Reviews

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Palo Alto

  • Currently 1/5 Stars.

PALO ALTO (USA/TBC/100mins)
Directed by Gia Coppola. Starring James Franco, Val Kilmer, Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff
THE PLOT: 
April (Emma Roberts) is a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, who is struggling with her flirty relationship with a teacher, and the feelings she has for her friend Teddy (Jack Kilmer). Teddy is constantly overshadowed by his friend Fred (Nat Wolff), and goes along with his ideas for the sake of acceptance. These three people have to figure out where they belong in the world, and how their lives align together.
THE VERDICT: PALO ALTO is based on a book of short stories by James Franco - who also stars in the film - specifically, a series titled April. While it seems that this story is about the choices we make as teenagers, and the relationship we form at a relatively young age, the film drifts and meanders through the tale, meaning that the story is lost is a sea of style.
The cast does well with what they are given, but none is ever really given a chance to flesh out their character beyond stereotypes. Emma Roberts makes April slightly awkward and naïve, the type of teenager who would easily fall for the affections of someone in power. James Franco never allows Mr B to be anything other than creepy; his attention on Roberts is entirely inappropriate, and the dialogue he spouts feels as though it should have been written for a 14 year old boy. Jack Kilmer does slightly better as Teddy, in fact he is the only character who seems to go through any progression at all, even if it is just deciding he doesn't want to put up with his friend's shenanigans any more.
The story meanders and winds, making the film a series of scenes in search of a movie, as opposed to a cohesive whole. There are interesting moments, but not enough to hold the audience's attention, and certainly not enough to justify this being made into a film. We all know, having been there, that teenagers go through some weird stuff, but making Teddy and Fred cut down a tree doesn't make them unusual, it just makes them jerks.
Gia Coppola seems completely bewildered in her feature debut as director, and never pulls the film into a cohesive whole, and never allows her characters to be anything other than paper-thin stereotypes. The film looks good, but this does not make it interesting or engaging in any way. As well as this, by being - and casting - those from acting dynasties (Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, James Franco), Gia Coppola manages to make Palo Alto a watered down curiosity, but not much else.
PALO ALTO is a film that tries to encapsulate the teenage experience of girls looking for love, and boys just being jerks, but manages to be almost nothing at all. There are hints that things could develop into a coherent story, but this never happens, leaving Palo Alto to meander on screen with no real purpose.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (USA/12A/104mins)
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Danny Woodburn, Abby Elliott, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Pioszek, Alan Ritchson, Tohoru Masamune.
THE PLOT: 
When ace reporter April O'Neill (Fox) begins to notice notorious criminal gang the Foot Clan keep getting their wrists slaps by some mysterious assailants, she finally manages to track down these crime-fighting crusaders on a rooftop. Where she discovers that New York City's latest heroes are Raphael (Ritchson), Michelangelo (Fisher), Leonardo (Ploszek, Knoxville) and Donatello (Howard) - aka The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Swearing O'Neill to secrecy, the reporter soon realises that the foursome must be the same four turtles her late father had experimented on 15 years ago. Letting her dad's old lab partner, Eric Sacks (Fichtner), know about her find isn't the smartest move by April; Sacks is the adoptive son of Foot Clan boss Shredder (Masamune)... 
THE VERDICT: 
Cowadunga! Something of a spectacular missed opportunity, everyone's favourite kung-fu-fighting, pizza-loving, radio-active marine reptiles getting a woefully half-assed reboot after seven years away. And it may be another seven years before we hear from our little green crime fighters again, once the word spreads on this dud. Steve Barron's 1990 original may have been a cheap-ass production, but, what it lack in slickness it more than made up for in smarts, and satire, and the undiluted silliness. Barron also had the shock of the new advantage, the tongue-in-cheek creations a genuine slap-in-the-mainstream back in 1990.
Now, it's a Michael Bay-produced reboot. With his old buddy, former movie star Megan Fox, taking the nice-pizza-ass human lead, and still managing to get acted off the screen by 6ft reptiles. Even though one of them is voiced by Johnny Knoxville. Whoopi Goldberg is in there too. Just in case you were wondering if Michael Bay might have upped his game for the relaunch of a possible multi-billion-dollar franchise. 
RATING: 2/5 
Review by Paul Byrne

The Best Of Me

  • Currently 1/5 Stars.

THE BEST OF ME (USA/12A/117mins)
Directed by Michael Hoffman. Starring James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato, Gerald McRaney, Caroline Goodall, Clarke Peters, Sebastian Arcelus, Jon Tenney.
THE PLOT: 
Having been high school sweethearts, when Dawson (Marsden) and Amanda (Monaghan) meet up once again back in their old hometown twenty years later, the spark is clearly still there. Only trouble is, a spark isn't the only thing Amanda has with her - she also has a husband and a kid. Having been lured home by the wishes of Dawson's surrogate father, having left instructions for both to help carry out his funeral, the duo realise that they're being together now is unpopular to some of the townsfolk as it was back then. Most of the murmurings is once again coming from Amanda's mother, none too happy at the idea of her society daughter roughing it with a jailbird. Will their love find a way through? Or will Dawson's crazy cousin, handily called Crazy Ted, get to put a little death in their way? I really wish I was making this crap up.
THE VERDICT: 
There are lots of reasons to like this movie. The highly underrated James Marsden for one (for Enchanted alone, he deserves our lifelong love and affection). The equally underrated Michelle Monaghan ain't too shabby either, being far more Rachel McAdams than Kate Hudson when it came to her glittering comedienne roles. Also, this is based on the book by Nicolas Sparks, the man behind The notebook, and who actually seems to be a frank and honest, and self-deprecating, writer. Which is rarely the case when it comes to romance novels.
All this love hits something of a brick wall though when confronted with the finished product. Mainly because THE BEST OF ME is a piece of crap. A big piece of crap, at that.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Paul Byrne

The Judge

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

THE JUDGE (USA/14A/142mins)
Directed by David Dobkin. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thorton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Leighton Meester.
THE PLOT: When his mother dies, Hank (Robert Downey Jr) reluctantly returns to his hometown for her funeral. While there, he catches up with his old flame Sam (Vera Farmiga) and tries his best not to get involved with his father; the town's judge. Just as he tries to leave, however, Hank discovers that his father (Robert Duvall) is suspected of murder and is drawn back into family life.
THE VERDICT: Downey Jr is on great form in THE JUDGE, and obviously has a whale of a time playing a confrontational and aggressive lawyer. Robert Duvall also seems to have a great time playing an elderly man with troubles and Vera Farmiga does well as Sam, Hank's childhood sweetheart. Jeremy Strong brings some charm to the screen as Hank's younger brother Dale, a man who seems to have a learning disability, which leads to a lot of the film's comedy and many of its touching moments. The rest of the cast is made up of Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D'Onofrio and Dax Shepard.
The screenplay, written by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque errs on the side of the familiar and the slightly schmaltzy. As well as being pretty much GARDEN STATE with a murder trial, the entire affair feels incredibly familiar. Add to this the 141-minute running time, and there is a whole lot of something, and a large amount of nothing going on here. All that said though, there is something warm and endearing about THE JUDGE; perhaps simply the fact that Downey Jr is such a charismatic actor, or the fact that for all its familiarity, this is a story with a warm heart... Even if some of the story choices are more than a little bit questionable.
David Dobkin has a tendency to make a certain type of comedy, so it is good to see the director stretch himself with this tale of familial strife. That said though, he really does allow Downey Jr to dominate proceedings, leaving many of the other characters out in the cold. For all the film's stupidly long running time though, things do keep moving at a decent pace, and although Downey Jr overpowers many of the other characters, he makes Hank a well rounded character that the audience can't help but root for.
THE JUDGE feels like we have seen this story told a million times before, and suffers through association with films like GARDEN STATE and, in a strange way, GROSSE POINTE BLANK. Downey Jr is on top form and the rest of the cast do well enough what little they have to do. The running time is ridiculous, and the film struggles through the first act, but underneath the messy elements, there is a warm but slightly strange heart at the centre of THE JUDGE.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Calling

  • Currently 1/5 Stars.

THE CALLING (USA/15A/108mins)
Directed by Jason Stone. Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, Donald Sutherland.
THE PLOT: When an elderly woman is murdered in a small Canadian town, Detective Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) is dragged into a case that has links to others across the country, and may not be as simple as she first thought. 
THE VERDICT: THE CALLING is based on the novel of the same name by Inger Ash Wolfe, and places several murders in the lap of the alcoholic, jaded police chief of a small town. The idea is one that we have seen on screen many times before, so the question arises; what makes THE CALLING different? 
Susan Sarandon takes on the role of the jaded cop; a woman who has seen and suffered too much to allow violent deaths to affect her. That said Hazel is intrigued by the grisly nature of the deaths, and doggedly chases down any lead she can find. Sarandon has proven, many times before, that she is more than able to play a woman with demons, so she ably carries the film here. 
Topher Grace is given very little character to work with as rookie cop Ben Wingate, Donald Sutherland brings some gravitas as Father Price and Christopher Heyerdahl dials up the creepy as Simon. 
The story, adapted for the screen by Scott Abramovitch borders on the silly at times; spurred on by an ancient religious ceremony, a killer travels across Canada, seeking out those who search for redemption. This leads to some interesting clues and gives the killer a handy signature, but it doesn't make a lick of sense when compared to the rest of the film. The rest of the film is formulaic, with the audience expecting Sarandon to announce that she is a week from retirement at any second. The film tries to make a comment on modern-day Christianity, but since it doesn't seem sure what the comment is, it fails miserably. 
The direction, by Jason Stone - Yes, he who brought us the short film that inspired This Is The End - is frankly, a bit of a mess. Several times, the film reaches a point where it could happily have ended, but gasps another breath and staggers on. As well as this, while Sarandon does her best to keep the film afloat, it is so laden with unnecessary twists, and paper thin characters, that it is hard for it to be anything other than formulaic. 
THE CALLING is a film that tries too hard to shakes off the shackles of formula, that it falls right into this trap. Sarandon does what she can to keep the film afloat, but she is fighting a losing battle against thin characters and a preposterous story. Shame, THE CALLING could have been great under a more steady hand. 
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

The Maze Runner

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

THE MAZE RUNNER (USA | UK | Canada/12A/113mins)
Directed by Wes Ball. Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson.

THE PLOT: Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) awakens in a box hurtling to an unknown place, with no idea who he is or where he is going. His destination is The Glades, a community populated with young men like himself, and surrounded by an intricate maze that hosts unknown horrors. It's not long before Thomas decides he wants to join ‘the Runners', who search the maze for a shot at escape.
THE VERDICT: Dylan O'Brien is a handsome young chap, and it is surely this that got him cast in the lead role; he's fine as Thomas, but little more. The rest of the cast is made up of some phenomenal young actors, including Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario whose characters are not given much depth, but the actors succeed for the most part.
The story feels like a combination of LORD OF THE FLIES, THE HUNGER GAMES, LABYRINTH (minus David Bowie) and all of the other dystopian tween moves you have seen in the past. Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin's screenplay is filled with exposition and overly verbose, overly explanatory dialogue. Mansplaining the Movie? This could well be it.
The film spends so much time and energy on trying to get out of the maze that very little time is given to wonder what the hell is going on in the rest of the world. Kind of a crucial point, since it seems the gang could have survived on their own for an indefinite amount of time.
Wes Ball, as director, gives very little effort into making these characters feel rounded or fleshed out. Instead, they fall into obvious categories - the best friend, the nerd, the bully, the love interest - and that is where they stay for much of the film. Many of the choices made are simply daft - ‘let's hide from giant, super strong monsters in a shack made of twigs!' - and visually, the film is well below par. The monsters are familiar in that they looks like a combination of spider robots and the alien from Alien (but less scary), and the maze's CGI is cheap and ragged.
THE MAZE RUNNER, to be fair to it, does not have strong source material to draw from, but this is a film that explains in favour of showing, has thin and unengaging characters and tries to keep the mystery going, but only succeeds in making the audience lose interest. There is another one on the way, so perhaps there will be time to improve, because as it stands, THE MAZE RUNNER does nothing to distinguish itself, and is easily forgotten. Patricia Clarkson turns up in it though, so that's an extra star right there.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

'71

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

‘71 (UK/15A/99mins)
Directed by Yann Demange. Starring Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, Richard Dormer, David Wilmot, Charlie Murphy, Killian Scott, Sam Reid, Sam Hazeldine, Barry Keoghan, Martin McCann.
THE PLOT: It's rookie British soldier Gary Hook (O'Connell) first deployment, and the streets of Belfast during the height of the Troubles manage to provide him with one baptism of hellfire. Left behind during a botched raid, Gary realises he'd better start running when his fellow abandoned soldier is shot point-blank in the head. The fact that he has nowhere to run, given that Belfast is an alien city to him, leaves Hook in a very precarious position. As the night kicks in, he finds out just how precarious, as he meets street fighting men, women and, in one highly memorable scene, a little ginger Caesar. Some, on both sides of the Catholic and Protestant divide, are there to help, but some - again, on both sides - would be happier to see him join the bulging ranks of Belfast's dead...
THE VERDICT: It's a thin line between patriotism and hate, as director Yann Demange (SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL, DEAD SET, CRIMINAL JUSTICE) and writer Gregory Burke (BLACK WATCH, ONE NIGHT IN EMERGENCY) - both making their big-screen debuts - capture wonderfully here. A real blood-rush of a movie (and one that could be set in any war-torn plot of land), ‘71 is Paul Greengrass good - smart, insightful, thoughtful and truly thrilling. O'Connell is fast proving himself the thinking man's young hunk, after equally impressive turns in STARRED UP and the 300 prequel earlier this year, whilst the supporting cast is littered with such quality Irish actors as Richard Dormer, David Wilmot, Charlie Murphy, Martin McCann, Barry Keoghan and Killian Scott.
The one who really deserves an Oscar here though is little Corey McKinley, a bolt of fiery comic relief as a budding little Loyalist leader who has the swagger and sharp, withering tongue of a midget James Cagney, like Mickeybo with a Molotov cocktail. 
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

Dolphin Tale 2

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

DOLPHIN TALE 2 (USA/G/107mins)
Directed by Charles Martin Smith. Starring Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr.
THE PLOT: Although she was rescued by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and fitted with a prosthetic tail to help her swim, Winter the dolphin's life takes a turn for the complicated when her companion dolphin dies. It's against US law to have a dolphin without company in an aquarium, so the staff of the aquarium must find a new friend for Winter before she is moved to a new home.
THE VERDICT: DOLPHIN TALE was not really a great movie, what it was though, was a little overly sweet but somehow engaging story of a dolphin who overcame the odds to survive after she lost her tail. Dolphin Tale 2 is a film along similar lines, but this time the story is less about the animal, and more about the people around her.
Most of the cast of the first film have returned; Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Harry Connick Jr all reprise their roles in a story about learning to find where we belong in life, and learning to take risks.
The story, based on true events, and written by director Charles Martin Smith does err on the side of the super sweet, but there is something endearing underneath all the schmaltz, even if the danger the characters find themselves in never truly feels as though it is going to threaten the humans that much. Add to that a protective pelican and an undecided teen who may or may not be in love with another teen and the stage is set for a thin but surprisingly engaging story.
As director, Charles Martin Smith manages to blend together the stories of the dolphins and the humans quite well and, although the pacing never truly gets going, the film is warm and sweet.
DOLPHIN TALE 2 is exactly the film you would expect if you have seen DOLPHIN TALE 2. If you haven't, be prepared for some slightly angsty teens, endearing dolphins and some truly terrible CG balloons. DOLPHIN TALE 2 is completely inoffensive, and so sweet you may leave the cinema with a toothache. Kids will probably love it though.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Life After Beth

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

LIFE AFTER BETH (USA/15A/89mins)
Directed by Jeff Baena. Starring Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Anna Kendrick.
THE PLOT: What would you do if your recently deceased girlfriend reappeared, seemingly alive, with no recollection of her ‘death'? This is the problem faced by Zach (Dane DeHaan) in Life After Beth, when Beth (Aubrey Plaza) returns and is hidden away by her delighted but seemingly clueless parents. It is not long before Zach realises something is terribly wrong, but trying to negotiate and reason with the recently deceased - and grotesquely horny - Beth proves harder than he would like.
THE PLOT: Zombies, man. Like vampires a few years ago, zombies are absolutely everywhere at the moment. TV, film, books... Not real life though - I don't think - ‘cos that would be horrific. Anyway, Life After Beth is another twist on the zombie story, another play with zombie lore, and another attempt that almost works.
The cast here is stupendous; John C. Reilly, Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, Cheryl Hines and Anna Kendrick prove that they have a knack for making great choices when it comes to scripts. Plaza plays up the confused and horny zombie to brilliant effect, Reilly grabs onto the idea of father in denial and runs with it, and DeHaan carries the movie - and provides the voice of reason - as a young man delighted his girlfriend is not really dead, but unsure what this actually means. Kendrick has fun with the giggly, vapid post-teenager Erica; Jim O'Heir and Adam Pally - last seen on TV and um... Iron Man 3 - turn up in small roles.
The story, written by Jeff Baena is yet another twist on the zombie story; what if the dead came back seemingly as themselves, and the zombie plague required a gestation period of sorts, before striking in full force. The idea plays with the notion that people in walking dead type production have no trouble in shooting their zombie loved ones in the head. The trouble is that once all of this is established, the story really relies on the way it ends, and the ending is one that fizzles out, leaving the film with tons of unanswered questions - why do the zombies like attics? - and an unfinished feel.
As director, Jeff Baena never quite gets the balance between comedy and melodrama right, leaving the audiences feeling as though they are laughing at the wrong things. The performances are strong, but the world of the film never feels fully fleshed out enough (sorry!) to support them. There are tons of great moments, but these never gel together enough to make Life After Beth live up to its potential.
LIFE AFTER BETH is a film with a clever central idea, and a wonderful cast that do a heck of a job, but without a proper ending, and massive unresolved questions, LIFE AFTER BETH is two thirds a good movie, and one third an unholy mess. Shame, I have such a soft spot for Aubrey Plaza.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes 

Dracula Untold

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

DRACULA UNTOLD (USA/15A/92mins)
Directed by Gary Shore. Starring Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper.
THE PLOT: Having spent many years in the Turkish army against his will, Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) has returned home to rule Transylvania in peace. When Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), commander of the Turks and former friend of Vlad demands 1,000 Transylvanian boys - including Vlad's son - to boost his army, Vlad goes to extraordinary lengths to protect his kingdom and his family.
THE VERDICT: There are so many different vampire movies and myths now that it is hard to keep track of them all. Universal. However, has decided to go back to the beginning, and tell the tale of the historical figure that allegedly inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula; Vlad the Impaler.
Luke Evans takes on the role of Vlad/Dracula in his first leading role in a movie, and does a fine job. Evans' Dracula is tortured and scared, as well as formidable and more than a little scary. Evans certainly looks vampiric in the role, and brings enough presence to the screen to make the character work. Sarah Gadon takes a step away from her Cronenbergian roles, and takes on the character of Mirena, Vlad's wife. She doesn't have an awful lot to do, but she looks good doing it. Dominic Cooper camps up the role of Mehmed; one so similar to those we have seen him play before that it is hard to distinguish this from any of his other roles. Charles Dance has a lot of fun as the Master, and even though he chews through every piece of scenery available, his scenes are menacing and entertaining.
The screenplay, written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, and based on Stoker's characters blends historical fact and fiction together to give us an understanding of Vlad before he became the tortured romantic he has been recently portrayed as. The film plays with the notions put forward in Stoker's work, and stretches these out so that Vlad can turn into bats at will, and so a sequel is nicely set up. There are characters that feel entirely surplus to requirement, however, and the vampire myth is never fully explained.
As director, Gary Shore puts all of his weight behind the action sequences, and plays with the physicality of the central character. The trouble arises in the pacing of the film, which seems to rattle along almost too quickly, so that developments feel as though they happen too quickly, and characters are never fully developed. As well as this, there are times when the film feels like a long form music video in its over the top set pieces which, while spectacular, feel as though they were edited for the trailer and not the movie as a whole.
DRACULA UNTOLD is a fun and entertaining origins story of the character we know as Dracula. Luke Evans does well in the leading role, but the rest of the cast struggle to step out from his shadow. First time director Gary Shore directs capably, but there are times when the pacing stumbles, characters feel superfluous and the set pieces threaten to engulf the movie. Still, a Dracula who wins a swordfight by turning into bats? What's not to love?!
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Gone Girl

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

GONE GIRL (USA/16/149mins)
Directed by David Fincher. Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit. Missy Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski.
THE PLOT: It's June 5th 2005, and Nick Dunne isn't looking forward to his 5th wedding anniversary. So much so that, early that morning, he'd rather be down in the hometown pub, The Bar, that he owns, and that his sister, Margo (Coon), runs. His wife, Amy (Pike), likes to present her husband with cryptic clues to a treasure hunt every anniversary, and the novelty has worn off for Nick. The honeymoon period is definitely over, and Nick has found himself increasingly unable to work out Amy's clues. Which may have something to do with the fact that he's grown to hate her. Despite their crazy, sexy, cool early years, from their meet-cute first kiss in a back alley blizzard from a sugar factory to the conspiratorial dislike of her parents, hugely successful, and wealthy, through the Amazing Amy books, which told a much happier, sweeter, far more successful version of their daughter's life. Those were the reasons, that was New York, but now, having moved to the suburbs when Nick's mum fell ill, the couple have grown desperately apart. So, when Nick returns from his morning bourbon to find his wife gone and the house showing signs of a struggle, he's both shocked, and a little happy. Something Detective Rhonda Boney (Dickens) and her deputy, Officer Jim Gilpin (Fugit), pick up. And then, so do the neighbours. And the media. The man had everything to gain from his wife's disappearance. Soon, even Margo begins to have her doubts as the evidence starts mounting up against her brother...
THE VERDICT: Based on Gillian Flynn's 2012 bestseller, Gone Girl is perfect David Fincher material. On the surface, this is traditional thriller material, but proceedings take more than one Hitchcockian turn early on, and the twists then just keep on coming. Gillian Flynn has a lot of fun exploring just how relationships work, the pretence involved in seduction, the slow decay of that pretence and the resentment that comes with the realisation that not only is your partner not the person you fell in love with, but, worse, neither are you. 
Along the way, there's much to enjoy here, a surprising amount of laughs and some bullseyes on the bullshit - Missy Pyle's Nancy Grace-esque TV shit-stirrer being one of the most blatant. At heart though, this is a sweet whodunnit. Just don't bring your loved one along if they're not really all that loved anymore.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

ID:A

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

IDA (Poland | Denmark/TBC/82mins)
Directed by: Paweł Pawlikowski. Starring: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza.
THE PLOT: Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young novitiate nun is on the verge of taking her vows, when she is sent out of the convent to meet her aunt; her only living relative. Wanda (Agata Kulesza) tells her niece that she is actually Jewish, and her parents were killed in the war. Wanting to see where her parents are buried, Ida takes Wanda on a journey across Poland that uncovers dark secrets about the family she never knew.
THE VERDICT: Agata Trzebuchowska is mesmerising in the titular role; her stillness and seeming desire to be unseen by the world only increases our - and the camera's - desire to observe her. Agata Kulesza plays Wanda as a woman hardened by her experiences, seeks love in the wrong places but who still has a caring heart, and Dawid Ogrodnik plays Lis, a gentle and sensitive soul.
The story, as mentioned, is one that we have heard tell of before; a young woman forced to accept that everything she thought was true has actually got a shadow across it, and the fallout from this revelation. The difference with Ida, however, is the stillness that comes from having a deeply pious protagonist. There are very few arguments, and although emotions run high, they are quickly stilled. The dialogue is minimal, so much of the communication in the film is non-verbal, adding to the silence and stillness of the film, and adding weight to the seriousness of the central character.
Paweł Pawlikowski directs with a steady and confident hand, allowing silnce to happen, allowing the camera to be static much of the time, and allowing many of the shots to almost looks like still images. Beautifully and crisply shot in black and white, Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal's cinematography is often deliberately off kilter; showing characters in the corner of the frame, or having them swamped in their surroundings. This serves to highlight the fact that something is not right in Ida's world, as well as reinforce the fact that Trzebuchowska is a young woman with presence, as the audience - and the camera - is consistently drawn back to her.
In all, IDA is a familiar tale told in a beautiful and engaging new manner. Trzebuchowska is magnetic in the lead role, but an equally strong supporting cast surrounds her. The cinematography is beautiful and, while there are times when the film lacks surprises, this also serves to make a comment about Ida and the world she inhabits.
RATING: 5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

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