Tag Archives: Female Director

And Breathe Normally

Lesbians in Iceland! Sort of. Maybe not as cheerful as that, sadly. However, Free for All Month focusses itself this week on a subtle examination of poverty, homelessness and the search for asylum. It’s bleak AF frankly but kind of sort of beautiful.

And Breathe Normally (2018), or Andið eðlilega (original title)

Two women, Lára (Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir) and Adja (Babetida Sadjo) find their lives and troubles colliding in this slow but impactful film.

Lára, an apparent former addict and her son Eldar (Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson) are on the verge of hitting rock bottom. Things are shaky as we meet them but when the pair are evicted (along with their new rescue cat), they find themselves sleeping in the car and eating free supermarket samples for dinner.

Lára manages to dress this up as an adventure to Eldar who is remarkably chill for a kid and actually, is quite sweet. Lára isn’t jobless though, she’s a trainee Immigration Officer trying to become permanent and you get the impression there’s quite a lot of competition for a job like this. Accordingly she is very thorough, so when Adja comes through passport control on her way to North America with a dodgy passport, Lára clocks it – and so begins Adja’s personal hell.

Adja it turns out is seeking asylum from her country Guinea-Bissau and is travelling with her sister and young daughter, both of who get through security and arrive at their intended destination: Canada. When she is detained, Adja claims to be travelling alone and although Lára realises otherwise, she keeps schtum. Unfortunately for Lára, she is rewarded for her eagle-eyed skills by being permitted to sit in on the initial interview with Adja. Which is all kinds of awkward.

Adja is send to a half-way house with the threat of deportation hanging over her. The refugee center isn’t great and is filled with people in similar situations. Adja witnesses one of the tenants being forcibly removed by Immigration in the middle of the night and this understandably freaks her the fuck out.

One day by chance, the two women find their lives entwined once more. Adja meets Eldar when his cat runs away – and off the back of this Lára is forced to show her kindness. This is not something she lacks, it’s just that Lára is very conscious of the consequences her actions have had for Adja. Gradually though Adja twigs that the duo have their own issues and offers them shelter in her tiny, temporary room. She also offers to babysit Eldar while Lára goes to work. This is something that seems to bring her comfort in light of being separated from her daughter, who she can only chat to on the communal payphone.

Eldar and Adja bond and it is through this interaction that we get a little insight into Adja’s life. During a conversation with her legal support, we learn she is fleeing her country because of her sexuality. With Eldar she opens up about her ‘friendship’ with her lover, who seems not to be with us anymore. While there are hints of trauma in both the women’s lives, the film does not fully go in on them and somehow the simple suggestion of them feels worse.

In the end, a decision is made about Adja’s future and she is forced to consider some very drastic action. Luckily for her she now has a new friend to look out for her – and I’m sorry but the ending of this film made me feel all the feels. These women deserve better than the hands they were dealt and hopefully, they both finally get it.

While it is bleak and cold to look at (lots of frosty tarmac surrounding the airport Lára works in), the performances are great and it is a nice story. It’s proof that you never really know what other people are going through until they show you.

The men in this movie are mostly secondary, with the exception of Eldar and I like that. Lára’s bosses are largely unsmiling and authoritative, while Adja’s fellow (male) residents are portrayed (unfairly?) as people doing what they need to do to survive (e.g. wheeling n’ dealing). At one point Adja is approached and offered sex work. But this is about the struggle and these women find common ground in one another without the usual cliché of your typical odd-couple pairing.

“Get in bitch, we’re going shopping…”

Lára is also gay and our protagonists are not thrown together sexually for the titillation of the viewer and I’m here for that (I’m also here for titillation but you know what I mean). It’s no surprise that this was written and directed by a woman, Isold Uggadottir. In her hands it is a thoughtful study on immigration and more importantly, it humanises both sides of the coin. Refugees are people with lives and loves who don’t deserve the negativity they receive, particularly in the press (shock horror!) and Lára is a human being too, just trying to do the right fucking thing.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of And Breathe Normally? Would she deport it from her memory right away or help it escape its own nightmare? Find out here.

Patchwork (Film) Review

Horror month rumbles on and I for one am as happy as a clam about it. This month is something of a mish mash of horror ideas which is ironic given the premise. Shall we?

Patchwork (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

A bombastic throw-back horror-comedy that follows three young women who go out partying one night and find themselves Frankensteined together in one body. Now they must put aside their differences so they can find who did this and exact revenge!

My Review

Blimey. This week’s pick is not what you’d call a pretty picture – we do get three (sort of) Final Girls for the price of one though so I’m not really mad at it.

Jennifer (Tory Stolper), Ellie (Tracey Fairaway) and Madeleine (Maria Blasucci) are three individual women. To start with. Via a series of flashbacks we learn that each were present in the same bar on the night they became one. Thanks to a maniacal gentleman known only as The Surgeon (Corey Sorenson), who splices them together in the same body, our trio are quickly and reluctantly acquainted.

All conscious and babbling at once, the girls share one body and three minds which proves challenging but also fucking awesome when they pool their skills to solve the mystery of what happened to them.

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We’ve all been there, amirite?

Jennifer is a billy no mates who, after a lack luster birthday party returns home to wait for her married lover. Here she is knocked unconscious and when she awakes, she’s not alone. She is joined by ditzy party girl Ellie and quiet girl Madeleine – as mentioned above, in the same mangled body.

Luckily, all three are on the same page regarding vengeance and the film is at its best when they go on a rampage for the truth, revenge and hopefully, a cure. Along the way they meet geeky Garret (James Phelps) who may have a big thing for bitchy Jennifer, and scene by scene they kick arse and take names (because even if half the men in this bar are not The Surgeon, they are THE WORST and therefore guilty of something).

Jellileine (lol) dispose of date rapists and pervs, cheats and generally douchy arseholes like pros – which is joyful because girl power but also… is there a secret lurking deep down within one of them?

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You’ve got red on you

My Thoughts

When we learn more about the motivations of one of our heroines I felt like it was trying to say something about the societal pressure of being a woman and trying to be perfect, but that falls apart for me quickly.

This film tries so hard to be kooky and falls short. It could be great if they dialed down the hamminess and stuck with the feminist theme. I enjoy the fact that each of the women has their own issues and when they start to bond it made me happy, like they’d finally found each other. But that feeling didn’t last long and I got bored quickly.

All the male characters are dreary and terrible – and this is proof that yet again comedy/body horror is so hard to get right. Which is shame because I really wanted to like it.

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Where’s your head at?

My Rating

2.5/5. A mish mash of ideas that never really come to anything, sadly.

What would my sweet think of this one? Would she surgically attach herself to it forever or… not so much? Find out here.

Bar Bahar or In Between (Film) Review

Fuck knows what our theme is anymore but who cares because next week we start the best month of the year: Halloween! So there will be tonnes of movie nastiness all over the blogs soon – but let’s not jump the gun quite yet, as we sign off September with a feminist delight.

*Minor spoilers*
*TW: rape*

Bar Bahar (or In Between) (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

Three Palestinian women living in an apartment in Tel Aviv try to find a balance between traditional and modern culture.

My Review

Leila (Mouna Hawa) and Salma (Sana Jammelieh) are progressive Palestinian girls who live and party hard together. They also look fucking cool smoking all the time – add this film to the Hot Women Smoking Hall of Fame STAT.

When their old flat mate’s cousin Noor (Shaden Kanboura) comes to live with them, they are bemused by her traditional get up and values. Leila soon starts dating Ziad (Mahmud Shalaby) while Salma gets to know Dounia (Ahlam Canaan).

Smooookin’

Noor is also involved – she is engaged to controlling fiance Wissam (Henry Andrawes) who hates the fact she now resides in Tel Aviv and that she insists on getting a job after they’re married, rather than staying home, barefoot and pregnant as scripture recommends. A fucking dickhead in other words.

The women slowly start to bond, first Salma and Noor over a hypnotic dance party in the front room, then the three of them when something awful happens to Noor at the hand of the man who supposedly loves her. Let me tell you here that the scene in which the girls tend to and comfort Noor is extremely touching.

Wissam believe that Noor has been corrupted by her forward-thinking roomies and refers to them charmingly as whores. When they find out what he’s done to their friend, they hatch a plan to rid her of him once and for all – which is a relief because she has never loved him and seems to be coming round to a less-traditional way of thinking.

I haven’t love a trio this much since We Are The Best

While Noor tries to deal with the fall out of what Wissam has done to her, Salma struggles with her family’s attitude towards her sexuality – and Leila confronts Ziad who appears to be ashamed of her and reluctant to introduce her to his family. And all the while the women grow closer and make me fall in love with each of them a hundred times over.

Will each of our heroes chose the right path for themselves, despite the consequences they may face?

My Thoughts

Man, I really liked this. It starts of kind of slow and I wasn’t sure for a split second – but then the girls start to bond and it was game over for my heart. This is all about sisterhood despite their differences, despite their circumstances – proof that kindness towards our fellow sisters is universal and it’s beautiful.

“Hi, I’m looking for Seymour Butts…”

Written and directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, it examines the contrast between traditional and modern cultures – and honestly, the men are so secondary in this – they’re just obstacles in our trio’s way.

That said when Noor calls off her wedding and comes clean to her dad, he’s a total sweetheart and tells her not to shed a tear on her horrible ex-fiance. That was a feeling moment too. I definitely recommend this, it was empowering and fun and lovely – now where’s my fucking sequel?

My Rating

4/5.

What did my angel think of this one? Would she dance in the front room with it or hide it from her family? Find out here.

Beach Rats (Film) Review

I’m beginning to think I should be banned from picking movies for the The Blog Collab because my last few have been ambulating snoozefests with a puffed up sense of their own importance. This week is no exception and even though you might be able to argue that it’s art, it’s not the kind of art I want any part in.

Gay July has been good in many ways but this is a wet fart of a swan song and I’m sorry, Jill.

Beach Rats (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

A Brooklyn teenager spends his days experimenting with drugs and looking online for older men to meet with.

My Review

If your bag is watching wayward teens wandering up and down the boulevard with their tops off then this is the movie for you. Unfortunately, these adolescents don’t get into enough japes to be interesting, instead they smoke weed and gawp at girls as they walk by and sometimes rib each other.

Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is one of the boys, a hot piece popular within a peer group that seems to look to him for leadership. By night he trawls gay chat rooms where he talks to older men. At first he says he doesn’t do any meeting up but this changes later in the movie.

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One evening on the boardwalk, Frankie meets Simone (Madeline Weinstein) who is only too eager to make him her guy. Things are very awkward between them from the start and he continually lets her down. To the men on the internet he is a guy who ‘has sex with men’, not bi-sexual or gay – but his family, friends and Simone have no inkling of his secret life.

Frankie prefers to keep the having sex with men part of his life separate from everything else and chooses older men so they are less likely to move in the same circles as his friends. As his ability to hide this part of himself starts to become increasingly difficult, his two worlds collide in a surprisingly lackluster but horrible way.

And… that’s about it.

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There’s not that much to say. The performances are fine, it looks nice with a pleasing aesthetic that focuses a lot of time grazing over the bodies of our teen cast. The ending is a little bit shocking and maybe on reflection more shocking because it’s so mundane in its execution. The only, and I pretty much mean the only part I thought was even mildly touching was the bit where Frankie’s mum begs him to tell her what’s going on after the ‘horrible act’ has happened.

There are shades of Harmony Korine (especially Kids) which I think are very deliberate but not much effort been made to make us like any of the characters. I simply didn’t care about Frankie and his struggles. I was bored silly.

Roll on August!

My Rating

2/5.

What does my love think of this one? Would she mug it for weed or take it for a moonlight stroll? Find out here.

The Fits (Film) Review

Welcome to March Madness (a week late, sorry) – basically an excuse to do whatever the fudge we want, like we’ve ever needed an excuse.

*Spoilers*

The Fits (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

While training at the gym 11-year-old tomboy Toni becomes entranced with a dance troupe. As she struggles to fit in she finds herself caught up in danger as the group begins to suffer from fainting spells and other violent fits.

My Review

There’s been a bit of a trend over the last couple of years for films that don’t bother to explain themselves. They are what they are and what you make of them is up to you. The Fits definitely falls into this camp. This dreamy, sometimes nightmarish amble through adolescence and friendship is at times fascinating, even brilliant – and just a tad boring.

Toni is a quiet, hard-working child dedicated to her boxing training and helping out her older brother at the gym he also trains in. One day she becomes enamored with a female dance troupe. To begin with she watches them from afar but eventually, with the encouragement of her brother, joins the squad.

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The main draw of this troupe seems to be their unswerving confidence and although this does not appear to come naturally to our silent protagonist, she puts the work in to improve her dance skillz – and even make a friend or two.

Things take an unusual turn when one of the dance leaders suffers an unexplained seizure. It’s shocking but as she recovers quickly and without consequence, it is soon forgotten. Until the next girl suffers ‘the fits’- then the next. Slowly but surely this phenomenon spreads through the group and Toni and her pals fear becoming the next victim. Fear, however, soon turns to something else. The fits come with a certain badge of honour and most of the girls want to be part of the rising hysteria.

It soon becomes clear that Toni is being left behind because she hasn’t suffered an attack yet, will she lose her grip on everything she now holds dear? Or will life just kind of take care of business for her?

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My Thoughts

This isn’t really your average beginning, middle and end movie. It’s more of a happening, a feeling – a rumination on puberty and of coming of age in a sometimes hopeless place. Royalty Hightower is enigmatic and lovely as our heroine. Toni barely speaks so dialogue is light and to bring such heart to a character through facial expression and mannerisms is impressive, particularly at such a young age.

It does border on dull a few times but there might be method in that madness because when I got to the climax I was blown away. It’s surreal, it’s stunning and it brings everything back together. It’s all a metaphor, innit? I recommend if you’re into this kind of dreamy film-making and aren’t afraid to unpack it all yourself.

My Rating

3/5.

What did the queen of the dance troupe in my heart think of this one? Would she leave it to her own devices in an abandoned corridor or film it on her iPhone? Find out here, obvs.

Burn Burn Burn (Film) Review

Putzel (35)

Jill’s pick and obviously this prompted rather a lot of daydreaming about going on a road trip together. How fun? The one in this film might be somewhat bittersweet but still, anywhere is good when you’ve got your best girlfriend by your side, right?

RIGHT?

*Spoilers*

Burn Burn Burn (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

Following the death of their friend, two girls in their late twenties embark on a road trip to spread his ashes. Seph and Alex take turns driving. Dan is in the glove compartment, in tupperware, decreasing in volume as the trip progresses.

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This scene is all too familiar

My Review

Dan has just died of cancer and his last wish is to have his two best friends, Seph and Alex (Laura Carmichael and Chloe Pirrie) scatter his ashes in several personal hotspots across the country. The girls must watch a video made just for them at every point to understand why each destination was important to him.

But as these plans are wont to do, things go array along the way and Dan may well have known this would happen, for it prompts the girls to face the aspects of their lives that are holding them back. For Seph it’s a relationship gone off the boil, while Alex’s relationship with her mother is damaged beyond repair (or is it?). There are other issues at the surface for Alex too, given she’s just caught her girlfriend doing it with someone else.

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“What’s wrong with my fucking hat?”

This is a good film that offers some really joyous moments. For instance, on one of their first nights on the road, Seph and Alex meet some fucking hippies who seem to offer them exactly what they need at the time. The following morning, however, the charming and inspirational couldn’t be more irritating and the pair do what any sensible people would do in the same situation (drive off as fast as their old banger will  carry them).

Somewhere near the end, Alex finds herself literally tied to the cross for an emotional confrontation with her best friend – and it’s hard not to find the whole set up surreal and amusing. I’m also a fan of the dialogue which is zippy and wise-cracking whilst also remaining convincing.

There are are decisions to made on the road, hearts to be broken for the greater good and truths to be told – all the while delivering on a promise to a dead loved one. It’s not an original premise but it is empowering and genuinely touching in places.

My Thoughts

I really appreciate the chemistry between the two leads. I buy them as friends who sometimes fight ferociously and I want them to make it through. When they argued, I felt bad. When they were happy, I wanted to be in the car with them.

And when they delivered an old women in distress to her son in Scotland, like Alex, I wanted to text my own mother immediately. In fact, I did. I think this film is a good reminder of the few people we have in our lives that are actually worth putting the work in for.

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She’s obviously got EE

My Rating

3/5. Nice. Not amazing but good and confident and life-affirming.

Did my wife like this one? Would she take it on a road trip or scatter it in the bin? Find out here, now.

Arranged (Film) Review

every-sunset-2

I’m going to go light on the intro this week because I’m pretty sure this month’s theme speaks for itself. Yes, it’s Feminist Film Month up in this joint (also over at Jill’s). Men are allowed but they better shut the hell up, is all I’m saying.

Here we go.

*Beware spoilers, yo!*

Arranged (2007)

Directed: Diane Crespo, Stefan C. Schaefer
Stars: Zoe Lister-Jones, Francis Benhamou, Mimi Lieber

IMDB Synopsis:

ARRANGED centers on the friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. 

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Rochel (Lister-Jones) and Nasira (Benhamou) are both first year teachers at a school in Brooklyn. Although polite to one another and their peers, they don’t really start to communicate until a couple of kids call them up on their ‘opposing’ religions in class. Since Rochel is Jewish and Nasira is Muslim, the children wonder if the women hate each other.

This line of questioning prompts an exercise between the women and children called a ‘Unity Circle’, which is a success in showing the kids that friendship is a choice. Off the back of this exercise a friendship between Rochel and Nasira begins to blossom. And the theme of choice runs tidily throughout the film.

You see, our heroines are both in similar situations within their families, which basically means on the market for husbands, which they ain’t picking themselves, knowwhati’msayin’? (And hence the movie’s title). Or rather they do get final say, but from a list of potential suitors presented to them by their families – with mixed results.

As the women bond they start to share their ‘arrangement’ stories. Nasira is envious that Rochel at least gets to go on dates away from the family, while her own meetings are supervised closely by her firm but loving family.

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And cardigans are cool DAMMIT

Meanwhile, at school, Principal Jacoby (Marcia Jean Kurtz) shows her ignorance by pulling the two friends into her office and offering them money to go and buy designer clothes (which to be fair I would have taken out of principle). She cannot deal with the fact such pretty girls are holding on to their religious ideals in this day and age. I mean, I have my own views about religion too, lady but it’s none of our damn business.

This only makes the women stand their ground and they do push back, making it clear that they choose to dress the way they do and live the way they live. It’s an important point to be made, although they adhere to traditional values, both women choose to do so. This is something Nasira also touches upon nearer the beginning of the film when the new teachers are forced to go around in a circle and say a little bit about themselves. She is clear about it being her choice to wear the headscarf.

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“No offense but *ADD INSULTS HERE*…”

Sick of the disappointing dating pool, Rochel begins to upset her mother Sheli (Lieber), grandmother Elona (Doris Belack) and master-matchmaker Miriam (Peggy Gormley) with her negative attitude. Her dates are a mixed bag of misfits, all good Jewish boys on paper but somewhat lackluster in the flesh.

After an argument with her mother, Rochel goes to see her cousin Leah (Alysia Reiner) in the city to get a glimpse of life outside her faith. Leah talks to her about her own quality of life without religion and how open-minded it all is, but the threat of being isolated from the family seems to weigh on Rochel. She loves the fuckers after all. The cousins go to a party where Rochel gets a tiny taste of the life that might be out there for her, but after dancing with a hot hunk she freaks out and returns home.

Nasira is also having doubts about her path when her parents make her meet with a friend of the family, a bolshy man over 20 years older than her. EW. When she puts her foot down and refuses the match, her lovely father says he just wants her to have what he has with her mother. Despite this setback, Nasira finds herself crushing on the next match…

Rochel too enjoys a brief connection with an Orthodox Jew friend of Nasira’s brother. They share a sexy look in the library by chance but Nasira’s brother later refuses to hook them up. This forces Nasira to take matters into her own hands and is reminiscent of the things we used to do in school to get our friend’s crushes to notice them. I therefore loved it.

There is of course an ending and an outcome for both potential love interests but I can’t possibly spoil it for you here (but will probably do so below, in my summary). If you think this movie sounds like your cup of tea then I would suggest you find out for yourselves.

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Papa don’t preach (he doesn’t really, he seems a nice man)

My Thoughts

This is a sweet, gentle film with a nice ending. There’s no real conflict here, apart from a bit of discomfort when the friends visit each other’s homes. Which is fine but it just sort of trickles along and the conclusion is so neat that it’s slightly annoying. I mean, it’s nice that both women get what they want but when is life ever like that?

I would have been more satisfied if at least one of them had refused to marry so young and had gone off on their own path – or they had got together with each other. Still, this film is about choice and these women made their own and that’s the point. Right?

Both lead actresses are great but the characters themselves are so bland that they can’t possibly stick in the memory. There’s just no room for them next to Norma Desmond, The Foxy Merkins and the We Are The Best grrrls. Amirite, Jillian?!

This is a film that takes a gentler approach to feminist themes, the main one being that both women are free, they just choose to take a more traditional path. Which is what their families want for them, and what religion dictates.

It’s easy to be frustrated by this but many women do the same. Not all feminism is Doctor Martens and smashing the patriarchy, after all. Both young women are successful and intelligent with good careers in front of them, and neither of them are willing to settle.

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“Oh, am I wearing a head scarf? I hadn’t noticed.”

My Rating

3.5/5. Nice. As if nice isn’t the most boring thing to be labelled.

What does my partner-in-crime think? Why don’t you pop on over and see if she thought this one was a match or a crushing, creepy disappointment. ❤