Thursday, 9 August 2018

Under The Tree

Released from Eureka Entertainment, Under The Tree is a tale about how relationships can break down quickly in today's society.

Directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson, Under The Tree is a dark surburban tale that tells the story of a man accused of adultery and forced to move in with his parents. Whilst a custody battle ensues for the daughter, the male Alti (Steinhor Hroar Steinthorsson) is sucked into a dispute between his parents and neighbours surrounding a prominent tree that puts his parents deck in a permanent shadow.

The Icelandic-language film was first premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was Iceland's entry into the 2018 Oscars in the Foreign Language category.

In recent years, European cinema has become this bastion of minor events becoming of greater importance to individuals; as world events become more and more importance on a socio-political scale. This takes a misanthropic approach to the relationships between people and especially neighbours.  In cinema much like life, you cannot get to choose your neighbours; and this film explains how you avoid people in this age of continual communication.

From the outset, there is an ominous air pervading the film; from a father who seeks pleasure in online porn to credit sequence that takes place in a shooting gallery with an eerie violin score playing underneath.

Cleverly, the film juxtaposes this bleakness of tonality by having all the narrative take place over a sun-drenched Icelandic summer full of sunshine and warmth; the characterisation is clear the dispute ferments long brewing resentment within neighbours coupled with a simmering jealousy between generations.

Shot with assured confidence and helped with great naturalistic performances by a unified cast in the majority of hand-held medium close ups, Under The Tree is a clever film full of enrichment and reward that packs an emotional punch.

Under The Tree is out from Eureka Entertainment on 10th August.
My thanks to them for the review opportunity.

Hearts Beat Loud

The new film from Brett Haley is a coming-of-age movie for two people at different ends of the age spectrum, both overcoming life difficulties and hurdles.

Frank (Nick Offerman) is a 40 year old owner of a vinyl record shop in Brooklyn, New York called Red Hook Records; at the outset he is deciding to shut up his business having discussed the lease with his landlady Leslie (Toni Collette). The reason for this big decision is that Frank's daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is leaving the Big Apple for college at UCLA where she will study medicine.

Frank is a single parent, following the death of his wife and Sam's mother in a bicycle accident shortly after Sam was born, and there is a kinship between the pair cemented by their weekly jam session.  Helped by the upheaval in their life, Frank's missed opportunity at a career in rock music by the sudden death of his wife and Sam's blossoming lesbian relationship before she departs for LA means the song they start playing around with in the session, ferments to the song that gives the film its title.

Giddy with excitement, Frank publishes the song on Spotify and remarkably it appears on a new Indie playlist along side his idols - Spoon and Iron and Wine - this give Frank a much needed shot of enthusiasm and asks Sam to forego her university career and make a start of being in a band together.

The film is a sweet confection of comedy and drama; from Ted Danson's barman Dave who offers Frank morsels of comfort over bottles of beer to the actual awkwardness of Frank and Leslie's courtship. However, the same sex relationship is handled delicately with real sincerity with Frank instilling the belief that life and love is important to music.

Shot through medium close ups mostly and with a score that is winning, it is a shame that on occasion that the film is very much middle of the road ending in a concert of triumph but the main protagonists are ultimately settling. There may have been ample opportunity to discuss matters such as dementia in old age, the resentment towards missing opportunities and young love in the last summer of childhood.

Hearts Beat Loud is out now from Park Circus Films
Thanks to them for the review opportunity.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Night Driver by Marcelle Parks

Out from Urbane Publications on Thursday 2nd August, the debut novel by Marcelle Perks

Frannie is an English woman living in Germany, married to her Deutscher spouse and heavily pregnant expecting the birth of her first child; she feels like a fish out of water both hopeless with her minimum language skills and struggling to pass her driving test in a foreign country.

In an effort to cope when her baby is born, she attempts to instill herself with some independence and after passing she takes to driving at night to gain confidence on less crowded roads.

She enjoys the freedom the night gives her yet an encounter with a Polish motorcyclist looking for his missing sister leads to her being sucked into a world of nightclubs, autobahn prostitutes and organ trafficking.

Perks is a doyen of horror cinema, having written for publications including British Horror Cinema, Fangoria and Kamera.  This in-depth knowledge comes to the fore, with Perks creating a sinister at times horrific world one that is at times frightening and shocking to read; the author does not hold back during the sexual encounters of these villains leaving nothing to the imagination of gruesome gory detail.

The book whips along at a cracking pace and in the protagonist of Frannie, Perks has written a character that is fiercely independent and one that is on an arc of her own from naïve beginnings to strong ending; the influence of Alice Lowe's Prevenge is prevalent in the work as well as the literary work of J. G. Ballard and his famous Crash novel.

While sold as a thriller, the book is very much a horror novel in context and one that will definitely stay with the reader if my reaction to it is anything to go by - and married with a great cover it is a book that is sure to be discussed at length by many a book group and book lovers.

Night Driver is out from Urbane Publications on 2nd August

My thanks to LoveBooksGroupTours for the review opportunity.