Film Reviews and Discussion.
Dir: Michael Winterbottom
Duration: 90 mins
Father in prison, wife and mother home alone to raise the children. Over the course of 5 years, Michael Winterbottom casts his eye over the impact and the damage done.
Crime. Does it pay? Who are the victims? Does it stop at the door of the specific violation and contravention? Or does it permeate further than that?
This film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, hopes to shine some sort of light on these matters. Shot very much in keeping with predecessors of his own such as A Mighty Heart(2007) and 9 Songs (2004), he aims for the qualities of cinema verite. There is a shaking naturalism to the framing, jutting about as though this is the domestic drama equivalent of Saving Private Ryan or one of the Bourne films. Whether or not this is a passport for bringing realism to film is open to debate.
John Simm, known to most for his small screen appearances in programmes such as Life on Mars, plays Ian. Ian is already incarcerated as the picture begins. There is no indication as to the nature of his crime, although assumptions are led to believe that it is likely for drug possession and/or dealing. Shirley Henderson (in her sixth picture with Michael Winterbottom) plays Ian’s wife, Karen. Looking tired, drained and clearly balancing too many things simultaneously, she is trying to hold the family together, juggling prison visits with two of the four children each time, until they grow to a more manageable age.
There is not a lot else to say about the plot. This is a film about the family unit. It is also a film that documents the power of absence. Of longing and of absent love. Loneliness, resilience and strength of character.
Unfortunately, with a premise that promises much, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Opting to focus on the mundane rigmarole of routine is not an issue or crime in itself, but this is a 5 year period and there is simply not an adequate development. The characters are extremely poorly fleshed out. Ian comes across as a likeable guy, wanting to instil the right values for his progressively troublesome kids. He is painted as the hero figure, the whiter than white ‘good guy’. He is drawn without any flaws. Yet he is in prison.
All the peripheral players are not given enough screen time to provide any reasonable context for the actions that the main characters take. Reason is given through a vague implication. Consequence is not considered or analysed at all, which is ironic considering the synopsis.
Embracing Dogme 95 credentials, this is a film aimed squarely at the chin stroking art house crowd. As a satisfying watch, it completely misfires, leaving the viewer alienated and disengaged, longing for it to be over. There needs to be substance and this film does not deliver. It is deeply unsatisfying. The audience is left with more frustrating questions than any answers. It passes too slowly in some places and glosses over things too quickly in others. It goes further than Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) in terms of leaving the viewer gasping for confrontation and being left without closure.
After the poorly received The Killer Inside Me (2010) and Trishna (2011), Michael Winterbottom has returned to Britain for this feature. It is a shame it is not a more welcome return. Time for a rethink.
If you like this, try this: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) – Better executed, and generally more satisfying than Everyday, this film showcases the adjustment to everyday life coming from a different type of incarceration; that of a cult.
Trailer for Everyday was unavailable at the time of print.
Dir: Rodgrio Pla
Duration: 84 minutes
The strains of caring for a father who has fallen deep into dementia. Single mother of three is stretched to the limit. What is the breaking point? Is there such a thing as cruel to be kind?
Familial duty and sacrifice are fruitful grounds for dramatists, providing a rich vein of stock for analysis and psychology.
This feature from Rodrigo Pla explores the tribulations of a single mother fighting to maintain composure and security for her family home, in a bleak essay on the consequence of desperate times calling for desperate measures.
Maria (Roxana Blanco) works as a seamstress. She struggles to provide a home for her three children and her ill father, who is requiring more and more attention. Her salary does not offer adequate cover for this bustling household, with its demand of care and comfort. Seeking advice from the authorities for assistance in the care for her father, she is confronted with a dead-end. This forces her into making a tough decision, and the implications might break the family for once and for all.
This is an austere drama, skirting away from the impulses of a mainstream melodrama, by keeping a distance from all of the protagonists, not least the mother. Pla does not make her an overly sympathetic figure. On the one hand, this heightens the realism (not everyone is postcard perfect), but it also requires some adjustment on behalf of the viewer to attempt to process the thought patterns running through the mind of this daughter. The bumpy and emotionally removed start paves way for a stronger second half, that leads to a gripping finale. The father, Agustin (played by Carlos Vallarino), oozes vulnerability and expertly encapsulates the innocent confusion caused by dementia.
Although not perfect, this film prompts discussion, and that is one of the beauties of cinema. It is disappointing that the first half does not match the second, but it is an interesting picture and worth seeking out.
If you like this, try this: 9 Months, 4 Weeks, 3 Days (2007) – A gripping film that deals with difficult decisions, albeit in a completely different context. Bleak European cinema at its most stereotypical. Don’t be put off; this is a film loaded with power.
Subtitled trailer of the Delay (La Demora) was unavailable at the time of print.