Helen (PG)

Film

Drama

Annie_Townsend_(4)_in_Helen.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Apr 28 2009

You couldn’t call this audacious British debut a success; it’s too arch, awkward and over-extended for that. But, oddly, it’s those very same qualities which make it arresting to watch and which mark out its two directors as talents to keep an eye on. Helen (Annie Townsend) is a plain-faced 17 year old in foster care who works part-time as a hotel cleaner and whose college mate Joy has disappeared in the woods of a town that looks and sounds like it might be Newcastle but is never identified. When the police arrive at Joy’s college looking for a stand-in for a reconstruction, they pick Helen, who takes to wearing Joy’s yellow coat, flirting with her boyfriend and even seeking help with her homework from Joy’s father. This is all executed in a peculiar, spooky fashion: long takes, disjointed episodes, a mixture of wide shots and a series of close-ups. The photography is striking – but even more striking is how extraordinarily wooden the performances and the dialogue are.

Is this simply bad filmmaking? Or is it an experiment that only half works? I’d go for the latter. What the directors are seeking is a metaphysical spin on a realistic set-up: an attempt to get inside and explore Helen’s head with a big, credible event as backdrop. We must assume, though, that Helen’s encounters are flights of fancy for a girl who has never enjoyed the same comforts as her peers, so the film is good on ideas of identity and how youngsters can project others’ lives onto their own to survive. It doesn’t fully work, but its daring is enough to recommend it.
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Release details

Rated:

PG

UK release:

Fri May 1, 2009

Duration:

79 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

2.9 / 5

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Martin Salter

If you get Robert Bresson then you will get this film. It is very deliberately low key in acting style ( the directors stated this was their intention) In contrast to many British films of late where everyone seems to be shouting at one another or punching the living daylights out of everyone in sight, usually in an inner city locale, this is a difficult contrast for some people to swallow. At least it was trying to be something else. The film was too short for my liking as I just started to get absorbed into the laconic pace and gliding cinematography and suddenly it was all over. This was the films biggest disappointment. Perhaps if the director had shot digitally the budget would have stretched to another 20 minutes ? Worth a view if you are in need of some introspection but it lacks the brutatlity and the hightened tension of a true Bresson ( Mouchette and Au Hazard Balthazar spring to mind ) - but then Bresson is not everyone's cup of tea at the best of times despite his reputation as the ultimate auteur.

Robert Amazon

Really complex and involving mystery, that grabs you and doesn't let go. It's definitely one that you will be talking about long after it's over. Very atmospheric and with an excellent lead performance by Annie Townsend. This is one that is worth seeking out and watching.

Robert Amazon

Really complex and involving mystery, that grabs you and doesn't let go. It's definitely one that you will be talking about long after it's over. Very atmospheric and with an excellent lead performance by Annie Townsend. This is one that is worth seeking out and watching.

Chris

The worst film I've endured for a long time: fortunately it's nto very long. It just feels it. Spent the whole film wondering whether the acting was entirely wooden or whether it was some arty style that was going way over my head. Had to watch a bit of the "extras" on the DVD and having seen the directors taking themselves far too seriously - it was the former. This was so amateur, I do not how it's managed to find a place on the lovefilm site alongside proper films. Don't bother.

Ross Herron

I feel the creators of this film have seriously missed a trick. If more time had been taken on choosing the actors and creating more real and believable relationships between the characters they could have produced a very special debut movie indeed. The one blessing from the film was the cinematography. This looked and had the feel of a superbly shot, dramatic, edgy film however the wooden and at times cringworthy acting made it a tough watch. So close but yet so very far.