Monday, September 16, 2019

Autumn Season 2019

All films start at 8.30 pm in the Skerries Sailing Club.
Tickets / membership at the door.

Wednesday 25 September – Arctic
Dir: Joe Penna, 2018, Iceland, 98 mins Cert: CLUB
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir
Language: English
Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5aD9ppoQIo

It doesn’t take long for Joe Penna’s Arctic to establish itself as one of the best movies ever made about a man stranded in the wilderness. In fact, there’s a small but crystalline moment in the first act (some 15 or 20 minutes in, maybe) when this hellishly cold portrait of human endurance claws ahead of the pack and never looks back.

The context is easy to describe — the conflict frozen across Mads Mikkelsen’s face is not. The Danish star, throwing himself into an Iceland shoot that could probably make for a compelling survival story unto itself, plays a downed pilot named Overgård. The nearly wordless film starts at some point after his plane has crashed into a deep white valley in the middle of nowhere. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly the accident took place, but it’s obvious that our hero has been out there for longer than most of us could ever hope to last.

From the very first scene, the busted fuselage has already been converted into a homey little shelter that could pass for a decent one-bedroom in Brooklyn. Overgård has had time to dig out a massive S.O.S. in the snow, and to fill a freezer with the bony fish he’s snagged from beneath the ice. He’s had time to stack a pile of ugly black stones into a small grave for someone whose identity we never learn — likely a co-pilot, but we’re left to assume. There’s no way of knowing if Overgård was clean- shaven before the crash, but he wears his beard well (the elegant slope of Mikkelsen’s face makes the icicles look like jewelry).

And then — as Overgård is trying to stab a trout in a snowstorm — he spots a rescue helicopter cutting its way towards him. It promptly crashes, the winds driving the chopper headfirst into the ground. Maybe there are some places where people just shouldn’t fly.

This is when Arctic starts to thaw into something unexpectedly rich and humane; one perfect reaction shot is all it takes for Penna’s debut feature to prove itself more lucid 127 Hours and more dynamic than All Is Lost (admittedly a low bar to clear). You expect Overgård to sprint over the nearest ridge so he can get a clear view of the wreckage, but... he doesn’t. On the contrary, he just stands in place, as though his feet were stuck to the snow.

Cinematographer Tómas Örn Tómasson, always opting for a steadiness that belies the chaos of Overgård’s situation, trains his camera on Mikkelsen’s static face. It’s like he’s short-circuiting for a second. The disappointment in his eyes is obvious, but we also note the lack of disbelief — how surprising can a disaster really be after so many days spent waiting for death? Plus, Overgård is totally wiped out. Even a rugged and resourceful MacGyver type like him might not have the strength to save anyone. Besides, that was supposed to be their job!

Of course he eventually does the right thing, but that fleeting hesitation is enough to sell us on Overgård’s fragility. Penna’s script, co-written with Ryan Morrison, doesn’t need a flimsy backstory to explain why this guy wants to live, or what it might take to rekindle his fading hopes. Penna recognizes that certain scenarios are so complete that any kind of additional motivation tends to smell bad.

One of the two helicopter pilots is still alive (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir), if only just. She’s got an infected wound on her abdomen, but she also has a lighter and some noodles. That’s a great recipe for a hot meal. Suddenly, those mountains in the distance start too look a little closer. And so they set off to a distant point on the map, Overgård tobogganing his silent new friend across the Arctic like some kind of frozen Fitzcarraldo. They exit the crash site, pursued by a polar bear.

Initially written as a sci-fi adventure set on Mars (before everyone involved came to their senses), Arctic works because it’s so believable. The movie never cheats or takes shortcuts — in fact, Overgård and his living cargo are forced to take the long way round. Penna has packed the film with incident and excitement, even making room for a bear attack sequence that puts The Revenant to shame, but even the most Hollywood moments obey a certain logic.

More than that, Penna finds ways to infuse real drama into potentially mundane details. We always know where the characters are and what’s at stake with each step, so that watching Mikkelsen turn a sled into a makeshift shelter achieves the excitement of a major setpiece. The photo Overgård finds of the pilot with her husband and baby — at first a maudlin touch — comes to assume a genuine emotional heft. Some credit for that belongs to Joseph Trapanese’s low and stirring score, but the brunt of its power exists between Mikkelsen and the man he’s playing. Overgård needs someone to live for, even if he’s not the person who ultimately needs to live for them.

It’s broad stuff, and well-trod terrain for a movie that takes place in uncharted territory, but it cuts straight to the difference between endurance and survival. Movies like this are typically only exciting because the hero might die. Arctic is so compelling because Overgård might not.
- David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Wednesday 9 October – Float Like a Butterfly
Dir: Carmel Winters, 2018, Ireland, 101 min, Cert: 15A
Starring: Hazel Doupe, Dara Devaney, Johnny Collins, Hilda Fay, Lalor Roddy
Language: English

We have the opportunity to screen 'Float Like a Butterfly' starring Hazel Doupe from Skerries and a past pupil of Skerries Community College!

Winner of the Audience Award at the Cork Film Festival November 2018.

15-year-old Frances lost her mother in a fight. The same fight which led to her father being locked up in jail for the last ten years. Frances has never forgiven the police sergeant who she feels is responsible for this. She’s got fighting in her blood, just like her idol Muhammad Ali. And like Ali, she wants to be the Greatest too.  

When her father gets out of jail, Frances is starry-eyed. Together they can take on the world. But her father doesn't turn out to be the hero she remembers. Required to keep the peace due to the conditions of his parole, he's forced to endure humiliation from the police sergeant, much to Frances' dismay. And to make up for lost time, he is determined to make a man of his son and an obedient wife of his daughter.  

Frances never wanted to clash with her beloved father, but when he gives her boxing gloves to a prospective husband to “keep her in line” she has to make a stand. Cast out by the world and her family alike, Frances must fight even for the right to fight. Some people say it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. But for Frances losing is not an option. This is a fight she has been training for all her life. At stake is her own freedom, her mother's honour and her father's faith. She knows the only way she can end this war is to win it.
Screen Ireland

Wednesday 23 October – Sink or Swim
Le Grand Bain
Dir: Gilles Lellouche, 2018, France, 122 mins, Cert: 15A
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Guillaume Canet, Benoît Poelvoorde,Jean-Hugues Anglade, Virginie Efira
Language: French
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t24K8KFiv7k

You wait ages for an all-male synchronised swimming comedy and then two come along at once. Gilles Lellouche dives in first with Sink Or Swim (Le Grand Bain), a surefooted crowdpleaser with enough warmth and the committed talents of a stellar ensemble cast to fend off any sense of predictability. It should make commercial waves on its domestic release later this year and travel well.

The Full Monty appears to have been the inspiration for both Lellouche and the forthcoming British effort Swimming With Men. There is a similar sense of emasculated, middle-aged men tackling their demons by committing to the most unlikely of public acts. Sink Or Swim doesn’t cut quite so deeply but has a likeable charm and sneaks up on the viewer in its more reflective, emotional moments.

Mathieu Amalric’s Betrand is unemployed, depressed and sending his days playing Candy Crush when he spots a sign seeking new members for an all-male team of synchronised swimmers. Amateurs are welcome, which is just as well given that the rum bunch of current members are neither very synchronised nor especially professional.

Under the indulgent tutelage of coach Delphine (Virginie Efira), the team starts to train regularly and the sessions in the pool prove as valuable as the time spent bonding over drinks in the pub or relaxing in the sauna. Every one of them has a problem of some kind from businessman Marcus (Benoit Poelvoorde) teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, to glowering uptight Laurent (Guillaume Canet) and an aging rocker (Jean-Hugues Anglade) who still nurtures dreams of stardom after 17 albums and no hit records.

There is nothing too surprising about how Sink Or Swim unfolds as the men bicker, develop a sense of solidarity and regain self-respect from their involvement in the group and a reckless decision to compete in the World Championships. There are training montages, fights, foolishness and sentimental life lessons along the way.

Sink Or Swim works because of a screenplay with some genuinely funny moments and a jaunty, confident approach from Lellouche that displays his sure comic timing and faith in the performers. Jean-Hughes Anglade is rather touching as a gentle man still hoping to impress his daughter, Jonathan Zacca├» is a hoot as the slow-witted but endlessly kind-hearted Thibault and it is a delight to see Mathieu Amalric’s Bertrand slowly coming back to life and seizing his moment.

The music choices, including Olivia Newton-John’s Let’s Get Physical and the Vangelis Chariots of Fire theme, are all a little on the nose and the film feels overlong as it nudges the two hour mark. There are reservations, but this is still a well-made, feel good entertainment that will win the audience over long before the big finale in Norway.
- Allan Hunter, Screen Daily

Wednesday 6 November – The Favourite
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018, Ireland, UK, USA, 119 mins Cert:15A
Starring: Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Language: English
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYb-wkehT1g

Just when we thought Olivia Colman couldn’t get any better, she steps up to movie- star lead status with an uproarious performance as Britain’s needy and emotionally wounded Queen Anne in this bizarre black comedy of the 18th-century court, a souped up and sweary quasi-Restoration romp full of intrigue and plotting – with wigs, clavichords and long corridors to storm down. The drama is loosely based on the true story of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, competing with her cousin Abigail, Baroness Masham, for the monarch’s favours, and creating a horribly dysfunctional politico-sexual love triangle with mother issues. The two emotional duelists are played here by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, the latter with a very good Brit accent.

There is a cheerfully obscene original script from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, directed by the Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos, who brings to it the absurdism he’s already known for, along with something even more jagged and uninhibited. In fact, The Favourite may have corrected Lanthimos’s tendency towards arthouse torpor. It is a scabrous and often hilarious film, made loopier by the nightmarish visions and wide-angle distortions contrived by the cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

At first – I admit it – I thought these stylisations were going to be insufferable, and even had the unworthy thought that this script might work quite as well with a trad director, in a trad style. But no. Acclimatisation to the visual and verbal rhetoric doesn’t take long and the point is that Lanthimos’s provocations pump and energise the screenplay, which with a conventional director might have just reverted to simpering bonnets-and-ruffles period drama, for all the raucous language.

Olivia Colman’s queen is a really funny creation – perhaps funnier and more sympathetic than her Queen Elizabeth II is going to be for Netflix, but who knows how she will reinvent that role? Her Anne is like something between the QEI that Quentin Crisp created in Sally Potter’s Orlando and a weird blend of Nursey and QEI in Blackadder. But that doesn’t do justice to the sadness of her Queen Anne: someone who has been infantilised by a lifetime of emotional manipulation. She is transported everywhere by wheelchair or sedan chair but can walk just as well. She sometimes flies into something between an anxiety attack and a rage at music or the spectacle of people enjoying themselves because of a self-hating inability to participate in pleasure. There is a private tragedy in her life which means that her emotional energies have been displaced into her large menagerie of house rabbits and she shows a keen interest in racing ducks and lobsters. Again: in the hands of an actor who wasn’t funny this could have been awful, but Colman sells all of it.

Weisz plays her court favourite and intimate Lady Sarah, who deploys every sly sexual and emotional trick to keep the monarch co-dependent and keen on the raising of taxes for an ongoing French war that will glorify Lady Sarah’s warrior husband Marlborough (Mark Gatiss). This is to the horror of minister, Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult). Then a gentlewoman and cousin of Sarah’s, fallen on hard times, arrives at the court as a servant: this is Abigail (Stone), whose knowledge of medicinal herbs helps the queen’s gout. Her majesty takes a shine to the pretty little thing. So does the predatory nobleman Lord Masham (Joe Alwyn). The contest between Abigail and Sarah is on like the 18th-century equivalent of Donkey Kong.

If there is a flaw in the film, it is probably that Colman will inevitably upstage Stone and Weisz, and put their very important face-off in the shade. That is a minor consideration. The Favourite is full of freaky zingers and deeply strange laugh-lines: I loved the idea of someone sleeping like a “shot badger”. (There’s quite a lot about badgers.) And The Favourite is a reminder that the idea of royalty as polite and picturesquely sentimental is something that came in with Queen Victoria: The Favourite is more punk than that. It’s a rousingly nasty, bleary, hungover punchup.
- Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Wednesday 20 November – Foxtrot
Dir: Samuel Maoz, 2017, Germany, France, Israel, Switzerland, 113 mins, Cert: 15A
Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonatan Shiray, Karin Ugowski
Language: Hebrew

This emotional knockout from Israel isn’t nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film at the 2018 Oscars – another strike to add to the tally of Academy cock-ups. From first shot to last, Foxtrot takes a piece out of you. Director Samuel Maoz (Lebanon) begins with a devastating moment of grief: Soldiers arrive at the home of a middle- aged couple to tell Dafna (Sarah Adler) and Michael Feldman (Lior Ashkenazi) that their son has been killed in the line of duty. As his mother is tranquilized, his father is told about funeral arrangements. The military ritual is tragically commonplace. But for Michael, the sudden desolation is impossible to process. After calling his Auschwitz- survivor mother (Karin Ugowski), he locks himself in the bathroom, his face ravaged with anguish, pouring scalding water on his hands. Ashkenzai, a superb actor, reaches a new career peak. You will be shaken.

In the film’s second section – there are three – Maoz switches focus to four Israeli soldiers on border patrol in the desert. Jonathan (Yonatan Shiray), the Feldmans’ son, is one of a group manning a security checkpoint. We watch the young soldiers sleep in a large shipping container and fight off boredom with talk, video games, even a little soft-shoe. Maoz and the gifted cinematographer Giora Bejach turn the desert into a dream-like landscape where a camel can walk through a security gate and Jonathan can grab a rifle and use it as a dance partner. The mood is broken when Palestinians attempt to cross and suffer humiliating interrogations. It does not end well.

In the final third, we’re back in the Feldman apartment, where a personal war is raging between Michael and Dafna. Moaz builds his film out of puzzle pieces that don’t easily fit together. But there’s no mistaking the writer-director’s anger at his country for sending soldiers to die for questionable politics. That anger has brought accusations against the movie’s supposed “anti-Israel narrative.” Is it that or more likely a humanist plea for change directed at any country that extends war and ignores its futility? You be the judge. Foxtrot makes demands on audiences and then richly rewards them. It’s a riveting, deeply resonant achievement.
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


Wednesday 4 December – Wild Rose
Dir: Tom Harper, 2018, UK, 101 mins, Cert: 15A
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo
Language: English
Trailer: https://youtu.be/GlLq00lYiQ8

Great country songs are often made from the most basic musical elements — a few chords, a hummable melody and chorus, maybe a key change — but somehow those humble components can be worked into something transcendent with the alchemical addition of skillful playing, energetic showmanship, ace songwriting and sincerity.

Fittingly, the British comedy-drama Wild Rose pulls off the same kind of trick as a movie. It posits a classic setup — a young rebel (in this case a young Glaswegian woman fresh out of prison, played by the incandescent Jessie Buckley) with a raw streak of talent (singing country music) and then tests how badly she wants to succeed (will she leave her young children for a chance to go to Nashville?). Out of these familiar, predictable elements director Tom Harper and screenwriter Nicole Taylor have fashioned something entirely delightful, fresh as a Scottish summer evening. The film stays in "key," to extend the musical metaphor, with a narrational circle of fifths that creates certain emotional lows and highs and hits them accordingly, but even that mild predictability makes it more lovable, and catchy as a burr on a long-haired dog. Certain to win hearts in its home market and acquired by Neon at Toronto, this could represent a breakout, toe-tapping hit.

Sent to the big house for a year for throwing a bag of heroin over a fence at another prison, 23-year-old Rose-Lynn Harlan (Buckley) is reissued with her fringed white leather jacket and matching cowboy boots, and freed on parole, albeit with an anklet that enforces curfew every night. After a quick stop en route for some al fresco sex with her beau Elliot (James Harkness), Rose-Lynn arrives at her mother's house in Priesthill, a working-class area on Glasgow's south side that's certainly seldom used as film location.

Her mother Marion (Julie Walters, allowed a rare chance to show off her strong and considerable dramatic range), a bakery employee, has been looking after Rose- Lynn's two under-10 kids while she's been away. The children are suspicious and shy of the prodigal mother, who doesn't seem to know quite how to connect with them. In any case, Rose-Lynn is more worked up about getting back her old gig singing with a band at a local country music club, but with her abrasive interpersonal skills, the court-ordered ankle bracelet and her tendency to throw right hooks, nix that.

Marion suggests Lynn-Anne take over an arthritis-ridden friend's job as a daily housekeeper for Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), a cheery, bohemian English transplant who's married to a self-made Scotsman (Jamie Sives), has two sweet young children of her own, a house big enough that a housekeeper is required and plenty of time on her hands. After hearing Rose-Lynn singing while working (a charming dreamlike sequence where the backing band are stationed around the mansion's rooms while Rose-Lynn cleans), the children and Susannah become her newest, most passionate fans.

Putting a smart twist on what viewers, especially British ones, might expect when it comes to cross-class relations, Rose-Lynn and Susannah become genuine friends. Susannah has edges and a mild case of self-absorption, but she's a very rare example of a middle-class character in a British film dominated by working-class people who is not a villain, a snob or a stereotyped twit. Certainly, the fact that she's played by Okonedo enhances her likability, and the actor's mixed race (never remarked on once by the other characters) perhaps changes the complex algebra of class at play here. But as the film goes on, it becomes clear that it's about, among other things, non-sexual relationships between women. Rose-Lynn's occasional trysts with Elliot seem to mean almost nothing to her. It's her friendship with Susannah and tempestuous relationship with her mother that drive the plot forward.If you apply the Bechdel test, this is a film that passes with flying colors.

Nevertheless, above all else, thematically the story is about good old-fashioned self- discovery, a lost lamb finding herself, but once again the journey doesn't zig and zag exactly how you'd expect. She must find herself morally but also musically, and the two objectives are almost the same thing. While imbued with deep respect for country music and its history (the soundtrack, curated by composer-supervisor Jack Arnold, is a cracker), Wild Rose is tuned into the contradictions of a Glaswegian wanting to break into country, a music that's very much about place and cultural identity.

Thoughtful as these extra dimensions are, and enhancements to what is a refreshingly subtle work, most people won't absorb them consciously because they'll be too dazzled by Buckley making a blazing bid for big-time fame. She had already caught some attention with her mesmeric, nuanced performances in Beast last year, and on the recent BBC adaptation of War and Peace that Harper directed. Irish viewers will remember her as a girl from Kerry who came second in a TV singing contest. As a musician, she's terrific, but as an actress she's even better, with ceaselessly mobile features like a changeable Northern sky.
- Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter.