Talking Movies

March 16, 2016

Sing Street

Writer/director John Carney builds on his American debut Begin Again’s success with another funny can-do tale of musical swashbuckling, this time set in 1980s Dublin.

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Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a rich kid whose cosy private school adolescence comes to a crashing halt when parents Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) announce an austerity drive. A fish hopelessly out of water at Synge Street CBS he is viciously bullied, but after being befriended by entrepreneurial fixer Darren (Ben Carolan) he meets aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and ascends the pecking order at school after forming a band to impress her. Older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) provides sardonic mentoring while multi-instrumentalist Eamon (Mark McKenna) provides the musical foundations over which Conor, soon renamed Cosmo, lays lyrics about Raphina. Cosmo increasingly clashes with school Principal Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley) as the band ‘Sing Street’ become increasingly disruptive in their appearance and attitude. But will Conor’s increasingly ambitious efforts be enough to stop Raphina emigrating to London?

“But is there a difference between liking a thing and thinking it good?” – Brideshead Revisited

Bridey’s question is extremely pertinent for Carney’s movie. The original music is great, especially the band’s first song ‘The Riddle of the Model’. Carney’s script is very funny, and Reynor is on terrific form as the stoner older brother. But this feels like a backward step from Begin Again on a number of fronts. Reynor’s character is almost a mash-up of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Zooey Deschanel’s roles in Almost Famous, and, though Sing Street captures elements of the period perfectly; school exercise books, constant smoking; there is also an air of total fantasy (doubly odd in a film which so obviously wants praise for its grittiness) which has Brendan as its focal point. He’s almost a time-traveller from 2015 landed in 1985 in the social critique he lays on his parents’ marriage and the Christian Brothers’ ethos. His dismissal of Genesis makes a nonsense of his affection for Duran Duran, and then you realise his taste is temporally inconsistent. Brendan ought to be agonising over whether Bowie, Springsteen and The Clash have sold out on their latest albums, and avidly listening to The Smiths and REM, not watching Top of the Pops. And then there’s U2… Never mentioned, never listened to, in 1985 Dublin.

Raphina never convinces as a real person, she is merely an object of desire, and the film has so little interest in Conor and Brendan’s sister; especially her reaction to their parents’ separation; that you wonder why she’s there at all. But while the female characters fare poorly, compared to Conor and Brendan, they’re not alone. Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) is also sidelined, and Larry (Conor Hamilton) and Garry (Karl Rice) are interchangeable comic relief. Sing Street’s set-up recalls The Inbetweeners but pretty boy Cosmo, living in a three storey house, is not likeable. He humiliates the school bully; fully aware said bully is a victim of abuse; and aggravatingly ‘rebels’ against Brother Baxter; who has to contend with regular students’ violent behaviour without Cosmo’s New Romantics nonsense; with Carney stacking the deck by creating an uncomfortable unfounded expectation of molestation.

Sing Street is an entertaining film made with much confidence, but that doesn’t excuse its many puzzling artistic choices and the most ridiculous ‘upbeat’ ending since The Way Back.

3.5/5

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February 9, 2016

ADIFF: Irish Focus

The Audi Dublin International Film Festival is showcasing an array of home-grown talent, presenting the next wave of highly anticipated Irish films following recent awards.

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Throughout the Festival a selection of features, documentaries and shorts will showcase the breadth of talent in Irish cinema, including Simon Fitzmaurice’s debut feature My Name Is Emily, Rebecca Daly’s Mammal (which premiered at Sundance), the gritty Killian Scott thriller Traders, Northern Irish political drama The Truth Commissioner, and Staid, the feature debut of best-selling author and playwright Paul O’Brien.

Irish documentaries are a vital part of the Festival with this year’s selection covering a wide range of topics. Johnny Gogan’s Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future delves into the career of writer and Kilkenny-native Hubert Butler, who smuggled Jewish people into Ireland from pre-World War II Austria. Atlantic focuses on three small fishing communities who face the devastating prospect of having their livelihoods taken from them due to major challenges within their industry. Fís na Fuiseoige is an exploration into Irish poetry, while The Judas Iscariot Lunch presents thirteen Irish ex-priests who speak candidly about their time in the Catholic Church. There are two Reel Art documentaries, an initiative by the Arts Council. Further Beyond deals with 18th Century figure, Ambrose O’Higgins, with filmmakers Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor attempting to retrace his remarkable journey from Ireland to Chile. We Are Moving – Memories of Miss Moriarty is an intimate portrait of Joan Denise Moriarty who dreamt of bringing ballet to every corner of Ireland.

To coincide with 1916 centenary celebrations, there will be a special screening of Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins. A reunion for the extras who took part in its production will also take place, Seen But Unnoticed, which will allow them to share their stories and memories from the shoot. A short film initiative, After ’16 Shorts, funded by the Irish Film Board, will also be screened to commemorate 1916. Several more Irish short films will be screened as part of ADIFF Shorts 1 and ADIFF Shorts 2, including Mike Hayes’ Leave, starring Moe Dunford, and Vincent Gallagher’s Love is a Sting.

The Festival celebrates emerging Irish film talent with the ADIFF Discovery Award. This year’s nominees are Barry Keoghan (Actor, MammalTraders and The Break), Barry Ward (Actor, The Truth CommissionerJimmy’s HallL’Accabadora), Claire Dix (Director We are Moving – Memories of Miss MoriartyBroken Song, Downpour), Dave Tynan (Writer/Director, The Cherishing, Rockmount, Just Saying), Emmet Kirwan (Actor, The Break, ‘71, Just Saying), Ian Lloyd Anderson (Actor, Leave, Game of Thrones, Love/Hate), Jack O’Shea (Director/Animator, A Coat Made Dark, Eat The Danger), JJ Rolfe (Cinematographer, The Cherishing, Rockmount, Just Saying), Kathryn Kennedy (Producer, My Name is Emily, It’s Not Yet Dark, After), Kieran O’Reilly (Actor, Little Bear, Love/ Hate, Rebellion), Laura McNicholas (Producer/Director, Mr Yeats & the Beastly Coins, Leave, Cutting Grass), Martin McCann (Actor, My Name is Emily, ’71, Boogaloo and Graham), Niamh Heery (Producer/Editor, A Father’s Letter, Our Unfenced Country, Displaced), Nika McGuigan (Actress, Mammal, Traders, Philomena) and Rachel Lysaght (Producer, Traders, Patrick’s Day, Tana Bana).

The Festival’s opening and closing films are both Irish productions – John Carney’s Sing Street, which received rave reviews at Sundance, and Paddy Breathnach’s Viva, which is shortlisted for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Highlights:

Sing Street (The filmmakers and cast will attend the screening)

Thursday 18th February at 19:00

106 minutes Savoy 1

Sing Street sees an economic recession in 1980s Dublin force Conor out of private school and into survival mode at an inner-city public school where kids are rough and teachers rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the über-cool Raphina, and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver. Calling himself “Cosmo” and immersing himself in the music of the ’80s, he forms a band, who pour their hearts into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Combining John Carney’s trademark warmth with a punk rock edge, and featuring a memorable soundtrack with hits from The Cure, Duran Duran and The Police, Sing Street is an electrifying coming-of-age film that will resonate with music fans.

Further Beyond (Followed by a Q+A with the Filmmakers)

Friday 19th February at 18:00

89 minutes IFI 1

In their debut documentary Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor take as their point of departure the compelling 18th Century figure, Ambrose O’Higgins, and attempt to retrace his remarkable journey from Ireland to Chile. Key locations in O’Higgins’ life – a lake in Sligo, a field in Meath, the port of Cadiz, the sea, and the edge of a snow-covered mountain in the Andes – are visited and reflected upon in the hope that something might be revealed. Having long dreamt of making a biopic of O’Higgins, this wayward and wry documentary is a personal voyage into the idea of the cinematic location. However, as they speculate on the idea of place and what O’Higgins embodies, the filmmakers get sidetracked by a competing story of immigration and displacement. Gradually, and not without humour, these two intertwining narratives uncover ideas about the transformative powers of travelling, as looked at through a peculiarly Irish prism.

Traders (Rachael Moriarty, Peter Murphy, Killian Scott and John Bradley will attend)

Saturday 20th February at 18:30

90 minutes Light House 1

Harry Fox (Killian Scott) has it all; the luxury apartment, the fancy car; but when the company he works for goes bust it looks like he will lose everything. A solution is offered by Vernon Stynes (John Bradley) who has masterminded a diabolical, all-or-nothing scheme based in the Deep Web, called Trading. Two strangers empty their banks accounts, sell their assets, put their entire worth in cash into a green sports bag. They travel to a remote location and fight to the death. Winner buries the loser and walks away twice as rich. Vernon believes Trading is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to get rich quick. Can Harry resist the lure of this high risk gamble? It’s dangerous and illegal, but it could solve all his problems.

The Truth Commissioner (followed by a Q+A with the filmmakers)

Sunday 21st February at 18:15

99 minutes Light House 1

The Truth Commissioner follows the fictional story of Henry Stanfield (Roger Allam), a career diplomat appointed as Truth Commissioner to Northern Ireland. Co-starring Barry Ward, Sean McGinley, Conleth Hill, Ian McElhinney and Tom Goodman Hill, the story revolves around the lives of three men who are directly or indirectly involved in the disappearance, 20 years earlier, of the 15-year-old Conor Roche. Though Stanfield starts bravely, he quickly uncovers some bloody and inconvenient truths about those now running the country; truths which none of those in power are prepared to have revealed. Everyone claims to want ‘The Truth’, but what is it going to cost, and who will pay for it?

Mammal (Followed by a Q+A with the Filmmakers)

Wednesday 24th February at 20:30

96 minutes

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After Margaret (Rachel Griffiths) learns that her 18-year-old son, who she abandoned as a baby, has been found dead, her simple, solitary routine is tragically disrupted. But when Joe (Barry Keoghan), a homeless teenager from her neighborhood, enters her life, Margaret offers him a room, and she soon becomes the mother she never was. As Margaret copes with the volatile grief of her ex-husband, her own lonely trauma seeps into her relationship with Joe and begins to blur the line between motherly affection and a more carnal intimacy. Director Rebecca Daly’s Mammal expertly guides us through layers of isolating grief that pulsate with the animalistic nature of trauma.

Atlantic (Followed by a Q+A with the Filmmakers)

Thursday 25th February at 20:30

80 minutes Cineworld 9

Atlantic is the latest film from the makers of The Pipe. This film follows three small fishing communities – in Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland –at turns united and divided by the Atlantic Ocean. In recent times, mounting challenges within their own industries, the fragile environment, and the lure of high wages on oil rigs have seen these fishing communities struggle to maintain their way of life. As the oil majors push into deeper water and further into the Arctic, and the world’s largest fishing companies chase the last great Atlantic shoals, the impact on coastal communities and the ecosystems they rely on is reaching a tipping point. Atlantic tells three very personal stories of those who face the devastating prospect of having livelihoods taken from them, and communities destroyed both environmentally and economically.

Audi Dublin International Film Festival Box Office

DIFF House

13 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1

Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 10am–6pm, Sun (from 18th Feb) 12pm–6pm

There will be pop-up box offices in place at each venue from 30 minutes prior to each screening

Phone: 01 687 7974

Email: info@diff.ie

Website: www.diff.ie

January 28, 2016

ADIFF: 2016

The Audi Dublin International Film Festival launched an impressive 14th programme today, featuring over 80 films from 27 countries, which will welcome over 40 guests to the capital over this 11 day celebration of film.

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Bookended by highly anticipated Irish films, the Festival will open on Thursday 18th February with the European premiere of Sing Street, attended by director John Carney and cast members Jack Reynor, Ferdia Walsh Peelo and Lucy Boynton, and closes on Sunday 28th February with director Paddy Breathnach’s stunning Viva. Stars Dublin bound this February for the days in between include Richard Gere, Rebecca Miller, Angela Lansbury, Claudia Cardinale, Neil Jordan, Ben Wheatley, Killian Scott, and  David Hare.

 Speaking at the Programme Launch, Festival Director Gráinne Humphreys said:

“This year’s Festival is a Valentine to Cinema, celebrating world and Irish film, and championing the work of both established and emerging talent. With a guest list that includes Richard Gere, Angela Lansbury, Claudia Cardinale, David Hare, Ben Wheatley, Serge Bromberg, Joachim Trier, Margarethe Von Trotta, Rebecca Miller and many, many more. It’s a programme to savour and I hope that our audiences find much to enjoy and love.”

 

Humanitarian and screen icon Richard Gere will attend the Arnotts Gala screening of Time Out of Mind, joining a host of stellar guests including legendary acting talents Claudia Cardinale, who will attend the Italian Gala with Peroni Nastro Azzurro, and Angela Lansbury, alongside acclaimed directors Rebecca Miller with her comedy Maggie’s Plan, Ben Wheatley with his JG Ballard adaptation High Rise, Joachim Trier with Louder than Bombs, and Neil Jordan for the 20th anniversary celebration of Michael Collins.

The Festival is delighted to announce a brand new Fantastic Flicks season of family films, featuring classics such as Beauty and the Beast, exciting studio animations Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootropolis, the hilarious live action Antboy films from Denmark, Norwegian drama Brothers, and Simon Fitzmaurice’s life-affirming My Name is Emily.

ADIFF will showcase international award-winning cinema including Golden Globe winner Mustang, Cannes Grand Prix winner Son of Saul, London Film Festival Best Film winner Desierto, Berlin International Film Festival Best Feature winner Nasty Baby, and Miguel Gomes’ multi-award-winning Arabian Nights trilogy. In addition there are Irish premieres of the Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar!, Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, Toronto International Film Festival opener Demolition, Jaco Van Dormael’s hilarious Brand New Testament, and the soon to be cult crime/horror Green Room.

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The strength of Irish film is evident throughout the programme: Irish premieres of Rebecca Daly’s Mammal, Declan Recks’ The Truth Commissioner, and debut features Staid, and Traders starring Killian Scott. Thought provoking Irish documentaries will investigate people and place – Johnny Gogan’s Hubert Butler: Witness to the Future, Atlantic from the makers of The Pipe, an exploration of Irish poetry Fís na Fuiseoige, the story of Irish missionary ‘deserters’ The Judas Iscariot Lunch, and Reel Art documentaries Further Beyond and We Are Moving – Memories of Miss Moriarty. The Festival continues to champion Irish filmmakers with the Discovery Award, which seeks to encourage new and emerging talent by selecting 15 filmmakers from actors to directors, producers and writers to profile and support.

The marriage of film and music runs throughout the Festival, from Miles Ahead, the documentary celebrating the legendary Miles Davis, to Agnieszka Smoczynska’s genre defying ‘musical horror’ The Lure. There are also a number of special events: Oscar winning composer Jan A. P. Kaczmarek presents a seminar on Composing for Film, while film preservationist Serge Bromberg returns to the Festival with a new live score to accompany a screening of Buster Keaton.

One of the Festival strengths is discovering exciting new films from around the world and bringing the filmmakers to Dublin to discuss their work. This year there are gems from Romania with guests director Tudor Giurgiu in Dublin with his legal thriller Why Me, and Lucile Hadžihalilovic with her beautiful Évolution, Margarethe Von Trotta’s meditation on sisterhood The Misplaced World, and Michal Rogalski to discuss his coming-of-age drama Summer Solstice.

Special events throughout the Festival include industry masterclasses, seminars on wide ranging topics from scriptwriting to adapting texts, capturing history on film to festival programming. The Festival literally goes global this year with an innovative and very special outreach programme, Dublin Here, Dublin There, that will see the Festival short film programme screened in towns and villages in the US that share the name Dublin! Audi Dublin International Film Festival will celebrate Stills photography with a fascinating exhibition by Festival photographer Pat Redmond in the beautiful setting of the Irish Georgian Society.  Pat Redmond, 25 Years is a captivating gallery of the many world-class filmmakers who have attended the Festival. There will also be a #SetLife exhibition in The Light House Cinema, illuminating images of the inner workings and special moments that happen behind the camera.

Richard Molloy, Head of Marketing at Audi Ireland, said:

“It’s fantastic to launch the Audi Dublin International Film Festival programme. The depth, variety and diverse nature of the 2016 programme demonstrate why this festival is one of the most important cultural events in Ireland. The programme encourages visitors to experience the best in film-making. We’re really excited to bring ADIFF, and the Audi brand, to a wider audience and engage with some of the world’s most talented actors and filmmakers. Both Audi and the Dublin International Film Festival share a drive for creativity and innovation, as well as an enduring passion for the art and craft of filmmaking.”

 

Audi Dublin International Film Festival Box Office

DIFF House

13 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1

Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 10am–6pm, Sun (from 18th Feb) 12pm–6pm

There will be pop-up box offices in place at each venue from 30 minutes prior to each screening

Phone: 01 687 7974

Email: info@diff.ie

Website: www.diff.ie

 

July 19, 2015

Once

John Carney’s indie film that could returns home as an unusual musical with a book by playwright Enda Walsh and originating director John Tiffany helming. Here’s a teaser of my review for HeadStuff.org.

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Here’s a teaser.

Tiffany is responsible for the highly disconcerting set-up in which the audience can clamber onstage and buy a drink while the ensemble plays a number of Irish and Czech folksongs, so that the actual busking opening of the play emerges seamlessly out of a session. As our hero (Tony Parsons) finishes busking, he is accosted by a go-getting Czech musician (Megan Riordan) who insists he must (a) not give up on music, and (b) fix her vacuum cleaner. For he and Da (Billy Murphy) live above their hoover-repair shop in the North Strand, a life straitened by death and desertion. Her life is fuller. She lives with her mother Baruska (Sandra Callaghan), and three Czech flatmates; death metal drummer Svec (Rickie O’Neill), ambitious ‘burger-boy’ Andrej (Dylan Reid), and skimpily-clad man-eater Reza (Ruth Westley). With this injection of energy a burnt-out busker may stand a chance of recording a successful demo…

Click here to read the full review on HeadStuff.org.

January 12, 2015

Top 10 Films of 2014

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(10) X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer triumphantly linked X-ensembles as Wolverine time-travelled from a Sentinels-devastated future to 1973 to prevent Mystique assassinating Bolivar Trask and being captured by Stryker. X-2 vim was displayed in Quicksilver’s mischievous Pentagon jail-break sequence, J-Law imbued Mystique with a new swagger as a deadly spy, and notions of time itself course-correcting any meddling fascinated. The pre-emptive villainy of Fassbender’s young Magneto seemed excessive, but it didn’t prevent this being superb.

THE GUEST

(9) The Guest

Dan Stevens was preposterously charismatic as demobbed soldier David who ‘helped’ the Peterson family with their problems while director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett riffed on Dominik Moll and Stephen King archetypes. Wingard edited with whoops, Stephen Moore’s synth combined genuine feeling with parody, ultraviolent solutions to Luke (Brendan Meyer) and Anna (Maika Monroe)’s problems were played deliriously deadpan, a military grudge-match was staged with flair: all resulted in a cinema of joyousness.

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(8) Mystery Road

Writer/director Ivan Sen’s measured procedural almost resembled an Australian Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Aaron Pedersen’s dogged Detective Jay Swan battled official indifference as well as suspicion from his own community as he investigated an Aboriginal teenager’s death. Strong support, from Tamsa Walton as his estranged wife and Hugo Weaving as a cop engaged in some dodgy dealings, kept things absorbing until a climactic and startlingly original gun-battle and a stunning final image.

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(7) In Order of Disappearance

Nils (Stellan Skarsgaard), snow-plougher and newly-minted citizen of the year, embarks on a killing spree when authorities deem his son’s murder an accident. Nils’ executions accidentally spark all-out war between the Serbian gang of demoralized Papa (Bruno Ganz) and the Norwegian gang of self-pitying and stressed-out vegan The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen). Punctuated by McDonaghian riffs on the welfare state and Kosovo provocations, this brutal fun led to a perfectly daft ending.

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(6) Frank

Director Lenny Abrahamson loosened up for Jon Ronson’s frequently hilarious tale of oddball musicians. Domhnall Gleeson’s Jon joined the band of benevolent melodist Frank (Michael Fassbender wearing a giant head) and scary obscurantist Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Great comedy was wrung from Jon viewing writing hit music as a means to fortune and glory, but then affecting drama when music was revealed as the only means by which damaged souls Frank and Clara could truly connect.

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(5) Begin Again

Once director John Carney delivered a feel-good movie as Mark Ruffalo’s desperate record executive took a chance on a guerilla recording approach when he discovered British troubadour Keira Knightley performing in a bar. The Ruffalo was on glorious shambling form, and was matched by an exuberant Knightley; who in many scenes seemed to be responding to comic ad-libbing by James Corden as her college friend. Carney was surprisingly subversively structurally, perfectly matched Gregg Alexander’s upbeat music to sunny NYC locations, and stunt-casted wonderfully with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine as Knightley’s sell-out ex.

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(4) Tom at the Farm

Xavier Dolan’s wondrously ambiguous thriller saw Tom (Dolan) bullied by his dead lover’s brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), into keeping Guillaume’s sexuality hidden from mother Agathe (Lise Roy); but exactly why Guillaume had elided Francis’ existence, and why Francis needed Tom to stay at the remote Quebec farm, remained murky. Dolan showed off subtly; the lurid colours getting brighter during an ever-darkening monologue in a bar; and flashily; expressionistly changing screen format during violent scenes; and deliriously; a transgressive tango on a nearly professional standard dance-floor unexpectedly hidden in a barn.

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(3) Gone Girl

David Fincher turned in a 2 ½ hour thriller so utterly absorbing it flew by. Ben Affleck’s everyman found himself accused of murdering his icy wife Rosamund Pike. Only twin sister and spiky voice of reason Carrie Coon stood by him as circumstantial evidence and media gaffes damned him. Fincher, particularly in parallel reactions to a TV interview, brought out black comedy that made this a satire on trial by media, while, from fever dreams of arresting beauty to grand guignol murder and business with a hammer, making this material his own.

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(2) Dallas Buyers Club

Quebecois director Jean-Marc Vallee drew incredibly committed performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in this harrowing drama. McConaughey wasted away before our eyes as Ron Woodroof, an archetypal good ole boy diagnosed with HIV, who reacted to his terminal diagnosis with total denial before smuggling drugs. Leto matched McConaughey’s transformation as transvestite Rayon, who sought oblivion in heroin, even as he helped Woodroof outwit the FDA via the titular group. This was an extremely moving film powered by Woodroof and Rayon’s friendship, beautifully played from initial loathing to brotherly love.

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(1) Boyhood

Director Richard Linklater’s dazzling technical achievement in pulling off a twelve-year shoot was equalled by the finished film’s great heart. The life of Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to eighteen in Texas with mother Patricia Arquette, sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and weekend dad Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) was followed in seamless transitions with teasing misdirection and subtle reveals. Child performances that began in comedy grew thru shocking scenes to encompass depth of feeling. Hawke gave a wonderful performance of serious comedy, Arquette grew older but not wiser, and Linklater was richly novelistic in revealing how surface facades belied the truth about characters and personality formation defied self-analysis. Watching Boyhood is to be wowed by life itself; your own nostalgia mixes with Mason Jr’s impressively realised youth.

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