Lady Bird

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, and Timothée Chalamet.

Greta Gerwig is best know as an indie starlet favoured by American auteur Noah Baumbach, winning acclaim for her role in Frances Ha. Here, she breaks out on her own with her solo directorial debut, after co-directing Nights and Weekends, directing from a script she wrote herself. Whilst Gerwig has claimed that the film is not auto-biographical, there is no doubt that this is an incredibly personal story, and an incredibly personal film. It’s set in Sacramento, the place where Gerwig grew up, and is mainly concerned with the relationships Lady Bird has with both the place, and her Mother.

Lady Bird is a coming of age story centred around Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Roman. A teenage girl living in Sacramento, who is in her final year of high school, trying to figure out what to do with her future and what college to go to. Throughout the year she will have to navigate love, sex, friendships, class, and most importantly her relationship with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf. She’s a girl who complains about not living in a place surrounded by culture, although she doesn’t know who Jim Morrison is, and wants to go to an Ivy League school despite not being academic. It’s a film about a young woman coming to terms with who she is, and accepting the things that define her.

Lady Bird is a completely charming film. It’s a film made by some one who obviously has such affection for her characters that you can’t help but share that affection. Gerwig has created a world with such well drawn and vivid characters, that even those you only meet briefly feel like old friends. Everyone in the film feels real, they all have a pulse, and each one is a piece of a puzzle that helps you understand Lady Bird, and that helps Lady Bird understand herself. There is a feeling of warmth, to and from the characters, that seems to radiate from the screen and wrap you in a tight embrace.

It’s a wonderfully constructed film too. Not one scene feels over-indulgent, it never over stays it’s welcome. Every frame is there for a reason, and what beautiful frames they are. Set in 2002, the film has the feel of a memory or a dream. The use of grain, and colour, adding to this sense of time capsule, like looking through old photos and saying this is who I was. It’s a feeling I’ve not had since seeing Boyhood. It’s also smartly edited, a scene where Lady Bird comforts a friend, cutting to her Mother, a nurse talking to a patient about depression. It’s this showing and not telling which makes Lady Bird stand out. Helping us understand why someone who so clearly loves their home town, their mum, their school, and their friends seems so intent in rebelling against it all.

If the characters are well drawn, then the actors colour them in exceptionally. Both Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet shine with their limited screen time, but it’s Saoirse Rowan and Laurie Metcalf who really stand out. Their relationship feeling authentically lived in. You leave with the sense that these are people you’ve known your whole life. They both deserve all the accolades they are receiving. It’s hard to believe that Ronan is still so young, and this proves she’s one of the best leading actresses working today and will be for years to come.

If there are any complaints of the film, it comes from having such high expectations. For a best picture nominee, the story and subject matter are very slight. It reminded me of Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. It’s a coming of age story. An incredibly well made, funny, and moving coming of age story, which deals with everyday complexities very well, but still just a coming of age story. Lady Bird says she wants to have actually lived through something. She doesn’t really, but that’s the point. This is only a minor gripe though, and if I didn’t know anything about the film going in, I’m sure it wouldn’t have thought it.

Lady Bird is a warm, funny, and moving cinematic experience. Greta Gerwig has created a world which you want to spend time in, and her troupe of actors have populated that world with such well drawn, interesting characters, you feel like you’ve known them your whole life. I can see this being a film that I’ll return to again and again, like seeing an old friend.


I, Tonya

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Craig Gillespie

Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, and Bobby Cannavale.


Being a Brit born after the events that take place in the film, I knew nothing about Tonya Harding until I saw the first trailer for this film. I’m not a particularly big figure skating fan, or someone who watches the Olympic every year. The subject matter of the movie, couldn’t be further from my interests. Lucky for me then, that none of that matters. In the same way that Rocky isn’t really about the boxing, this is a sports biopic way more interested in the characters than the actual sport. This is helped largely through the talking heads interviews, where if a character says they were the best figure skater in the world, you believe them, without the film having to put too much effort in showing you. The fact that these talking heads are wildly untrustworthy is all part of the films fun.


The film is based on interviews with Tonya Harding, and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, played respectively by Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan. They have too very different points of view about what happened in their time together, and the film does its best to piece together a cohesive narrative which incorporates them all. It’s the story of how Tonya Harding came through an abusive relationship with her mum, LaVona, played by Allison Janney, and perhaps an abusive husband, to become one of the best figure skaters in America, on her way to the 1994 Winter Olympics. Her life is turned upside down when her husband Jeff intervenes, and one of  her competitors, Nancy Kerrigan is the victim of an assault.


I really enjoyed I, Tonya. It’s the kind of all absorbing movie you can just lean back and fall in love with. The film does a great job of building this time and place, early 90’s Portland, and placing you slap bang in the middle of it. The production design is great, the choice of music is toe-tappingly good, and it’s filled with characters you want to know more about. The Scorsese-esque direction and editing lends the film a kinetic energy, at least for the first 2/3rds of the movie, which propels you along the story at such a pace it’s impossible to get bored. The pace also comes with a light touch in direction, the film is incredibly funny even when dealing with darker subject matter. The performances are universally good as well. It’s nice to see Sebastian Stan shine away from the Marvel franchise, and Allison Janney is great, although with all the hype surrounding her performance I thought her role would have been a bit more demanding. The true standout here is Margot Robbie, producing here as well as starring, it’s a knockout performance which cements her place as a true female lead. It speaks to both the neutral approach that Gillespie took in directing the film, and Robbie’s performance that you can’t help but feel sympathy for Tonya by the end, even though the events that took place were so morally reprehensible.


I think the reason I liked the film so much, is that it’s not really about figure skating. It’s a film that explores the ideas of truth. The talking heads being interviewed, agree on certain aspects of events, but disagree wildly on others. Tonya says Jeff was abusive towards her, and Jeff says he never hit her. The film is called I, Tonya though so we see everything through Tonya’s point of view, which in this case means we see Jeff being constantly abusive, and we cut to him telling us this is all false. This style though is used to point the finger at us, and our obsession with celebrity culture, and the 24hr news cycle. It asks us to question believing everything we are told. The film also explores themes of class, Harding is an unapologetic red neck, trying to compete in a world which is all about appearance and class. In one emotional  scene we are told she won’t make the Olympics because the board want her to have a wholesome American family. Heartbreakingly she asks why it can’t just be about the skating, the irony is that it’s her viewership draw that allows her to go to the Olympics.


The film does falter a little bit after “the incident” takes place. It loses some of its pace, and starts to drag a little bit. Like a lot movies, this film could have lost half an hour of its runtime. We also see Margot Robbie taking a lot of abuse, which obviously has the intention of normalising the violence for the audience in the same way the abuse became normal for her, but I felt it was a little over done. The film does present us with the idea that it’s showing all the sides to the story, but it largely leans into supporting Tonya Harding, not necessarily supporting what happened, but  being behind her as a person. We generally hear from people who like Tonya, even Jeff comes across as remorseful. There’s a reason we don’t get a Nancy Kerrigan talking head.


I enjoyed I, Tonya a lot. It’s a kinetic, fast paced biopic, which made me interested in an event and a sport which I had no previous interest in. It’s filled with memorable characters, and great performances. Janney is getting all the press, but it’s Robbie’s film from start to finish. It’s a film which sets out to explore the truth, but you can’t help but feel manipulated by it. It’s stylish, fun, and well put together. You just have to take everything with a grain of salt.



























71st British Academy Film Awards – Breakdown

2018, Uncategorized

Last night saw the Royal Albert Hall play host to the 71st Annual British Academy Film Awards, or as they are most commonly know, the BAFTA’S. Although not as coveted as the OSCAR’s, the BAFTA’s are the biggest night in film this side of the Atlantic. Of course, all awards are rather trivial, a chance for the industry to pat themselves on the back, but they are still incredibly important. It’s a great chance to celebrate the previous year in film, and to bring attention to some amazing work that might otherwise go un-noticed. Your favourite film might not win, or even get nominated, which is always frustrating and you could spend your time moaning about this, but where’s the fun in that. Here we will go through all of last nights big winners.

Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I’ll admit that I’ve only seen three out of these five movies, but out of the films on this list that I had seen, Three Billboards was a well deserved winner. Dunkirk was great, but maybe lacked the emotional resonance to really compete. The Shape Of Water was also fantastic, for me it was a close race between this and Three Billboards.

Outstanding British Film

Darkest Hour
The Death Of Stalin
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Paddington 2
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards won again, which makes complete sense that the best film would also be the best British film. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Paddington 2 pick up the award, but there are some great films on this list. All worth a watch.

Best Animated Film

Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette

I loved Coco. It’s another well deserved win. The other two movies are definitely worth checking out, but Pixar are maintaining their dominance over this category. Hopefully, one day they’ll recognise them as the Best Picture.

Best Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro
An inconvenient Sequel

I haven’t seen any of these. I love my documentaries, but I usually wait until after awards season to check out the best the year had to offer.

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape Of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Shape Of Water may have missed out on Best Film, but Guillermo picked up his Best Directors award, in a pattern I think will be repeated at the OSCAR’s. The Shape Of Water is a beautifully directed movie, and Guillermo is one of our most unique directors. Nolan must be thinking that he’s another Scorsese, on of the best directors of his time, but never recognised during awards season.

Best Actor

Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kayuula, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Jamie Bell, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

This was the biggest non-surprise of the night. They’re all great performances, but there was only ever one winner here. Gary Oldman continues his winning streak with his portrayal of Winston Churchill. It’s a shame though that these award ceremonies are okay with the make-up used to enhance Oldman’s performance, but are yet to recognise Andy Serkis’ mo-cap assisted performances.

Best Actress

Annette Benning, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I,Tonya
Sally Hawkins, The Shape Of Water
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

When the nominations came out, I thought this might have been the closest run category. The performances here are all fantastic, but McDormand delivers a tour-de-force performance which can’t help but grab all the attention.

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer, All The Money In The World
Hugh Grant, Paddington 2
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Defoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Again, no real surprises here. Some may have been hoping for an upset with Willem Defoe snatching it, but that would have meant some people actually saw The Florida Project. Sam Rockwell has been great for ages, and it’s nice to see him getting recognised.

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Octavia Spencer, The Shape Of Water

Heading into awards season, it seemed that this was a two horse race between Allison Janney, and Laurie Metcalf, but it seems now that Janney is set to sweep the board. Best known for her role in The West Wing, it’s great to see another fabulous character actor get some accolades.

Best Original Screenplay

Get Out
I, Tonya,
Lady Bird
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Whilst we would have all loved to see Get Out win some awards, it’s clear to see that Three Billboards is the most showy screenplay in this category. It’s full of fantastic dialogue, and deals with complex issues. This was the hardest category of the night for me, as they’re all great.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name
The Death Of Stalin
Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Molly’s Game
Paddington 2

I haven’t seen Call Me By Your Name Yet, and I did really enjoy Molly’s Game, but Paddington 2 should have won.

That’s it for the main categories of the night. It was a predictable night, and I’m hoping for a few more upsets at the OSCAR’s. Three Billboards was the big winner, and now seems most likely for Best Picture at the OSCAR’s, although The Shape Of Water might have something to say about that.

Below you can find the list of all the other winners. Special mention to Daniel Kaluuya for his EE Rising Star Award, and Ridley Scott for his Fellowship.

EE Rising Star: Daniel Kaluuya
Best Original Music: The Shape Of Water
Best Make Up And Hair: Darkest Hour
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Editing: Baby Driver
Outstanding British Contribution To Film: National Film and Television School
Best British Short Animation: Poles Apart
Best British Short Film: Cowboy Dave
Best Film Not In The English Language: The Handmaiden
Best Production Design: The Shape Of Water
Best Special Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer: I Am Not A Witch
Best Sound: Dunkirk
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
BAFTA Fellowship: Ridley Scott