Review – The Broken Circle Breakdown


Elise is a practical, religious lady. Didier is a bearded romantic who believes that religion is ridiculous. She works in a tattoo parlour; he doesn’t like body art. And yet they fall together in a way that feels inevitable; they meet, get along immediately and enter a whirlwind romance that soon sees them living together and spending all their time with one another. Didier introduces Elise to bluegrass music, and she discovers the wonders of Belgian country bands, joining Didier’s own group as a lead singer.

Fast forward a few years, and they have a young daughter, Maybelle. But things are not going smoothly; their child is diagnosed with cancer and the two of them are catapulted into a world of hospital videos, chemotherapy and fear. Will their relationship be strong enough to withstand their daughter’s illness? Will the differences in their spiritual beliefs drive a wedge between them?

A beautifully acted movie with an excellent soundtrack, The Broken Circle Breakdown tugs at the heartstrings and brings up questions of life and death, love and loss. Its only downfall is perhaps how much it jumps around; past, present and future are intertwined and it often takes a couple of minutes to work out whether you’re watching the same timeframe as the previous scene. The music lifts the film beyond what might otherwise be a fairly average, if touching, drama. The haunting tones of Belgian bluegrass provide the perfect accompaniment to the events that are taking place; in some ways it is almost more musical than movie.

Out to own on DVD from the 25th of November, The Broken Circle Breakdown is not to be missed if you like good music or touching family dramas.

Bring Me The Head Of The Machine Gun Woman

After accidentally overhearing one of the city’s most dangerous criminals putting a hit on a hell-on-heels femme-fatale bounty hunter named ‘The Machine Gun Woman’ (Fernanda Urrejola), nightclub DJ and videogame addict Santiago avoids execution only by offering to bring her in. When he is given 24 hours to make good on his claim, Santiago’s life turns into a violent video game of its own, complete with missions, guns, sexy women and brutal violence. 

I watched it and liked it; you can read my review over on Geektown.

Bring Me The Head Of The Machine Gun Woman (cert. 18) opens in selected UK cinemas on 27th September and DVD & Blu-ray on 7th October 2013, courtesy of Clear Vision.

Full review here.

a late quartet (a movie review)


in order to properly comprehend this review, you must understand something about me: i do not cry. i don’t know how. i even wrote a song about it (which will eventually be available online, but isn’t yet). sometimes this lack of open emotion bothers me, especially at funerals and other social situations where you’re just supposed to cry.

i absolutely don’t cry when watching films. i’ll sit through any amount of chick flicks without shedding a tear, passing kleenexes to my girlfriends and wishing i could feel whatever it is they’re feeling.

i’ve also never been a particularly huge fan of classical music. i’ve always really wanted to like it, but never really got it, you know? if it doesn’t have lyrics, i don’t tend to understand it. i’ve always felt like it belonged to the preserves of the kind of people who drape themselves elegantly in cashmere pashminas, and other items of clothing that make an ahhhsh sound. the only classical composer i generally enjoy is mahler, and to be honest that’s less to do with the music itself and more to do with a particularly badass story about his 9th symphony that one of my teachers told me when i was about 15 and obsessed with death.

so, i got a last-minute invitation to see the late quartet, and nearly didn’t go, but then decided it’d be a good excuse to go and busk in soho afterwards, so i trundled along.

it made me ache.

this is the difficult bit: i can’t really do it justice by describing the story, because it’s not the storyline that makes it amazing. it’s just… the way it’s told. 

basic plot: quartet have been playing together for 25 years, two of the members are married. one of them is getting sick of playing second fiddle (literally and metaphorically) to the grumpy first violinist. the oldest member of the group discovers that he has a medical condition which means he needs to quit playing. this causes fractures within the quartet and the married couple discover newfound complications in their relationship.

see? not that inspiring. fairly straightforward.

i cried for pretty much the entire second half. when the credits started rolling at the end, i stayed in my seat until everyone else had left the screening room, because i wasn’t composed enough to even stand up. i then went and hid in the toilets for twenty minutes, redoing my make-up and giving myself pep talks: “scar! for fuck’s sake! you call yourself a badass?! what the hell is wrong with you?!”

no use. i left the cinema feeling raw. walked down the street, tried to start busking, couldn’t sing because i was too emotional. had to pack up and go home.

what was it that made it so moving? i really can’t say.


the acting was incredible. christopher walken was his predictably amazing self. the camerawork was also fantastic. close-ups of the actors’ faces showed every wrinkle, every curve. drew the audience into the players’ world; inside the characters themselves, to an extent. the fact that all the actors were so mature lent an element of seriousness as well, i think. it wasn’t like watching two people in their twenties bawling on their respective beds about the end of a short-lived affair; it was the deep and visceral pain of watching something disintegrate when they’d spent half of their lives – a quarter of a century – building it. trying to imagine something on that level did something to the emotion centres in my brain. they opened and tears poured out down my face.

the soundtrack is entirely classical, and i came out loving classical music. i understood, all of a sudden, why people like it, and why it’s not “just for posh people” (yeah, i know, i’m a chav with terrible taste. bite me.)

at one point, a close-up on christopher walken’s face happens at the same time as beethoven’s music rises and swells up in the background. this was almost too much for me to bear. i felt like my heart was getting redder, somehow; trying to escape my chest.

it made me raw. it hurt me. in a good way.

still kinda disturbed that music makes me cry in a way that funerals don’t, though. but oh well.

10/10 – fucking indescribable. go see it.

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

I went to the screening of Cloud Atlas tonight. Turned off my Nexus, settled myself into my favourite seat (end of the row, top left, right at the back), berated myself for not having read the notes I’d been sent earlier in the day.

You know what? I’m glad I didn’t. The film was a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. I’ve written a proper synopsis and review over at Geektown, so I’m not going to repeat myself here, but there are a few themes in the movie that I thought I’d like to talk about a bit more.

The first: truth.
The second: honour, and doing good.
The third: love.

I’m not that fussy when it comes to movies; I generally don’t like war films, or things that are set too far in the past. Pretty much everything else goes, though: action, chick flicks, sci fi, kids’ movies, whatever’s on. I don’t watch all that many films, which is probably why: my brain is so excited to see pictures in front of it rather than just words that it goes into overdrive and decides to LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE FILM.

Which is pretty much what it did with this one, actually.

I do think it was worth it, though. It reminded me of The Shawshank Redemption, not because it had a similar storyline or anything (it didn’t), but because it’s the kind of film that’s just so excellent that I couldn’t help but love it.

Apparently I was in a minority of one there. Filing out of the cinema at the end of the night, all the other reviewers seemed to be talking about how awful it had been, citing its length and complexity as their main complaints. Personally, I thought those were some of the best things about it.

It spans six centuries and assumes that reincarnation is a thing that happens. Synopsis of all the intertwining plotlines here.

Truth is upheld as something to be striven for, upholding it being the main goal of a person’s life. One of the heroines, Sonmi-451, devotes her entire life to uncovering a secret that threatens to kill a huge number of people; the most interesting thing about this being that the saving of lives seems secondarily important to the displaying of truth itself. When we meet her, she is in an interrogation room, and as the film progresses she explains her life and the events that led to her incarceration. By the end, she has given a full run-down of the history of the world in the 2140s as she knows it, but more importantly she has shown how standing up for truth can fulfil a person.

The interrogator looks deep into her eyes.

“Why did you do it?”
“I had to tell the truth.” 
“What if no one ever believes you?” 
“Someone already does.”

The idea that any contribution is important, no matter how small, runs through all six storylines. The concept of giving up your own life for the sake of the greater good, even if you don’t know you’ll succeed, even if you know you might only change the life of a single other person, is held as paramount to being whole.

“No matter what you do, it will never amount to anything more than a single drop of water in a limitless ocean.”
“What is an ocean, but a multitude of drops?” 

The movie is packed with people giving things up, risking their lives, breaking boundaries, looking out for each other even when it means putting themselves in danger. It’s about friendship and honour, and once again, truth.

It’s not so much about love. Not in a romantic, happily-ever-after way, anyway. And this is one of the reasons why I liked it. It didn’t have unrealistic visions of love trumping everything, of people riding off into the sunset after being improbably saved at the final moment by a string of coincidences that meant their love could save the world. It showed loss, and disaster, and sadness, and the state of the human condition when corporate consumerism takes over. It demonstrated how friendship can bloom in the oddest of places, how people can die for love without even meaning to, how ultimately who you love doesn’t matter: it’s who you act towards that makes a real difference.

Perhaps I liked it so much because it struck a chord with me. I’ve always wanted to do something actually good in the world, which is partly why I left my full-time job and decided to go it alone: it meant I could devote more time to tracking down internet criminals and solving child protection cases. The thought that one person can make a fundamental difference to another’s life is a constant source of amazement. We are all insignificant in the grand scheme of things, all just ants running hopelessly around a forest floor, waiting for a giant to come along and squish us dead, but the way we can move and shape the worlds of others just by deciding to devote our lives to something is such an overwhelming concept that my mind can’t quite comprehend it.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cloud Atlas was linguistically interesting and visually breathtaking. In the time “After the Fall” (between 2321 and 2346), we meet a village of people who speak a kind of Creole English; initially it was difficult to understand what they were saying, but gradually it became more and more obvious. I liked the level of thought that went into this. And the photographic work was stunning.

So, there you have it. Beautiful, moving and inspirational, this movie dealt with notions of truth, goodness and personhood without romanticising ad nauseum.

Worth watching, I think. Even if it is three hours long.

Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It is very rare for me to watch a movie before I’ve read the book. Usually it’s the other way around, but I kept hearing great things about this one and seeing quotes from it on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a go. 

It’s excellent. Definitely worth the hype. A sensitive, moving account of what it’s like to be a teenager. Emma Watson is excellent as always, of course, and Logan Lerman shines as misfit Charlie, providing an astonishingly accurate portrayal of psychological disturbance in teens. 

Watching the movie made me want to read the book. I think this is the only time that’s ever happened. 

Movie Review: Tank Girl

Easily one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen, Tank Girl is a compelling viewing experience. Even if you’re thinking “This is the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time, and I don’t think I can like it”, you’re somehow still glued to it from start to finish.

I watched it last weekend, with my husband and my best friend, sitting around with wine and crisps, the perfect accompaniment to any movie. My main problem with it was that I just didn’t like Tank Girl. She was spoilt, irrritating, selfish and disloyal to the people who needed her. She spent the entire movie fucking up and not looking like she regretted it. She reminded me of an addict: “Nah man, it’s all good, life’s great, whatchya worried about? Oh that, that’s just an eviction notice.” Like she took all the serious things in life, didn’t care about any of them, and replaced the level of attention that should be given to them with just her own selfish drives. 

Having said that, I was kinda glad I’d watched it. Because, well, where else are you going to see giant kangaroo-human hybrids? 

Don’t go out of your way to see it, though. 

Movie Review: The Red Shoes

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the weekend at my in-laws’ place, and Sunday afternoon we sat on sofas and watched old movies, one of which was The Red Shoes. I decided to blog about it mainly because my last post was about Black Swan and how rubbish it was, and The Red Shoes sort of seems to be the film that Black Swan wanted to be. In The Red Shoes you actually get a sense of the dancer’s descent into madness. It’s beautiful, dark and twisted, like all the best things in life…

At certain points you’re left wondering whether the things happening in the film are actually happening, or just occurring in the protagonist’s mind. When she dances with a man who turns into a piece of newspaper, you’re left wondering whether she’s actually dancing through the streets, or in rehearsals, or on stage. It’s really obvious throughout the movie that her mind is slipping and she’s becoming obsessed with the dance.

Part of the reason why it works so well is that there’s a heavier focus on the actual dancing: Moira Shearer is a dancer as well as an actress, which means that all the dancing shots don’t have to be taken from the neck down. Shearer can also act. She’s got the crazy stare down, which Portman couldn’t quite hit in Black Swan.

If you’ve been thinking about going to see Black Swan, find this instead. It’s a million times better.

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Movie Review: Black Swan

I had heard so many great things about this movie that I felt like I had to go and see it. My friends, my colleagues, critics whose reviews I read were all raving about it. Apparently, it was a deep, dark, suspenseful movie about a dancer’s descent into madness. Sounds like just my cup of tea.

Well. I must have been watching a different film, because the one I saw was full of wooden acting, had a plot that verged into the ridiculous, and was basically completely unbelievable. About half the cinema left during the first thirty minutes.

Portman was Keanu-esque in her total lack of emotion. The plot was weak and shallow. I took nothing away from the film other than a sense of having lost a couple of hours.

And then I went to my in-laws’ place at the weekend and watched The Red Shoes, and I thought, yes. Now there’s a film about a dancer getting a bit obsessed and feeling like she’s going crazy. Black Swan really didn’t pull it off. Utterly awful. Don’t waste your time or your money on it.

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Movie Review: True Grit

This movie works because it has a sense of humour. A young girl whose father has been killed sets out to avenge his death, leaving her mother and sibling behind in a search for vengeance. She teams up with two of the best bounty hunters she can find – both of whom reluctantly agree to help her – and eventually comes across her father’s killer.

It’s a beautiful story told with humour and empathy. Definitely recommended.

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