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Sophie Monks Kaufman

Sophie Monks Kaufman

Articles (9)

Renate Reinsve: ‘What would I have done this film hadn’t happened? Become a carpenter’’

Renate Reinsve: ‘What would I have done this film hadn’t happened? Become a carpenter’’

Norwegian native Renate Reinsve made a decision to give up acting, disillusioned by a slew of one-dimensional roles. The very next day, one of the most acclaimed directors working in the country, Joachim Trier, called to say he wanted her to be the leading lady in his next film. That now double Oscar-nominated anti-romcom, The Worst Person in the World, won Reinsve a Best Actress gong at Cannes for her gorgeously open performance as a woman navigating an ongoing existential crisis with joy. And she’s still pinching herself.  Everyone from Dakota Johnson to Jamie Lee Curtis has raved about this film. Any theories as to why it’s connecting with people so strongly?‘It’s trying to say something about how people connect to each other in the time we live in. People feel taken seriously because the film leaves space for the audience to fill in the blanks. It breathes, so it doesn’t push any emotion or tell you what to feel and think. It doesn’t give answers, but it asks a lot of good questions.’ Has there been a piece of feedback that stopped you in your tracks? ‘Paul Thomas Anderson described some acting that I did in one part of the movie as “the best acting in the world” at a Q&A. Then he said, “Do you think you weren’t nominated for an Oscar because people didn’t see the movie or because they’re stupid?” I was sitting there with tears in my eyes and the veins in my forehead pumping out. He is my favourite director, so that was huge. I can retire now.’ Photograph: MUBI There’s

The 50 coolest filmmakers in the world right now

The 50 coolest filmmakers in the world right now

What makes a filmmaker cool? In the heyday of the studio system it might have been about creative autonomy, an office on the lot and the studio barman knowing how to mix your Martini. In the heady, revolutionary days of the ’60s and ’70s, a devil-may-care attitude, radical new stories to tell, and ideally a beard of some description might have marked you out as the hipster’s auteur of choice. Times have changed, though. The moviemaking world has fewer boundaries, more entry points and finally, slowly but surely, more hunger to share stories by women and people of colour.  There’s a long way to go but we wanted to celebrate a time of gradual change by singling out the filmmakers who are genuinely moving the dial. The ones swinging for the fences in their choice of material and the way they’re bringing it to the screen. They’re not all new names – you’ll find some old stalwarts on here – but they all have in common a restless urge to do something different, exciting, bold. They come from across the planet and reflect all genres, and every kind of movie and moviemaking style. To take it a step further, we’ve asked a few of them – Rian Johnson, Barry Jenkins and Lynne Ramsay, among others – to share what makes them tick as movie lovers: the scenes that make them laugh hardest, the cinemas they stan for, the cities that inspire them, and the movies that have left them cowering in the back row. Even the posters that they had up on their bedroom walls growing up. Turns out that a lo

Spencer, la película basada en la vida de Diana, princesa de Gales

Spencer, la película basada en la vida de Diana, princesa de Gales

⭑⭑⭑⭑✩ Hacer una película de autor basada en un ícono tan profunda y emocionalmente consagrado en la imaginación del público como la princesa Diana requiere ingenio. Afortunadamente, el director chileno, Pablo Larraín, tiene esa cualidad con creces. Utiliza los hechos conocidos sobre la Princesa del Pueblo de cabello emplumado y voz entrecortada, y algunos imaginarios, para hacer girar una visión de la vida singular, barroca y con matices psicológicos dentro de una jaula dorada, habilitada por una actuación virtuosa de Kristen Stewart. "Son sólo tres días", murmura mientras conduce para pasar la víspera de Navidad, el día de Navidad y el día de San Esteban en Sandringham con los suegros. Se infiere rápidamente que la aventura de Charles con Camilla está en marcha, al igual que la bulimia de Diana y su condición de perseguida con obsesión por los paparazzi. Estos problemas psicológicos la marcan como un lastre en un entorno donde lo importante es no armar nunca un escándalo. Al igual que hizo en el retrato de 2016 de una Primera Dama igualmente icónica, Jackie, Larraín no escatima en gastos para hacer que la propiedad real tenga un esplendor ornamentado que raya en el gótico. Un retrato de Enrique VIII en el comedor sirve como recordatorio de quién, y qué, se considera digno de adoración en este mundo. Stewart es extraordinaria al conjurar una forma enrarecida de energía neurótica. Es una mujer moderna y complaciente con la gente, madre y esposa despreciada, y para colmo, ha c

Céline Sciamma: ‘Kids were like half-citizens during the pandemic’

Céline Sciamma: ‘Kids were like half-citizens during the pandemic’

Portrait of a Lady on Fire catapulted French director Céline Sciamma into a new dimension of recognition. She has been making gorgeous emotional character studies with queer themes since her 2007 debut feature Water Lilies. Yet the power of the 18th century lesbian romance caused awards to rain down, including the Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.  Petite Maman is a disarmingly modest next step. It is a domestic miniature driven by captivating performances from 9-year-old twins Josephine and Gabrielle Sanz. Nelly (Josephine Sanz) is trying to understand mother Marion’s unhappiness after the death of her own mother. In the woods surrounding Marion’s childhood home, she meets a young girl who looks exactly like her (Gabrielle Sanz). As they play together, delicate emotions seep out. We spoke to Sciamma about the ethics of working with child actors, how Portrait of a Lady on Fire changed her life and her work on Jacques Audiard’s forthcoming romantic drama Paris, 13th District. What was the inspiration for this tender and beautiful domestic story?‘This image popped up into my mind about five years ago of two little girls building a tree hut in the woods. I was like: “One is the mother and one is the daughter,” and this image felt both peaceful and troubling. I wrote it very, very fast because I had a lot of desire for it.’ Photograph: © Lilies Films How did you get such mature and self possessed performances out of the nine-year-old twins, Jo

Emerald Fennell: ‘Villains are fun but rare. Showing weakness is more interesting’

Emerald Fennell: ‘Villains are fun but rare. Showing weakness is more interesting’

The week before the shoot began on Emerald Fennell’s filmmaking debut, Promising Young Woman, its London-born writer-director received a home-movie clip from her mum of herself aged seven. ‘She was asking me what I’d like to do when I grow up. I said, ‘‘‘I want to be an actress and write stories about murder!’’’ ‘Stories about murder’ is a fair summation of Killing Eve, the Emmy-winning assassin drama, whose second season Fennell wrote, while her stature as an actress has grown with credits on Call The Midwife, Albert Nobbs and Vita & Virginia. She is best known as Camilla Parker-Bowles on The Crown, a role she imbues with perky entitlement. For all these creative strings to her bow – not forgetting children’s book author – the new one of ‘director’ means the most. ‘It’s the pinnacle for me,’ she says. How painful, then, to have theatrical release held in suspended animation. Pre-pandemic, Promising Young Woman was to be out in UK cinemas for April 2020. This was pushed back to December, and now, finally, April 2021. ‘The thing I am very sad about is that, even though some people will be able to see it in theatres, the likelihood is most won’t,’ says Fennell, ‘and it’s a film I made specifically to be watched communally.’ My mum asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said, ‘I want to be an actress and write stories about murder!’ The communal elements come from reservoirs of emotion running beneath the surface of this rape-revenge film, as it builds to a finale of ove

Prometo volver

Prometo volver

⭑⭑⭑⭑✩ Proxima es el nombre de una estrella brillante que está a 4.2 años luz de la Tierra. También, es el nombre de la Estación Espacial Internacional que transportará a la francesa Sarah (Eva Green), el estadounidense Mike (Matt Dillon) y el ruso Anton (Aleksey Fateev), en una misión a Marte que durará un año. Será la primera vez que Sarah estará en el espacio. Su expareja aprovecha la gravedad y toma la custodia de su hija de ocho años, Stella (Zélie Boulant), y su mascota, una gata llamada Laika, mudándose a Alemania. Los diálogos son una mezcla de francés, inglés, alemán y ruso en un ámbito políglota, una característica de las películas de la directora Alice Winocour. Ella crea un vínculo entre las naciones, entre los planetas y entre las normas domésticas. Los espectadores se quedarán esperando los espectáculos de ciencia ficción similares a la secuencia de luces de color en 2001: Odisea en el espacio (Stanley Kubrick) o el vacío infinito de Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón). Prometo volver sucede en la Tierra y hace una crónica de las intensas preparaciones fiscales requeridas a los astronautas antes del despegue. El rodaje fue en los centros de formación reales: el Centro Europeo de Astronautas (EAC) de Colonia, Star City, Moscú y el Cosmódromo de Baikonur en Kazajstán. Cada día trae un régimen riguroso, mientras vemos a Sarah cuando está corriendo en una caminadora, haciendo tareas con tiempo limitado submarinas y girando por un brazo electrónico y gigante. Para el montaje con

Wholesome things to do in London

Wholesome things to do in London

It’s hard to make time for wholesome pleasures when the city exerts a relentless pressure to be productive, but you have to! Everything is riding on your capacity to feel alive. When you’re overwhelmed by work, social life can mean saying ‘yes’ to the pub, or a party, or whatever-it-is lubricated by booze. Over-drinking doesn’t always spell drama; it does cause tiredness. So how can we tap into London’s more energising riches? My goal here was to track down pursuits that could slot into a routine without too much fuss or expense. Whittled down from a long list, these all left an afterglow of pure joy and made me feel that maybe, just maybe, life is good?

‘Animals’ stars Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat on freedom and friendship

‘Animals’ stars Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat on freedom and friendship

Dubbed ‘“Withnail and I” with girls’ by Caitlin Moran, Emma Jane Unsworth’s novel ‘Animals’ was published in 2014. Now she has adapted it for a film directed by Sophie Hyde (‘52 Tuesdays’) featuring Alia Shawkat as debonair rebel Tyler and Holliday Grainger as sidetracked writer Laura. Powered by MDMA (smashed-up cola Chupa Chups), cocaine (icing sugar) and gallons of white wine (apple juice), their combined energy captures the euphoria of wild nights out in Dublin, the repetitive nature of a lifestyle of coming up and coming down, and the private desires that can drive even the closest friends apart. This is a two-hander friend romance carried by your shared energy. As actors, do you know when you’re nailing that rapport? Holliday Grainger: ‘You hope to. You can feel it if it feels fake, but I put a lot of my trust in Sophie, to be honest. It is difficult to bring that night-time energy when it’s 6am on a film set.’Alia Shawkat: ‘You have to be present in each moment, then hope it all comes together. But it’s as much a surprise to us as anybody.’ ‘I think that by being vulnerable you're able to be braver than by analysing something.’ ‘Animals’ is about two friends trying to be free in different ways. Is it possible to be free as a woman while craving a traditional relationship? HG: ‘Freedom is a state of mind and it’s up to you to make sure that you keep that, and that the people around you know you need it. Of course, there are responsibilities that come with having a famil

Is this AI the future of filmmaking?

Is this AI the future of filmmaking?

Struggling with his latest screenplay, filmmaker Oscar Sharp took a leftfield approach to solving his writer’s block: he co-created an AI to do the writing for him. The Brit had moved to LA to cut his teeth as a Hollywood screenwriter in 2016, only to fall into a depressed funk. At a low ebb, he heard from a friend, ‘tech-wizard’ Ross Goodwin, who’d pioneered a machine – then known as ‘Jetson’ – that could write poetry. Could it turn out a script too, Sharp wondered? The pair fed it hundreds of science-fiction scripts, including ‘Alien’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, turning the screenplay that emerged into a nine-minute short called ‘Sunspring’. It debuted at the Sci-Fi London film festival, with ‘Jetson’ surprising audience members during a Q&A by spontaneously announcing that its name was actually Benjamin. ‘Machines desperately need us to connect with each other emotionally in order to exist’ Benjamin, née Jetson, is a computer code that operates a bit like your phone’s predictive text. To start writing, it needs ‘seed data’: a first few words to set it going. From there, it comes up with letter-by-letter guesses informed by the most commonly used letter formations in the input data. Sharp and Goodwin could increase the randomness of these guesses by ‘turning up the temperature’ of Benjamin’s output code. So what’s it like watching a film written by Benjamin? Two minutes into ‘Sunspring’ my brain starts to ache from the effort of trying to make sense of dial

Listings and reviews (17)

Men

Men

2 out of 5 stars

Why is the grass around the English country house where Harper (Jessie Buckley) comes to stay after the death of her ex-husband (Paapa Essiedu) a hallucinogenic shade of chartreuse? No reason, except for aesthetic shock value. Overly-produced, emotionally empty images dominate a film that makes broad gestures towards the subject of toxic masculinity, while failing to land a single point in meaningful detail.  Buckley is an all-in performer and her grounding presence enables Men’s promise to linger for the first act. She humours her temporary landlord, Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), an affable country posho whose odd comments are framed as somehow loaded. In the time-honoured fashion of folk horrors like The Wicker Man, exploring the local countryside reveals Strange Goings On – not least a satyr-like nude in the corner of a field. Harper notices him, but does not notice that every single man and boy in the village has the same face. That face belongs to Rory Kinnear, pulling off enough roles to rival Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets, Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, or, if you want to get really granular, Dick Van Dyke in the ‘Inheritance Death’ episode of Diagnosis Murder. This casting choice, though entertaining, scans like a cheap gimmick. As a bloody spectacle, it’s absurdly kitsch rather than exhilarating Garland builds expectations by creating a suggestive atmosphere that, as the horror and home-invasion elements kick in, leads to an anticlimax. Harper’s traumatic b

Spencer

Spencer

4 out of 5 stars

Making an arthouse film based on an icon as deeply and emotionally enshrined in the public imagination as Princess Diana takes ingenuity. Fortunately, Chilean director, Pablo Larraín, has that quality in spades. He uses the known facts about the feathered-haired, breathy-voiced People’s Princess – and a few imagined ones – to spin a singular, baroque and psychologically-nuanced vision of life inside a gilded cage, enabled by a virtuoso performance by Kristen Stewart. ‘It’s just three days,’ she murmurs as she drives up to spend Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Sandringham with the in-laws. It is quickly inferred that Charles’s affair with Camilla is well underway, as is Diana’s bulimia and her hunted status as a paparazzi obsession. These psychological troubles mark her as a liability in an environment where the important thing is to never make a fuss.Just as he did in 2016’s portrait of an equally iconic First Lady, Jackie, Larraín spares no expense to render the royal estate in an ornate splendour that verges on the gothic. A portrait of Henry VIII in the dining room serves as a reminder of who – and what – is deemed worthy of worship in this world.  Stewart is extraordinary at conjuring up a rarefied form of neurotic energy. She is a modern woman and a people-pleaser, a mother and a spurned wife, and to top it off she’s begun to hallucinate Anne Boleyn. A member of the palace staff (a gaunt Timothy Spall) is deputised to coldly monitor her every move, interfe

Spencer

Spencer

4 out of 5 stars

No és fàcil fer una pel·lícula d’autor sobre una icona tan profundament arrelada en l’imaginari popular com la princesa Diana, però Pablo Larraín té qualitat de sobres per enfrontar-se al repte. Utilitza alguns fets coneguts –i altres d’imaginats– per confegir una visió singular, barroca i matisadament psicològica de la vida en una gàbia daurada de Lady Di, amb una virtuosa interpretació de Kristen Stewart. Com va fer en el retrat d’una primera dama igualment icònica, 'Jackie' (2016), Larraín no escatima recursos per envoltar la família reial en una esplendor que frega el gòtic. És una pel·lícula extraordinària a l’hora de conjurar un ambient enrarit per la neurosi, i a més ho fa detallant els factors que van contribuir al fràgil estat mental de Diana (com ara la freda monitorització de cada petit moviment seu). I és que a Larraín no li interessa el biopic, sinó mostrar com el desig de ser una princesa rica i bonica es converteix en un malson, cosa que 'Spencer' aconsegueix amb un to claustrofòbic i decadent. Estrena el 19 de novembre.

Spencer

Spencer

4 out of 5 stars

No es fácil hacer una película de autor sobre un icono tan profundamente arraigado en el imaginario popular como la princesa Diana, pero Pablo Larraín tiene calidad de sobra para enfrentarse al reto. Utiliza algunos hechos conocidos –y otros imaginados– para confeccionar una visión singular, barroca y matizadamente psicológica de la vida en una jaula dorada de Lady Di, con una virtuosa interpretación de Kristen Stewart. Como hizo en el retrato de una primera dama igualmente icónica, 'Jackie' (2016), Larraín no escatima recursos para rodear a la familia real en un esplendor que roza el gótico. Es una película extraordinaria a la hora de conjurar un ambiente enrarecido por la neurosis, y además lo hace detallando los factores que contribuyeron al frágil estado mental de Diana (como la fría monitorización de cada pequeño movimiento suyo). Y es que a Larraín no le interesa el biopic, sino mostrar cómo el deseo de ser una princesa rica y bonita se convierte en una pesadilla, algo que 'Spencer' consigue con un tono claustrofóbico y decadente. Estreno el 19 de noviembre.

The Last Letter From Your Lover

The Last Letter From Your Lover

3 out of 5 stars

Shailene Woodley has such raw intensity as a performer that she shows up any tired elements of a film production, just as silk shows up polyester. As Jennifer, the amnesiac romantic heroine, in Augustine Frizzell’s adaptation of the Jojo Moyes’s 2012 novel The Last Letter From Your Lover, Woodley works as a double-edged sword, lifting every moment that she’s on screen while making the clichés in operation seem extra dull. The story works across three timelines. In London, 1965, Jennifer returns from hospital after a car crash to live with husband Lawrence (Joe Alwyn). She has no memory of anyone or anything until passionate love letters hidden around the house prompt her to piece things back together.  Cue the next timeline: an open-top car takes coastal roads as Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s Summer Wine plays. Lawrence has whisked Jennifer off to the French Riviera, only to be called away by work. Happily, journalist Anthony (Callum Turner) is there to keep her company. The fantastical concept of being marooned in paradise with an attractive stranger is played for all its worth. Amid lush period costumes, the chemistry between Woodley and Turner proceeds with gratifying slowness, each step down an irreversible path measured and counted. In the third timeline – present-day London – Ellie (Felicity Jones, the only actress who can get away with saying ‘Holy moly!’) is a newly single journalist at the fictional The London Chronicle who stumbles upon an old love letter. Aided

Proxima

Proxima

4 out of 5 stars

Proxima is the name of a flare star 4.2 light years away from Earth. It is also the name of the International Space Station that will transport French astronaut Sarah (Eva Green), American astronaut Mike (Matt Dillon) and Russian astronaut Anton (Aleksey Fateev) on a year-long mission to Mars. This will be Sarah’s first time in space. Her ex appreciates the gravity of this opportunity and takes custody of their eight-year-old daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant) and pet cat Laika, installing them in his German home. Dialogue slips between French, English, German and Russian in the multilingual realm that is Alice Winocour’s third feature as director. Hers is a space between nations, between planets and between domestic norms. Viewers expecting sci-fi spectacles akin to the coloured-light sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or the infinite void in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity will be in for a surprise. Proxima plays out on Earth, chronicling the physically intense preparations required of astronauts ahead of lift-off. Filming took place in real training facilities: the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Star City in Moscow and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  Each day brings a gruelling regime, as we watch Sarah running on a horizontal treadmill, performing time-pressure tasks underwater and being swung around by a giant electronic arm. Spicing up what feels like a meditative training montage are the emotional stakes of the mother-daughter relationship, and th

Military Wives

Military Wives

3 out of 5 stars

‘We don’t have the privilege of being against the war, we’re married to it,’ says Lisa (Sharon Horgan), as the Flitcroft Military Wives Choir passes a group protesting the Afghanistan war. With their men off on active service, these wives are left in an empty army barracks trying not to fear the worst. This is an especially big ask for Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) whose son died on the last tour of duty. As a distraction, Kate muscles in on Lisa’s work as community organiser for the wives. They co-lead a choir with a studied nonchalance that doesn’t fool the other women. Theirs is a class war, as expressed when Kate conducts the choir via classical references, while Lisa insists on pop music. There’s a fun tension between the two, with Scott Thomas leaning into upper-class crispness and Horgan camping out in salt-of-the-earth groundedness. As with ‘The Full Monty’, director Peter Cattaneo gives each of his ensemble a moment to shine. Whether it’s an inability to sing in tune or processing the shock of a death, every subplot relates to the rousing power of community. Warm, funny and poignant notes are played as the choir transforms from a cat’s chorus to a legit outfit. Yet the third act is bogged down with details of Kate’s backstory, and what should be a euphoric and cathartic finale is underwhelming. Still, one solo act shines: Scott Thomas is able to conjure layers of tortured emotion just by answering a phone. KST – unsurprisingly – is the MVP.

Mujeres a coro

Mujeres a coro

3 out of 5 stars

"No tenemos el privilegio de estar en contra de la guerra, estamos casadas ​​con ella", dice Lisa (Sharon Horgan), mientras que el coro de esposas militares de Flitcroft se transforma en un grupo que protesta por la guerra de Afganistán. Con sus hombres en servicio activo, estas mujeres se quedan en un cuartel del ejército vacío tratando de no temer lo peor. Esta es una pregunta especialmente grande para Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas), cuyo hijo murió en el último periodo de servicio. Como distracción, Kate se concentra en el trabajo de Lisa como organizadora comunitaria para las esposas. Codirigen un coro con una despreocupación estudiada que no engaña a las otras mujeres. La suya es una guerra de clases, como se expresa cuando Kate dirige el coro a través de referencias clásicas, mientras que Lisa insiste en la música pop. Hay una tensión divertida entre los dos, con Scott Thomas apoyado en la frescura de la clase alta y Horgan acampando la sal de la tierra. Al igual que con The Full Monty, el director Peter Cattaneo le da a cada miembro de su elenco un momento para brillar. Ya sea por la incapacidad de cantar en sintonía o procesar el impacto de una muerte, cada subtrama se relaciona con el poder de la comunidad.  Se tocan notas cálidas, divertidas y conmovedoras a medida que el coro se transforma del coro de un gato a uno muy sofisticado. Sin embargo, el tercer acto está empantanado con detalles de la historia dde Kate, y lo que debería ser un final eufórico y catártico es d

Ophelia

Ophelia

3 out of 5 stars

Shakespeare’s heroine Ophelia is known for two things: madness and death. Her drowned body floating in the water shrouded by flowers and hair in the John Millais painting at Tate Britain is the image that probably sticks in your mind. From this picture, director Claire McCarthy launches her revision of ‘Hamlet’, based on Lisa Klein’s 2006 novel, baiting us with a familiar Ophelia before revealing a headstrong young woman more akin to Rey from ‘Star Wars’ than the Bard’s passive victim of yore.And guess what? It’s Daisy Ridley playing the ill-fated noblewoman, furthering the parallel by injecting plenty of her trademark tomboy energy into Ophelia’s position as lady-in-waiting to Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts). She is a bustling, spirited force, stomping from courtly duties to covert dates with Hamlet (George MacKay); from lessons with a forest-dwelling herbalist Mechtild (Watts again) to family powwows with brother Laertes (Tom Felton) and father Polonius (Dominic Mafham). Performances are solid across the board, with the cast wise to the fact that Shakespearean language requires no decoration. There is sport to be had in ringing the revisions, which include: a timeline that begins before Claudius (Clive Owen) poisons Hamlet’s father (the starting point of the play); the invention of Mechtild; and the insertion of Ophelia into most plot mechanics. It’s a shame that these bold story changes are the height of the film’s ambitions. There is a dutiful conservatism to the way it plod

The Day Shall Come

The Day Shall Come

3 out of 5 stars

The fearless satirical voice of Chris Morris (‘The Day Today’, ‘Brass Eye’) has been sorely missed in the British comedy landscape. Unafraid to find absurd humour in anything from moral panic over paedophilia to the logistical problems of incompetent British jihadists in ‘Four Lions’, he’s been noticeably absent from our cinema screens for nine long years. Sadly, his latest, ‘The Day Shall Come’, is only a middling entry in the Morris-verse, a terrorism satire that misses as many targets as it hits. Marchánt Davis stars as Moses, the endearingly deluded head of a black separatist group in Florida. Although his group has only four members (and some hens) it draws the attention of an FBI surveillance operation spearheaded by Kendra (Anna Kendrick). Undercover stings are set up, plans backfire and corruption reigns. All the while jokes fly thick and fast, with everything and everyone a target. Morris’s genius lies in one-liners that run from light mockery and ‘Twilight Zone’ strangeness to furious cynicism, and he’s assisted again on screenwriting duties by ‘Four Lions’ co-writer Jesse Armstrong (‘Succession’). There is pleasure to be had from the absurdist story beats, but the self-conscious dialogue feels at odds with the supposedly real-world characters. Where ‘Four Lions’ is meticulously thought-through, this is a more scattergun sketch of politically motivated inhumanity. It’s much more successful at landing punchlines than punches. 

Tomorrow

Tomorrow

2 out of 5 stars

‘Tomorrow’ is an important story assembled from a cringe-inducing playbook of clichés and superficial writing that announces itself anew in every scene as a wasted opportunity to put a disabled war veteran’s story on the map. Its producers have been working with a number of charities to raise awareness around PTSD and other issues affecting veterans, but however worthy the cause off-screen, believable characters and layered storytelling are in short supply on it. What we have is a passion project from co-writer and star Sebastian Street who plays Tesla, an Afghanistan vet who lost the use of his legs in an IED explosion and suffers traumatic flashbacks as he tries to build a life in London. We meet him in a squalid apartment, passed out after a drinking bender, having been left by his fiancée. It’s a miserable setup soon leavened by the fortunate arrival of a best friend, an ambitious girlfriend and a new career path. His traumas are milked for sentimental climaxes, rather than integrated into his unbelievably blessed character arc. The most credible element of the film comes from the actors who telegraph a depth of character not found on paper – especially true of Sophie Kennedy Clark, who quietly vibrates with anguish as Telsa’s girlfriend’s housemate Lee-Anne. However, all attempts to bring nuance are rowing upstream in a film world where a pressurised scene is soundtracked by David Bowie and Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’. This is the directorial debut of Martha Pinson, long-ti

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

5 out of 5 stars

‘Once Upon a Time...’ may be the hit of the summer, but Quentin Tarantino’s vision of 1969 is more than rivalled by a film made that very year. The newly restored ‘Midnight Cowboy’ is one of the great films about the transition to the gritty ’70s. ‘A sometimes amusing but essentially sordid saga of a male prostitute in Manhattan’ was Variety’s harsh judgment at the time, but its stature has grown and grown since then. Director John Schlesinger and screenwriter Waldo Salt pump so much emotion into it that it becomes a moving epitaph both to its two striving characters and the American dream itself. It made Jon Voight a star in his film debut and cemented the credentials of Dustin Hoffman two years after ‘The Graduate’. Voight is Joe Buck, a rural ingénue who travels to New York with the delusion that he will make a killing as a Park Avenue stud. Disillusioned, he ends up squatting with Ratso (Hoffman), a sickly Italian-American petty trickster. Oscar nominations came to both Voight, with his kicked-puppy energy, and Hoffman, with eyes so harrowed it hurts to look at them. Their performances anchor the narrative, while the soundtrack, editing, flashbacks and dream sequences pull in the opposite direction, evoking a sense of the dreams tantalisingly out of reach and promises destined to either break, or leave them broken.