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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.Apr.21

Beast Beast  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Beast Beast
dir-scr Danny Madden
prd Benjamin Wiessner, Matt Miller, Tara Ansley
with Shirley Chen, Will Madden, Jose Angeles, Courtney Dietz, Daniel Rashid, Anissa Matlock, Stephen Ruffin, Jonathan Silva, Chip Carriere, Kron Moore, Cynthia Barrett, Susan Gallagher, Charles Green
release US 16.Apr.21,
UK 30.Apr.21
20/US 1h25


Is it streaming?

chen and angeles
Loosely riffing on social media-style storytelling, writer-director Danny Madden skilfully uses documentary camerawork and editing, plus a terrific fresh-faced cast. The narrative centres around three teens at a small-town high school who have no idea just how unfinished they are, which leads them directly into various big and small events. It's an adept approach to what feels like a familiar story, and it carries a few heart-stopping punches.
In a Southern town, Krista is a typical teen, busy with drama club and various adventures with her best friend Johanna (Dietz). Her neighbour Adam (Madden) is looking for social media fame with videos about his extensive gun collection, especially now that his father (Carriere) wants to cut all financial support. And new classmate Nito (Angeles) is a whizzy skater dude who's secretly into Krista, and at a party discovers that the feeling may be mutual. Nito also starts hanging out with older kid Yoni (Rashid) and his rather wild buddies, heading blithely into trouble.
Guns, drugs and criminal antics add a brisk sense of urgency, while the plot remains almost subliminal. Cameras observe these kids as they hang out together and interact on superficial levels, playing the roles they think they should play. But the film is also exploring who they really are, revealing underlying complexity and personal quirks in each individual journey. So where the story goes feels shocking and perhaps a bit pointed. But it's powerfully moving and intensely provocative.

The ensemble is strikingly realistic, playing up comical connections, loose-limbed and loving life. Angeles' Nito is the most engaging, with his impeccably goofy timing and winning smile, and it's clear there's much more under the surface. Flickers of attraction between Krista and Nito are beautifully played. And Chen finds some terrific layers in popular girl Krista. Meanwhile, Madden is a bundle of insecurities as a guy trying his best. Then he makes the mistake of reading the comments under his latest video.

There are nods to other major issues along the way, such as the casual drug use these teens enjoy or the way the police immediately go for Nito in a crowd of disorderly teens. And Adam is super-conscientious about his guns, while careless chuckleheads get more views for their videos. Where the film goes in its final act is unexpected and darkly moving. The title refers to an acting exercise to help you release the beast within, and while writer-director Madden's approach isn't particularly subtle, it definitely gets us thinking.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.Apr.21

I’m Not in Love
Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5  
I'm Not in Love
dir Col Spector
scr Col Spector, Radha Chakraborty
prd Vanessa Muir, Hannah Greenwood, Col Spector
with Al Weaver, Cristina Catalina, Morgan Watkins, Tessa Peake-Jones, Jack Whitam, Sunil Patel, John Henshaw, Sinead Matthews, Rosalind Eleazar, Gabrielle Creevy, James Lance, Davina Bentley
release UK 12.Apr.21
21/UK 1h24

Is it streaming?

catalina and weaver
Both goofy and rather mournful, this low-key British romantic comedy centres on a man in his late 30s deciding whether he should settle down or cut and run. The story and themes are serious, while dialog is offhanded and gently amusing, with humour rooted in awkwardness and repression. The narrative unfolds anecdotally, with disconnected scenes that don't always ring true. But terrific actors help us identify with the characters.
When nutritionist Rob (Weaver) overhears his girlfriend Marta (Catalina) telling someone how badly she wants to get married, he begins to question his feelings. So when an old flame (Eleazer) comes back to town, he plans to meet her. And his womanising best pal Chris (Watkins) encourages him to go for it. Meanwhile, his married friends (Whitam and Patel) are having very different issues with their spouses. So when Rob decides that he should propose to Marta, he gets himself into a panic. This perhaps isn't the way romance is meant to feel, is it?
Everyone on-screen is miserable but likeable, unsure who they are and taking it out on those around them. The best thing Rob's friends say about Marta is that there's nothing wrong with her, so he might as well stick with her and have a couple of kids. The way he checks out options is half-hearted, and he struggles to ignore unhelpful reactions those around him. Meanwhile, Marta longs for the love and warmth she feels like Rob might not be able to give her.

Throughout this odyssey, Weaver has a hapless charm as Rob interacts with people who press in on him in distinctly unwelcome ways, including Peake-Jones as Rob's sparky, oblivious mother. Catalina is solid in a thankless role, making Marta's anger justifiable. Watkins, Whitam and Patel add their own messy angles, hinting at lives off-screen without actually revealing much. But they gently nudge Rob along, adding to the wider exploration of how relationships shift over time.

Rob's crippling uncertainty and insecurity are frustrating to watch, as he simply seems unable to confront anything about himself or his life, which leaves the film feeling somewhat aimless. It's a knowing look at how we cope with society's pressures to conform, and how our idealistic dreams can get in the way of happiness. Although perhaps the main problem is that the film's message about the complexities of love is delivered in way that's both preachy and simplistic, complete with a few plot points that are strangely random and undeveloped.

cert 15 themes, language 6.Apr.21

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5  
dir-prd Martin Grof
scr Magdalena Drahovska, Martin Grof
with Eugene Simon, Emily Wyatt, Jennifer Martin, Bethan Wright, Alastair G Cumming, Anil Desai, Kai Francis-Lewis, Alex Reid, Lorraine Tai, Paul Coster, Vladimir Mladenov, Richard Goble
release US 26.Feb.21,
UK 16.Apr.21
21/UK 1h36

Is it streaming?

simon and martin
This London-set thriller is set in a super-secret world of espionage and sci-fi technology. Even without any actual action, filmmaker Martin Grof keeps everything slickly in motion, and the fact that everything is vaguely cheesy adds some charm. Otherwise, scenes are awash in slowly proclaimed portentous dialog and shifting layers of reality. But there's no thematic depth in the story or characters, so it's watchable without being very involving.
When hapless postman Andrew (Simon) attends an appointment to learn his DNA test results, he's startled that Dr Marinus (Cumming) abruptly challenges him for no real reason, then later shows up at his flat and activates some sort of super-human fighting skills inside him. Before he understands what's happening, he's ushered by stone-faced goon Ernesto (Reid) to the mysterious Nadia (Wyatt), who wants to develop his special sensory reception abilities. At a secret training centre in the countryside, he meets others (Wright, Desai, Francis-Lewis and Tai) who are like him, plus telepathic teacher May (Martin).
With shady men lurking everywhere with their whizzy but vaguely familiar-looking gadgets, the film has a heavy whiff of Men in Black about it. It's handy that the script never needs to explain any of the details about what's going on, repeatedly brushing them off as top secret. There are constant references to Andrew's mother, who somehow connects him to all of this. So as he hones his skills, Andrew is also searching for answers. Revelations are a bit random, slowly building a generational picture reaching back, of course, to Nazi experiments.

Simon is likeable as a guy who discovers that he can absorb and control other people's senses. As the training programme literally gets inside his head, he begins to question what's real and what isn't. His fellow trainees never quite become fully fledged characters, aside from their varying levels of ability. And Wyatt and Martin remain far too enigmatic to have much of a dramatic impact, appearing mysteriously in Simon's bewildered perceptions. Still, it's up to them to drop bits of plot all over the place.

Because it's mainly set around the training process, the film feels like a prologue to an action franchise. But there's very little light and shade in the story; it plays out on a basic narrative level that lacks the nuance needed to properly draw viewers in. The whiplash editing and continual stream of twists and turns are enjoyable enough to keep us watching. But it's very difficult to care what happens when everything is so sketchy.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Apr.21

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