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Greer McNally

Greer McNally

Articles (2)

Swallow. La perfección te traga

Swallow. La perfección te traga

⭑⭑⭑⭑✩ Swallow. La perfección te traga presenta la historia de una mujer embarazada que ingiere objetos peligrosos. Ha ganado popularidad y premios en el circuito de festivales de cine, y es fácil ver por qué. Con su primer largometraje, el guionista y director Carlo Mirabella-Davis ha elaborado una pulida historia de empoderamiento femenino enmarcada dentro de un eficaz thriller sobre los peligros de la vida suburbana. Hunter (Haley Bennett de La chica del tren) aparentemente tiene la vida perfecta. Vive en una hermosa casa con su apuesto y rico esposo (Austin Stowell) y un bebé en camino. Pero, ella no es feliz. Pronto, comienza a comer cosas que no debe, y no estamos hablando de nueces, fresas y mariscos. Sus ansias son por canicas, pilas y objetos afilados que la hacen sangrar incluso cuando trata de ingerirlos. En poco tiempo, tiene una buena colección de contrabando que se abrió camino a través de su tracto digestivo. Pero su secreto se revela cuando un ultrasonido revela algo más que un feto en su vientre en crecimiento. Le diagnostican pica, una afección psicológica en la que las personas ingieren elementos no nutritivos, y la envían a un terapeuta para que la "arregle". Pica es el tipo de dolencia que te imaginas que aparece en una película de David Cronenberg y es el forraje perfecto para una película de terror. Pero al darnos una respuesta médica para el comportamiento de Hunter, que resulta ser una reacción a su entorno tóxico en lugar de una forma de dismorfia c

Felicity Jones Interview: ‘I love characters that don't conform’

Felicity Jones Interview: ‘I love characters that don't conform’

Things are going pretty well for Felicity Jones. The night before I meet her, she picked up the Variety Award at the British Independent Film Awards. The prize recognises thesps who’ve helped put the UK on the movie map. Previous winners include Kate Winslet, Benedict Cumberbatch and Helen Mirren. Not a terrible list to be joining, then. Oh, and she’s just wrapped a period drama with Eddie Redmayne about a hot-air-ballooning acrobat, in which she did a lot of her own daredevil stunts. But she’s not here to talk about gongs or her old ‘The Theory of Everything’ mucker. The topic under discussion today is ‘On the Basis of Sex’, a seriously timely, based-on-true-life drama that sees her play everyone’s favourite octogenarian, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (sorry, Dame Judi). ‘I wanted to show how someone becomes Ruth Bader Ginsburg,’ she explains over a lemon tea. ‘After all, she didn’t come out of the womb fully formed as she is now.’ ‘I have 100 percent just played a superhero’ Jones dominates the movie, a presence in all but about five scenes. And the film contains one of the longest speeches ever delivered by a woman on screen – clocking in at a mouth-drying five minutes 32 seconds. Crucially for the actress, Ginsburg signed off on her casting beforehand. Has she seen the movie yet? ‘Yes, and she’s telling her friends to see it,’ says Jones. ‘Which is a relief.’ It’s another striking role on a CV full of single-minded figures, like Jane Hawking and Jyn Erso in

Listings and reviews (22)

No Bears

No Bears

4 out of 5 stars

Legendary Iranian director Jafar Panahi (Closed Curtain, Taxi Tehran) explores ideas of freedom, and what they mean to two very different couples in No Bears, his latest film about life in the homeland that currently has him cruelly incarcerated.   Exiles Zara (Mina Kavani) and Bakhtiar (Bakhtiar Panjei) live in Turkey and have been trying to escape to western Europe for ten years. Solduz (Amir Davari) and Gozal (Darya Alei) are in love in a mountain village in Iran, but she is betrothed to another man, and they must hide their feelings or face the wrath of the village.  Panahi – playing a lightly fictionalised version of himself – gently draws the two stories together. He is making a film about Zara and Bakhtiar’s plight, while staying in the village which Solduz and Gozal long to escape from.  So why is the fictional Panahi in an Iranian village rather than making his film in Turkey? Because in a twist that would be surreal if it wasn’t actually mirroring real life, he is directing them over Zoom, having been banned not only from leaving Iran, but from filmmaking altogether. No Bears starts in a gently comic tone, with Panahi requesting ladders and waving his phone in the air, as if to say: ‘Don’t worry viewer, I may be under house arrest, but it’s all going to be okay.’ And we are fooled into expecting a gentle observation of rural Iran, lulled by the gentle rhythms of the everyday. The twist would be surreal if it wasn’t actually mirroring real life But as he weaves his t

Swallow

Swallow

4 out of 5 stars

‘Swallow’, the tale of a pregnant woman ingesting dangerous objects, has been picking up buzz and awards on the film festival circuit – and it’s easy to see why. With his debut feature, writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis has crafted a polished tale of female empowerment framed inside an effective thriller about the perils of suburban life. Hunter (Haley Bennett from ‘The Girl on the Train’) apparently has the perfect life. She lives in a beautiful house with her handsome rich husband (Austin Stowell) and a baby on the way. But, she’s not happy. Soon, she starts eating things she shouldn’t, and we’re not talking stilton and shellfish. Her cravings are for marbles, batteries and sharp objects that make her bleed even as she tries to ingest them. Before long she has a nice collection of the contraband that’s made its way through her digestive tract. But her secret is rumbled when an ultrasound reveals more than just a foetus in her growing belly. She is diagnosed with pica ­– a psychological condition which sees people ingesting non-nutritious items – and sent off to a therapist to be ‘fixed’. Pica is the kind of ailment you’d imagine featuring heavily in a David Cronenberg movie and it’s the perfect fodder for a horror. But by giving us a medical answer for Hunter’s behaviour – it turns out to be a reaction to her toxic environment rather than a form of body dysmorphia – Mirabella-Davis shifts our focus away from her bad diet and on to Hunter’s in-laws as the real villains

Hope Gap

Hope Gap

2 out of 5 stars

Some films look great on paper. The writer of ‘Shadowlands’ pens a script about the end of a marriage, casting a Bafta-winning actress, an actor whose star is on the rise and Bill Nighy. All the signs suggest this should be a subtle emotional ride of a movie. Spoiler: it isn’t. We meet the tempestuous Grace (Annette Bening) and her quiet husband Edward (Nighy) in their little house by the East Sussex coast. She rages and he listens. When their son Jamie (Josh O’Connor) arrives, it’s clear this pattern has been in place for some time. Still, when Edward announces he is leaving, Grace is completely unprepared. You want to feel for her, as she scrambles to save her marriage, but emotional investment is hard to come by here. When Edward walks out the door, so does the drama. What follows are scenes which line up next to each other without ever really flowing. Nicholson tries device after device to engage with us. But his voiceovers distract rather than add to the narrative and the shot repetition grates. We can see the similarities between father and son, without having them make their tea or stand in front of the family home in the same manner. And then there is Bening’s odd, faintly English accent – a jarring deep timbre – which just serves as another distraction. Despite all this, there is something poetic about writer William Nicholson’s second feature as a director. Its south coast backdrop is stunning and Alex Heffes’s soaring score does elevate matters. But we expect fil

When Lambs Become Lions

When Lambs Become Lions

4 out of 5 stars

This involving documentary about poaching in Kenya opens with an ominous shot of smoky flames reaching skywards across an African plain. Powerful and provocative, it hints at the environmental themes of a film that never settles for easy moral judgements. Our two protagonists are X, a cocky ivory dealer, and Asan, a young wildlife ranger who loves his badly paid job but finds himself in trouble with his pregnant wife when the government falls behind with his wages. The wrinkle? The men are cousins. If Asan catches X killing an elephant, he will have to shoot him (and presumably have some explaining to do back home).  It’s a thorny moral scenario that director Jon Kasbe blurs further by showing these two men united by a common goal: to do whatever they can to support their young families. As time passes and money becomes scarcer, the choices they make bring them closer and closer together.  Kasbe spent four dangerous years making ‘When Lambs Become Lions’ and he has been rewarded with some thrilling moments. His cameras take in an elephant hunt with poachers and they are smuggled into cars to catch nocturnal deals with ivory buyers. The revelations and dramatic fireworks that ensue are startling to witness. Taking those risks has paid off in a doc that feels more like a thriller. And the twist at the end is a doozy. 

Daniel Isn’t Real

Daniel Isn’t Real

3 out of 5 stars

If this were the ’90s, ‘Daniel Isn’t Real’ would be one of those films you stumble upon in the video store and then tell all your friends about. An unknown entity peppered with body horror, angsty drama and lots of sharp edges, director Adam Egypt Mortimer’s ambitious little film has allusions to ‘Fight Club’ and ‘The Shining’, and keeps you guessing until the third act. When Luke (Miles Robbins) witnesses a shooting as a child, he conjures up an imaginary friend to feel better. But when said invisible sidekick – the ‘Daniel’ of the title – convinces the little boy to give his single mum (Mary Stuart Masterson) an overdose of her antidepressants, the playmate is locked away inside the family’s spooky doll’s house and forgotten about. Cue a passing of time that sees Luke head off to college and his mother sectioned as she struggles with her mental health. When the young man goes to see a shrink to see if he might inherit her condition, his psychiatrist unwisely advises he unlock his stifled imagination and reconnect with it.Patrick Schwarzenegger does his best Patrick Bateman as the charismatic and cold Daniel, but Sasha Lane (‘American Honey’) steals the show as Cassie, the art student who falls for Luke but not the darkness within him.The film is at its most fun when it keeps us guessing – is Daniel a demon or a figment of Luke’s troubled psyche? It is only when it attempts to settle on one answer that things get a lot more predictable. All in all, an enjoyable addition to t

Midnight Traveler

Midnight Traveler

4 out of 5 stars

Spanning three phones, three years and a death threat, Hassan Fazili’s powerful documentary about his family’s quest to escape persecution is a startling and heart-warming depiction of life on the refugee road. The Sundance award-winner was shot by Fazili, his actress wife Fatima Hussaini and their two young daughters on their mobiles as they took the smugglers’ route from their home, hoping to have their case heard at the EU border. But the journey to get there is fraught with threatened kidnaps, sinister people traffickers and interminable waits. The waiting allows the filmmaker to reveal something often missing from similar stories: the mundane. These moments come intermittently in the narrative but add a tenderness that softens the edges of the drama. Children play in the snow. Hussaini tries to learn how to ride a bike and hurtles into a tree. His daughter Nargis teaches her little sister how to write. Such familial tenderness can make it easy to forget just how dire the Fazilis’ situation is. But then a situation arises when the director must hunt for his missing daughter, and the threat of unimaginable violence returns all too quickly.  At the end there a moment when one of Fazili’s daughters vows to wipe this time from her mind for ever. You hope she can, but you won’t want to. ‘Midnight Traveler’ is an unforgettable answer to the refugee question.

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles

4 out of 5 stars

Most origin stories these days seem to involve superheroes. We’re much less used to them being middle-aged Jewish milkmen battling religious persecution in Imperial Russia. But that is the story of everyman Tevye, the hero of the enduringly popular ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. The cherished 1964 stage musical makes a cockle-warming subject for director Max Lewkowicz’s fascinating doc. The film is packed with the usual behind-the-scenes moments, as stars from recent productions and serious musical luminaries share their ‘Fiddler’ memories. Norman Jewison, director of the Oscar-winning 1971 film version, recalls how he had to enlighten his producers that, while his name might suggest otherwise, he was actually a goy. Oscar-winner Joel Grey talks about his recent production in Yiddish, a language he himself doesn’t speak. Lin-Manuel Miranda shares footage of a surprise ‘Fiddler’ number he performed with his father-in-law at his wedding reception. But what elevates all this is the way that Lewkowicz builds on this to craft a history lesson for the twentieth century. He looks at the civil rights movement, religious segregation and the emancipation of women and explores how the inclusion of these themes in composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick’s musical has ensured that it continues to resonate across the world today. This isn’t just a film for ‘Fiddler’ fans. You can enjoy it even if you’ve never hummed a note of ‘If I Were a Rich Man’. You’ll definitely be singing – and prob

Here for Life

Here for Life

4 out of 5 stars

Sometimes you encounter a director, actor or writer you want to see more of. It’s a lot rarer to discover a film that makes you wish more filmmakers were prepared to throw out the rulebook altogether. ‘Here for Life’, directors Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Adrian Jackson’s extraordinary exploration of London life, is that kind of film. Five years in the making, it introduces us to ten individuals living in London. Among them are Jono, trying to stay sober after becoming estranged from his wife and kid; Patrick, whose preferred mode of transport is a horse; and Errol, who writes poetry to process his violent past. At one point, we see the three men trying to steal a salmon from Billingsgate fish market without much success. It’s a funny scene and one which might lead the viewer to assume that ‘Here for Life’ is a documentary. But it’s not, not quite. Each person we meet is a member of the experimental theatre company Cardboard Citizens, which produces work for and by people who have experienced homelessness. During the film, they are rehearsing for a performance. So, while the stories we hear may be true, they are not always being told by their owners. Zimmerman’s past work has cast a spotlight on society’s marginalised. With ‘Here for Life’, she and Jackson, the artistic director of Cardboard Citizens, have crafted something special about Londoners and their relationships with drugs, violence and homelessness against the backdrop of a gentrifying city. It’s not to be missed. 

Blue Story

Blue Story

3 out of 5 stars

There’s something distinctly Shakesperian about this tale of two boys – newcomer Stephen Odubola and Micheal Ward (‘Top Boy’) – who start out as close as brothers but end up deadly enemies when they fall out over a girl. Odubola plays the softly spoken Timmy; Ward is his best mate Marco. They go to school together and hang out after hours but are cursed to come from warring SE postcodes. Inevitably, they’re drawn into a grim cycle of gang violence that long predates them. Based on writer-director Andrew ‘Rapman’ Onwubolu’s childhood, ‘Blue Story’ is part music video, part gang drama. With US studio backing (Paramount is distributing the film), it’s spun indirectly from Rapman’s 2017 web series, ‘Shiro’s Story’, a YouTube sensation that clocked up more than 20 million views. What makes ‘Blue Story’ feel genuinely fresh as an urban drama – and connects it with ‘Shiro’s Story’ – is Rapman’s own intermittent presence as a kind of one-man rapping Greek chorus. His rap vignettes first set the scene, then briskly drive the story forward. The device enables ‘Blue Story’ to establish its characters and their motives swiftly, while stamping Rapman’s own unique style on the depressingly familiar litany of violent confrontations and misdirected testosterone. But it comes with drawbacks: the second half of the film might have benefited from a slower pace and more character development instead of another hip hop interlude. It’s not always a subtle film, but then Rapman wants to engage wi

Good Posture

Good Posture

3 out of 5 stars

In actress-turned-filmmaker Dolly Wells’ likeable but uneven debut, twentysomething New York resident Lilian (Grace Van Patten) is drifting through life. When her boyfriend calls time on their relationship, she can’t muster the energy to move away. Instead, she takes up residence down the street with friends of her father’s – Julia (Emily Mortimer), a famous novelist, and her musician husband. When a domestic squall leads to the exit of the husband, our anti-hero finds herself alone in the house with the thorny Julia, a writer at odds with the world, who communicates mostly by leaving spiky little notes in Lilian’s journal. Van Patten (‘The Meyerowitz Stories’) plays Lilian as an infuriating, lazy and endearingly lost woman-child. There’s something of Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha about her, as she takes credit for other people’s creations and uses towels and toothbrushes without regard for their owners. But while Ha barrels along, Wells’ young protagonist squirrels herself away. Lilian only interacts with the world when she embarks on a documentary about her landlady to impress an ex. Mortimer is an intriguingly elusive presence. Julia is heard much more than she’s seen for most of the film. Instead, her story is told through talking heads with famous literary faces (Zadie Smith, Jonathan Ames and Martin Amis) playing fictional versions of themselves. Wells uses the device well, revealing a gentleness to Julia that is absent on screen. All in all, there are moments of beauty in

Rojo

Rojo

3 out of 5 stars

When ‘Rojo’ starts you would be forgiven for thinking someone had slipped on a vintage ’70s movie by mistake. The tobacco colour palette, dodgy hairdos and dubious fashions all scream the decade. But this is a newly made and clever period mystery from Argentinian director Benjamin Naishtat. It’s full of cryptic dead ends, many of which allude to historical events. In the town where respectable lawyer Claudio (‘Talk to Her’s Darío Grandinetti) lives, families disappear and bodies mount up in the desert, but little touches his safe suburban life. That changes when an argument with an unstable stranger descends into violence. Left nursing a dying man, he has to make a choice: seek help or just dispose of the problem. Most of this jet-black comedy deals with the fallout from that decision, as we edge closer to discovering the victim’s identity. But this is a world of skewed morals, and the lawyer is not our villain. We judge Claudio more for yelling at his wife because she needs to pee than for the other ethical choices he makes along the way. Naishtat’s message is clear. Claudio is a flawed but redeemable man, but Argentina is broken. The director knows his subject matter: Naishtat’s grandmother was one of the disappeared and his father had to flee their home, which was later burnt to the ground. Perhaps that’s what makes this insightful black comedy about a lost time so poignant and precise.

The Angry Birds Movie 2

The Angry Birds Movie 2

3 out of 5 stars

A small number of sequels surpass their originals: ‘Terminator 2’, ‘The Godfather: Part 2’ and ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ are among them. Now one more joins the list – ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’. Okay, ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ didn’t exactly push the cinematic boundaries of kids’ films, but it successfully took a video game premise and spun it into a fun family animation. This time, the filmmakers follow the ‘Bad Neighbours’ school of sequel-writing and have the original’s enemies, Red (Jason Sudeikis) and the pigs, team up. They must battle a new adversary: the evil (read: lonely) Zeta (Leslie Jones from ‘SNL’), a giant purple bird who attacks the pigs’ and birds’ islands because she’s sick of her own lair on a frosty volcano. It’s basically an animated ‘Austin Powers’ for kids. There’s much to enjoy here. Co-writer Peter Ackerman (‘Ice Age’) gives the script enough kick to keep all ages engaged, with nods to everything from ‘Back to the Future’ to ‘Dawson’s Creek’, while Josh Gad, Danny McBride and Awkwafina get most of the laughs from a generally impressive vocal cast. There are some questionable plot points, and it’s no ‘Toy Story 2’. But this animated sequel is tighter, funnier and sillier than its predecessor. It’s worth chicking out.

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