Cinema

Current highlights from Barcelona's English-language cinema scene


The latest reviews

Short Term 12

  • Rated as: 3/5

American critics fell hard for this thoughtful US indie about the staff of a foster care home for troubled teens: the film’s Rotten Tomatoes page is littered with words like ‘exceptional’ and  ‘devastating’. Another adjective that comes up a lot is ‘authentic’, so maybe it’s a matter of cultural disconnect (the Americans do tend to wear their emotions a little more openly than the rest us). But viewers on this side of the pond might feel more manipulated than convinced by this weighty but overwrought melodrama. In one thing, however, we’re all agreed: up-and-comer Brie Larson is enormously enjoyable in the central role of Grace, the care worker who finds her attachment to the centre and its occupants overshadowing her personal life. (read more)

The Purge: Anarchy

  • Rated as: 2/5

This action thriller follows the silly premise of last year’s ‘The Purge’. America in the near future has wiped out crime with Purge Night: for 12 hours once a year all crime is legal and hospitals and police stations are shut down. The concept is hard to take seriously (the cost of property damage would be astronomical). But couldn’t this sequel have at least had a little more fun? Depressingly uncreative, it follows a band of innocents hunted on the streets, striking a generic tone of urban warfare when dark comedy or revenge would have been more entertaining. (read more)

Fill the Void

  • Rated as: 4/5

This debut feature by an Orthodox Jewish American filmmaker offers a sympathetic, yet still nuanced, take on the plight of an Israeli teenager trying to square her emotional needs with duty to faith and family. Shira (Hadas Yaron, mesmerising) has always looked up to her big sister, who’s married to a Rabbi and due to give birth to the couple’s first child – until tragedy strikes and impacts unexpectedly on Shira’s future choices. Suddenly, she’s pressured to marry, and though determined to remain her own woman, she’s culturally ill-equipped to understand her swirling emotions and desires. (read more)

A Touch of Sin

  • Rated as: 4/5

Don’t go into this barbed cry of pain from Jia Zhang-ke (one of China’s greatest modern filmmakers) expecting subtlety. He’s created plenty of pointed undercurrents in movies such as ‘The World’, ‘Still Life’ and ‘24 City’, but now an implied violence comes explosively to the surface. Drawing on true stories apparently gleaned from the Chinese version of Twitter, his drama follows four residents of the People’s Republic, ranging across a spectrum of communities from north to south, who are each pushed to vengeful breaking point. (read more)

Planes: Fire & Rescue

  • Rated as: 1/5

Displaying a weird lack of memorable or endearing characters, this animated effort feels more like a direct-to-video job from the 1990s than a fully fledged John Lasseter-exec-produced theatrical release. After 'Frozen', it’s a huge step back for Disney, both in terms of simply telling an engaging story for kids, and its underlying social messages. The first three female characters with dialogue are a killjoy mechanic who informs hero Dusty (Dane Cook) that he can’t race anymore for health reasons, a waitress with a single line, and a pink sports car who’s hit on by – groan – a pickup truck. (read more)

Friends with Kids

  • Rated as: 3/5

Jon Hamm often gets a grilling about not having kids (what, with his genes!). This spiky NY relationship comedy is written and directed by his girlfriend of 14 years, Jennifer Westfeldt. And it’s safe to assume its sharp comments on what kids can do to marriage – and friendships – come from years of observation. Westfeldt stars as Julie, a singleton who feels cut off from her gang. They’ve all decamped to Brooklyn to have kids and become mean, angry people with no lives. That leaves Julie and friend Jason (Adam Scott) sipping cocktails in Manhattan. The pair cook up a plan: babies are fine, but marriage, no thanks. (read more)

Now Is Good

  • Rated as: 2/5

Forgetting to bring tissues to this weepie is the definition of schoolgirl error. Schoolgirls, you see, will be hauling industrial crates of Kleenex into cinemas. They’ll be blubbing gleefully as Dakota Fanning, starring as Tessa, a 17-year-old Brighton girl dying prettily of leukaemia, stares into the eyes of her hot neighbour (Jeremy Irvine). Yes, it’s as mawkishly manipulative as all that. Yes, I was reaching for the sleeve of my cardie. The film is based on a teen novel by Jenny Downham, and director Ol Parker has administered a sugar-coated pill to it. He wrote ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and this is likewise hellbent on inspiring a rush of wind-beneath-my-wings, life-affirming feeling. But it’s decently acted. Fanning does an impeccable English accent as Tessa, who was diagnosed with leukaemia at 13. (read more)

The Railway Man

  • Rated as: 3/5

Colin Firth cements his reputation as the go-to man for repressed, buttoned-up masculinity with another performance of feeling and depth, playing a former soldier traumatised by World War II. What a shame then that the rest of the film is less stiff-upper-lip, more just stiff. It’s based on an acclaimed memoir by Eric Lomax, who was captured by the Japanese, tortured and put to work on the notorious Burma railway in his early twenties. After decades suffering what we’d now call post-traumatic stress, he met and forgave the Japanese officer responsible. In Firth’s every grimace and flinch you feel the torment of Lomax’s private world, but emotionally ‘The Railway Man’ feels trimmed and tidied up. (read more)

More film reviews

Recommended films

Frances Ha

  • Rated as: 4/5

Fill the Void

  • Rated as: 4/5

The Lego Movie

  • Rated as: 4/5