Staff Reviews: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Martin Barker, Screen Lounge Assistant

It is so refreshing to see a film like this. Very rarely is a film centred solely around a group of older having their ups and downs and not just the stereotype supportive roles they usually receive. On the basis of this film, I hope this is a trend that follows, as it reminds just how great these performers are, well deserving scripts to match.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a slightly run down, chaotic, but charming hotel. That is if your definition of charming includes no doors in bedrooms and dripping taps or if you share the infectious enthusiasm of young owner, Sonny (Dev Patel) who has great dreams for his establishment. The hotel is about to receive “actual paying guests” in the form of an eclectic bunch of Brits looking to retire to India for their various reasons. Newly widowed Evelyn (Judy Dench) is branching out on her own for the first time. Maggie Smith plays wheelchair bound Muriel on the quest for a cheap hip replacement despite her racist tendencies. Tom Wilkinson plays Graham, a former high court judge venturing out to revisit his past. Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton are a strained couple. Celia Imrie plays a glamorous man hunter and Ronald Pickup, a lonely lothario looking for love. Once they get over the initial shock of the hotel and Jaipur itself, they shall all come to find themselves by getting lost in the beauty of the country and each other.

I must be honest I went into this film thinking I would love it … and I did. The cast are brilliant and there is not one weak performance. Maggie Smith and Ronald Pickup bring in a lot of the laughs and it was great to be in the cinema with so many people laughing out loud and just simply enjoying themselves. Dench and Nighy also portray their roles excellently and I found were very touching. This is also easily Dev Patel’s best role since Slumdog Millionaire and his relationship is a very nicely added layer.

No matter your age this is great British cinema, with the best British talent. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think and I left the cinema with a smile on my face and retirement plans in my head (I’m 21!) Go see it, you’ll love it!

Martin Barker works in the café bar and when not struggling to balance your meals from the kitchen to the table or watching films, he enjoys live music and exploring new places.

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Staff Reviews: Carnage by Radojka Raduloivc, Front of House Assistant

Of opening credits, filmmaker Saul Bass once said that they should ‘try to reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story’. This is certainly the case in Carnage which greets the audience with its titles swooping toward the foreground, imposing their messages, accompanied by a loud fast tempo score: confrontational and definite in its noise. This simple arrangement seems an odd choice at first, overtly brash and almost barbaric considering the seemingly mild mannered sensibilities of the film’s middle class characters, but it is in fact well composed and prophetic in setting the tone for the conflict about to unfold. 

After a playground quarrel goes too far, leaving one of the culprits injured, parents of the attacker, Nancy and Alan Cowan (Winslet and Waltz) dutifully trek across New York in aid of reconciliation with the victim’s parents, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Foster and Reilly). Apologies are made and pleasantries exchanged, the initial meeting is drawing to a close as the film begins, but in acts of painful politeness the Cowan’s continue on in the company of their hosts. This results in the masks of civility slipping as the aforementioned carnage is unleashed through clashes of personalities and ideals. 

Predominant to the success of Carnage are the performances given by its equally excellent ensemble. In both inhabiting the distinct characters but also in showing the gradual yet drastic transformation of personalities, each actor is able to hold the screen themselves yet allow one another to shine in turn. It’s obvious that these celebrated actors are enjoying unravelling these disagreeable characters.

The singular setting of the Longstreet’s apartment is used well within the script. The majority of the confrontation happens in the living room but is punctuated by stints elsewhere: glimpses of the kitchen or a messy bathroom not only give insight into the truer nature of the Longstream’s but also provide the couples time to slip in their snide comments and regroup before the next round of nasty niceties. With this limited setting the screenplays theatrical origins are evident – director, Roman Polanski worked with playwright, Yazmin Reta to adapt ‘Le Dieu di Carnage’ – though the addition of scenes showing the original playground quarrel which bookend the film encapsulate the story excellently.

I found myself wanting to shout out ‘Just leave that apartment! Get up and walk away!’ halfway through the movie (through no fault of the film itself but for the sake of the characters) though was also curious to see how far the situation would deteriorate. Carnage is pitiless with its petty humour; its pent up frustrations; its remarks on societal values, but refreshing for just that also. It’s not asking us to like these characters but betting that we can all identify, even just a little bit, with them.

Radojka works at Phoenix Square as a Front of House Assistant. When not chatting to you about film at the Phoenix she enjoys juggling the numerous pies which she often has her fingers in – dancing, knitting and various theatre-based shenanigans to name but a few.

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Staff Reviews: War Horse by Andy Leeke, Front of House Assistant

There are not many directors with a back catalogue like Steven Spielberg. Regardless of what you may think of his films, he clearly has a great passion for story telling, in many forms, and regardless of what genre he may be working in, this shines through. It’s no surprise then, that his new film, War Horse not only credits the 1982 book as an inspiration, but also the recent stage adaptation.

Set during The Great War, the story revolves around a horse named Joey, and owner/trainer/friend, Albert Narracott. Their friendship is put to the ultimate test however, when the outbreak of war forces their separation. Both characters are led down different paths, into dangerous situations and meet many people along the way, all effected by the power and horror of war.

In many ways, the film still feels like a play. The locations are very contained, the staging is very reminiscent of the theatre (especially a scene taking place in no mans land.) This is no bad thing, and it helps to serve the episodic nature of the story. One thing that really impressed me was how even handed the film is when it comes to the everyday people that get thrown into war, on both sides of the battle. There is no good vs. bad mentality to its depiction of war, it more takes the stance that in war there are no winners. This is a common theme in Spielberg’s previous work, and he handles these elements like the expert he is. This war is hard to watch, and even though it avoids any scenes of gore, it gives you the smallest glimpse of what it must have been like, and every soldier is handled with the respect they deserve.

An area that will go largely unnoticed by the audience is the visual effects in this film. It is rare to see a film so visually consistent, especially one full of effects sequences that nobody will ever notice. The attention to detail is in all of the right places, and has produced a heavily layered and authentic world that doesn’t get in the way. The film takes you on an incredible journey, but lets you focus on the story and emotion, the way the best Spielberg films do. 

Like all the best Spielberg films, John Williams provides yet another incredible score, that I actually think is the real reason behind all of the tears on peoples faces as they leave the screen.  It’s hard not to get emotional when you have some of the best people in the business giving their all to make it happen. But then that’s sort of the point of cinema; to make you feel.

Andrew Leeke works Front of House at Phoenix Square, where he is also a Production Assistant and provides animation workshops for kids. He is also a freelance animator and visual effects artist. Despite being 27, he still spends all of his pocket money on toys.

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Digital Art Exhibition: Engagement Party – A2D Converters

During the first three month of 2012, a range of artists will be living, working and creating brand new artworks at Phoenix Square, taking inspiration from this unique cultural building and its surroundings…

A big thank you to everyone who kindly donated their old, unwanted or broken electrical goods over the last month. The results of your generous contributions can be found in our Cube gallery.

Engagement Party have been transforming your contributions into something else, something different, something … other than before.

Engagement Party have created a lament for the old school, analogue technologies that once seemed as fresh and exciting as the latest computers, tablets and smart-phones that have become such a dominant part of our culture.

Their playful installation imagines a final resting place for all the things that have been so unceremoniously left by the wayside as the rapid development of digital technologies continues.

Engagement Party are regional artists Peter Bowcott, Graham Elstone, Thomas Hall, Robert Squirrell and Tommy Sweeney.

Photography – Alan Morton & Chris Tyrer

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Staff Reviews: Dreams of a Life by Lucy Pickering, Front of House Assistant

The poster for this film has been unsettling me for a few weeks at Phoenix Square. How could a young woman lie dead in a London flat for 3 years without anyone – family, friends, and colleagues – noticing she was missing?

Starting from the end, the film combines dramatisation and interviews with people who knew Joyce Vincent; mostly old flatmates, ex-colleagues, local journalists and a couple of ex boyfriends. Through these director Carol Morley creates a timeline from Joyce’s childhood to the last days of her life, giving the audience a sense of what she was like and inevitably creating a narrative from the (often contradictory) pieces of information given in the interviews.

The interviewees paint Joyce as an attractive, bright, outgoing and gentle woman.  Somebody who people would gravitate towards, and even aspire to be like.

I was particularly looking forward to seeing Zawe Ashton’s performance on the big screen, after seeing her on stage (in Salome at Curve) and on TV (in Channel 4’s Fresh Meat). She embodies the descriptions of Joyce Vincent from the interviews in an often eerie and lonely performance, in which she barely speaks to anyone else.

Joyce was brought up by her four sisters after her mother’s death when she was 11. As an adult she moved constantly all over London, often drifting in and out of friendships and relationships and at times deciding to completely insulate herself. One interviewee described her as not having her own interests but adapting to the lives of her partners, adopting their friends and interests. With unfulfilled dreams of being a singer, she had ‘respectable’ office jobs, but never seemed to stay at them for very long. Another particularly poignant description of Joyce is as ‘a woman who didn’t have a past and didn’t have a future.’

The film is darkly fascinating as the audience pieces together the parts of her life, trying to make sense of her tragedy. Even when depicting Joyce at her happiest, it inevitably has an undertone of sadness. One of the most moving scenes is a comparatively long shot of Joyce (Ashton) wearing a tight dress and singing into a hairbrush ‘My Smile is Just a Frown Turned Upside Down’ by Carolyn Crawford.

This cinematic adaptation of Joyce’s story is tragic. She wasn’t an elderly woman with no remaining family or friends living in the middle of nowhere. It is almost unfathomable that in this age of surveillance, a woman could just fall off the radar.

I think everyone has moments of feeling lost or lonely and this film will make even the most self-assured reflect on their lives and relationships. You go into this film with so many questions and while the mystery around Joyce’s death remains unresolved, Morley’s film opens up lines of enquiry and effectively humanises her story.

Lucy Pickering is a Front of House assistant at Phoenix Square and Media Officer at Curve theatre. In addition to film and theatre her loves include music, cycling and gingerbread. @misslucy_p

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Staff Reviews: Coriolanus and 50/50 by Fran Jaffa, Front of House Assistant

Coriolanus

Things I must not do during this review:

1. Be rude about Kenneth Branagh

2. Rant and gibber on about how dreamy Gerard Butler is.

Poor Ralph Fiennes. You direct, produce and star in one Shakespeare adaptation and people will never stop calling you ‘the next Kenneth Branagh.’ What makes is worse is Kenneth Branagh has played Coriolanus (of course), and before Ralph Fiennes did. Actually he’s not the only one. Over time this interesting and at times controversial role has been played by Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Christopher Walken and Morgan Freeman, among others. Despite this impressive list of names, The Tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the less popular, less familiar of Shakespeare’s plays, possibly because it’s one of the few that are rarely studied in schools. It may in fact be this which drew Feinnes to the text initially, as well as his previous experience of the role, since he makes no secret of the fact he considers teaching Shakespeare in schools detrimental to people’s enjoyment of the plays. Shakespeare is not made to be read, in his opinion people should be encouraged to speak it, or act it, to really connect with the language. An opinion which can be seen in his adaptation of this, the second longest of Shakespeare’s plays. Despite the fact that the text itself has been “aggressively” edited, as he describes it, what remains is performed by people with a real grasp of the language and in such a way that it is actually easy to understand and follow without prior knowledge of the plot.

Various adaptations of Coriolanus have been made over the years, all with highly politicised messages and relating to times of civil unrest. It is this universality that Feinnes wanted to get across, the locations could be anywhere (our first scene is set in “A place calling itself Rome”) and the events could be at any time. Obviously any time with automatic weapons and Skype, but it is clear that the emotions and principals of the film can be easily compared to various politically uneasy situations in the present day. That said, he never makes any direct comparisons, or actually any decided political standpoint. In his 1964 adaptation, Bertold Brecht used Coriolanus to demonise politicians and made the Citizens (or Plebeians) the heroes. But then, Brecht had a lot of bones to pick with a lot of people, whereas the impression I get from this film is that Ralph Feinnes simply likes it and feels it can be related to on a wide scale.

His Coriolanus is singular, stubborn, hot-headed and pretty un-likeable but at least he is honest and adheres strongly to his own code of values, as opposed to the politicians who surround him who are, to a man, slimy, oily, creeping, back-biting propaganda masters. Even the loveable and loved Menenius, (played to avuncular perfection by a rumpled Brian Cox,) is part of the relentless spin doctoring that goes on in all politics throughout time, or so it would seem.

Vanessa Redgrave pretty much steals the show though with her powerhouse of a performance as Volumina. Described as Shakespeare’s strongest female role, she storms through this film, capturing wonderfully the manipulative, slightly odd Mother/Son relationship. She does a subtle job of leaving poor Virgilia (Jessica Chastain) decidedly second in his estimation, along with their token small son who has two lines in the whole thing but is used mercilessly as an emotional bargaining chip by his Grandmother, as she struggles to regain control of the monster she created.

The camera work is a little uncomfortable, I have to admit. Initially very effective in the opening battle sequence and at moments throughout, but by the end of it, I was getting a little tired of close-ups of Ralph Feinnes face as he delivered his most epic lines.

Overall, Fiennes delivers a very powerful film, a relevant adaptation of a 400 year old play that will stay with you well after you leave the cinema.

50/50

So it turns out Joseph Gordon-Levitt has an odd shaped head. Who knew? He’s also heartbreakingly adorable and a pretty damn good actor. But this was common knowledge before director Jonathan Levine cast him as the lead in this bromance-meets-cancer-meets-rom-com. The film is apparently based around the life of writer Will Reiser, which probably accounts for its ability to tug all the heartstrings without self-indulgence or wallowing.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a nice guy with a nice house, a nice(ish) girlfriend and a nice Indie soundtrack who finds out from a spectacularly uncaring doctor (who is just a little bit too much of a caricature to actually be a comment on the medical profession at large) that he has some unpronounceable form of cancer which, he later finds out from the internet, gives him a 50/50 chance of survival. After the initial shock ‘What me? But I recycle?’ etc, the film follows him as he sets about telling his friends (or friend) and family, doing the awkward ‘are we serious enough for you to stick with me through cancer?’ thing with his girlfriend, horrifying Seth Rogan (the friend) by pre-emptively shaving his head and settling himself on the couch of equally adorable therapist-in-training Catherine McKay (Anna Kendrick).

The phrase “Hollywood Cancer” has been thrown with some spite at this film, mainly due to its reluctance to show in-depth the horrible, ravaging side-effects of chemotherapy and to be honest, I did find myself thinking ‘shouldn’t he look…well…worse?’ on a couple of occasions. The baldness is a shock but once you get used to the lack of the endearing, floppy locks the only thing that really makes him look sick is the shadows under his eyes and the down-turned mouth as Rogan points him out to any women he can find. That said, if this film can be accused of anything, it’s looking on the bright side so hard it’s almost blinded. Which isn’t a bad thing, it means that the moments when the bleak reality strikes ring true enough to silence the audience as we all subtly fish for our tissues.

On the whole I think this film does pretty well at “dealing with the issues.” Anjelica Huston is spectacular as Adam’s Mother, just the right amount of worrying, interfering and supportiveness. Although there are points in this film where I wanted to shake each of the characters and tell them to stop talking about how hard this was for them, for one second they all come together to make a very warm, human film about how normal people might respond to this kind of situation. Think Third Star, but with Seth Rogan in it. And actually even he is very good, and not the running gag of idiocy too much, possibly because he is, in fact, playing the part he took on in real life (apparently) in relation to Reiser, though with more well timed, tension relieving gags I imagine (though who knows, he might just be like that!). There are some genuinely hilarious moments and some genuinely moving moments and the whole thing doesn’t feel too bleak and hopeless by the end of it. The script is light-hearted but delivered in such a way that it doesn’t feel forced, despite the efforts to elbow in every pop-culture reference they could find. The only warning I will issue is that it might cause you to look at your best friend and wonder what they would actually look like with their head shaved completely bald … just a suggestion…

Fran works at Phoenix Square as a Front of House Assistant and has a thoroughly useful degree in Drama. Her interests aside from films are mainly tea and cake. Occasionally biscuits.

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Staff Reviews: Midnight in Paris by Martin Barker, Screen Lounge Assistant

I should start off this review by stating that I am a massive Woody Allen fan. However, anyone who follows his films will know that some of his more recent efforts have been, well, quite hit and miss. However, for my money Midnight in Paris is one of his best in a long time. Woody explores an issue that he has hinted at in many of his other films. To pick out a quote from Deconstructing Harry, “All people know the same truth; our lives consist of how we choose to distort them.” This is the scenario that the main character of this film finds himself in.

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a successful yet unfulfilled Hollywood script writer who yearns to become a successful novelist, and live out his dreams in Paris. Whilst on a tag along holiday with the parents in law, Gil mulls upon his love of the city and yearns for his ideal golden era of the 1920’s. Meanwhile his wife Inez (Rachel McAdams) scoffs at his fantasy. She’s more interested in getting married and settling down to an easy life, where Gil brings in a good amount of money, something her parents are in agreement with. Whilst there, Inez bumps into an old friend Paul (Michael Sheen) who displays too much cultural arrogance for Gil to handle. However, it’s when Paris hits midnight (strangely enough) that the film really gets going. On a walk one night, Gil just so happens by chance, to bump into the likes of Hemmingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald and Dali but to name a few, whilst also falling for the charms of the beautiful Adriana (Marian Cottillard). All of this leaves Gil will a lot of questions to ask.

Woody Allen has always shown a love for capturing cities, New York his most famous, London recently and now Paris, and how he captures it. You couldn’t be blamed for yearning to exit the cinema and jump on a plane to Paris when viewing the opening sequence, accompanied by an excellent soundtrack featuring much of Allen’s beloved jazz. But I would urge you to hold on for an hour and a half! What we get is one of Allen’s most fun films of recent times, with some great Woody Allen lines delivered brilliantly by Owen Wilson, in what I think has to be one of his best performances I’ve seen. At times you can’t help but imagine Allen reading the same lines. He is supported by an excellent all star cast, with many faces popping up you will recognise including the first lady of France Carla Bruni.

Midnight in Paris is a beautifully shot, brilliantly scripted and excellently acted film which will leave you with a smile on your face as you leave the cinema, whilst also waiting eagerly for Allen’s next work. The Woodster clearly still has a lot to offer judging by the film. It’s good to have you back Woody, time to book my tickets to Paris, Au revoir!

Martin Barker works in the café bar and when not struggling to balance your meals from the kitchen to the table or watching films, he enjoys live music and exploring new places.

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Staff Reviews: Shame by Ruth Woods, Box Office Assistant

Steve McQueen’s new film had already created a lot of discussion before most people had seen it. This is probably to do with its theme. Sex addiction. The story centres around Brandon, played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, and within the first ten minutes we have an understanding of his world that just seems to be on a continuous loop. A world that involves hiring prostitutes, downloading pornography, relieving himself at work and at home and always looking for another conquest. The same way a drug addict is looking for their next hit. The opening sequence is beautifully narrated by Harry Escott’s score and very little dialogue is used or needed to describe how he lives his life. We see him meet an attractive woman on the subway. They don’t speak to each other but all the flirting and lust is displayed with simple looks and glances.

The arrival of his sister Sissy completely changes the mood and environment he has created. There is an obvious tension and a suggestion of a traumatic childhood that is kept a mystery. A scene in which Sissy (Carey Mulligan) sings “New York, New York” produces one of the most intense scenes of the film. The emotion that Mulligan displays whilst singing is heartbreaking and there was a beautiful silence from the audience after she finished. You get the feeling that you are watching a story about two very broken and damaged people. Brandon struggles to get used to Sissy living in his world. There are awkward moments between them and the boundary of their relationship becomes slightly blurred after she accidently walks in on him relieving himself again. Some people have commented that there is a suggestion of an incestuous relationship between the two characters. However, there is something very childlike about them. It is as though we have reverted back to a time when they were younger and felt safer.

Brandon is ready to deal with his demons as he ventures out into the real world and goes on a date with his co-worker Marianne. The date scene provides some comic relief in the form of the waiter (Robert Montano) who gives a lovely scene stealing performance. There is something very sweet and old fashioned about their date. As Brandon walks her to her subway stop and there is no invitation for sex. It seems that Brandon might be ready to try a relationship with someone he has genuine feelings for. However, like any addiction isn’t easy to stop, Brandon needs his fix in whatever form he can get it.

This film is very bleak and uncomfortable to watch at points. Very few films have managed to capture the darker side to New York that makes it seem cold, grey and seedy but McQueen has done this perfectly. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are excellent and they both give outstanding performances. Although filmed in New York, the film was made by a British Director, funded by British companies and stars two very talented British actors. It’s an excellent example of how much talent there is in British cinema.

Be fully prepared for what you are going to watch as “Shame” doesn’t hide its subject matter. Cynics may point at this as a fictional addiction, an excuse created by someone who just enjoys a lot of sex. However, this is far from a film just about sex. What it shows is the heartache, discomfort and anguish an addict faces. This is a brilliant film from Steve McQueen. But not one to watch with the parents!

Ruth Woods works as a Box Office Assistant at Phoenix Square. In her spare time she likes to stalk her favourite actors. Currently: Benedict Cumberbatch who lives at 221b Baker Street.

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Staff Reviews: Tyrannosaur by Fran Jaffa, Front of House Assistant

There is a certain look that people have as they walk out of this film, that makes me feel like we should be handing out complementary kittens or hugs or hot chocolate at the very least. Paddy Considine’s first shot at directing is completely relentless and utterly unflinching, right from its violent outset.

The film centres around Joseph, played by Peter Mullan, a character we see from the very beginning swinging between bursts of rage, remorse and self-loathing as he tries, not hugely successfully, to turn his life around. It’s a heart wrenching portrayal of a man who has lost faith not in the world, but in himself. He can see how cruel, violent and uncaring he can be but cannot seem to stop himself. We can almost see how, as a young man these moments of clarity might have been followed up by attempts at kindness, reconciliation and apologies but as age and bitterness have set in, all he is left with is the certainty that he shouldn’t be around nice people and is beyond help.

Enter Hannah and a spectacular, mould-breaking performance by Olivia Colman who tries to “fix” Joseph with her particular brand of naiveté and religion. I have seen Colman’s character dismissed as just another working-class cliché, another portrayal of a world where “all the women are black and blue” in certain reviews. However, personally I feel that is a shallow and unfair appraisal of a wonderfully complex performance. Anyone watching this surely couldn’t dismiss her as a one dimensional plot device. A perfect example is a scene in which her abusive husband begs for her forgiveness. She gives it, convincingly and wholeheartedly, until he looks away and the fury and hatred in her expression mixes heartbreakingly with her characters natural compassion and the forgiveness she genuinely wants to bestow.

While some have claimed that this film simply reinforces every negative social stereotype going, it seems clear that there are more shades of grey in this film than a dementor’s cloak. Joseph is not the bad-guy-turned-good. Hannah is not the grovelling, snivelling, abused woman turning to God to try to ignore it and they don’t fall in love and fix each other. The only person who could be described as predictable is James (Eddie Marsan) who is just flat out evil. There are no major redeeming features to Marsan’s wonderfully scary, almost unhinged bad guy, but even he isn’t as rotten right through as you might expect. Bring tissues.

Fran works at Phoenix Square as a Front of House Assistant and has a thoroughly useful degree in Drama. Her interests aside from films are mainly tea and cake. Occasionally biscuits.

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Staff Reviews: Snowtown by Natasha Linford, Screen Lounge Assistant

Justin Kurzel’s feature debut follows the true-life crimes of Australia’s serial killer John Bunting, played brilliantly by Daniel Henshall. Snowtown is not your typical crime-drama, Kurzel achieves striking effects and an engaging narrative in each scene by allowing the film to gradually unfold in a series of images and transitions. Rather than simply telling us the facts, he exposes them to the audience in piece-meal fashion and leaves us questioning every detail.

The film opens by setting the scene of a bleak, deprived neighbourhood in Southern Australia, focusing on one family in particular. The harsh social realities are immediately impressed upon us as when the mother, Elizabeth (Louise Harvey) goes on a date, leaving her sons in the responsibility of a neighbour, they are sexually molested. There is vulnerability and helplessness within the boys, emphasized when the neighbour photographs them, capturing an innocence which is rapidly deteriorating due to their seemingly inescapable position. 

As Snowtown develops we are introduced to the character John (Henshall) who, with his charming, charismatic persona at first appears to be a knight in shining armour on a mission to turn the lives of this family around, offering a father figure for the children and a partner for the mother. This role model figure is especially affected upon Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) a teenager, struggling to grow up in an environment of sexual abuse and mistrust (we later learn that his older step-brother bullies and rapes him.)

Clearly this is not an easy watch, yet Kurzel has created a film that is as thought provoking as it is shocking. John’s sociopathic motives become entwined with Jamie’s desperate vulnerability as John’s grooming of him escalates from attempting to emasculate him and helping him stand up to his oppressors to making him an unwilling accomplice to his murderous crimes. One of the most disturbing aspects of the film is John’s infiltration of an already victimized community; he becomes the voice of the neighbourhood, as during evening meetings he rouses animosity against different minorities, calling for action against homosexuals and drug addicts whom he believes to be impingements upon society. He believes that his extreme actions are justified as he is undertaking a cleansing of society, viewing certain individuals as worth no more than the animals that he hacks up.

The sound design of the film is extremely effective in creating the intense atmosphere and unsettling viewing experience that this film provokes, unpleasant sounds such as the squelching of kangaroo guts in a bucket or the scratching on lino of a dying dog add to a feeling of intimate, closed in involvement. The film is also cut with the sound recordings John forces his victim to create before murdering them and leaving them as telephone voice-mails.

This film is not for the faint hearted, with certain scenes proving difficult to watch as they show images of extreme brutality, torture and violence. However, I would nevertheless highly recommend it as a compelling and powerful watch that despite dealing with such horrific subject matter, is shot beautifully and will leave you thinking for a long time afterwards.

Natasha works at Phoenix Square front of house in the cafe/bar. She is in her final year of an English and American studies degree. She thoroughly enjoys most things which are deep fried.

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