Ilo Ilo (2013)

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Initially, not expecting to like this film much as theres a goofy kid jumping around being very brattishly annoying. And his bossy mother is also unsympathetic. But. In comes Phillipino maid Terry. And something beautifully human starts happening.

You think Boy (the brat) is going to be running rings around Terry, making her life a right bloody misery. But she soon sorts him out, tells him what for.

And the bond of affection that grows between them is very affecting (and unaffected) Doesn’t feel like they’re acting at all. This Boy has needed somebody like gentle Terry to come along and be his proper loving mother. His actual mother is too busy being pregnant, or at work working, and not giving him her real  time or actual attention. So, he’s become an abandoned, worried Boy, a neglected and unloved Boy.

But Boys mother doesn’t stay as the bossy baddie. Gradually we get to feel sympathy for her too. And the hapless hopeless dad who keeps getting sacked – you slowly feel something for him too.

A good film makes you do that. It humanizes you towards its world, its bad and good, its happy and unhappy. people.  A good film makes calls on your empathy and tunes you in to how its seeing, and what its showing. So that you’re no longer wanting to jump so easily to facile conclusions, and stamp hostile judgements onto what you might not have liked.

Here’s my 9 minute edit of Terry and Boy (Jiale) falling in love with one another.

I really didn’t want Terry to leave Jiale at the end there. His tears made me cry.

Dir: Anthony Chen, Singapore

7/10

All is Lost (2013)

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Unusual for me to watch, let alone review, anything remotely Hollywoody. And you can’t get more Hollywoody than Roberty Redfordy. But this film doesn’t play out like a typical sloshy Hollywood product.

Its not an entertainment or at all exhilirating. It’s an endurance test. We’re having to tough it out with old Bob for what feels like the whole 8 long days long. Stuck in his boat with him, trapped, slowly sinking.

Trying to survive. Trying to stay calm (and succeeding mostly) Trying to be rational.

Robert doesn’t lose his rag. He doesn’t panic. He doesn’t swear (well, once). He doesn’t say a lot. Well, why would he, he’s on his own, alone, cast adrift in a wide expanse of sea.

He copes. He adjusts. He deals with it (the next bit of misfortune) He confronts it (the next terrifying adversity) Like a real man would. Like any man would. He self-contains crisis, he cordones off catastrophe. Only clear cold thinking is going to help. No weeping or wailing or acting out allowed here.

I don’t feel moved by his plight though. He’s not showing much (feeling) to feel moved by. But I’m absorbed by his predicament. Well, the first time. Watching this second time, theres not quite enough internal interest to rivet my attention. Redford is an empty vessel, impassive, impersonal almost.

I’ve fast forwarded bits. You don’t miss much. Its more of the same, same business of staying alive. Its like a Ray Mears Survival video but without any commentary or interesting tips. And without Ray Mears. (Ok, better Bob than blob Ray) This having to stay afloat, stay alive is a bloody laborious boring business though. Its no fun; relentlessly doing it; or hopelessly watching it.

Its now half an hour in (boat) There’s a lot more of this surviving in a boat to survive. Another 75 minutes of Bob bloke bloking about, being Mr Sensible Head.

But its all being immensely credible, even creditable. I’m glad it doesn’t make melodrama, insert too much extraneous tension.

We all know that when things get dire (or intensely boring), you have to play silly games, to occupy the never-ending foreverness of the relentless present. I did. I did a tick list of Man In A Boat Being Robert Redford Survival Behavour as follows:

Outer Behaviours co-related to possible Inner States of Being observed:

  • Irritation: 2
  • Hope: 2
  • Panic: 1
  • Despair: 1
  • Resignation: 1
  • Stoic Forbearance: Numerous.
  • Doing Something About It: Numerous
  • Terror: Undetectable.
  • Fear: Rarely, Once?
  • Total Fucked Offness: see at 71 minutes and 30 seconds in.

He still looks too impossibly good does old Redford. His wrinkles have weathered well.

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Still got all his hair. And all his pearly white shining teeth. (not visible in pic, but believe me they are all there, present perfect and correct) Robert Redford might be 77 but he’s still got “it” (the bastard)

The final scene? Was that a phony ending? A faked denouement?

Personally I’d have liked to have seen Robert Redford being ripped apart, shredded, and swallowed by man-eating sharks (only joking) (not jealous honest)

Dir: J. C. Chandor, USA

Gave it 7 first time round, but on a 2nd watch only worth a 6/10. I certainly won’t need to be surviving it all again.

A Kind of Loving (1962)

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I’ve got a real soft spot for this film.

Maybe thats because 1960’s b/w Brit films “do it” for me in some kind of oddly nostalgic way. Its not as if I my own memories of the 1960’s fill me with any affection (misery more like) But maybe its a decade when being Alan Bates or Albert Finney or any young up and thrusting bloke was a lot more fun than my non-fun existence as a trapped kid. Or maybe, perversely, seeing the monochrome dinge of back then is a salutory reminder of the deprivation I’ve come from.

This film is alot better than the TV version that got made for ITV 20 years later.

Vic Brown fancies typist Ingrid. So he asks her to pay his bus fare. And then he asks her out.

What a handsome chap Alan Bates was/is. He wants Ingrid, because, well – he wants some.

The double-deckers, the co-op milk-float, the steamy trains and smokey stacks, the wet cobbles, the gas lamps, the gloom,  the misery – you can’t beat it.

Furtive kissing in the park shelter “I’m crazy about you Ingrid“. Vic doesn’t think she’s common; but he’d still like to get his leg over (her)

Being seen out with a lass – a sly business.

But before long Vic is realising what a dim bim Ingrid is. Well, is she going to go all the way with him or not?

No, not who he’d hoped or imagined her to be at all.

So getting a bit fed up and frustrated with her now.

Better to just dump her and be done with it. (yes, you should have Vic)

But she doesn’t want to dumped, is clinging on. So Vic de-dumps her.

All he wants, is to have his happy End away.

And now, at last, she’s going to let him have it/her.

Seems like it wasn’t much cop. By the looks on their post-coital faces a bit of a let down. More sad than happy end. More of a damp squib. Oh Vic, you pillock – was it worth it mate?

No. Its all downhill from now on. An unmitigated fucking disaster. End of. Loving over.

The 2nd half of this film is painful to watch. The consequence -cum-comeuppance of getting said leg over gets you trapped in schtuck.

Anyway, I’m not going to show the bitter rucks trapped Vic is going to have with Thora Hird (the Les Dawson mother-in-law from hell) But here are, Vic and Ingrid on their honeymoon.

Isn’t this whole seaside scene beautifully filmed? And at least we see Vic and Ingrid sharing a bit of sweetness with one another.

Married life lived with Mother-in-Hird-Thora-Law is killing all Vics happy dreams and hopeful ambitions. He’s not getting any, or any of what he wanted.

“Perhaps you’re sorry you married me” says Ingrid. “Theres no perhaps about it” says Vic.

If I were you Vic I’d get shot of Ingrid and her bloody snooty mother and buzz off bloody out of it. Which he does eventually. But not before he’s been sick on the old cows living room carpet

“How dare you! How dare you say such filthy, disgusting things! You come into this house drunk, filthy drunk! You’re filthy! You talk filth, you are filth! You’re filth! You filthy pig! You filthy, disgusting pig! Filth, filth! “ shouts Mother-in-law from Hell.

Ingrid has locked herself in mothers bedroom and won’t come out. Thats it. Vic has just about blumin had enough of this. Time to pack suitcase and scarper. Leave this bloody house.

But is he going to leave his marriage? Not really the done thing back in those days. You stuck with it through thick and thin. Even if you didn’t love your wife. And Vic doesn’t love Ingrid. Never has. His kind of loving was more like red-blooded male hormonal lusting.

So, a small Northern tragedy has played out. You’ve got an air brained blonde bird up the duff and then you’ve had to marry her. And, consequently, you’ve suffered your unloving lot. This is what could – and often did – easily happen when chaps let their unruly cocks rule their empty craniums.

Poor Vic. Poor Ingrid. Pooor the pair of them. I do, I feel sorry for them. Stuck hopelessly together. All through those black and white 60’s. Until the 70’s (and then he left her – I think?)

What warm melancholy this film seeps sweetly (and sadly) into me. Born earlier I could have been a Vic (I could have been me friggin dad. Fuck)

Dir: John Schlesinger, UK

8/10

The Moo Man (2013)

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Whats not to like about this lovable documentary.

Its got a herd of dreamy girls.

Its got a beaut called Ida.

Its got her lovely boyfriend Stephen.

Stephen seems to love all his girls as much as I would (if I were him)

Not a lot happens in the documentary. But thats how it should be. Cows should just be allowed to eat grass, chew, frolic, moo, and get milked. Which Stephen does, and then sells their creamy goodness unpasteurised in home-produced bottles to neighbouring doorsteps.

I wish all dairy farmers were like him. Cow-caring, cow-considerate, cow-kind.

But there is tragedy near the end. And Stephen is close to a tear in his eye. But also stoic. The farm must go on.

And no doubt, another Ida will be coming along again one day soon, to become the love of Mr Moo Mans life.

Dir: Andy Heathcote, UK

7.5/10

Las Acacias (2011)

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This the kind of sweet little lonely heart-tender film I’m always going to want to watch.

Its so beautifully played, beautifully understated.

The film hasn’t got much story to it (good, because too much story – too much plot – in films is something that turns me off them usually)

(Too much plotting leaves the realms of the real and turns into mere entertainment, becomes merely fictional, a fabrication I barely believe or buy into in, on an authentic gut level at least)

Anyway. Argentinian logger Ruben is having to take young Paraguayan mother Jacinta – plus her baby daughter 150 miles to Buenos Aires in his truck. He’s not keen. So hes not talking. Silencio. Pissed off with her he is. Doesn’t want babies crying in his cab.

They’re at the border crossing. She has to get out. Is he going to bugger off without her? He’s driving past her but not stopping; reluctantly – further on – he stops. She has to subserviently follow after, and clamber herself in. She understands what that was about.

Silencio. Frosty. She feels the hurt of his (near) rejection, turns away from him. She knows she’s not wanted.

Don’t start crying Baby. He’s pissed off enough. But Baby is crying. Ruben can’t even smoke. This is going to be a long terrible trip. Silencio. He’s even thinking off getting rid of them, packing them both off on a bus.

Ruben can’t talk because he’s closed up, numbed by 30 years of on-the-road loneliness. He doesn’t know how to relate to how lovely Jacinto is.

But gradually, slowly, subtly, the frosty hurt thaws. He comes off his pissed-offness. The Baby is looking at him. Ruben yawns. The baby yawns. That baby is helping to open Ruben’s heart.

Looks, and half looks, and glances, are passing between Ruben and Jacinto. So many things that hurt too much to be shared or said. This is all so delicate. so heart-rendingly human. I feel like I’m in the truck with them, being their fumble-feeling for empathy.

The emergence of empathy, the dawning of affection in Rubens heart. Could be me. He could be.

He’s offering Jacinto his mate, asking questions, showing an interest. Now, he’s even offering to hold the Baby, is tickling her tummy.

And here comes a beautiful Ruben-Baby moment

Ruben wants to cry but he doesn’t – a lesser film would have shown the tears.

Ruben is feeling a tumult of feeling he probably hasn’t felt in many years. But does he go for it, does he declare what he feels? Well, kind of.

But she’s only saying “maybe”.

And maybe Ruben will bottle it, and not go back for her. Maybe he’ll return back into his shy shell, revert to his hurt and hidden unloved old self again.

This film has endeared itself to my heart.

Yes, Ruben could be me. He could be.

The Baby gets the best baby actor award.

Dir: Pablo Giorgelli, Argentina

8.5/10

In The White City (1983)

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One of those obscure nostalgic films I feel fond for because of the time (1983) and the place (Berlin) I first saw it as much as for the actual film itself. I’ve been looking for it online for years, and now at last I’ve found it. So come on Bruno (Ganz) charm me with your lovely flop-eared grin.

He – sailor Bruno – jumps ship, rents room in small hotel in the White City (Lisbon). Seems like he wants to have a rest, bit of a lie-down – bit of a breakdown. The wish to come adrift, free-float on empty for a while. “I’m in the mood for sleeping, walking, dreaming”. Happy to hang around waiting and watching. Or watching and walking. Or walking while waiting. Or walking and thinking. Or grinning.

Bruno 4Bruno’s face is so sweet-heartish. He can suggest a whole soulful of things without having to say anything. Which is good, because he doesn’t get to say much in this film. The point seems to be that he can’t articulate what this desertion of duty hes going through is going to come to.

Waitress (Rosa) gets hooked onto his grin pretty quick.

Bruno 6She’s even dancing to his mouth organ. Some Brunos have all the luck. Plus he’s got a pretty wife back in Switzerland pining for him. And he’s writing to wife about this Rosa affair, sending films. Not nice Bruno. Isn’t this likely to upset your wife Bruno? Yes. Do you give a monkeys? No, appears not. Seems to be revelling in loving 2 women at the same time. Yes, lucky boy.

His conscience (re duty to job, responsibility to wife) seems to have broken free of its moral moorings. Free not to do anything is, for Bruno, happy. And throw in a bit of romantic rumpy-pumpy with a young foreign waitress.

White city 3“What are you doing here? Who are you?” Rosa wants to know. But he hasn’t got a clue – what he’s doing, or who he is. He’s got a bad case of existential ennui mixed together with existential forgetfulness.

In its 2nd half the film breaks apart, fragments, “Time has decomposed”. I suppose that’s ok. Its a going nowhere kind of film, a film about stasis, impasse, breakdown.

But of course he isn’t falling apart into total oblivion here. Its just been a bit of mini mid-life craziness. A temporary lapse. He’s getting back on the train to Der Schweiz and back again to fight it out with his anguished wife.

Or is he? Because there’s a lovely young girl sat opposite him on the train. They’re looking at one another. Bruno is smiling. If he breaks open that flop-eared grin again – she’s done for.

So 30 years on have I liked this film as much as i did back then in Berlin? Yes, I liked still, but not quite as much.

Bruno’s inner turmoil  is a bit too cutely smoothed over by his flop eared grin. He seems to be coasting through his crisis, rather than rocked and rolled over (by it)

And the lonely pining sax that keeps blaring up every 10 minutes (nothing dates 80’s films more than these sax solos) gets on my nerves a bit.

(And why do Brunos cream coloured chinos – which he’s been wearing the whole film – always look so spotlessly clean?)

But its a film I’ll keep. And no doubt watch again. Because Ganz gives such good grin.

Dir: Alain Tanner, Switzerland

7.5/10

 

Lost in Translation (2003)

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I was given this film as a birthday present video about 10 years ago. I remember thinking it underwhelming. I ended up losing it (the woman who’d given it got lost too)

In the subsequent years since the film has acquired a cultish cache. So I’ve given it another whirl to see if I might like it better now.

I kind if did. But only kind of.

The best thing in the film is Scarlet Johansson. This was her transition into serious adult films. A 19 year old playing a 25 year old with an old weary head on. A neglected wife who can’t really connect to her young photographer husbands trite pop band and celebrity lifestyle (because she’s a philosophy graduate and too smart for all that nonsense) But she’s here in Japan, hanging on, hanging around, with nothing much to do. Feeling increasingly lethargic, despondent, lost.

In her hotel is Bill Murray. A faded and jaded A-List actor shooting a whisky commercial. He can’t understand these weirdo Japanese with their smiley cheesiness and crackpot inanity. But he’s getting paid 2 million bucks so what the fuck, he’ll cheese his smile back with all the lack of sincerity he can be bothered to muster. He’s just playing the game. But bored by it. And bored by himself being bored by it. Would want to get out of this fatuously irritating Japan, this Tokyo trite life.

So Bill’s dissatisfied and Scarlet’s dissatisfied. And they’ve gradually slid up to one another, to syphon off some existential ennui together, share in and slip out of their listless lostness.

We’re meant to see this as the conjoining of two alienated souls into one elective affinity. Dispirited spirits becoming attached to one another. The consolation of shared self-awareness, the solace of ironic displacement found in the others knowing gaze.

I kind of believed in their platonic attraction. It felt like a credible connection. Why can’t a 50 something man and a 20 something girl find in one another the same kind of ironic detachment, share in the same kind of estrangement and loss of identity? Scarlet isn’t a kid. She’s got watchful, wary eyes. Her presence is poised and calmly composed. She has a restful serenity about her that belies her age.  Shes a maturing presence. She becomes as old as old Bill is.  Here is a little clip I like – because it evokes the whole detached mood of the film for me – of Scarlet sat watching over the vast metropolis of Tokyo

Music by Squarepusher. I had edited some of my own clips of the film but can’t be bothered now to upload them (shows I’m not quite as into this film as I’m trying to be)

Gradually, Scarlet seems to be getting into a bit of Big Daddy projection with old Bill. And he’s trying to desist and resist. This becomes the central implicit tension driving the narrative. Is he going to? Are they going to? Will they be going to – go anywhere? I didn’t want them to. Lets not have this great romantic loved up ending. But it kind of happened. At the end he had to go running after in the street, and they have to do the Goodbye Kiss. But at least theres something of an open ending left over (what did he whisper into her ear?) They can’t really be getting together though. That would be too much like every dirty old mans perfect fantasy. Sofia Coppola – the director – isn’t going to allow that to happen (is she?) Lets get real here guys!

So I’ve been buying into the off-romance ambivalence between Bill and Scarlet. But I didn’t like Sofia Coppola’s American take on Non-American ‘foreign’ culture. The mickey-mockery of little jappy Japs is gross; who’d have thought they ken nat talko Ingliss plopelly (“lip my stockin” anybody?) I mean, this karaoke culture is stupit wight? If this ridicule was meant as parody it struck the wrong note (for me) Satire requires more subtly and intelligence than farcical pandering to caricature and cliché. It just felt like facile racist stereotyping going on. Too contemptous, way too condescending. Sofia Coppola makes Tokyo seem like the most vacuous place on earth – and its Japanese occupants the most inane people in it. It wasn’t funny.

Would I watch this film a 3rd time? I doubt it. In fact I’ve already deleted it from my hard-drive. But of course if my next girlfriend buys it me as a birthday present I’d probably watch it with her.

Dir : Sofia Coppola, USA

6.5/10

The Ox (1991)

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When life is too hard it can make you do desperate things. Through kitchen window you see this ox.

You are starving. Your wife is starving. Your baby might die. There is no social security. This is Sweden in 1867.  The winter is as terrible as a terrible winter can be

So, in a moment of madness, you do this.

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Take up a sledgehammer and slam it into the ox’s head. That ox was not yours (the slow-motion killing of the ox is horribly but brilliantly filmed)

Its a sin – against God. It’s breaking the law. Its a betrayal of fellow feeling and neighbourly trust. You have wronged the very people you’re joined together to.

Things are only going to go one way from here. You will be found out and you will be punished. You will be sentenced to a life sentence of hard labour and given 40 lashes. Your wife will be left behind to fend for herself and the baby, alone. To survive she will give a strange man her body because he brings food and you (and baby) are starving (almost to death)

But eventually, all with be alright in the end. You will have been pardoned and released. You will give your wife the forgiveness that your neighbour forgave you. You will go on to have 8 kids and become a big happy family after all.

And so endeth the Parable of the Ox. We have all been chastened, but well instructed. We will never smack, steal, slaughter, or eat ox again. Not even if it was given to us. On a plate. Or boiled in bowl. From now on Ox is a no no (not even with Oxo, bu-bum)

I liked this film. I like it when people are starving and having a hard time. I like it when its winter and all you’ve got to look forward to is a little bit of brown broth. It makes me feel all warm and safe inside knowing that other worlds and other times and other people have suffered so much so that i don’t have to (suffer so much) My suffering is a doddle really.

All the usual top Swedes are in this film: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Lennart Hjulström, Stellan Skarsgård – and Sven Nykvist directing. They all do impeccable jobs.

Dir: Sven Nykvist, Sweden

7.5/10

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

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They’re about to kiss one another. Peter Finch is going to kiss Murray Head. That was shocking. Then (back in 1971) It stills feels shocking now (2014) Maybe because its Peter Finch. And its a proper kiss. No tongues, but plenty of mouth. I wanted to stop watching then (I must be homophobic) Mind you, I didn’t much care for Murray Heads canoodling with Glenda Jackson either.

This film was considered quite racy back in 1971.  Considered ahead of its time. Apparently cinema audiences screamed when they saw The Kiss.

Glenda Jackson is the other corner of this love-triangle. Murray Head is shagging the pair of them.

Glenda Jackson is as good as she always is. And Peter Finch is as good as he always is. They both got nominated for Oscars. Murray Head didn’t. I’m not surprised. He’s hopeless. Can’t act. Schlesinger – the director – later regretted casting him, even blaming him for the film’s box-office failure, saying Head “is a personality more than an actor” and that “I think some people who didn’t like it couldn’t understand the predicament. If they had found the boy interesting and entertaining, perhaps they would have understood it more”.

I didn’t find him either interesting or entertaining. Selfish yes. Shallow yes. Unsympathetic yes. But his on-screen presence is one-dimensional, flat (when compared to his other 2 stellar leads) It’s hard to say whether Murray Head is acting like a stuck-up spoilt twat, or if he actually was one (my guess is – with a name like Murray Head – he probably was one)

So the film has got a fatal flaw at the centre, the heart of it; this Murray Head nit. He should have stuck with wailing his “Say it ain’t so” Joes (which I remember singing at the time)

Peter and Glenda put in a shift; but lazy lover boy Head wastes all their good effort. I can’t give this film the thumbs up.

Dir : John Schlesinger, UK

5/10

The Angry Silence (1960)

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Dear old Dickie Attenborough died this week (at the grand old age of nearly 91) so I’ve been torrenting some of the early films he did with Bryan Forbes. They formed their own production company Beaver Films, of which this – The Angry Silence – was the first film.

I’ve got a soft spot for old Brit films. My memories of the 1960’s aren’t memorable; but these films trigger off fuzzy warm feelings I didn’t realise I had. An odd nostalgia for those monochromal black and white days. Where you didn’t have much or get much of anything. But you made do with what you had.

Days of daily monotony. The factory production line grind. The limited amount of pleasure, luxury, ease. Life not really to be enjoyed, but to be got through as best you can, survived, with no fancy airs or graces. Mind you, if you’re lucky, and a bit of a Jack-the-lad with the ladies you might get your leg over with the blonde tart from the pay office

Thats Michael Craig trying it on with pretty Penelope Horner. Only it turns out she’s not a tart. So he’s not having any. Got to treat her right. She’s a respectable girl.

But if you’re a jammy Dickie you could have a lovely Italian bird. Such is Richard Attenboroughs lucky lot. Having the lovely Pier Angeli making home and babies and pasta for him. I’d never heard of, or seen, her before. What a revelation. She lovelies up this film every time she’s in it. I was so smitten with Pier Angeli I’ve made an 11 minute edit of her loveliest moments

I love her English. It feels far more naturalistic sounding than the rather stilted diction of the English actors with their pastiche ‘workin class’ mimickry (I love her “You’re not gonna write anything baaad?“) The hot anger she throws at “Joe bloody Wallace” (Michael Craig) for his cowardly behaviour had me right behind her. Go for it girl. Her warm  – sometimes hot – Italian temper flows sympathetic blood into the cold cuts of hurt stabbing her Dickie.

Not that Richard Attenborough is lacking in the old anger department either. He’s getting right peed of with how he’s being treated by his so-called ‘fellow’ workers. Let it rip Dick.

“It happens you’re not the law Mr God Almighty Connelly mate!!” (I know I shouldn’t have but I laughed)

“You keep your big idle trap shut, don’t you Joe! One of these days you’re gonna sit so hard on that fence you’re gonna split yourself right up the middle!’

You see, Tom (Attenborough) has been sent to Coventry. For being a scab. Just because he’s not conforming, got a mind of his own, daring to be different, he’s being pushed out and punished for it.

His anger eventually turns to rage “You don’t need worry about not talking to me. I don’t want you to talk to me – do you hear!!”. Wow. What a powerful scene that is. Richard, you could act old boy. You got my blood boiling there too. I’m walking out of that canteen with you together, side by side (me and you against the whole fucking lot of them)

This film didn’t do much at the box-office. And it hasn’t been seen much since. To me its the less charismatic cousin of Saturday Night Sunday Morning (which came out a couple of years later, in 1962) But I’ll certainly watch it again. Even if only to hear Pier Angeli say “You’re not gonna write anything baaaad” again (she killed herself 11 years after this film was made, aged 39 only. Terrible)

Dir : Guy Green, UK

7.5/10