodger, Lee Jankowski, Katherine Neylon, Austin Castiglione, Alex Malone
monks and lee release Aus Jun.17 sff
UK Mar.18 flare
17/Australia 1h25

flare fest
Pulse There's an earthy authenticity to this slightly fantastical Australian drama that catches the attention right from the start. Shot in an urgent, realist style, it never seems like the actors are performing, and some scenes are so raw that audience members feel almost invasive watching them. As the rather outlandish premise develops, the story becomes formulaic, but the characters remain solidly grounded.

Feeling lonely because of his physical disability, teen Olly (Monks) tries to be the life of the party with his classmates. But the constant surgeries are wearing him down, and he longs to have a normal life. So he asks his mother (Brazier) to look into the possibility of a whole-body transplant. And he confesses to his best friends (Lee and Ewers) that he's both gay and that he wants to be a woman. Their initial shock quickly turns into whole-hearted support, and his mother overcomes her emotions to do what she can to help.

Where this goes is genuinely disarming. After his surgery, Olly wakes up as a hot blonde (Peasley) but still feels the same underneath (and we still see him as well). It's a bold approach that adds unexpected angles to the narrative and its underlying themes, even as it resolutely avoids getting bogged down in the sci-fi details. On the other hand, the bigger themes about disability, sexuality and identity kind of get lost in the usual soapy teenage romantic messiness: it's 90210 with a body-swap twist.

Monks is a remarkably physical actor who throws his whole body into the role and also offers a sometimes painful glimpse into the depths of Olly's emotional journey, especially when he finally plucks up the courage to tell his best friend that he has always loved him. The surrounding cast is strong as well, although as things get a bit melodramatic, the actors are pushed in some fairly arch directions. Still, they all maintain their believability, and the connections between the characters are strong.

Director Cruz-Martin adds a nice touch by using actual home movies of actor-writer Monks as a young boy dealing with his singular physicality. And the story goes on to explore the deeper human needs this young man grows up with, a yearning for a physical connection that's often misplaced and rarely satisfying. So the realisation that his real problem is under the skin is perhaps a bit obvious, but it carries a properly emotional kick.

15 themes, language, sexuality

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