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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 22.Sep.20

Miss Juneteenth  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Miss Juneteenth
dir-scr Channing Godfrey Peoples
prd Neil Creque Williams, James M Johnston, Jeanie Igoe, Toby Halbrooks
with Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze, Lori Hayes, Marcus M Mauldin, Liz Mikel, Akron Watson, Phyllis Cicero, Jaime Matthis, Margaret Sanchez, Lisha Hackney, Mathew Greer
release US 19.Jun.20,
UK 25.Sep.20
20/US 1h39


Is it streaming?

beharie and chikaeze
There's an easy rhythm to this drama, which touches on some big issues without letting them take over an engaging story. A lightly comical tone keeps the film from ever getting too heavy, as filmmaker Channing Godfrey Peoples focusses on realistic characters facing recognisable generational situations. What happens may feel unexceptional, but this is a delicate depiction of how normal people face daily challenges with grace and determination.
A former pageant winner herself, single mother Turquoise (Beharie) is now helping her 14-year-old daughter Kai (Chikawse) prepare for the Miss Juneteenth competition, commemorating the day slaves learned they were free, two years after slavery was abolished. Working two jobs, Turquoise is still seeing Kai's father, mechanic Ronnie (Sampson), who's loving but not particularly helpful. He also isn't as strict with Kai as Turquoise is, inadvertently encouraging her rule-breaking tendencies. And Turquiose's single-minded approach is alienating Kai, who looks for ways to rebel against her while expressing her own personality.
Turquoise is determined that Kai is going to make something of her life, but there are financial limitations. So Turquoise dismisses both Kai's boyfriend (Matthis) and her desire to dance. Pointedly, Turquoise and her holier-than-thou religious mother Charlotte (Hayes) don't see eye-to-eye either. The spirals of relationships through this film are beautifully observed, catching details at every step. So it's a shame that the film is so underpowered, honest but not particularly gripping. Even the sparky comical side characters are quietly understated.

Even so, performances are bracingly authentic, natural and easy to identify with. Beharie is likeable as Turquoise, even though she's so focussed that she either annoys others or is annoyed by them. She's hanging on to those days when she was the most popular girl in town, and understandably wants Kai to feel the same. Chikawse is excellent as a young woman trying to let her mother know who she really is. The moments when their barriers fall are superbly well-played.

This is an inventive depiction of the clashes in aspirations from mother to daughter. And along the way it also explores the uphill battle many poor and marginalised people face in daily life. Audience members don't necessarily need huge plot points, but a bit of dramatic tension is needed to provide a forceful impact. Here, even the most momentous events unfold in silence. We still root for Kai, but it's difficult to sympathise with Turquoise. She's smart and steely, and she has the biggest lesson to learn here.

cert 15 themes, language 22.Sep.20

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
dir Alessio Liguori
scr Daniele Cosci
prd Simona Ferri, Roberto Cipullo, Gabria Cipullo, Simon Pilarsky, Konstantin Korenchuk
with Jack Kane, Zander Emlano, Zak Sutcliffe, Sophie Jane Oliver, Molly Dew, Terence Anderson, David Keyes, Andrei Claude, Mino Caprio, Teo Achille Caprio, Emma Giua, Matteo De Gregori
release It 19.Aug.20,
US 25.Sep.20
20/Italy 1h21

Is it streaming?

dew, oliver, kane, emlano and sutcliffe
An English-language thriller made in Italy, this movie combines elements of fantasy and horror as it propels a small group of people into a terrifying situation. The filmmakers and cast keep the characters grounded even as events become increasingly freaky. Some of the filmmaking feels a little cheesy, including the makeup and some overdramatic moments. And the plot isn't particularly original. But it's a nice spin on the genre.

During a lunar eclipse, five British teens are on a bus trip through the countryside when a fallen tree forces them to take a side road. Then driver Joseph (Anderson) is hijacked by gun-waving outlaw Pedro (Keyes), who directs them into a military zone, where they are trapped by a mysterious creature. As it menaces them, they flee into a network of tunnels seeking a safe place to hide. They also begin to get to know each other a little better and work out that this carnivorous beast can't cope with bright light.
The teen types are anchored by the soulful Nolan (Kane), who's crushing on the artist Bess (Oliver). And there's tough guy Reggie (Sutcliffe), brainy Queenie (Dew) and chucklehead Karl (Emlano). With its low-fi monster-movie effects and generic musical cues, this is essentially resembles mash-up of Stranger Things and The Breakfast Club, plus Alien on a budget. The monster may look like a man (De Gregori) in a suit, but because his oozing inky slime is shot largely in shadows, he's pretty frightening.

Each of the five young leads is likeable, delivering slightly heightened performances that push various plot buttons. They also offer welcome moments of silliness, and banter that veers from teasing to bullying. At the centre, Kane and Oliver get a bit more to do as they head off on their own. Flashbacks offer some wider history of this place, introducing Guilio who searched these tunnels as a child and a grown man (played by father and son Caprio).

There are little moments that add serious edges to the characters, cutting through the surface of their bravado with humour and violence. Director Liguori mercifully avoids both soapy melodrama and sentimentality. So even if the setting feels a little dull, and the narrative rather repetitive, there are just enough moments of unnerving nastiness to keep us watching. It's a nice change that we want these characters make it out alive. But the surprise is that we don't really want the creature to die either.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 19.Sep.20

23 Walks
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
23 Walks
dir-scr Paul Morrison
prd Anna Mohr-Pietsch, Stewart Le Marechal, Maggie Monteith
with Alison Steadman, Dave Johns, Marsha Millar, Graham Cole, Natalie Simpson, Liam Cointre, Aaliyah Youssef Thomas, Graham Turner, Bob Goody, Nina Smith, Martine Brown, Rakhee Thakrar
release UK 25.Sep.20
20/UK 1h42

Is it streaming?

steadman and johns
This gentle late-in-life romance is played with offhanded warmth by Alison Steadman and Dave Johns. Filmmaker Paul Morrison allows the characters to evolve with natural rhythms that are a bit loose but easy to identify with. It's a sleepy narrative, revealing telling details over the course of 23 strolls in mostly sunny London. So even as it loses its way in the final act, it still gets under the skin.
While walking their dogs in North London, divorced receptionist Fern (Steadman) and retired nurse Dave (Johns) cross paths. As Fern's yappy little Yorkie Henry befriends Dave's mellow Alsatian Tillie, Fern and Dave get to know each other. They talk about their dogs and where they like to walk, then begin to share details about their lives. Fern is heading to the Canaries for her daughter's wedding, so Dave tutors her in Spanish, connecting strongly as they spend time together. But Fern is shocked when Dave introduces her to his wife (Millar), who has advanced Alzheimer's.
With their walks numbered on-screen, the film moves from muddy forests to panoramic hills and into both of their homes. Conversations veer from silly banter to deeper emotionality as they talk about spouses, children and grandchildren. They also take trips, have a few dates and even give video calling a go. Morrison weaves in some serious obstacles along the way, without ever resorting to melodramatics. So the journey these people take feels grounded in truth, never heightened at all.

There's a wonderful sparkle of chemistry between Steadman and Johns, who tease each other during their friendly encounters, determined not to let romance interfere. But they can't help but grow closer day by day, and it's a joy to watch their interaction, especially with added details from these terrific actors. The performances are seemingly effortless, charming and underscored by emotion, including a musical moment. Sharp side characters remain on the fringe of the story, adding texture to the central relationship without stealing focus.

Along the way, the script uses earthy wit to explore issues that affect older people, most notably the callous treatment from a government housing officer (Smith). Without preaching, there are comments on the tricky business of maintaining family relationships as lives shift and change over the years. This meandering film is never more than quietly engaging, but it sparks deeper thoughts and feelings. "We've both lived another life, haven't we," Fern says. And this film is a reminder that we're never too old to embrace a new one.

cert 12 themes, language, sexuality 21.Sep.20

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