45 Years (2015)

Building a long-term relationship is like renovating a house. You construct a space together, bringing your own furniture into a communal area that gradually encroaches upon – but never consumes – each person’s private domain. Maintenance of this communal space requires careful management of memories; positive ones are amplified and reinforced, while the murkier moments…

Youth (2015)

I wanted to hate Youth. I usually walk into movies wanting to like/love them, but given my antipathy for Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, I was hoping for some more ammunition in my argument that it’s terribly overrated. Youth gave me sufficient ammunition, I’ll give it that. Sorrentino’s take on affluent, existential aimlessness, spent…

The Program (2015)

The worst kind of biopic is the Wikipedia-checklist biopic; The Program, in retelling Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall, instead opts for the ASADA-report-checklist, chronicling the cyclist’s doping habits in careful detail but failing to offer a substantial supplementary storyline. Admittedly, after a clunky cancer-centric introduction – think “I got the results of the test back.…

Shooting for Socrates (2014)

This is a flashback on history that for me was unfamiliar and enlightening. In 1986 the riots between the Protestant and Catholic Church were becoming a regular backdrop to everyday life. Simultaneously, Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup for the third time, travelling to Mexico to compete against the best in the world. Shooting…

Spooks: The Greater Good (2015)

“You can either do good, or do well.” Such is the backdrop of this British attempt at a zero gadget spy film. Spooks: The Greater Good starts slow, introducing a nice bit of brooding menace via Kit Harrington, followed by Elyes Gabel’s coldly passionate antihero. The first real spycraft is actually quite well done, creating…

Jack O'Connell in '71 (2014)

’71 (2014)

The Troubles (the violent Northern Ireland conflict between Catholics and Protestants) are defined by a moral and political complexity that’s difficult to successfully convey on film. Many of the movies that have succeeded in portraying the era – In the Name of the Father, The Outsider, Good Vibrations – avoid the problems of presenting either…

Miss Julie (2014)

Miss Julie (2014)

I assume that the melodramatic machinations of Miss Julie played like gangbusters in 1890s Sweden, but a century later it all rings pretty false. Bergman acolyte Liv Ullmann sneaks in a reference to Cries and Whispers in the opening flashback and executes an excellent final shot, but otherwise can’t overcome the inherent staginess of the…