"The Other Lamb" is the English language debut from filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska. You may not be familiar with Szymowska's work, but she is an auteur with a distinct voice and style, her previous films have been divisive "Elles" (2011) a sexually explicit drama which followed Anne (Juliette Binoche), a journalist in Paris for French Elle who is writing an article about female student prostitution, the 2013 film "In the Name Of" which told the story of a closeted gay Catholic priest living in rural Poland and the 2018 film "Mug", a strange comedy that told the story of fun-loving Jacek (Mateusz Kościukiewicz) who is disfigured in an accident at work, and becomes the first person in Poland to receive a face transplant, which leads to his status as a national hero and martyr. As a filmmaker, Szumowska isn't afraid to take on unusual and challenging narratives which push boundaries and are designed to make the viewer think.
The word "Manara" means lighthouse in Arabic. Zayn Alexander's short film "Manara" takes place in a Lighthouse, following a family as they try to deal with the loss of their patriarch. The purpose of a Lighthouse is to offer light and guidence to us, so we can somehow navigate of way through rough waters. With "Manara" Alexander proposes the question: what happens when that light has become extinguished? What happens to those who now find themselves plunged into darkness, and now completely blind? How do we find hope when the very light that once offered us guidence has now been cruelly snatched away? Often the strongest of short films centre around a simple premise which is carefully executed. "Manara" is a perfect example of how to carefully construct a short film narrative and Alexander along with writer Pascale Seigneurie manage to weave together a story which feels so real and genuine that we forget we are watching a film.
“Wait, which Sprouse is this?” I asked myself as “Banana Split” began. The Sprouse in question here is Dylan--brother of Cole Sprouse (as seen on Netflix’s Riverdale); one of two twins who’ve left their Disney days behind. The Sprouse brother here plays Nick, yer typical high school beach blonde with long hair and a toned physique. This tale begins with him and his best friend, April (Hannah Marks); they instantaneously mutually decide to take their friendship to the next level. Within the film’s first two minutes, you see it all: their first date, their first fight, the first time they have sex (if seeing Zack Martin of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” in a sex scene served as a reminder of how old you’ve gotten: welcome to the club, I’m here for you), and their eventual breakup.
Edinburgh based writer/director Eva Reilly has made a compassionate coming-of-age story that brims with legitimacy with her debut feature, “Perfect 10” (2019). A Brighton-set feature that recalls such films as Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank” (2009), this is a confident start to a filmmaking career. It displays natural talent and an abundance of promise for growth, for the director and main star alike. Paralleling Reilly’s debut is star Frankie Box giving her first feature performance. She plays Leigh, a gifted teenage gymnast who is suffering. Her passion for sport has slowly dissipated, drained bit by bit by a broken, neglectful home life and the other gymnasts referring to her as a “charity case”. One day, an older boy named Joe (Alfie Deegan) enters her home and reveals that they are half-siblings. This unexpected development drastically changes Leigh’s life for better and for worse.
Moving drama "Lost Transmissions" (2020) is Katharine O'Brien's debut feature about one man's struggle with schizophrenia in a healthcare system ill-equipped to help. Theo (Simon Pegg) is a music producer who stops taking his medication and begins a rapid downward spiral, losing grip on reality and getting into increasingly dangerous situations. His friend Hannah (Juno Temple) chases him through LA and psychiatric institutions to try to get him the support he needs but is thwarted by an inadequate healthcare system. Based on writer-director Katharine O'Brien's experiences of trying to support her own friend who went off his medication, the film is deeply affecting. It highlights the difficulties that people suffering from mental health conditions, and their loved ones face. I spoke with Katharine at the Glasgow Film Festival 2020.
“I give really bad blowjobs” laments Mandy (writer/director/star Billie Piper) on a first date as “Rare Beasts” opens. Mandy, a clearly agitated yet quirky woman prone to over-analyzing herself sits across her work colleague, Pete (Leo Bill). He postulates that he is religious that “modern women have more testosterone coursing through their veins than blood”. Mandy’s response? She ends the date by sprinting across the street and regurgitating the dinner they had just had onto the sidewalk. This is the best indicticator of the tone to follow: a blend of cringe-inducing, self-deprecating, visual humor confidently presented through a woman’s unfiltered vision. This is a wonderfully stylish and brave film that offers a new and unique perspective on the role of the modern woman in today’s society.
Lucy Brydon’s “Body of Water” (2020) is a terrific film with sage, meditative weight on its shoulders. Its subject matter is an issue that requires a level of sensitivity to properly address. Brydon herself commented about the horrific fetishisation of such a subject in popular culture during the Q&A after the film. By refusing to fall in line with such trends, she has crafted a film that is simultaneously cathartic and melancholic. Sian Brooke plays Stephanie, a woman who is seen leaving a care facility at the start of the film. She has been grappling with an eating disorder but appears ready to return home. Waiting for her is her mother Susan (Amanda Burton) - who is about to marry her new partner - and her teenage daughter Pearl (Fabienne Piolini-Castle). Her relationship with both has been fractured due to her struggles with her disorder. Upon her return, Stephanie must put the pieces back together while also dealing with the threat of relapse.
The second I saw the trailer for director Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved comedy “Emma.”, I just knew that it was something special. Even as someone who wasn’t familiar with the book in the slightest, there was just something so visually appealing and intriguing and it looked to kick off an incredible year for Anya Taylor-Joy. Now, that the film has finally hit theatres, it has met and exceeded my expectations and bolsters some of the strongest performances we’ll likely see this year – especially from Taylor-Joy.
If you’ve seen 2016’s “The Boy”--one of the more peculiar entries to the horror genre as of late--you’d, like me, be trying to decipher how on earth a sequel could ever come to exist. Upon learning about this project, I found myself in a state of utter bewilderment. The first film ends with a twist so unexpected it overturned the entire storyline that had preceded it...and then it ended. So, how on earth did screenwriter Stacey Menear and director William Brent Bell plan on presenting a sequel that would not result in us, the audience, anticipating an already known reveal?