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Nathan Ellis (played by Edward Baker-Close then Asa Butterfield) is different – he always has been. He’s particularly anxious when it comes to social interactions and everyone except his father, Michael (by Martin McCann) seems to be humanly distant. When he’s only 9 years old, Nathan and his father set out for a drive – but there’s a tragic accident and Michael is killed. From that day onwards, life makes no sense to Nathan. He struggles along while his mother, Julie (by Sally Hawkins), tries hard to reach him and care for him, but he isolates her. Highly gifted, particularly at mathematics, Julie enrols Nathan early at a High School where he meets Martin Humphreys (by Rafe Spall), himself a maths genius. Mr Humphreys becomes Nathan’s tutor and they begin an enduring coaching relationship. Nathan is inspired to try for a spot on the British Team to attend the International Mathematics Olympiad – and things in his life start to take a more positive spin. He grasps keenly at the challenge and works hard to get a place on the team. On the Olympiad Team, his coach Richard (by Eddie Marsan) sees his potential, as does a fellow maths prodigy Zhang Mei (by Jo Yang). But apart from when he’s challenged at maths, Nathan is deeply traumatised by his father’s death and most of his life seems meaningless. This is the story of Nathan’s journey through the challenges of the International Maths Olympiad which in turn help him face the challenges in his everyday life.

This movie is certainly unique and although the story meanders a bit, it is told in simple terms – much like the outlook that Nathan has on life. On the autism spectrum, Nathan sees the world in a way not shared by most of his peers – he’s used to being weird, but here that concept is turned on its head when Nathan finds he’s “just average” amongst the team of maths prodigies. That’s a great perspective for the story. He’s also involuntarily involved in social interactions he has no choice about – both in the peer group and with individuals, so he must constantly face the great unknown – a source of huge trepidation for an autistic person. This becomes Nathan’s impetus to develop more strength and become socially comfortable, which is really depicted well here. The performances of both Asa Butterfield and Sally Hawkins are excellent. As Nathan’s long-suffering mother, we can really feel Julie’s anguish at Nathan’s failure to connect emotionally with her, which leaves her at pains to know how to have a good relationship with him. Rafe Spall is wonderful as the eccentric Mr Humphreys – another “warts and all” character – and his interaction with Nathan is great.  The story doesn’t really hold the true value of this movie, it’s in watching the relationships develop. Overall, the whole thing is a good movie, that is very well done.   

Made in 2014. Directed by Morgan Matthews.

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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Movies

 

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Blue Jasmine

Things are going so well for Jasmine (played by Cate Blanchett) – her significantly rich husband Hal (by Alec Baldwin) is a successful businessman, she has a busy social life, a beautiful house, designer clothes, expensive jewellery … but suddenly it all falls to pieces and Jasmine finds herself rather down on her luck. She’s had to move away from her high life in New York to stay with her sister Ginger (by Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco – it’s not quite the life she’s been used to … no money left for rent – and now she even has to get a job!!  She doesn’t really know Ginger very well, except that her husband Augie (by Andrew Dice Clay) was a loser and she doesn’t exactly live the same way Jasmine does. Such is the dramatic come-down Jasmine is enduring. Life is stressful, Ginger’s two sons are utterly intolerable and Augie hasn’t provided well for her – her place isn’t exactly “Park Avenue” either … but it’s at least somewhere to stay until Jasmine gets herself back on her feet.  She’s neurotic and anxious, with the past flooding back to crowd her thoughts when anything tips her memory that way.  She relies on pills and drink to get her through the day. Oh how will she ever survive and adjust to such a comedown?

This is a good movie.  Cate Blanchett is excellent as the self-centred Jasmine – totally focussed on her own life, self and utterly unaware of anyone else’s needs. She is dressed in the finest designer clothes and behaves as the perfect spoilt rich bitch. There is certainly something “Blanche Dubois” from “A Streetcar Named Desire” about her character and to some extent about this story – but only in the opening few scenes – it’s not a remake of that movie at all. I was captivated by them all – it’s easy to get wrapped up in the world of these people. Woody Allen has cast this movie exquisitely – as Ginger, Sally Hawkins is just as strong as Blanchett – she is a marvellous counterpoint to the classically styled Jasmine – these sisters were actually born of different parents and just adopted by the same couple, hence their “sister” status but total lack of anything in common, either physically or in lifestyle. Ginger’s boyfriend, Chilli, is played well by Bobby Cannavale and both Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard are great. It’s easy to forget that both these lead actresses are non-American, Blanchett is Australian and Hawkins is British but they play Americans with complete conviction. This is one of Woody Allen’s finest in the last few years and as usual he has shot it beautifully. Well done everyone involved.

 Made in 2013.  Directed by Woody Allen.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Movies

 

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Cassandra’s Dream

Ian (played by Ewan McGregor) is an ambitious cockney lad-about-town with a yearn for big business and big profits, but he only has a small bank balance. His best mate is his brother Terry (by Colin Farrell). Terry’s the same … loves money, works hard, but is a really bad gambler. They are close in age and have virtually spent their entire lives as best friends. One day, after a happy reminiscence of their boyhood days, they decide to pool their money and buy a boat. Terry’s just had a huge win at the track, so they name her “Cassandra’s Dream” after the racehorse. Unfortunately, both boys get a taste for the high life and things get a bit hard when they must find more cash to fund their lavish ways and continue to please their girlfriends Angela (by Hayley Atwell) and Kate (by Sally Hawkins). Then out of the blue their rich Uncle Howard (by Tom Wilkinson) asks for their help on a job with his business colleague Martin Burns (by Philip Davis), which promises a huge payday for the boys … easy money! … problem solved! So the boys agree to do the job, but soon things start to take a turn for the worse ….

This is a solid but unremarkable movie. You could forget that it’s a Woody Allen piece as it doesn’t seem to have the quirky hallmarks or comedy edge that most of his do. It’s more of a television style movie really, but it’s quite easy to watch. The comedy is there, but this as more moral fibre to it – the dynamics of family loyalties, ambition and love. It’s fine, but I’d suggest you wait for it on television.

Made in 2007. Directed by Woody Allen.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Movies

 

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Submarine

In the 1980’s, Oliver Tate (by Craig Roberts) is a teenager in Wales and the only child of academic and depressive Lloyd (by Noah Taylor) and bored housewife Jill (by Sally Hawkins). In his town, there isn’t a lot to do and Oliver spends much of his day observing those around him. He monitors his parents’ every move and fantasises about girls at school. One day, his secret crush Jordana (by Yasmin Paige) suddenly takes an interest in him and they start a courtship. Oliver is determined to be “the best boyfriend in the world” and tries to learn as much as possible about how to do this, then applies it when he sees Jordana. At the same time, his parents’ marriage has hit a rough patch and, through his surveillance, he realises his mother’s head has been turned by another man. In his well meaning way, he tries his hardest to help his parents reconcile, as well as be the boyfriend Jordana deserves him to be.  But things don’t quite work out as he expects and there are challenges to face ….

This is a nice, but slow moving, movie. We watch the drama from Oliver’s perspective and this is well done – Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins are marvellous as the grey, average and set-in-their-ways Lloyd and Jill Tate. Sally Hawkins always gives a strong, authentic performance. Craig Roberts does very well as Oliver and Yasmin Paige puts in a strong performance as Jordana. All in all, this movie is well done, the music supports the story well, the comedy is appropriate and the special effects are used effectively – the audience is often taken inside Oliver’s thoughts and this is nicely achieved.

Made in 2010.  Directed by Richard Ayoade

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Movies

 

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Jane Eyre

Jane (performed by Amelia Clarkson and then Mia Wasikowska) has had a lonely and bleak childhood. She was abandoned by her parents and a heartless aunt I(by Sally Hawkins) gave her lodgings before sending her to a charity home for girls. From here, Jane is engaged as a governess at Thornfield, the home of Mr Rochester (by Michael Fassbender), to care for his daughter. The housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax (by Judi Dench) is the first person to ever treat Jane kindly and she warms to her. She has a happy life at Thornfield, excelling as a governess and enjoying the landscape and lifestyle in the country. Gradually a tentative, then deep relationship develops between Jane and Mr Rochester. But the path of true love is difficult for this pair and several barriers arise that threaten to destroy any chance of happiness they may have.

Although this story is one of searing passion, wide Yorksire landscapes and beautiful costumes – all the hallmarks of a wonderful, true “girls own” romance – this particular version did not “get” me. Unlike others (such as Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey or Sense and Sensibility), I did not feel any empathy towards these characters. Mia Wasikowska is beautiful and a very authentic Jane – and Michael Fassbender is perfect as the mysterious and flawed Mr Rochester, but unfortunately I could not “feel the passion” in this story. There is little on-screen chemistry between them.  Judi Dench is wonderful as the lovely housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax.  I would say it is okay as a period movie, but there are certainly better.

This movie is adaptation of the story by Charlotte Bronte, which was her first novel published in 1847.

Made in 2011.  Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Movies

 

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Never Let Me Go

After a breakthrough in medical science in 1952, things have progressed well and by the 1970’s human life expectancy has reached more than 100 years. To support this longevity in society, Halisham is one of several seemingly “idyllic” and proper English boarding schools that is participating in a National Organ Donor Program to raise and educate an entire community of “very special” children. We meet students Cathy (played by Carey Mulligan), Ruth (by Keira Knightley) and Tommy (by Andrew Garfield) who have lived at the school in a sheltered, highly disciplined and closely controlled life since their birth. When a new teacher Miss Lucy (by Sally Hawkins) arrives at school, she reveals to the children that theirs is a life with a purpose – they have been created and raised as donor humans to provide body parts for the people who need them in the “outside world”.  At first the children are too young to understand the entire scenario and live in a world of stories and fantasy about the school – perpetuated by the staff and the particularly cold-hearted Headmistress (by Charlotte Rampling) – and they have no way to validate what’s true and what isn’t. The children learn that as young adults, each will begin the donation process until their body is no longer able to function with its missing parts and then the donor will achieve “completion”.

This movie is an adaptation of the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and it introduces a fascinating but horrific concept. We watch these three people develop into their young adulthood, trying to understand their feelings for each other and their eventual experiences of donation. Their lives are stark and due to their isolation since birth their relationships are immature and awkward. However, its interesting to watch this sci-fi scenario play out.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Movies

 

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Made in Dagenham

If you want to see what a difference being prepared to stand up and speak up makes, have a look at “Made in Dagenham”. In this movie, a few women at a Ford factory in 1960’s UK decided they wouldn’t put up with lower pay rates than men …. They stood up and kept up and gradually built support that spread globally. We live with the benefits. The movie tells this story in a self-deprecating way – which doesn’t take away from the significance of the issue, but speaks with humour.

The leader of the women’s movement is Rita O’Grady (played by Sally Hawkins) under the guidance of the delightful union rep Albert Passingham (by Bob Hoskins). The women went on strike and life got tough. Finances strained and husbands got frustrated and bitter. The Labour Government got involved via First Secretary of State Barbara Castle (by Miranda Richardson).

Bob Hoskins does a nice job in a support role. It is easy to watch and worth seeing.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Movies

 

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