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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs and shorts...
|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.Jun.23
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Julian Buchan, John Onieal
scr John Onieal, Frank Spiro
prd Jeremy Truong, Katie White
with Jimmy Fowlie, Sydnee Washington, Shannon DeVido, David Mudge, Calvin Seabrooks, Megan Johnson, Crystal Porter Bazemore, Slater Vulich, Benito Skiller, Harry Katzman, Liva Pierce, Chester Lockhart
release UK 5.Jun.23
22/US Grindr 1h00
(2022 web series)
Is it streaming?
Editing his web-app series into a broad and brightly coloured hour-long comedy, Jon Onieal has a lot of fun with sexual cliches, especially of the gay variety. Pacey and extremely nutty, the film is amusing even if it's far too ridiculous to connect with the viewer on any meaningful level. But it feels more robust in this format, and even as sexy fluff it's a guilty pleasure.
Self-absorbed chatterbox Terry (Fowlie) is a bridesman in the wedding of his best friend Judith (Washington), but he's determined to stop because he doesn't want to be left behind. His main plan is involves seducing her dim-but-hot fiance Wyatt (Mudge). The other bridesmaids (Johnson and Bazemore) are distracted by their own obsessions and overreactions to various mini-dramas taking place during preparations. And after waging all-out war against snarky maid-of-honour Muriel (DeVido), Terry will now need to team up with her to save the wedding. But rather a lot of hijinks unfold before they get there.
Scenes are accompanied by the patter of Terry's narration, cracking smug jokes while explaining the story in detail rather than letting it play out on-screen. The low-budget production values and slapstick sensibilities continually threaten to undermine everything, while scenes overflow with throwaway references and a flurry of pop culture gags. This makes the film feel like a sketch comedy show with an unusually high hit rate. So even if the characters are all pretty despicable, the snappy dialog is genuinely funny.
The actors have little choice but to go far over the top with their performances, so there isn't a single character in here who feels believable. Fowlie's Terry is relentlessly smug, doubling down on the exaggerated sneery egomania. But he rattles off hilarious lines of dialog without flinching, and builds spiky chemistry with Washington's enthusiastic bride, plus some fierce rivalry with the bridesmaids. The only even vaguely subtle performance is by Seabrooks as an Uber driver Terry drags into the mayhem.
It's difficult to understand who this was made for, as its never as gay or lusty as its intended audience will want it to be. The continual sexual references keep things spicy, but never pay off in a way that's satisfying. Thankfully, along the way there are plenty of astute observational jokes that make the characters likeable in the most unexpected ways. Aside from corny casual comments on monogamy and true love, there aren't any themes to speak of. But it's diverting while it lasts.
Gods Petting You
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Jamie Patterson
prd Jamie Patterson, John Summers, Henry Summers, Dominic Machan
with George Webster, Skye Lourie, Alice Lowe, Patrick Bergin, Joss Porter, Benedict Garrett, Jordan Stephens, April Pearson, Joe Wilkinson, Chris Willoughby, Gemma Rook, Nathan Ariss
release UK/US 21.Apr.23
Is it streaming?
Packed with eccentric characters, this offbeat British comedy centres around a harebrained caper involving two social misfits. But writer-director Jamie Patterson keeps the story grounded with an earthy filmmaking style, and the actors bring a relaxed authenticity to even the more outrageous scenes. The movie plays addiction and murder as just a bit of a lark, and it's also amusing without actually being funny, entertaining without being likeable.
In Brighton, snarky Charlie (Webster) is attending an addiction group meeting with his heroin dealer (Wilkinson) when he meets a sex-addicted tattooed girl (Lourie) who won't reveal her name. As their connection grows, Charlie offers to help her escape her violently possessive pornstar boyfriend Jimmy (Garrett). And perhaps they can use his stash of cash to start a new life somewhere else. So they hatch a plan. But Jimmy violently attacks Charlie for seeing his girl, and now Charlie has revenge in mind. Then Jimmy's coked-up colleague Mark (Porter) pops in for an unexpected visit.
Framed as Charlie recounts his story to his therapist (Lowe), the film never takes his perilous lifestyle seriously. The title is a description of how heroin feels. And there are very serious scenes along the way. These people have crushed their own dreams, and when Charlie suggests a romantic escape, she tells him that he watches too many movies. So it's no surprise that they need to buy a gun from an American (Bergin) as part of their plan, and that their scheme grows and changes unexpectedly.
Each of the actors is committed to his or her character, which makes them interesting even if they're not hugely sympathetic. At the centre, Webster and Lourie have nice chemistry but are so self-involved that it's impossible to generate much concern about where they're headed. For Charlie and the tattoo girl, heroin and sex are merely mild diversions, rather than crippling problems. Side roles are broader, seen through their eyes as losers they need to transcend; these ace scene-stealers provide enjoyably nutty textures.
Nothing like the usual junkie heist comedy, this film depicts actions that are wildly reckless, although they are played as merely hapless. Charlie may be high, but he functions in his unambitious, limited day-to-day. The tattoo girl doesn't like to go outside because in her home alone she can be in control of her life, apparently due to childhood abuse. While these themes feed cleverly into the narrative, they remain unexplored by the screenplay, even as things get startlingly dark and twisted.
You Can Live Forever
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Sarah Watts, Mark Slutsky
prd Robert Vroom
with Anwen O'Driscoll, June Laporte, Liane Balaban, Antoine Yared, Hasani Freeman, Deragh Campbell, Tim Campbell, Lenni-Kim Lalande, Xavier Roberge, Catherine-Amelie Cote, Jude Ferris, HoJo Rose
release US 9.Jun.23,
Is it streaming?
Warm and unfussy, this gently moving Canadian drama is based on the real-life experiences of first-time filmmaker Sarah Watts, who writes and directs alongside Mark Slutsky. This gives the movie an earthy honesty that adds grit to understated production values and realistically tentative performances. The film is nicely shot and played with nuance, even if it feels a bit mopey. But the themes are important and provocative.
After her father dies and her mother struggles to cope, teen Jaime (O'Driscoll) is sent to live with her Aunt Beth (Balaban) and Uncle Jean-Francois (Yared), who are devout Jehovah's Witnesses. Understandably surly, Jaime is still grieving, she rebels against religion and is deeply annoyed by small-town life. But she perks up when she befriends Marike (Laporte) at a meeting. And at school, sparky classmate Nathan (Freeman) helps her remain grounded. While Marike explains her faith, Jaime begins to fall for her. And as the romantic feeling begins to be mutual, things get very complicated.
Dialog is soft-spoken, often swirling with religious ideas that are alien to Jaime. She asks a lot of questions, which helps the viewer identify with her as she tries to navigate this rather intense community. Confusingly, the religious community constantly frets about Jaime's rejection of religion, but their message is an often jarring mix of love, as they try to bring Jaime in, and ominous condemnation. Indeed, Jaime is startled by mysterious stories of how Marike's mother was banished. Just as perplexing is Marike's plan to go on a double date with two cute church boys (Lalande and Roberge).
Performances are as understated as the filmmaking, often whispery and inexpressive. But each character feels realistic, with flashes of wit and insight. O'Driscoll is a likeable lead, nicely depicting the thoughtful Jaime's churning internal emotions. And Laporte brings an engaging openness to Marike. Their chemistry is played with an almost severe subtlety; it's inexorable and also scary, which sharply reflects their situation. Of the supporting roles, only Freeman is allowed to show much personality, the one person on-screen who isn't hugely repressed.
The connection between Jaime and Marike is played with knowing authenticity, full of tiny details that reflect the film's autobiographical nature. This creates a remarkably astute exploration of teenage yearning, with added transgressive religious issues that intriguingly both divide and unite these teens. This also gives the story a melodramatic vibe, although the low-key approach sidesteps any overwrought emotion, instead creating situations that resonate with an underlying sense of desire and urgency.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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