Review: Lady Bird

Every so often I challenge myself to watch a film that I might not usually go to. An American High School coming-of-age movie would not be my first choice, but since Lady Bird seemed to be dividing opinion between critics and audience, I thought I’d review it before it either did or didn’t win an Oscar.
First off, I was wrong-footed by the title, as I thought of the nursery rhyme: “Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly away home.” It was a far-cry from Ken Loach’s harrowing Ladybird, Ladybird, and Carroll Ballard’s sweet film, Fly Away Home with Anna Paquin – who also plays in Kenneth Lonergan’s sadly misfired masterpiece, Margaret. I’ll return to this film presently. Lady Bird seems a more straight-forward film at first, following the eponymous (albeit, self-named) character on her ‘voyage of self-discovery.’ And, yes, that’s a cliché.

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Review: Written on the Body

Sometimes as a reviewer I’m not sure if I should be writing up an event or its content. A book-launch review, for example, needn’t be about the book itself, but what the writer has to say about the writing process (see, for example, my review of Alan Hollinghurst).
A similar case ensued when I saw an event at the Filmhouse titled Written on the Body. I immediately thought of Jeanette Winterson’s 1992 book… possibly for the right reasons. This selection of short films was presented in response to Scotland’s LGBT History Month. The titles of the films alone drew me in; who could resist names like Spermwhore and Mamihlapinatapai! This sort of fare has, perhaps, a niche market – and therefore just what Filmhouse does best.

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Review: The Shape of Water

We all know Guillermo del Toro likes his weird creatures. But in The Shape of Water, he takes fantasy to another level. I’m not one for plot-spoilers, so I’ll tread carefully here. The thing is, I’m really not sure what this film is trying to be – mainly because the ‘creature’ doesn’t have much to say. I mean to say philosophically, let alone character-wise: he’s just an unexplained amphibian, trapped in a top-secret Government lab somewhere in 1960’s USA.

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Review: Loveless

If a pleasant, uplifting trip to the pictures is what you’re after, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless is not the film for you. It’s there in the title: this is a tale of despair and – you’ve guessed it – lovelessness. Don’t let me put you off though. It’s a brilliant film, and has received high acclaim throughout the film industry, even if it was unlikely to please its country of origin. Cannes awarded it the Jury Prize, and it has been nominated as best foreign film in the Oscars, despite its lack of happy ending.

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Review: Alan Hollinghurst

To say that Alan Hollinghurst introduced me to homosexuality in 1988 may be a slightly overstated claim. As a student of a London Music Conservatoire, I thought I was pretty familiar with the gay scene. But on finding a discarded copy of The Swimming Pool Library on a tube train, my eyes were opened to a world well-beyond the camp milieu of my college Student Union. Hollinghurst’s first novel shocked and thrilled in equal measure, and despite the huge class differences between us, I felt this writer was saying something significant.

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