Author: Liselotte Vanophem


Review: Vivarium

March 27, 2020

When you’re in a relationship, there are some milestones you will reach as a couple. Whether it’s being together for one month, one year or even celebrating being five years together. For the loving couple Tom and Gemma, it’s going to live together and buying a house. Finding the right place is never easy but little did they know that it was going to be this hard? Probably not and neither do you. Not unless you’ve seen Vivarium, the immensely unique, cleverly written and stunningly performed film by director Lorcan Finnegan (Without Name).

Nothing is what it seems

Gardner, Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and schoolteacher, Gemma (Imogen Poots) are a lovely living an ordinary life. They’re ready for the next big step and want to move in with each other. On the lookout for the perfect house, they’re meeting up with the next estate agent. The very exciting Martin (Jonathan Aris) is taking them to Yonder, the perfect residence for a young couple. However, strange things happen right from the start the couple sets foot in Yonder. Martin vanishes unexpectedly, many attempts to leave Yonder fall and after technical car difficulties, the couple has no choice but to spend the night in Yonder. A night that will change their life forever and not in a good way.

First, they discover that the food has no taste whatsoever, that the house is too perfect and that there’s no one in Yonder. It gets worse when a baby boy (Senan Jennings) is dropped off at their door. Taking care of him might be the way out. Just like everything else, the boy isn’t ordinary. We don’t want to say too much but let us tell you: He makes the life of Tom and Gemma extremely hard. The couple is being torn apart by the way they want or better-said need to raise him. How will this impact their relationship and their chances of escaping Yonder?

Jesse Eisenberg as Tom, Jonathan Aris as Martin and Imogen Poots as Gemma in Vivarium.
Jesse Eisenberg as Tom, Jonathan Aris as Martin and Imogen Poots as Gemma in Vivarium.
(Source: IMDb)

Everything is connected in one way or another

There’s so much happening in this movie and it was very difficult for us to not mention even more of the plot. It might seem that there’s too much going on but even so, Vivarium is definitely worth the watch.

The main reason is the incredible unique story. Vivarium slaps you from left to right in unseen ways. At first, things might seem to happen by accident and seem to be unrelated but by the end of the film, it turns out that everything is connected.

An eclectic and heartbreaking story wouldn’t come to life perfectly if it wasn’t for the immensely strong cast. He’s probably the most unknown castmember but Jennings (Brute) excels in this movie. Whether it’s by screaming, mimicking his on-screen parents or just staring right into the camera, he gives us the chills every single time. He gets on our nerves more than once but in an extremely good way. We don’t want to say what the relationship is between Jennings and Eanna Hardwicke (Krypton), who will also appear in this movie, cause then the fun might be gone but rest assure that also Hardwicke’s performance is a compelling and unique one.

Senan Jennings as the boy and Imogen Poots as Gemma in Vivarium.
(Source: IMDb)

Poots and Eisenberg are as stunning as Jennings and Hardwicke. Poots (Black Christmas) puts on an extremely versatile performance. One moment she brings out that sweetness of being a schoolteacher to the forefront while a moment later she becomes the more determined mother fighting for her life. No matter which emotion or situation her character has to deal with, Poots portrays it in a beautiful and captivating way. Eisenberg (Zombieland: Double Tap) his Tom has been rough though type from the beginning and because of that, Eisenberg’s performance is big on both emotional and physical levels. His performance is certainly one that keeps us mesmerized. Last but not least, there’s Jonathan Aris (Boyz in the Wood) who makes such an unforgettable and witty appearance as Martin.

What makes from Vivarium a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time is the awesome combination of the cinematic elements. The cinematography from MacGregor (Snake Bite) is crazy and vibrant when the couple is in Yonder but more ordinary and ‘average’ when they’re in the real world. The editing by Tony Cranstoun (Good Favour) adds that sinister element to this movie, especially when multiple shots are interwoven into each other. The setting? Well, what can we say about it? All the greenhouses which are the same and too perfect just set the tone for this eccentric psychedelic film instantly.

Discover a whole new dark world

After getting its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival last year, Vivarium is returning to the UK from the 27th of March on digital platforms. Thanks to Finnegan, you have to chance to watch a gripping, stunningly performed and visually captivating movie and you should take it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

More: Read our interview with director Lorcan Finnegan.

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Review: Misbehaviour

March 16, 2020
Misbehaviour Movie

You would think that when living in the 21st Century equal pay for men and women, equal rights and equal respect would just be one of the few cornerstones of society. Well, sadly that’s still not the case at all as the fight for gender equality on all fronts is still going strong. It’s a fight that has been fought for many decades with some lows but with definitely some highs as well. An important milestone in the fight for equal rights was without a doubt the rebellious uprising of the women’s liberation movement and their enormous impactful actions during the Miss World competition in 1970. If you’ve witnessed their extremely important protest live or on television at the time than you know what we’re talking about. If not, then director Philippa Lowthorpe (Sex, the city and me) has the perfect film for you. With her Misbehaviour, you will not only get up to speed with those crucial events in the best way possible but you will also see a beautiful, funny, and eye-opening movie.

You’ve got to fight for your rights

In this film, it’s all about two different sides of society coming together during the most entertaining spectacle of 1970, the Miss World competition. One on hand you have the women’s liberation movement while on the other hand, you have the competition organisers Eric (Rhys Ifans) and Julia Morley (Keeley Hawes).

The women’s liberation movement was found by Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley) who brought together strong women to fight for equal rights. One of them is Sally Alexander (Keira Knightly) who sadly recently had to endure the prejudices of white men during her college application for the Univesity College of London. Instead of judging her on extensive knowledge and expertise on the matters, the men judged her on beauty and asked her about motherhood and the place of women in society. After that, she decided to join the women’s liberation movement and eventually to become their spokeswoman. She doesn’t want her daughter to grow up in a society that only cares about female beauty and not the intelligence of women.

It becomes clear that that society is indeed about appearance and treating women just as a beautiful piece of meat. The most tremendous example of that is the Miss World competition. No one there seems to care about the dignity of women. No, all what the organisers and their special guest star Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) can think of is who will be the most beautiful girl in the world. Will it be the favourite Miss Sweden (Clara Rosager) or one of the two black contestants Miss Africa South (Loreece Harrison) and Miss Grenada (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)?

Misbehaviour - The ladies leading of the women's liberation movement
(Source: Pathé)
The ladies leading of the women’s liberation movement
(Source: Pathé)

The important story and strong performances rule

While this story took place in the ’70s, not much has changed. Ok, the equal rights became more equal, there’s free daycare and a woman is allowed to open a bank account without the permission of her husband. However, the standards of beauty remained the same. You can’t have too many curves at the wrong places, you need to have the perfect measurements and heels are the symbol of femininity. Yes, those standards are still present. In some cultures, people do still believe that the place of women is only in the kitchen and bedroom.

Apart from the story, the acting performances are also what keeps this movie very interesting. After showing us her outstanding performances in Wild Rose and Judy, Buckley is again phenomenal. The timing of her cleverly written jokes is just spot on and she lifts the film to an entertaining and spontaneous film. The chemistry between her and Knightley is a wonderful one to witness. This is also because of Knightley (Official Secrets) her remarkable performance.

However, no matter how great they are, Knightley and Buckley are being over classed by Mbatha-Raw (Come Away). She lights up the screen as Hosten, the Miss World competitor who has more to offer than just beauty. Mbatha-Raw shows us a strong performance, that highlights the aesthetics of Miss Grenada but also her maturity and intelligence. The scene between Mbatha-Raw and Knightley is one of the most captivating ones. When it comes to the male cast, it’s Ifans (The Parting Glass) who steals the show with a funny and suave performance. He knows how to bring out that ‘player and female lover’ aspect of Eric tremendously.

Perfect timing

It’s been exactly 50 years since the women’s liberation movement decided to take on the Miss World competition and so it was the right time for Misbehaviour to be released. Not only because of the importance of the topic but also just because it’s an immensely entertaining and charming movie.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Misbehaviour (Official Trailer)

Misbehaviour is out in U.K. cinemas now

Also Read: The Problem with the role of ‘The Wife’ in movies like ‘Dark Waters’

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“Vivarium” Director Lorcan Finnegan Discusses Filming Techniques and The Future

March 15, 2020
Vivarium - Lorcan Finnegan

Ahead of the release of his latest film, Liselotte Vanophem sat down with Lorcan Finnegan to talk about Vivarium, filming techniques and the future.

Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Lorcan, how are you?

Lorcan Finnegan: Yeah, I’m fine. Busy with the interviews.

LV: Congratulations on the film. How did you come up with the story for this film?

LF: Well, in 2011 we made a short film called Foxes and it was a supernatural story about a young couple who were trapped in this ghost estate in Ireland that was left abandoned. Apart from them, there was nobody else there. That was more of a supernatural story but the stories and ideas of that film were something that we wanted to expand upon more metaphorically in a sci-fi, ‘twilight zone’ type of film. That’s what we develop into a long feature film. Vivarium is different from Foxes but it has some similar ideas.

LV: The cast consists of big names such as Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots but the actor who’s the most amazing one in this film is without a doubt Senan Jennings who plays the boy. How did you come across him?

LF: Getting the right actor for that part was always going to be challenging. We thought we were never going to find a little child who could do all of the things that we wrote about in the script. We got a bunch of self-tapes coming in and then I saw a lot of the actors as well. We were very lucky that we got Senan cause when he sent in his tape, it was so good. I asked him to do some other parts of the film and then he sent in another tape and again it was brilliant. We were like ‘ok, he got the part’.

He was great to work with. He was seven but when he read the script, he completely understood it. After we told him that he got the part, his mom said that they were going to supermarkets to watch people and copy them. He just loved it.

LV: In this movie, Senan’s character shouts and screams a lot. How was it to make him do that on cue?

LF: Well, he just loved it. At some points, we were just trying to make him stop. I was worried about his throat and that he would lose his voice. He had no problem with it at all and he just went for it. That was another thing that he showed us during his auditioning tape.

LV: During this film, Imogen’s character needs to choose whether to let the boy live or die? What would you have done in that situation?

LF: I would save him as he’s still a living creature after all but it rationally also makes sense to not save him.

LV: How much input did the actors have regarding the lines and the script?

LF: Well, we talked a lot bout the script before shooting and made some changes to dialogue and we also cut some dialogue and scenes. We also wrote a few new scenes. When you’re developing a script, other people are involved and everyone has a few notes here and there and some input. Once we came to shoot it, we all kind of trusted each other and if the scene didn’t feel right then we would just change it and try something different.

LV: What was the first scene that you shot between the couple and the child because that probably must have been a very crucial one?

LF: It would probably have been the bedroom scenes during which the audience sees the boy for this first time. I remember Jesse saying that Senan was exactly as he imagined from the script but he never thought that we could find a kid who could do it.

LV: The houses in Yonder are the same. Green, neat and almost to perfect. How did you film them? Was it a green screen or on-location?

LF: Well, it’s a mixture of things. We’ve build sets with the facades of threes, houses, footpaths, gardens, and roads. Then we shot sets of that same thing to expand it to the back and then the set was scanned and made into 3D. A lot of it was 2D map paintings, sometimes it’s CGI and sometimes it’s 2D plates that are being composed together. It was a lot of different techniques that came together.

LV: What was the hardest part for you to film for this movie cause it’s a very complex movie technical wise it seems?

LF: Yes, it was indeed a very technical film to make and a bit tricky as well. The trickiest scene was probably the one in which they’re trying to drive out of the place. We only had a certain amount of sets and then we had to switch to location as well. Trying to make the lighting the same. The aerial shots were also shot in a different location again. Then we combined all of that to make it feel like one sequence. That was something that we have been working on for a long time.

LV: If you look back on the film now, what’s the scene that still gets you the most?

LF: I think it would be the last scene between Imogen and the boy. I also like the scene very much during which they’re talking about the clouds. Also, all the scenes with Jonathan Aris were so much fun.

LV: What do you hope that people will take away with them after seeing this film?

LF: Well, I hope that they will think it’s the best film they’ve seen in their lives. In this film, there are a lot of metaphors that are wrapped in a sci-fi story. Some people seem to enjoy it as a pure sci-fi movie and other people see parts of their own lives in it. I enjoy getting to know people their interpretations of the story and how they relate to the story. I just hope people will enjoy it.

LV: One last question: What’s next for you?

LF: I’m working on a film called Nocebo which a supernatural revenge thriller about fashion and the exploitation of the east by the west. I’m also working on another project called Goliath which is a reimagining of the story of David and Goliath and is set in the dystopian near future. It’s about creating monsters, starting wars and stealing resources.

Vivarium (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Road Trip to Joker: The Success of Todd Phillips

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Review: Escape from Pretoria

March 9, 2020

How apartheid in South Africa changed the lives of many people is undeniably clear. Not only black people but also white people who weren’t afraid of showing their hatred towards the system were locked up, tortured and murdered. Just because they didn’t believe in a society that was just based on race. Now, director Francis Annan (Woyzeckis) is taking the real story of two political captives to the big screen in his Escape from Pretoria.

It’s all about finding the right key

Tim Jenkin (Daniel Radcliffe) and Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) are two young men and friends living in Africa during the Apartheid. They’re both white and so you might think that their lives’ mission is ruling over the black people in their community. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Jenkin has a black girlfriend and both men release political pamphlets and support for the black society. Sadly, for Tim and Stephen, the law is ruling with an iron fist and due to that, the men are being sentenced to prison for many years just because of their political views.

Their freedom might have been taken away but not their spirit and hunger for justice. From the moment they set foot into jail, they were already planning their escape. There are many locks (too many?) to open, too many guards to hide from and too many unpredictable elements to take into consideration. Luckily for Jenkin and Lee, they get help from their fellow prison mates and soon their ingenious plan is put in motion. Keys are being made, guards are being distracted and inventions are being fabricated. Will their determination, craftsmanship, and lust for freedom be the way out for the two men or will the prison bars be part of their lives forever?

Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkin in Escape from Pretoria
Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkin in Escape from Pretoria
(Source: IMDb)

Not the ordinary escape thriller

This movie is based on the book written by Jenkin himself and because of the Escape from Pretoria feels very personal and up-close. Together with his co-writers L.H. Adams and Karol Griffiths, director Annan certainly preserved that unique touch but also added some very entertaining and wonderful cinematic elements to it.

Not only did the director and writers want to make sure that this movie is an incredible homage to the strong men living in the age of repression, but also the actors themselves certainly wanted to honour their characters in the best and authentic way possible. First up, there Radcliffe (Guns Akimbo) who puts on great and solid performance. He embraces the courageous, determined and intelligent elements of his characters and makes them his own. In a heist film, performances could be big and bold and over the top (most of the time combined with special effects) but not in this film. The subtleness and the ‘small’ acting are Radcliffe’s strengths, even more so during the climax of this film. Also, the scenes with the key and chewing gums were just too brilliant not to mention.

His acting might not be as captivating and emotional as the one of Radcliffe but that doesn’t mean that Webber (The Dirt) can’t delight us. He adds much more emotions to this movie with his compelling and steady performance. 

They get great support from Ian Hart (Mary Queen of Scots) as the social campaigner Denis Goldberg and Mark Leonard Winter (Measure for Measure) as Alex Moumbaris. Hart brings many witty and clever moments to Escape from Pretoria and shows us in a crafty way what happens when you don’t take your life into your own hands. No matter how many obstacles you have to overcome. The most emotional story arc in this movie is Moumbaris’s as it’s about him, his son and the injustice of his family. Winter’s performance is packed with human emotions. From sadness and doubts to determination and happiness in dark times, we all get to feel them thanks to Winter’s moving performance.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performances of the cast, it’s the craftsmanship of the crew that excels in this movie. We certainly want to applaud the great work of cinematographer Geoffrey Hall (Australia Day). The way he uses light, darkness, and shadow is just magnificent and oozes that tense vibe. If you add excellent sound and music of the music department to that, Escape from Pretoria becomes a thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. Those approaching footsteps, the sound of the creaking wooden floors or the noise of the keys turning in the locks give you the chills many times.

A lively apartheid prison break

Escape from Pretoria deals with topics that are still very present such as equality and justice. It’s certainly not afraid of adding thrilling and entertaining elements to a real-life story. The result is a nail-biting, marvellous and cleverly made thriller.

Escape from Pretoria is out now in UK cinemas

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Escape From Pretoria (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Color Out of Space (Review)

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Review: Color Out of Space

March 2, 2020
Color Out of Space

When hearing the words ‘colour out of space’, which colour comes to mind? Flashy green, dark blue, or darkish grey? Well, some of us don’t even think about a colour. No, all we can think of is the short story by H.P. Lovecraft named The Colour Out of Space. Now that epic sci-fi story is coming to life thanks to writer/director Richard Stanley (Hardware).

Is it just a colour?

In Color Out of Space, we get to meet the Gardner family. Nathan (Nicolas Cage) is the typical father who takes good care of his children, his lovely wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) and his alpacas (yep, you read this correctly). Despite her illness, Theresa is always there for her work and family. Their three kids couldn’t have been more different from each other. Benny (Brendan Meyer) is the quiet teenager who, despite loving drugs, does everything to please his parents. Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) is the bad-mouthed daughter who’s into witchcraft and dark spells. The youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard) is just so cute and innocent, especially with his dinosaur stuffed animal. 

Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary but their world will be rocked when a mysterious rock out of space falls on their land. It doesn’t only bring an immense bang with it but also a colour that ‘no one has ever seen before’. At first, it doesn’t have to a massive impact but slowly after that, the Gardners start to experience ever-more bizarre events: Lightning storms that come out of nowhere, huge fuchsia-like plants that popped up overnight, a terrible aroma only Nathan can smell and a voice that only Jack can here. It becomes even worse when also their animals start to act strangely. No one ever came in contact with ‘that thing out of space’ but how is it changing them then? Is it the static, water, nature or something unexplainable?

Joely Richardson as Theresa and Nicolas Cage as Nathan in Color Out of Space
Joely Richardson as Theresa and Nicolas Cage as Nathan in Color Out of Space
(Source: IMDb)

Enormous talent in front and behind the camera

If you’ve read the story, then you know the answer to that lingering question. However, even if you do know, Color Out of Space will captivate you from start to finish.

The biggest element that makes sure of that, is the amazing cast. Cage (Mandy) is just phenomenal as he brings his most intriguing, exhilaration and multi-layered performance in years. One moment, he’s portraying the loving father charmingly and tenderly while a brief moment later, he’s furiously lashing out mysteriously at this on-screen daughter Lavinia. He brings so much humour and memorable moments to this movie. He gets stunning support from Richardson (Red Sparrow). At first, Richardson and her impeccable talent might be underused as she’s only playing the friendly wife wonderfully. However, when the movie becomes much obscurer, her performance grows intensely and becomes so much more intense and intriguing. Don’t get us started on her acting during the last part of this film.

Arthur (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) is extremely captivating as headstrong Lavinia. The protective and caring but also restless and confused treats of her character are being portrayed marvellously by her. He’s still young but Hilliard (Greener Grass) is already capable of putting on ‘grown-up’ performances. He’s such a joy to watch as the innocent Jack and when he can show us his darker side, his acting becomes even more fascinating. Meyer (Only Humans) puts on a rich performance as Benny. One that’s filled with strong emotions and funny moments. There’s also Tommy Chong (Jay and Silent Bob Reboot), who portrays the kooky neighbour Ezra in a very clever way and Elliot Knight (Billionaire Ransom) who’s charming as the new stranger.

Madeleine Arthur as Lavinia in Color Out of Space
Madeleine Arthur as Lavinia in Color Out of Space
(Source: IMDb)

A horror film with the title Color Out of Space wouldn’t be anything without the perfect colours and the ideal vibe. Well, director Stanley made sure that this movie had it all. He got Steve Annis (I Am Mother) on board as the Director of Photography and Annis shows us his incredible talent by creating the movie is the best way possible. At first, he uses ‘ordinary’ colours, no much special effects and focusses on the conversations. This is to give the audience the possibility to connect with the characters. However, when everything seems to fall apart for the family, he steps us his game by giving the movie the powerful colours, entertaining vibe and intensity it needs. In almost every scene, he uses that purple-ish colour which heightened that mysterious element even more. The horror vibe of this movie is also increasing because of the music by Colin Stetson (Hereditary). His sound design works on your nerves in the most brilliant way.

Light up your day

Color Out of Space will literally and figuratively speaking light up your day. Not only because of its immense purple-ish colour but also because it’s an epic, hypnotizing and stunningly performed movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Color Out Of Space (Official Trailer)

Color Out of Space is out now.

Also Read: The Problem with the role of ‘The Wife’ in movies like ‘Dark Waters’

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Almost 9 in 10 People in the Film & TV industry Have Experienced A Mental Health Problem

February 25, 2020

Whether it’s helping during the pre-production, working on-set or doing the promotion, working in the film and television industry is the dream job for many of us. However, the creative industry can be a very hard one to work in. The long and irregular hours, the doubts about having the next project and an uneven work-family balance can result in many sleepless hours and stressful days. According to The Looking Glass, the report from Film and TV Charity, this sadly also causes mental health issues. Time to act!

Alarming results

The survey of Film and TV Charity was filled in by 9,399 respondents. Based on the big amount of participation, it’s clear that people working in the creative industry want to address mental health issues. After analysing the responses, it becomes clear why.

According to the survey, 87% of the people working in film, television, and cinema had to deal with a mental health problem. This is 22% more than all the people across the UK (65%). The amount of people who experienced depression is lower but equally devastating. While 42% of the people nation-wide already had to deal with it, 65% of people working in the creative industry had to overcome depression. What’s even more worrying is the number of people that deliberately harmed themselves (24% people working in the creative industry versus 7% nationwide) or tried to take their own life (55% of the respondents versus 20% of people nationally).

The Looking Glass report
Source: Film and Television charity
The Looking Glass report
Credit: The Film and Television Charity

Worrisome working conditions

The biggest element that contributes to the shocking numbers are the working conditions. As mentioned before, the long hours are one of the factors. The survey concludes that more than 1 in 8 respondents work more than 60 hours per week (versus in other 1 out of 50 in other industries). 57% of them also mentioned that they don’t have enough control over their working hours and that it harms their wellbeing and mental health. The work-life balance is also a significant problem. People can’t spend time with family or can’t have a relaxing day. According to the survey, the stress increased immensely during the last few years due to the intensifying of the workload.

Other frightening triggers

There are also other aspects that cause mental health issues. One of those is the working environment aka the culture. Probably one of the most disturbing results is that 56% of the people already experienced bullying and intimidating behaviour. On top of that, it’s difficult to speak out against inappropriate behaviour or to ask for help because of the power imbalance between the people. Another reason why it’s hard to speak up is that people (43%) are afraid to be judged by others if they know that they were experiencing mental health problems.

Another trigger is that people feel that they can’t get the right support to grow and learn.  This is causing even more stress, especially because of the lack of recognition. It becomes worse if people in the creative industry have to deal with vulnerable contributors or distressing or challenging content. In both cases, they don’t get the mental support they need to look after their wellbeing.

Three main solutions to help out

Based on the survey, there would be many solutions to decrease the number of people having to deal with mental problems. The three main solutions would be one-on-one support, support at work and peer support. The reason why one-on-one support isn’t functioning as it should be is the cost. To decrease the cost, the survey identified solutions such as the possibility of therapy co-located at studios, post houses and other large employers and also digital options (video calls, computer-based CBT, etc). It’s incredibly important the people can get support at work. This can be getting access to resources both managers and employees could use to have a conversation about mental health issues. The most important resource that’s already available is the Wellness Action Plans by the mental health charity, Mind. Having more peer support would result in acceptance, the increase of self-confidence and the development of more skills.

The Looking Glass report
Source: Film and Television charity

Also Read: Netflix By The Numbers

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Review: Little Joe

February 24, 2020
Little Joe

There are two sorts of people: The ones who can keep plants alive for months and the ones who just let it accidentally die after a few days. Whether you’re part of the first group or the second, you all know that flowers need to be talked to, watered and sometimes also touched. Well, that’s certainly something Alice Woodard knows like no one else. As an expert in plant-breeding, she’s being surrounded by plants and flowers every day. Her flowery story is now coming to the big screen in Little Joe from director Jessica Hausner (Amour Fou).

Which of your children do you choose?

Saying that flowers are Alice (Emily Beecham) her passion would be a complete understatement. She takes care of them 24/7 and together with her colleague Chris (Ben Whishaw), she has even produced a new species called Little Joe. The flower isn’t only gorgeous but it also releases a scent that makes the owner happy. When Alice isn’t spending time with her Little Joe’s, she’s surrounded by another Joe (Kit Connor), her son. To show her thanks for keeping up with her absence, Alice takes a Little Joe home as a present for her son, despite it being against company policies. However, that might could have the biggest mistake of her life.

At first, everything seems to be fine with Little Joe but things are taking a darker turn when her colleague Bella (Kerry Fox) suspects that the pollen of the flowers might be harmful. It looks like Little Joe is changing people’s behaviour and not in a good way. The more the flowers grow, the stranger the behaviour of the people becomes. Alice doesn’t notice it at first but when her son shows the potential symptoms, she’s starting to doubt her work. Which of her children will she choose: her appealing flowers or her wonderful son?

Emily Beecham as Alice Woodard and Ben Whishaw as Chris in Little Joe.
 Emily Beecham as Alice Woodard and Ben Whishaw as Chris in Little Joe.
Source: IMDb

Wonderful talent both in front as well as behind the camera

Hausner wrote Little Joe with her writing partner Géraldine Bajard (Amour Fou). According to Bajard, the inspiration came from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They wanted to create a similar story involving the connection between a working mother and her son. That bond is one of the reasons why the audience can resonate so well with this movie. There’s also the unanswered love, feelings such as doubts and guilt and even the issue of mental instability. The crucial topic is without a doubt making the right decision even if you have to give up something or someone you love for that.

Those human emotions and feeling wouldn’t feel so familiar if it wasn’t for the stunning performances. It’s no surprise that Beecham (Daphne) won the award for Best Actress during the Film Festival de Cannes last year. She portrays the whole range of emotions of her characters extremely beautiful. Her facial expressions could tell the whole story on its own. Whether we would make the same decision as Alice or not, Beecham makes us feel connected to her. Wishaw (The Personal History of David Copperfield) puts on a stunning performance as the shy Chris who’s not afraid of showing his feelings. It’s a shame though that Wishaw can’t show his full potential, especially more towards the end. Beecham and Wishaw get fine support from Fox (Top End Wedding) whose performance is the most emotionally versatile one of this movie and Connor (Slaughterhouse Rulez) who puts on wonderful acting.

When we spoke to Marko Waschke (The Gentlemen) about the flowers he created, he mentioned that they combined many elements from different flowers to make it look realistic and new at the same time. The hard work paid off because the planthouse looks incredible and is the perfect setting for the majority of the scenes. Even more so when the flowers are in complete bloom.

What brings that beautifulness to the screen, even more, is the wonderful cinematography by Martin Gschlacht (Revanche). There’s the stunning element of the black and white composition. When Little Joe seems innocent, the lights in the planthouse are bright but when more doubts about the plants increase, the colours become darker. The music also contributes to that innocent versus dangerous aspect. The music in Little Joe is repetitive but that’s for a perfect reason. When we see the daily life of the plant breeders, there’s almost no music but when Little Joe is the key piece in the scene, you hear upbeat drums representing the danger and dark side.

Little Joe Plants
The Little Joe’s
(Source: IMDb)

A beautiful, delightful and intriguing film

Flowers and plants can be very captivating, especially when they’re extremely colourful. Well, that’s the same we can say about this movie. If you check out Little Joe, you will not only see incredibly beautiful flowers but also a stunningly dark, visually gorgeous and a captivating performance on film.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Also Read: Netflix By The Numbers

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Eight in 10 people In The UK with A Disability Don’t Feel Represented In The Media

February 14, 2020
Silent Child Picture

While equal representation in movies and television series is not fully on point yet, we’re slowly getting there. Think about films and series in which non-white actors take the lead (Harriet, When They See Us) and the ones in which LGBTQ+ relationships are beautifully represented (Booksmart, Euphoria). However, when it comes to the representation of disability in film and television, the industry is certainly still behind. A few recent films and series come to mind such as The Peanut Butter Falcon and Special. However, that’s certainly not enough. According to disabilityscoop.com the percentage of movies about disability is still declining which is probably the same for television. Time to put an end to that.

Big population, a small representation

Better representation of disability on screen isn’t only incredibly important for diversity and originality but it also gives actors with disabilities more opportunities. Despite there being 13.9 million people in the UK with some type of disability (the current population is 66 million), eight in 10 disabled people say they do not feel well represented in the media so there’s clearly something wrong when it comes to disability representation.

It becomes even more clear when you put statistics next to it. In 2016, only 2.7 percent of characters in the 100 highest-earning movies had a disability. Last year only 2.1% of the characters in primetime TV series were disabled. It’s not only the numbers that need to change but also the way disability is being represented on screen. Disabled people in media always come with stereotypical roles such as being the object of pity, victims of violence or the evil person.

Actors Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen in The Peanut Butter Falcon
(source: IMDb)

A long fight that’s still not fought yet

The battle to see disability better represented on screen is being a hard one but luckily many art institutes don’t give up on it. One of the most important ones is the casting studio VisABLE, which helps to create professional opportunities for actors, presenters and models with disabilities for over more than 20 years. Their highly skilled professionals were already part of television series and films such as Doctors, Casualty and Holmes and Watson. Some of the films might even appear on the ‘Disabled Britain on Film‘, a part of the online BFI Player. Thanks to this initiative, you can watch many films for free that are about the on-screen representation of disabled people over the past decades.

Another big institute supporting the representation is the BBC. Last year, they pledged to include more actors and entertainers in their television programs such as shows, documentaries, and dramas. This might have been the outcome of the angriness they caused in 2018 when they cast Charlie Heaton (a non-disabled actor) in the role of Elephant Man. If the new pledge of BBC is coming off the ground, it would be a massive step in the right direction. Hopefully, many important broadcasters will pledge the same.

104 Films production company is an example of a film production company leading the way, as they’re hoping to create a shift in the representation of disability both on-screen and off. Many production companies should follow their example without a doubt.

Film festivals such as ‘Together! Disability Film Festival‘ in London the ‘Oska Bright film festival‘ in Brighton also don’t stay behind when it comes to wanting to represent more disability on screen. The films that are part of the festivals are made by deaf/disabled filmmakers and feature a strong central deaf/disabled character.

Casting the right people is key

Whether we want to admit or not, there’s whitewashing going on in film. Think about the backlash casting decision such as Kiernan Shipka in The Silence or Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club. The comments about that last example were about the fact Leto portrayed every stereotype of a transgender woman and that the portrayal was wrong on so many levels. So tell us, why do we still allow non-disabled people to portray disabled characters if that indeed also results in stereotypes on screen? That casting disabled people can turn a gorgeous film into an even more beautiful and important one became clear over the last few years. Think of the Oscar-winning short film The Silent Child. If a film like that, with a relatively small budget, can hire disabled people and making them feel at ease, then why can’t big blockbusters?

Old problem, new mindset

How can we start to solve this old problem? According to reelhoney.com, one of the measurements that a production company can take is to make auditions much more accessible and to meet the access requirements. It would literally make the threshold lower for disabled people to start in the film and television industry. A few years ago, actress Sarah Gordy (Call The Midwife), who has Down syndrome, mentioned that directors and producers didn’t think she would be able to play a part because of her learning disability. However, after giving her a chance, she was able to prove them wrong in the best way possible. Another measurement is probably the best and probably also the easiest one production companies, producers and directors can take: Just give people with disabilities a chance!

Also Read: When Great Video Games Become Lacklustre Movies

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Review: Birds of Prey

February 9, 2020

That heartbreak can cause much pain is something we’re familiar with. Whether it’s ending a long time relationship or a short fling, we are always going to handle it in our way. However you deal with it, pretty sure it’s not as drastic as Harley Quinn getting over her Joker. But who knew that dealing with a break up would this much fun! With Birds of Prey (or Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), DC has finally got the funny, colourful, vibrant and extremely entertaining film it deserves. With massive thanks to director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs)!

They should fear me cause I’m Harley f*cking Quinn

It seems that Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) her life isn’t rolling into the right direction. After splitting up with her “J” and taking revenge in the most explosive way possible, she’s now being hunted by everyone she has wronged. One of them is Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). He’s the latest ‘victim’ on her list as she hurt his driver in that typical “Harley Quinn” way. After being captured, Quinn wants to save her skin. She’s being tasked with tracking down a precious diamond that holds the code to the bank account of a rich Mafia family. While claiming to be the “finder of all lost things”, this search may not be as easy as she expected, especially when that diamond has been swallowed by young hustler Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

That’s not the only problem Quinn has to overcome. The jewel has also caught the attention of Gotham City Police Department Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). For Montoya, who has been screwed over by her former male colleague, this gem could be getting the promotion she deserves. A bad-ass assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) also has her reasons to retrieve the diamond. There’s also Sionis’ driver Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) wants the diamond. Four women with each their own agenda, one little thief and a large number of men who are after them. Many people but just one diamond. How will this end?

Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as The Huntress, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary in Birds of Prey
Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as The Huntress, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary in Birds of Prey
(Source: IMDb)

A dream cast

If you would ask us how to describe Robbie (Bombshell, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood) her performance in one word we would say: Superb! She nails Quinn perfectly. Both the looks as well as the emotions. Her expressive and joyful appearance just puts an instant smile on your face and when the sadder. When the strong emotions appear, Robbie’s acting makes sure that you care about Quinn every step of the way, no matter how many horrifying mistakes Quinn made in the past. Basco plays a key role in the film and she does that by putting on a wonderful performance. The connection between Robbie and Basco is just spot-on.

Smollett-Bell (One Last Thing, Hands of Stone) grabs your attention every time she appears as Black Canary, who literally and figuratively has a killer voice. No matter if it’s during the quiet signing scenes or the violent, entertaining and action-packed fight scenes, watching Smollett-Bell is such a treat. While Winstead (The Parts You Lose, Gemini Man) only makes her first appearance during the middle of this movie, she brings such a comedy element as well as immense female power. Perez (The Dead Don’t Die, Active Adults) might not have the rock ‘n roll attitude the rest of the cast has but she’s still very much fun to watch.

Don’t think that the exquisite cast only exists of women. No, there’s also McGregor (Doctor Sleep, Christopher Robin). Whether it’s as the charismatic but short-tempered Sionis or as the secretive and sinister Black Mask, his scenes are just fantastic. Saying that there’s a sensational chemistry between the leads would be such an understatement.

Tremendous talent behind the camera

There’s also the top-notch talent behind the scenes that delivered astonishing work. First up, we want to congratulate the hair and makeup team and costume department. They make from Birds of Prey the most energetic, flashy and eye-catching comic movie you will ever see. Our praise also needs to go to the stunt team and the special effects team. The many on-set stunts and the CGI added afterwards make this film go so smoothly, even though they might be over the top. We also want to thank the people who made and/or chose the music. Every song has a hidden reference and gives Birds of Prey an immense punch.

One hell of a ride

While watching Birds of Prey, it becomes clear that comic book movies are still going to dominate the box office for many years to come. If any of those could be as much fun, entertaining, stunning performed and wonderfully created, then we would be over the moon.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Also Read: Joke’s On You: The History of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis

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Review: Queen & Slim

That classic films like Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, Thieves Like Us and Thelma & Louise were a massive inspiration for many adaptations was proven throughout the years multiple times. Whether it’s for adaptions such as the television series Bonnie & Clyde or as a starting point for movies like Leaving Normal, their influence is never far away. Director Melina Matsoukas is now bringing those classics together in Queen & Slim, her directional movie debut.

Drive and never look back

We all know that a first date can be very awkward. After both swiping rights on Tinder, Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) decided to meet up but the dinner date is sadly not going how it should be. It goes even from bad to worse when they’re driving home. What should have been just a routine traffic stop escalates into the murder of a white cop. According to Slim, his actions were in self-defense but as a lawyer, Queen knows how things look. As two black people, they will never be able to win from the white society so the only thing they can do is drive away and never look back. That’s exactly what they do!

Their tense journey involves many car changes, immensely nerve-wracking times and encountering people who could turn them in at any time. The further they travel, the bigger the manhunt for them becomes, especially after a video of the incident surfaces. While the cops see this as another reason to catch this “armed and extremely dangerous” couple, there’s also immense support for Queen and Slim. Their actions are being praised by the black community who saw the terrible event as an act of self-defense. Multiple riots break out and the confrontations between the cops and protesters become even more violent. How will the fight between black and white end and most importantly, will Queen and Slim be able to escape from the law forever?

Daniel Kaluuya as Queen and Jodie Turner-Smith as Slim in Queen & Slim.
(Source: IMDb)

Solid film on many levels

The strongest element of this movie is without a doubt the excellent leading performances. Kaluuya (Get Out, Widows) is extremely captivating as an ordinary man with an ordinary job. All Queen wants is living a simple life with a woman by his side in the hope someone will remember him once he’s gone. Kaluuya knows how to portray the many traits of his character. During the more quiet scenes, you can feel the strong emotional rollercoaster Queen is going through just by looking at Kaluuya and during the more rough scenes, the performance becomes literally and figuratively even more powerful.

Opposite him, we see Turner-Smith (Newness) making a wonderful debut as the attorney who puts her job above finding love. The remarkable performance brings out the cold, harsh and determined but also loving, insecure and fragile elements of Queen. Queen and Slim are both coming from different background and thanks to the excellent performances, those difference shines through. The final scene is certainly the most emotional and stunning one and shows the great chemistry between the two leads.

Another element that makes from Queen & Slim a compelling film is the modern and contemporary story written by Lena Waithe and James Frey. Topics that are included in this film such as racism, segregation, violence, and repression against black people are still incredibly present these days. The many obstacles Queen and Slim have to overcome in this movie are certainly obstacles black people are facing today as well. There’s also a grey area in Queen & Slim. While the runaway couple is being supported by the black community and wanted by white cops, some white people show sympathy and some black characters use violence against everyone (no matter the colour or race).

Not reaching its full potential

Sadly, there are a few minor glitches when it comes to Queen & Slim, which mean the film doesn’t fulfil its full potential. Large parts of this movie take place on the road and so we know that we can expect a lot of shots of the couple driving in the car. However, the many car changes also result in a multitude of those long driving shots which feel like we’ve seen them before. This makes it feel repetitive and like the film is dragging on. Because of the violence and topics, Queen & Slim could also have benefited from a little bit more punch and power.

A very fine directional debut

To some, it might seem that Queen & Slim is a 21st Century rip-off of Thelma & Louise or Bonnie and Clyde. We get why this indeed could be the case. However, it’s so much more than that. With a very solid script, contemporary topics and with Kaluuya and Turner-Smith as a power couple, director Matsoukas delivers a very enjoyable directional debut.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Also Read: Bad Boys For Life (Review)

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Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

February 5, 2020
Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers

If you were a child living in America between 1968 to 2001 or if you had children during that time then you probably will fondly remember the American children’s television presenter Fred Rogers. For decades, he graced our television screens with his Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. That television program became extremely popular all over the States because of Rogers’ openness, heart-warming and extraordinarily kind vibe. The way he cared for children and talked with them about difficult themes such as divorce, family and friendship was praised immensely. Now, this wonderful man is being celebrated in director Marielle Heller‘s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Her third full-length feature film is as touching, beautiful and sweet as Roger himself.

A real-life authentic story with a twist

For this movie, Heller could count on the impeccable writing skills of Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. Starting from the original Esquire article about Fred Rogers written by journalist Tom Junod, they decided to give their twist to it. While Rogers (Tom Hanks) is a big part of this story, the main focus is on Junod himself. In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Junod is renamed as the fictional Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) but still with the same profession: Being an investigative journalist who works for Esquire. After delivering award-winning pieces, his editor demands him to write 400 words on Rogers as a feature for the special edition about ‘heroes’. Not very keen on writing this puff piece, Vogel is doing initial research into the life of Rogers and starts to wonder whether Rogers is the wonderful, nice and loving man everyone thinks he is.

Vogel’s journey takes him to the set of Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, the show during which Rogers invites his young audience to join him. It’s not only to meet the main characters but also to discuss rough topics such as death, divorce, and doubts. Some of those issues are sadly also the ones Vogel is confronted within his own life such as the difficult relationship with awful father (Chris Cooper) and his insecurities about being a new dad with his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson). Rogers had already a massive impact on children’s lives but which impact will he have on Vogel’s?

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and Matthew Rhys as Lloyd Vogel in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  (Source: IMDb)
 Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and Matthew Rhys as Lloyd Vogel in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  (Source: IMDb)

Oscar-worthy performances

On the 22nd of January, Tom Hanks got nominated for an Oscar for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” and it’s totally understandable why. Hanks (The Post, Inferno) just lights up our screen with immense love, empathy, excitement, and kindness, just like the iconic television host himself did. We couldn’t see someone else playing the role of the warmest television personality than the most kind A-list star himself.

What elevates the marvellous performance of Hanks even more, is the chemistry between him and Rhys. Rhys (The Report, Burnt) is fantastic as the smart, hardworking but also broken and lost Vogel. The emotional journey his character is going through is being brought to the screen very beautifully. Whether the grief, anger, love, and doubt he feels regarding his private life or the pressure, confusion, and bitterness during his profession, we can feel it all thanks to Rhys’s captivating and emotional performance.  What a shame that Rhy’s (and this film in general) doesn’t get the award nominations he deserves.

A remarkable crew

Not only the amazingly talented director, excellent writers, and the terrific cast are making sure that this movie is elegantly coming to life. No, the entire crew does that as well. First of all, it’s cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes whose work transports us back into time. With bright colours and vivid wide shots, this film really oozes that welcoming, cheerful and gentle vibe Rogers created on the set of his program. The most beautiful work is the way she re-creates and integrates those openings sequences of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in this movie. She also shot the film as it would pre-HD television. There’s also the calming and amusing soundtrack that’s provided by the director’s brother, Nate Heller. Both elements really lift the authenticity of this film to a higher level.

Heller delivers again an outstanding film

After delivering the critically acclaimed Diary of a Teenage Girl and the Oscar-nominated Can You Ever Forgive Me?, it became clear that Heller certainly knows how to make a beautiful film. With this latest one, she does that again. Whether A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a trip down to memory lane for you or whether it’s the first time you meet Mr. Rogers, this movie is all you could ask for. A heart-warming, authentic, and gorgeously made film with a cast that delivers Oscar-worthy performances.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Also Read: It’s Time to Talk About Marielle Heller

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Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

January 26, 2020

Whether you’re a bookworm that devours books in record time or whether you’re just familiar with the classics, Charles Dickens is known by everyone. Probably mostly because of Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and Great Expectations. They’ve all had many adaptations and now we can also another adaptation of David Copperfield to that list. This is thanks to director Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin, In the Loop). He decided to turn the adored novel into The Personal History of David Copperfield, a funny, heart-warming and moving film.

Finding light in times of darkness

That life won’t be easy for David Copperfield becomes obvious from the beginning. The young David (Jairaj Varsani) and his family are coming from a poor background and the loss of his father was a hard blow to handle. He might not have much but together with his single mother (Morfydd Clark) and housekeeper Peggotty (Daisy May Cooper), he’s trying to enjoy life as much as possible. However, dark clouds are hanging above their little cottage in Blunderstone. The authoritarian Mr. Murdstone (Darren Boyd) and his equally evil sister Jane Murdstone (Gwendoline Christie) are joining the family as David’s stepfather and step-aunt. David has to undergo both mental and physical abuse by Murdstone and he’s being deprived of time with his mother and housekeeper. It even gets worse when he has to leave his family to go to work at the bottling factory, owned by Murdstone.

Many years later, David (Dev Patel) is still working at the factory and living with the nutty, clever but also very charming Mr. and Mrs. Micawber (Peter Capaldi and Bronagh Gallagher). They’ve welcomed David with open arms and are treating him like their child. However, an unexpected loss is turning David’s life completely upside down. He can’t return home due to Mr. Murdstone who’s still ruling there so he decides to go to his amusing and kooky aunt (Tilda Swinton) and his even silly cousin (Hugh Laurie). This might be the beginning of a more joyful time for David. He meets the lovely Dora (Morfydd Clark), makes new friends and lives a more luxurious life. Love, family and some money. It seems that finally, David has it all. Will he be able to escape the uncertainty and poverty once and for all or will his past catches upon him?

Peter Capaldi as Mr. Micawber and Jairaj Varsani as the young David Copperfield in The Personal History of David Copperfield.
(source: IMDb)

Love, passion and a stunning assemble cast

We all have our reasons why we cherish a particular book, novel or film so much. For director Iannucci, it was the cinematic, funny, and modern vibe of the original Dicken’s novel that made him wanted to make an adaption of it. To bring his beautiful vision to life, he worked with writer Simon Blackwell (Trying Again) with whom he already made The Thick of It and Veep. The two men certainly know how to make a wonderful and gorgeous movie.

The main reason is without a doubt the stunning performance of the overall cast. Leading the A-stars is the amazing Dev Patel (Lion). Iannucci knew from the start that he wanted Patel to portray the main character and it’s understandable why. Watching Copperfield coming to life is such a joy because of Patel’s extremely heart-warming, charming and emotional performance. He puts a smile on our faces during the joyful moments but at the same time, we can also feel the pain and uncertainty. Also, the young Varsani (Hetty Feather) portrays David in the most vividly, wonderful and contagious way.

The supporting cast? Well, what can we see about them apart from the fact that they were all on-point! This movie can certainly count on strong women. Clark (Crawl) puts on the most emotional and captivating performance while Cooper (This Country) brings immense joy and wittiness. Swinton (Suspiria) is at her best again as the unusual, peculiar but loving Betsey and Gallagher (A Bump Along the Way) is just delightful to watch as the carrying Mrs. Micawber. Christie (Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi) brings darkness to this movie in a gorgeous way.

The male cast is as equally as powerful. Capaldi (Paddington) features as the conniving and funny Mr. Micawber while Laurie (Tomorrowland) delivers a wonderful performance as the loving man who’s sadly showing the first signs of schizophrenia. Whishaw’s (Little Joe) performance as the seedy Uriah Heep brings an even more funny, mad and witty element to this movie. A massive congratulations to the casting tea for putting such a great assemble cast together!

Elegant, heart-warming and delightfully made

While making this film, Iannucci wanted to use as little special effects as possible and that proved only to work in favour of this film. The heartwarming and joyful The Personal History of David Copperfield is a delight to watch thanks to the stunning A-cast, real-life vibe and extreme openness.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Also Read: Why James Cameron’s Avatar Sequel Has Come At The Right Time

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