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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 21.Nov.21

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
The Drowning of Arthur Braxton
dir Luke Cutforth
prd Josh Winslade
scr Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Luke Cutforth
with James Tarpey, Johnny Vegas, Rebecca Hanssen, Keith Rice, Nisa Cole, Caroline Partridge, Toby Williams, Sophie Wright, Malcolm Freeman, Ben Hawkey, Kirstie Shapiro, Lin Sagovsky
release UK Nov.21 rff
21/UK 1h42

raindance film fest

Is it streaming?

hanssen and tarpey
Delving into the mind of a teen overwhelmed by life, this British drama uses fantasy and horror to add intriguing angles to the story. The film is nicely directed by Like Cutforth, using vivid visual touches to get under the surface of the characters. As a broader mythology begins to take shape, everything gets a bit overwrought, putting perhaps too much spin on the more involving internalised angles.
For teenaged Arthur (Tarpey), school is just one humiliation after another, usually at the hand of class bully Tommy (Rice) and his sidekick Estelle (Cole). At home, Arthur cares for his cruel layabout dad (Vegas). On the verge of ending it all, he hears the siren call of Delphina (Hanssen) coming from an abandoned public pool set for demolition. And he's unsure whether this beautiful girl is a figment of his imagination, or perhaps some kind of mermaid. But he enjoys getting to know her, and she helps him overcome his fear of the water.
Scenes are revealed through Arthur's imaginative point of view, which isn't remotely grounded in reality. This allows for false starts, witty twists and unexpected revelations before the real situation becomes clear. It also makes everything on-screen suspect. There's some beautiful underwater photography, and several surprising and even shocking events along the way, all heavily playing on subtext. But sections of the narrative never quite come into focus, as Cutforth persists in unfolding events in ways that are fantastical and sometimes bewildering.

Even with the surreal touches, Tarpey remains grounded and naturalistic as Arthur, finding terrific comical rhythms that nicely balance his darker thoughts and feelings. Other characters are broader, largely due to the fact that they're seen through Arthur's eyes. Vegas has some unexpectedly lucid moments as his father, most notably in the final act. And so does Rice. But many other characters are either enigmatic or exaggerated, including a ghostly girl (Wright) and her predatory father (Freeman).

The most chilling aspect of this story is the way Arthur seems to have slipped through the cracks of the system with no real support from anyone in his life. Teachers say the right things but are powerless to confront his tormentors, and Arthur's dad is so seriously unwell and bitter that being at home is unbearable. Some of the surprises that come along the way are a bit predictable, and many jarring twists and turns feel underpowered. But there's an overall story here that cuts through the fanciful flourishes.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 7.Nov.21 rff

Hide and Seek  
Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

Hide and Seek
dir-scr Joel David Moore
prd Yeonu Choi
with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jacinda Barrett, Joe Pantoliano, Sue Jean Kim, Mustafa Shakir, Quinn McColgan, Eli Golden, Avril Wei, Geoffrey Owens, Joaquin Maceo Rosa, Danny Henriquez, Alejandra Rivera Flavia
release US 19.Nov.21
21/US 1h24

Is it streaming?

Slickly produced to create a lively noir-style vibe, this remake of the 2013 Korean thriller emphasises its intriguing atmosphere and twisty story. Filmmaker Joel David Moore keeps everything looking so steely and cold that it's not an easy movie to engage with. The action beats feel oddly contrived and, because the premise is so vague, it feels like things take a long time to get going.
After inheriting his father's property empire, Noah (Meyers) wants to find his missing brother Jacob. Family lawyer Collin (Pantoliano) advises Noah to forget about Jacob for the sake of his wife Samantha (Barrett) and kids (McColgan and Golden). But Noah follows a lead to a condemned apartment building full of squatters, with odd symbols on the walls, a menacing super (Shakir) and an overinvolved long-term resident (Kim). And now Noah is noticing strange things lurking around inside his own palatial apartment. He becomes convinced that his brother is stalking him, trying to collect his inheritance.
Moore deploys the full range of creepiness to keep the audience off-balance, from a vicious opening murder to the sinister symbols and some freak-out flashbacks. Noah is also haunted by nightmares about his lost brother, and the question is whether they're actually nightmares at all. All of which allows for the usual jump scares, red herrings and some inventive grisliness to ramp up the unnerving tone. But because the script neglects to properly establish either the story or the characters, it stubbornly refuses to grab hold.

Meyers has strong presence as the cleanliness-obsessed Noah, although he's too relentlessly gloomy and inarticulate to be likeable. From a nice opening scene that establishes a relaxed dynamic with his wife and kids, he becomes increasingly sullen and isolated in his obsessive search for his brother. Sio while the side characters are nicely played, and some have a strong presence of their own, each of them feels specifically deployed only for Noah's story, rather than having a life of their own. Barrett, McColgan and Golden are solid but sidelined; Pantoliano hovers around the edges.

Even if the narrative never seems to grain traction, there's a churning underlying theme in Noah's consuming guilt, feeling that he has stolen his brother's birthright. Even if it never quite emerges from the subtext, this is far more interesting than the movie's actual plot, especially as the secrets come out in ways that aren't particularly exciting, relying on unexplained details and implausible action sequences. Which leaves the climactic scenes feeling more nasty than scary.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Nov.21

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
dir-scr Reggie Yates
prd Polly Leys, Kate Norrish
with Elliot Edusah, Jordan Peters, Reda Elazouar, Kassius Nelson, Youssef Kerkour, Rebekah Murrell, Shiloh Coke, Aaron Shosanya, Tosin Cole, Elroy Powell, Tsion Habte, Peyvand Sadeghian
release UK 26.Nov.21
21/UK BBC 1h20

Is it streaming?

edusah, elazouar and peters
There's a blast of refreshing energy in this British comedy, which sends three teens on a riotous journey around London over one momentous day. Writer-director Reggie Yates cleverly infuses the story with their garage beats as they encounter a variety of obstacles and colourful characters while trying to get in to the party of the millennium. There isn't much to it, but gentle underlying themes add some texture.
It's New Year's Eve 1999 and Cap (Edusah) is back from university, happy to vibe with T (Peters) and Kid (Elazouar) on the pirate radio station they run from a bedroom. Tonight, T is determined to be near Sophie (Nelson) at midnight, so they need to get tickets to the coolest nightclub party. Kid's bonkers Uncle Ibbs (Kerkour) might know someone, or maybe T can get the nerve to ask a record shop clerk (Murrell) he broke up with very badly. Another option is a deejay (Shosanya) who also has a dodgy history with T.
Through all of these madcap antics, many of which are desperately silly, there's a subtly involving realisation that these pals are growing up and growing apart. So not only is this the end of a century, but their friendship is on the brink as well. This adds a gentle earthiness underneath the wacky, busy surface, even if the script never quite gets round to grappling with the issue. Instead, the focus is on infectious energy and Inbetweeners-style hapless boys straining to be men.

The camaraderie between Edusah, Peters and Elazouar is often thrilling to watch, played to perfection to convey a deep affection even when they have a falling out (as the script insists they must). Edush has a strong observational presence as the thoughtful Cap, the character through whose eyes we see much of the action. Peters makes T engagingly oblivious about his own trail of destruction, finding himself in one embarrassing encounter after another. As the chatty, impulsive Kid, Elazouar is simply hilarious. And other characters add plenty of colourful textures.

This movie is all about three 18-year-olds who don't quite realise that they still have a lot of growing up to do. They think they've arrived at adulthood fully formed, and over the course of this epic night they begin to understand their ignorance. This isn't perhaps realistic (it'll take another decade before they realise how little they know), but it gives the plot a nice arc that carries the audience through the goofy, simplistic comedy into something just a tiny bit more meaningful.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Nov.21

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