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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 27.Mar.19

Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

dir Eden Marryshow
scr Jesse Wakeman, Eden Marryshow
prd Eden Marryshow, Sasha Lewis, Cesa Pledger
with Eden Marryshow, Mle Chester, Jason Tottenham, Jade Eshete, Cesa Pledger, Gene Pope, Jamie Dunn, Christopher Gabriel Nunez, Brenda Thomas, Ysmael Reyes, Analisa Velez, Jean Goto
release US 15.Mar.19
19/US 1h43


marryshow and chester
A comedy about an annoying loser, directed and cowritten by lead actor Eden Marryshow, this choppy, low-budget film bases its humour on painful awkwardness, rarely eliciting a smile. Both the movie and Marryshow have a certain clumsy charm, but the character's unlikeability is simply overpowering. It's hard to know what kind of audience will enjoy this film, aside perhaps from inebriated young men.
"I want to want to try harder," Bruce says as he breaks up with Theresa (Goto) before immediately making a move on Caroline (Velez). An unapologetic jerk, Bruce doesn't have a job or bank account, claiming that he's writing a script. When his best pal Greg (Tottenham) moves out of their Manhattan apartment, Bruce advertises for a hot female flatmate, and Keira (Chester) moves in. She quickly cuts through his bravado, but fails to see what an idiot he is. And he suddenly starts acting like a loved-up sweetheart.
Bruce is such a lying, leering misogynist that his moments of sensitivity ring false. It's difficult to think that he maintains friendships with either Greg or his buddy Trevor (Nunez), that his parents (Pope and Thomas) continue bailing him out, or that any woman spends more than one night with him. His transformation into cuddly boyfriend is just ludicrous. But then, pretty much everything in this movie is difficult to believe.

The film's tone is so broad that performances seem understated. Still, there's virtually no space for subtlety, especially with characters that are so inconsistent. Chester adds some texture to her thankless role, which like everyone else's veers wildly from scene to scene. If Marryshow had grounded Bruce with just one personality, there might have been some kick to his performance, but he seems to be playing a different role in each sequence: loud and obnoxious, then sweet and caring, then sex-mad and callous, then shy and nervous.

In between his random, implausible nice-guy interludes, Bruce is simply too reprehensible to engage with. Actor-filmmaker Marryshow seems to have made this movie to showcase himself, and as an actor he definitely has some promise, with strong on-screen charisma. But this aggressively unlikeable comedy turns too dark and nasty, as Bruce burns one bridge after another on a self-fuelled downward spiral. And when he's at rock-bottom, there's a painfully trite message to lay on thickly. Like the rest of the film, this may be a nicely played scene, but it's also not quite the final insult.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 8.Mar.19

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir-scr Adam Morse
prd Adam Rose, Adam Morse
with Laurie Calvert, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Billy Zane, Sadie Frost, Felicity Gilbert, Cristian Solimeno, Sebastian Sabene, Katie Goldfinch, Abigail Johns, Ross Anderson, Jason Riddington, James Southward
release UK 11.Sep.20
18/UK 1h26


Is it streaming?

calvert and zane
Sumptuously visual, this British drama creates some vivid moods as it playfully blurs the lines between dreams and reality. Remarkably, filmmaker Adam Morse is sight-impaired, but his inventive approach keeps the audience on the edge of the seat. So even if the plot ultimately begins to feel a little thin, this is a bracingly original film, packed with provocative moments and dark resonance.
In London, the introverted Zel (Calvert) is an easily distracted young man whose mother Georgina (Frost) worries as he starts a new job in the car park of an exclusive members' club. Zel rather likes Jasmine (Gilbert), who lives in his building, and eccentric neighbour Elliot (Zane) encourages him to go for it. He also teaches Zel how to dream lucidly, becoming aware of being in a dream, so he can experiment living without fear. As he's working on this, he meets Kat (Clark), the only person at the club who seems to notice him.
The club looks like something from Twin Peaks, which is perhaps the first clue that there's some dreamy wackiness afoot in this movie. Indeed, there's a lot of Lynchian trickery going on, and it's involving and visually visceral. The first time Zel realises that he's in a dream carries a terrific zing. Lucid dreaming helps Zel get the nerve to speak to Jasmine, but the swirl of events sends the subsequent events spiralling off in unexpected directions. Later, the dream sequences begin to feel a little repetitive, especially as they start shifting into nightmares.

Within this charged atmosphere, performances are remarkably understated. Calvert is a likeable lead, refreshingly quirky as he tries to keep his balance while everyone around him is an annoyance, especially his boss Theo, played as a charismatic thug by Solimeno. Zane effortlessly steals his scenes, bringing wit and sheer presence to his enigmatic role. Amid mostly figurative female roles, Clark adds some intrigue to Kat, even if the character ultimately begins to feel rather gimmicky.

The film is superbly shot by Michel Dierickx and tightly edited by Gabriel Foster Prior. Morse tells the story economically, cleverly using the lush visuals to deepen what is essentially a bare-bones idea. And while he has a lot of fun wrongfooting the audience with dreams within dreams and a story that doesn't generate much momentum, he's also actually saying some intriguing things about how tapping into our subconscious feelings might make our waking lives a little more like we wish they were.

cert 15 themes, language 31.Jan.19

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
dir-scr Jamie Patterson
prd Finn Bruce
with Derren Nesbitt, Jordan Stephens, April Pearson, Steve Oram, Joss Porter, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Ruben Crow, Brendon Burns, Stephanie Diane Starlet, Isi Snowdon, Raphaella Crow, Marina Simoni
release US 19.Mar.19,
UK 17.May.19
18/UK 1h20

BFI Flare

nesbitt and stephens
Warm and moody, this British drama has an earthy honesty to it that's instantly engaging. It's the story of an offbeat, unlikely friendship, but filmmaker Jamie Patterson resists the usual cheap humour or sentimentality. Instead, each belly laugh is tinged with prickly emotion. And it's remarkable that the film maintains a sense of cheeky optimism even in the story's intensely moving darker moments. Packed with surprises, it's well worth seeking out.

At 74 years old, Jackie (Nesbitt) is still a star drag performer. But he has no family or friends to help him deal with an aggressive form of cancer that has left him with only six weeks to live. Then 21-year-old drag singer Faith (Stephens) arrives at his club, and Jackie reluctantly takes him under his wing. When he discovers Faith sleeping in his car, he invites him to stay in his flat. And as they become friends, Faith encourages Jackie to reach out to his estranged daughter Lily (Pearson) before he dies.
Adding nuance to their connection, Jackie is a straight man who cross-dresses, while Faith is resolutely queer, refusing to be defined by his gender. Both have no community to call home, so they have more in common as outsiders than the 50-year gap between them. Their friendship evolves gently, as Patterson keeps the story moving at an organic pace, even as the film tips into some rather nutty set-pieces, such as their visit to a swaggering drug dealer (the always up-for-it Oram).

Performances are also relaxed and understated, with dialog that feels authentic and a sharp sense of the real people underneath the drag queen personas. Both Nesbit and Stephens create vivid men, each with their own issues but also with an unforced sense of chemistry between them. This helps make their connection feel deeply authentic, as they find true respect and support. They also maintain Jackie's and Faith's personalities right into their stage performances, never going over the top.

Patterson relies a bit heavily on musical montage sequences to keep things flowing. But the story unfolds in such an engaging way that it pulls the audience in, alternating between Jackie's rudely hilarious stand-up routines, silly little conversations and some remarkably involving emotional moments. Thankfully, Jackie's illness never becomes maudlin, which is a real achievement. In the end, the film may feel somewhat slight, but there's a lovely message in here about being open to the needs of people around us and expanding our family rather than limiting it.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 22.Mar.19

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