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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.Jul.20

Getting It  
Review by Rich Cline | 2h/5  
Getting It
dir-scr Tom Heard
prd Tom Heard, Christopher Lee Herod
with Tom Heard, Donato De Luca, Sharron Bower, Lesley Pedersen, Adrian Laguette, Jason Graf, Luke Hill, Rob Kaczmarek, Laura Galt, Lana Dieterich, Juliet Robb, Jane Schwartz
release US 14.Jul.20
20/US 1h44

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de luca and heard
Filmmakers should never write and direct themselves in a romance opposite someone much younger. Even though the set-up works in this independent comedy-drama, it's still rather icky, especially since actor-filmmaker Tom Heard also composes and croons several awkwardly unhummable love songs. But the script is packed with earthy conversations as the characters spiral around each other. And the cast is naturally engaging, making the most of the movie's low-budget energy.
In Austin, neighbourhood gossip Linus (Laguette) plans a party to meet sullen new 20-something neighbour Ben (De Luca), who's living with his hothead brother and concerned sister-in-law (Graf and Pedersen). Next door, middle-aged journalist Jamie (Heard) is hiding from the world while his editor Elaine (Bower) pushes him to get back out there after a bad breakup, and come out of retirement to sing at her wedding to David (Kaczmarek). Then Jamie finds out that Ben is a writer too, and that he's also grieving a loss. So they start spending more time together.
Jamie's refusal to sing in public is so contrived that it's clear where the story's headed. But little about this plot is surprising. Thankfully, Heard has fun with expectations in the love story, as Ben taunts Jamie about his intentions. Their interaction is an enjoyable mix of stolen glances, innuendo, clowning around and witty banter as they bring each other out of their shells. On the other hand, the plot points arrive with loud thuds at just the right time. Although it's not difficult to fall for these charming cliches.

Heard is a solid actor, but as a writer-director spends too much time having other characters tell him how youthful and talented he is. Still, his performance makes Jamie intriguing, especially in the earthy interaction with his various friends. His scenes with De Luca have a skilfully textured father-son intimacy that shifts into a sometimes corny romance. But both actors navigate this shift adeptly. Of the colourful side characters, the standout is Bower as an observant, snarky boss. And Laguette offers some well-timed comic relief.

The film is well-shot in lovely locations, which helps make up for the slack editing and flimsy musical score. And the dialog has a genuine simplicity to it that lets the audience see both Jamie's and Ben's internal issues. The story is exploring the push and pull between relationships and personal goals, and it refreshingly resists offering any glib answers. It's also a gentle reminder of the dangers of pushing things down inside and withdrawing from the world.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 12.Jul.20

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5  
dir-scr Michael W Bachochin
prd Michael W Bachochin, Brooke Lorraine, Yusef Baig
with Naomi Prentice, Nelson Ritthaler, Ted Gianopulos, Hattie Smith, Taylor Flowers, Brooke Lorraine, Bette Smith, Keith Kelly, Larry Jones, Ash Duckworth
release US/UK 10.Jul.20
20/US 1h52

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ritthaler and prentice
An ambitious low-budget thriller, this visually striking freak-out quietly blends a bonkers sci-fi slant into a story that's eerily easy to identify with. Writer-director Michael Bachochin takes everything far too seriously, which makes the film feel indulgent and overlong. It also leaves actors looking faintly out of their depth. But the film is inventively shot and edited to thoroughly unnerve the audience, while tapping into some deeper fears.
Amateur artist Naomi (Prentice) feels like an alien in her home with fiance Lucas (Ritthaler), increasingly unsure whether her life is reality or a dream. Lucas worries that she's walling herself from the world, so he consults a therapist (Gianopulos) and, to get some background, contacts her grandmother (Bette Smith). As Naomi becomes increasingly sure something is happening to her, Lucas' therapist suggests that this is early onset dementia. But it's fairly clear that something much bigger is happening here. Then Mikayla (Hattie Smith) appears in a dream, stirring new emotions within a parallel reality.
The film's muted tone, with cleverly isolating cinematography by Connor Heck, adds weight to Naomi's sense of displacement. With these blurred layers of existence, Naomi feels like she's sinking into a sea of false memories and that, through her paintings, she can travel to the ocean, desert or forest. Lucas says this change came on her suddenly, but he's also having trouble remembering things. There's also a locked room in their house that adds to the mystery. "We both agreed not to go in there," Lucas says ominously.

Prentice brings a superb stillness to Naomi, staring out into space and speaking in a hushed whisper, always offering the sense that there's something much deeper going on inside. Whenever she momentarily snaps out of her funk, she adds a brisk kick to the film. Opposite her understatement, Ritthaler has a difficult role playing things up and driving the plot in circles around her. He seems like a sympathetic figure, but Naomi isn't so sure. So neither are we. The other characters never quite materialise, deliberately.

Adding underlying resonance, Naomi's cryptic condition echoes clinical depression, leaving her unable to engage with anything or anyone. This is further entwined with her blurred sexuality, which adds an additional thematic slant. With clear nods to Inception, the narrative feels overlong and never quite comes into focus, but the revelations and questions in the final act are bold and fascinating, adding some bonkers science into the mix. It's all rather cool, although its brainy/nonsensical details essentially strip away any thematic and emotional connections.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 6.Jul.20

Saint Frances  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Saint Frances
dir Alex Thompson
scr Kelly O'Sullivan
prd Pierce Cravens, Ian Keiser, Eddie Linker, Alex Thompson, Roger Welp
with Kelly O'Sullivan, Ramona Edith Williams, Charin Alvarez, Lily Mojekwu, Max Lipchitz, Jim True-Frost, Mary Beth Fisher, Francis Guinan, Rebecca Spence, Rebekah Ward, Danny Catlow, Hanna Dworkin
release US 13.Mar.20,
UK 6.Jul.20
19/US 1h46

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o'sullivan and williams
Gently observant, this warm comedy has a nicely brittle edge to it, infusing conversations with a terrific sense of honesty. The story centres around a slacker on an unexpected journey of self-discovery, but actress Kelly O'Sullivan's script deftly avoids cliches. Best of all is the way it touches on hot-potato topics without pushing a message. This approach makes the film feel weightless, enjoyable fluff with a hint of grit.
Adrift at 34, Bridget (O'Sullivan) takes a job as a nanny for Frances (Williams), the lively 6-year-old daughter of Maya and Annie (Alvarez and Mojekwu), who need help after the birth of their son. Bridget has just started seeing 26-year-old Jace (Lipschitz), so certainly isn't ready for motherhood when she finds herself pregnant. And after a rocky start, she's unnerved to realise that Frances has become her closest friend. Her aimlessness is further highlighted as she's drawn into Maya's and Annie's various issues. She also begins to fall for Frances' guitar teacher Isaac (True-Frost).
While the film maintains a lightly comical tone, there are serious undercurrents and darker feelings in almost every scene. Relationships are realistically awkward, warm but with gurgling tensions. The way this is written, directed and played is knowing and engaging, finding layers of meaning in Bridget's most irresponsible and irrational behaviour. Her reactions often surprising, especially in the way she wilfully ignores others' feelings and snaps at people who genuinely care about her. "I'm smart, I'm brave, I'm the coolest," she coaxes Frances to exclaim before school, then realises she needs that mantra too.

O'Sullivan plays Bridget unapologetically, a careless young woman doing her best regardless of what others think. It's fascinating to watch her endure criticism as if she's heard it all her life. So an encounter with a successful university friend (Ward) is chilling. Meanwhile, O'Sullivan builds fizzy, complex chemistry with the bright young Williams, who's already a gifted scene-stealer. And she creates telling moments of comedy and drama with the excellent Alvarez, Mojekwu and Lipchitz in smaller roles.

There's not a lot to this film's narrative, as it quietly glides through a series of essentially minor everyday events. The film's momentum is expressed in the growing connection between Bridget and Frances, and Bridget's dawning sense of purpose. Around this are subtle but important comments about the female experience, including motherhood, relationships, depression, independence, sexuality and abortion. It's rare to see a film so openly explore these things without sensationalising them.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 9.Jul.20

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