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Lou Thomas

Lou Thomas

Listings and reviews (9)

I Saw the TV Glow

I Saw the TV Glow

4 out of 5 stars

With their second feature I Saw the TV Glow, writer-director Jane Schoenbrun delivers a memorable, strange and satisfying teen horror-mystery. Owing much to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and plenty, if slightly less, to the wilder, weirder imagery of Twin Peaks, it’s a rare film that wears its influences on its sleeve while still feeling totally fresh. We meet 12-year-old, mixed-race Owen (played at this point by Ian Foreman) in the late ’90s, where he struggles to make friends and has a pretty miserable home life, despite the support of his mum Brenda (Danielle Deadwyler). One evening after school in a dark cafeteria Owen meets Maddy (Atypical’s Brigette Lundy-Paine), who’s reading an episode guide to her favourite TV series, ‘The Pink Opaque’. A tentative friendship develops as Maddy introduces Owen to this Buffy-style show when he stays over one Saturday night, having told Brenda he was staying elsewhere. Two years later, Owen (now played by Justice Smith) is as much an addict of the show as Maddy. The film casts a really interesting gaze at the nature of fandom, observing that a shared love of pop culture can bring people together, but also pull them into bizarre, toxic spaces. It owes a lot to Buffy and plenty to the wilder, weirder imagery of Twin Peaks Images and scenes from the show real and imagined by Owen flit in and out of the film in an intoxicating fashion – one night shot of an ice-cream van is a thing of noirish beauty, but the vendor of the icy treats is a monstro

The Creator

The Creator

4 out of 5 stars

The Creator explores a future where A.I. detonates a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles killing a million people – a bit like in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 nightmare. A decade later, in 2065, undercover soldier Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) lives with pregnant wife Maya (Gemma Chan) in an unnamed country in ‘New Asia’ and a raid ends with her being killed by NOMAD – America’s satellite weapon that tours the globe, raining down death from high in the earth’s atmosphere. Chaos and mass destruction rarely thrills so often or looks so good. Five years later, Colonel Jean Howell (Allison Janney) offers Taylor – now a broken ex-soldier earning a living in a scrapyard – a return to Asia to help defeat the AI-loving East, who apparently have a weapon that could destroy NOMAD. It’s a somewhat hackneyed enticement plot device seen in many war and crime films but Janney sells it well. All facial scars and harsh chat, her gung-ho character is a treat. Last time Janney was quite so tough on screen she got an Oscar for her role in I, Tonya. When Howell leads a crew way behind enemy lines, Taylor discovers the weapon is actually a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Director Gareth Edwards created the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Weitz. His last two features – Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the latter also co-written with Weitz – married booming, boisterous thrills within a pre-existing franchise world. The Creator is his best film to date, delivering on the pr

The Dive

The Dive

3 out of 5 stars

Following punchy German crime features Gravity and Stereo, director Maximilian Erlenwein’s first English-language film is a terse, minimal two-hander that should do at least as much to keep swimmers out of the ocean this summer as The Meg 2, albeit for completely different reasons.  Drew (Sophie Lowe) and May (Louisa Krause) are sisters driving to a quiet, unnamed coast for their annual scuba dive. May left her family years earlier for reasons that are never fully explained, but there is the suggestion of parental mistreatment – it appears a previous trip to the sea involved her father pushing her underwater. Of more interest are the mechanics of the dive itself, as May ends up caught under a heavy rock 100 feet underwater. Erlenwein excels in setting up a gripping race against time: under May’s calm instruction, panicking Drew has 25 minutes to get to the surface, nab spare oxygen tanks, call for help, grab a car jack and return to May before she runs out of air.  Lowe’s terrified, anxious trip to the surface and agonised attempts to alert others are followed with precision, clarity and pace by cinematographer Frank Griebe’s roving camerawork. Erlenwein – with an assist from co-writer Joachim Heden – keeps things controlled and believable. The section where a frantic Lowe tries desperately to open their rented motor's uncooperative boot is perhaps the film’s most exciting moment. Despite the drastically different setting, the film that The Dive most readily recalls is Fall,

Past Lives

Past Lives

5 out of 5 stars

Writer-director Celine Song’s beautiful debut film follows a pair of Korean childhood sweethearts who eventually reunite in person after 24 years. It’s a nuanced, careful work that will resonate strongly with everyone who has loved and lost, as well as offering a warning of possible heartbreak ahead for those who haven’t. In Seoul, 12-year-olds Nora and Hae Sung walk home together each day and compete to be top of the class until Nora’s family emigrates to Canada. A dozen years pass before they reconnect online, with Nora now a budding New York playwright and Hae Sung stuck in Korea. From their first Skype call it’s clear that the adult Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Decision to Leave’s Teo Yoo) still have a deep affection for each other – feelings expressed with subtlety rather than cheesy, overblown sentiment by the elegant screenplay. Hae Sung promises to visit but Nora can’t wait forever – who can? – and when Nora meets Arthur (John Magaro from Kelly Reichardt’s equally exquisite First Cow) at a writer’s retreat romance blossoms with him instead. It all leads up to a final act another 12 years on when Hae Sung’s belatedly visits the now-married Nora in New York. And it’s absolutely as emotionally devastating as you’d expect. It’s even comparable with Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece In the Mood for Love Song knows this terrain inside out, as a one-time émigrée Korean who moved to Canada and then to the Big Apple to become a playwright – and it really shows. Given Past Lives’ gr

Polite Society

Polite Society

3 out of 5 stars

Having revitalised pandemic-exhausted TV viewers in 2021 with We Are Lady Parts, her award-winning sitcom about an all-female Muslim punk band, writer-director Nida Manzoor sets her sights on the big screen with a lively debut feature.  West London teenage martial arts fanatic Ria (Priya Kansara) dreams of becoming a stuntwoman and makes older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) film her efforts for YouTube in between writing letters to her idol Eunice Huthart, Britain’s best-known real-life stuntwoman. The Pakistani-British siblings are close, with the headstrong Ria full of admiration for art-school dropout Lena. Their partnership is threatened when the pair attend an Eid party and Lena meets a wealthy doctor from a posh family. Soon, Salim wants to marry Lena and move to Singapore and distraught Ria is trying to sabotage their relationship.  Polite Society’s frantic pacing and wild invention is mirrored by Kansara’s livewire performance as Ria. She’ll try anything, and so will the film. There’s much fun to be had leaping from high-school conflict (Ria’s exploits aren’t popular with all her classmates) to sizzling martial arts action scenes, to slapstick espionage, to sci-fi/horror via class-conflict drama, as Salim’s mother Raheela (a deliciously evil Nimra Bucha) condescends to Ria’s poorer family.  She bites off more than she can chew in trying out so many filmmaking styles Not everything works. The basic plot about someone trying to stop a wedding has been old hat since the days o

God’s Creatures

God’s Creatures

3 out of 5 stars

An atmosphere of brooding bitterness hangs over God’s Creatures. Billowing black clouds mirror the bleak events unfolding in the unnamed Irish coastal village beneath them. Family traumas and terrible lies permeate co-directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer’s drama, which is given a bedrock of emotional authenticity by screenwriter Shane Crowley and is exceptionally acted. Aileen O’Hara (Emily Watson) works at a fish processing factory. She's supervising a production line when her friend Mary’s son is pulled dead from the water, apparently having been caught out by a vicious spring tide while working on an oyster farm. At the wake, Aileen’s son, Brian (Paul Mescal), makes a surprise return after three years out of contact, claiming to have been in Australia. Brian evidently had a strained relationship with his father Con (Declan Conlon). Though unexplained, it’s this that might have provoked Brian’s long absence. Then, one night after drinking with his mother, Brian meets old flame Sarah (Aisling Franciosi) in the local pub. We don’t see what happens next, but Brian is soon charged with rape. Crucially, when questioned by the Garda, Aileen provides a false alibi for her son – an incident that defines the film. It should provide a jolt of drama and energy, but it never quite materialises, leaving the story to trudge gloomy towards an upsetting conclusion. Emily Watson and Paul Mescal are exceptional as the central mother and son pairing Watson’s superb portrayal of a damage

Armageddon Time

Armageddon Time

4 out of 5 stars

For his eighth film, American writer-director James Gray (The Lost City of Z) has delivered his most personal work yet. It’s funny, moving and stirring – and all the more remarkable for sticking so closely to reality. With only a few dramatic embellishments, all the events depicted actually happened to Gray. It’s Queens, New York in August 1980 where young white Jewish pre-teen Paul Graff (played by Michael Banks Repeta and based loosely on Gray himself) befriends a Black boy called Johnny (Jaylin Webb). Johnny is the more disruptive of the pair at school, but each boy sticks up for each other as real friends do. Both have difficult home lives. Paul’s mother Esther (Anne Hathaway) is kind and nurturing, but Paul’s dull but volatile father Irving (Jeremey Strong) violently beats him with a belt when he gets into trouble. Support comes from grandpa, Aaron (Anthony Hopkins), a wise, funny man of immense charm and dignity. Johnny, meanwhile, lives with his grandma, who can’t offer the guidance and discipline he needs. When she’s taken into a care home, he ends up surreptitiously sleeping in a clubhouse in Paul’s backyard. At its heart, Armageddon Time is an intimate portrait of family life but it tackles bigger themes with clear-eyed intelligence. A large part of Johnny’s troubles stems from racism, on both an individual and institutional level. He’s held back a year at school, even though he’s clearly no idiot. When the two boys get into trouble with the police, it’s Johnny – he

Flux Gourmet

Flux Gourmet

4 out of 5 stars

With Flux Gourmet, auteur-of-the-offbeat Peter Strickland has delivered another compellingly strange blend of the hilarious and the horrifying – although labelling it either a horror or comedy feels almost too simplistic for the singular recipe the writer-director has concocted here. With this fifth film, Strickland places us in an unnamed art institute where musical collectives are awarded month-long residencies for the purposes of ‘culinary performance’ using kitchen equipment. The collective we follow can never quite agree on a name but comprise Elle di Elle (Strickland ever-present Fatma Mohamed) as the de facto leader, alongside colleagues Lamina Propria (The Lobster’s Ariane Labed) and Billy Rubin (Sex Education’s Asa Butterfield).  When the bickering trio aren’t playing gigs using amplified egg whisks, food mixers and boiling saucepans they’re having post-gig orgies with fans and being documented by flatulent journalist Stones (Makis Papadimitriou) – all under the watchful eye of imperious institute director Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie, back with Strickland after In Fabric). Stones narrates in Greek, focusing as much on his gastrointestinal issues as the band’s progress. Peter Strickland is a huge Spinal Tap fan and there are one or two Stonehenge moments here  This is a particularly personal film for Strickland, who spent years in his own musical collective, The Sonic Catering Band, making sounds akin to the deliciously abstract noises in the film. The band reun

Resurrection

Resurrection

4 out of 5 stars

Single mum Margaret (Rebecca Hall) has no trouble controlling the corporate world she excels in: leading presentations, conducting an affair with a married man, and advising an intern to ditch her errant boyfriend. But as daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) prepares for university, there’s a stranger and more vicious threat at play than mere empty-nest syndrome. Former partner David, performed with a quietly demonic intensity by Tim Roth, has started appearing around town. Their partnership finished 22 years ago, when Margaret was an impressionable young adult herself – and it didn’t end amicably. At first, Resurrection writer-director Andrew Semans presents a straightforward, if frightening tale of stress and stalking. Amid the sleek, sterile, and almost other-worldly surroundings of Albany in upstate New York, Margaret’s increasing agitation is carefully calibrated with each sighting of David. Given the genre’s history, we wonder if the real trauma is only imagined – Repulsion casts a long shadow, and yields many inferior copies.  Hearing the horrific explanation Margaret gives a colleague about why she left David, we hope she is imagining things. When we hear his side of things, it must be gaslighting, surely. He promises her access to the son she believed to be dead if she performs a series of what he calls ‘kindnesses’. These turn out to be depraved endurance tests that take things into darker, bloodier realms than mere mind games. Hall is typically excellent as a woman head