Me Before You

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Thea SharrockMe Before You

Writer: Jojo Moyes – Screenplay and Novel

Starring: Sam Claflin, Emilia Clarke, Vanessa Kirby, Eileen Dunwoodie, Pablo Raybould, Gabrielle Downey, Steve Peacocke and Henri Charles.

When Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) loses her job as a waitress at a café, she takes a position as a carer for the cantankerous quadriplegic, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin).

Born the eternal optimist, Lou works at winning a smile from a man who is literally on suicide watch.

Me Before You follows the relationship between Lou and Will, taking the audience through the highs and lows of a once adrenaline junky who had life in the palm of his hand to a man completely reliant on others to function in life or to even get out of bed.

So, between the super cheesy soundtrack, the Mary Poppins reincarnation exhibiting the most expressive eyebrows I’ve ever seen on film and a storyline made to squeeze tears, you can guess I’m not a fan of these drama/romance/tear jerkers!

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can also say that Me Before You was a heartfelt story with lovely moments and well-paced drama.

I couldn’t help but love Lou (even with those eyebrows), with her quirky outfits and genuine love of life and people: I’ve never hated anyone,’ she says.  And yes, she’s believable if not ditzy.

Will Traynor was suitably irritable, with the two characters set up in a narrative formula of cranky meets sweet.

Aussie actor Steve Peacocke as Nathan was a pleasant surprise: a no nonsense nurse who takes on the heavy lifting – a practical character who added a realistic view of Sam’s injury.

But the cheese of the soundtrack!

Look, I felt this movie, I really did.  There were tears and not a dry eye in the cinema.  And it wasn’t because it was all sad and disability, there was mostly a lightness, carried by the optimistic Lou. But, it’s a story made to pull the heart strings – romance crossed with the tragedy of debilitating injury leading to the controversial contemplation of euthanasia.  Not a storyline I’d usually go for, but a film well-paced with thought put into the characters and effort put into the build of the relationship between Sam and Lou.

If this is your sort of movie, yeah, it’s great.  But you need to be in the mood for this one.  Make sure to bring the tissues.

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GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Deniz Gamze ErguvenMustang

Screenplay: Deniz Gamze Erguven and Alice Winocour

Starring: Gunes Sensoy, Dogba Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Hayda Akdogan and Erol Afsin.

Originally screened in the Directors Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.

Set in Inebolu, a Black Sea village 600 kilometres from Istanbul, Mustang is about the freedom of five young sisters with wild hair trailing down their backs, with a glance and an innocent smile that can lead to so much trouble.

Brought up by their grandmother after the death of their parents at an early age, the sisters are suddenly, overnight, declared whores who need to be married off before they lose their virginity.

The girls are banned from going to school and bars are installed in the windows of the house: a prison built with good intentions.

The girls remind one of these wild horses, the Mustang, so free and shameless; so comfortable in their own skin facing towards the sun, socks stuffed down bright pink lacy bras and imagined sea shells found under a sea of blankets.

I can relate, growing up as the youngest of three girls on a farm in the middle of no-where.

Running through paddocks, playing chasie on hay bales; skinny dipping in the pool.  Idyllic days.  But society catches up.

Mustang depicts the fight between the new world and the tradition of the old and how the expectations of society can do so much damage to the individual.

Trapped and forced into marriage – what a nightmare.

What l enjoyed most about the film was the lack of vanity in the characters or the style of film.  It didn’t feel like I was watching a movie but was given a hidden window into the secret world of the young sisters.

Mustang doesn’t romanticize the characters, the behaviour felt authentic: these are wild young girls, not angels.

I loved how there was no pretention in showing how girls actually behave and the pressures that have to be tolerated to a point of change or destruction.

The beautiful sisters are so free and shameless because there’s nothing to be ashamed about being young and beautiful.  And the film captured this beauty so well, the girls unaware of people seeing their wild spirit, deciding they need to be broken.

I was captivated by these young sisters, from start to finish.

As her first feature film, Deniz Gamze Erguven has given us a story that feels like it should already have been told, and I congratulate this fresh view of life that is usually hidden behind closed doors.

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

GoMovieReviews Rating:

PGHunt For The Wilderpeople

Director: Taika Waititi

Based on the book: ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’, written by Barry Crump

Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Troy Kingi, Cohen Holloway, Stan Walker, Mike Minogue, Hamish Parkinson, Lloyd Scott.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is tongue-in-cheek and heartfelt where the characters are able to take a laugh at themselves ‘cause it’s all heart bro.

There are some familiar faces here – a solid performance from Sam Neill (Jurassic Park (1993, 2001), Peaky Blinders (since 2013), The Piano (1993)) as the reluctant crusty ‘uncle’, Hec Faulkner; Rachel House (Whale Rider (2002); Boy (2010)) as Paula, the overzealous welfare worker and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009); What We Do in the Shadows (2014)) as the ‘bushman’, Psycho Sam.

But the standout for me was Julian Dennison (Paper Plans (2014)) all of 13 years old, as Ricky Baker.  This kid has talent, so-much-so, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the wanna-be-gangsta, Ricky.

I love hot water bottles (particularly now it’s getting to winter here), I love dogs, love the bush and aunties with cats on their jumpers.  And I love how this movie was about a foster kid trying to find his way and how an old crusty character can warm to a kid who’s his own person just like him.

There’s a poetry in the camera work (cinematographer, Lachlan Milne) – this is beautiful scenery of green bushland taken from up high, then down to running waterfalls, lakes mirroring an orange sky to the mud and rain of the bush; locations including Piha, Karekare, Bethells Beach, Horopito and the Kaimanawa Plains.

A lot of thought was put into the scenes, the director Taika Waititi (Boy, Eagle vs Shark, What We Do in the Shadows) waving his magic touch with the shadows of leaves on the car windscreen; the silhouette of fence posts in the dusk, balanced with the authentic flavour of performance, without too much polish and keeping a tight rein on the editing (Luke Haigh).

A film where the characters felt real, if not caricature in nature: you’re bound to meet one in the bush or down the street in New Zealand.  And that’s the point of difference with this film: a New Zealander flavour of the bush with cold and beauty combined with character.

Look, some of the humour was a bit cheap, more for the kids or young at heart.  But this was just a few jokes – mostly I was smiling with a sometimes tear in the eye.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople makes you want to love people for who they are, not who they’re supposed to be.

Sometimes a stray gets found and given a home.  Sometimes the ones who are lost and unloved can be found, only to run away in the bush and get lost and then become a gangsta running from the cops, yo.

What can I say, one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs (The Partisan) was part of the soundtrack, so yes I admit this film got under the skin.

One of those funny ones that make you cry a bit because it’s also sweet.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John RequaWhisky Tango Foxtrot

Screenplay: Robert Carlock

Based on: ‘The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,’ by Kim Barker

Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thorton, Steve Peacocke; Christopher Abbott.


Kim is a 40 year old copy writer who spends her time on an exercise bike going no-where.  No matter how hard she peddles, Kim just isn’t getting anywhere.  Her life is going backwards.

Presented with an opportunity to get out from behind a desk and report in front of a camera in Afghanistan, Kim leaves her boyfriend and comfortable life for the chaos of the Kabul Bubble where shit literally flies through the air.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot (I’m thinking military speak for WTF) is a juxtaposition of genres: war, comedy and drama.

It’s hard to categorise Whisky Tango Foxtrot.  There’s some dark humour here: Kabul International Airport A.K.A Killed In Action.  But I would say this movie is a drama with the main character, Kim Barker (Tina Fey), having a midlife crisis.

At the beginning, I was concerned the film was falling firmly on the ‘My life journey’ style of film, but thankfully, with the introduction of characters in Afghanistan, the film took off on its own journey with the focus on the characters and the reality of life in the ‘ka-bubble’.  

I wouldn’t call the film a comedy, even though Tina Fey (known for her parts as a comedian) is the protagonist, but there are funny moments with the misunderstandings between different cultures, and the inherent humour of Iain, the Scottish photographer.  Yes, this is mostly a drama with the elements of war: gun fire, bombs blasting and drones flying, played over with a sometimes cheesy soundtrack.  It was a strange juxtaposition between this romantic drama and comedy set on a backdrop of the war in Afghanistan.  This wasn’t a MASH situation.  There were some serious thought-provoking moments.  And it worked.

I enjoyed watching this film because I liked the characters.  The translator, Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott) was a standout with warm eyes and a genuine soul; then there’s the security guy Nic (Steve Peacocke), fellow journalist, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) – yes the film was heavy on the Aussie actors not that it’s a bad thing!  Then there’s the photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), the politician Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina), the general Hallanek (Billy Bob Thorton) and then the people of Afghanistan.

This was a well-rounded story, and yes, it was heart-warming.

It was just some of the moments were strange.  For example, Kate reporting in front of the camera only to realise she’s standing near a dead body hidden under rubble but for an arm.  Not funny, just a bit strange.

The mission undertaken by marines with the green of night vision but with a romantic soundtrack playing, also strange.

But the strength of the storyline with the careful handling of the characters by directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011); Focus (2015)), Whisky Tango Foxtrot was an enjoyable film to watch.

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GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Paul IrelandPawno

Screenplay: Damien Hill

Cast: Damien Hill, John Brumpton, Maeve Dermody, Mark Coles Smith, Kerry Armstrong, Malcolm Kennard, Brad McMurray, John Orcsik, Mark Silveira.

A day in the suburb of Footscray.

Pawno is a well-paced, character driven film with a great soundtrack.  A snapshot of Footscray culture showing insight into the need to belong with a bit of humour thrown in the mix.

I remember when I first moved to Melbourne in the ’90s, walking to the Footscray train station after staying at a friends the night before.  Suddenly, there was this young Vietnamese guy asking me, ‘Are you chasing?  Are you chasing?’

A catch phrase if I was looking for a hit.

Did I look like I was chasing?  I probably did that morning, hungover, a skinny 18-year-old heading for the train station on a Sunday morning.

Footscray is known for its drug culture.  But there’s so much more to this suburb, shown so well in this film.

The characters are the story.

The director, Paul Ireland, shared the difficulty in finding two actors who could play the part of Pauly (Mark Coles Smith) and Carlo (Malcolm Kennard), the two junkies drinking their dose of methadone, passing the day; great mates that’ll break your heart.

Friendship and humour can get a person through the day, through the quiet desperation of needing that hit.  The mateship of these two junkies is a delight even though the tragedy is obvious.  It’s such a pleasure to see the good boys underneath the bad.  To see the life behind the begging.  There’s a dark humour here, shown with a depth of understanding.

Then there’s Les Underwood (John Brumpton), owner of a Pawn shop: what a great place to show each character, to show the underbelly when in need of a loan.

Les is a wise and warm character on the one hand and a no-nonsense man, on the other.  An iconic Aussie male who’s seen it all and can tell the bullshit from the genuine.

But love his dog Ruby, you love the man.

It’s a fine line between making a profit and giving someone a loan out of mateship.  Sometimes, it’s brutal.

John tells a mother (Kerry Armstrong) looking for her junkie son, ‘The young keep their own time.’

What more can he do?

‘I’ll let you know when he pops up again.’

Then there’s the shy Danny Williams (Damien Hill) working alongside John as his assistant.  A gentle character who in finding his mental stability begins his search for love.  The community embraces Danny, accepting those who are really trying versus the real desperates, the junkies who are still chasing, baby bottle in hand.

Damien Hill was also the screenwriter of Pawno, and I’m not surprised he has a background in the theatre as it’s the dialogue that makes this film such a success.

The addition of the young blind girl playing the ukulele adds an emotional note, knowing she’s not quite right, but her heart is there, in her playing.  In the Q&A session, the director, Paul Ireland said it took just one take at each location for her to get it right.  And it’s beautiful, her voice and her playing.

All of the characters are flawed.  Each with their own battle of mental illness, heartbreak, addiction; loneliness.

It would have been easy to get bogged down in the melancholy, but there’s humour here, the focus is on the good: the poem written to the beautiful girl in the bookshop, the drummers tapping out a heartbeat and the dance of a local in appreciation, the expression of graffiti and the love of a dog.  Pawno shows life in all its complications with the simplicity of a leaky kettle or a favourite mug.

I was surprised there wasn’t a greater focus on the Vietnamese culture.  Walking the main street, you will see nothing but Vietnamese restaurants with aquariums full of what’s to eat.  And this could have been better represented in the film by showing more of the signage, hearing the language.

Scratching the surface of the Vietnamese culture would have added a greater weight to the film but I appreciated the thought put into each character who was shown.

You don’t need to throw a lot of money at a film when you’ve got characters with depth.

A bit of compassion goes a long way.  Sometimes, it’s enough.  Sometimes it’s a pinch on the inner arm, just to know you’re alive.  That inner voice saying, ‘I am here.  I am here.’

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Eye in the Sky

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Gavin HoodEye In The Sky

Screenplay: Guy Hibbert

Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, Lain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Northam.


I was completely absorbed by this film, from beginning to end.

I’m not a fan of war movies.  I find the violence a little too real and disturbing because it is all too true.  But Eye in the Sky isn’t one of those blood and guts type of films, it analyses the hierarchy, the politics of war.  It makes murderers of all involved.

What a fascinating take on such a complicated issue.  We are at war, but from the comforts of our homes; directions are made behind closed doors and bombs dropped from drones.  War, in these days, is an ethical conundrum.

There was no loss of momentum in this film, even though the focus was a quiet examination made through dialogue between the characters; the suspense in waiting for difficult decisions that must be made. Not an easy task and very well handled by director, Gavin Hood (Tsotsi (2005), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Ender’s Game (2013)).  He lets the characters tell the story in the simplicity of one day, one long moment shown in all its depth and complexity.  And using this linear time-line and keeping it simple, the film felt authentic.

Helen Mirren was perfectly cast as Colonel Katherine Powell.  A tough as nails, uncompromising military soldier who never waivers from her duty.  And mixed emotions seeing Alan Rickman in his final performance as Lieutenant General Frank Benson: a sympathetic character showing his humanity under the cast iron soul of a soldier.  Hard to believe this brilliant actor will no longer grace our screens.

It was interesting to have the curtains drawn back to show what happens behind the closed doors of war.  I can only sympathise with the people who have to make decisions to try and save as many lives as possible.  Deciding what are the legal, ethical and moral ramifications behind the killing of people in a different country – and whose life is worth more.

Eye in the Sky was thought-provoking, suspenseful and moving without theatrics.  A film to get people talking about issues that need to be spoken about.

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The Daughter

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Simon StoneThe Daughter

Produced by: Jan Chapman, Nicole O’Donohue

Screenplay by: Simon Stone

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Mirada Otto, Anna Torv, Odessa Young, Sam Neill.

An Australian film based on a play by Henrik Ibsen, ‘The Wild Duck’.

After Henry (Jeoffrey Rush) closes down the timber mill, the town starts dying – boarded-up shop fronts reflect the people left: hidden secrets kept behind the surface of happy families.  But slowly, the surface is scratched away as Chris (Paul Schneider), Henry’s son, reunites with his family and old Uni mate, Oliver (Ewen Leslie), to attend his father’s wedding to his second wife, Anna (Anna Torv).

I love films based on plays – you always know the characters are well-developed and the dialogue a highlight and authentic.  But I hadn’t prepared myself for the emotional kick in the stomach this film became.

This is a story about being lucky in life even if it’s not perfect.  A roof over the head of a loving family, that’s being lucky.  Yet, the others who don’t have it, want to destroy it.  Even if they think it’s the right thing to do.  And there’s many a sad story behind every seemingly happy family.  And this is a very sad story.  Yes, a few deep breaths are required.

I was particularly affected by the stand-out performances of Miranda Otto playing Hedvig and Ewen Leslie as Oliver, playing father and daughter and the beautiful relationship between them.  Sam Neill as the grandfather is also worth mentioning – ‘Stories like these are as old as the hills’, he says.

The setting of the film is chosen carefully: country scenery of fog drifting through the trees of a pine forest and sunlight reflected off the water running through grassy banked rivers.  Yes, there’s some real beauty here.

And Hedvig is such a lovely, smart girl, her love of the people in her life a fragile treasure that all who know her try to protect.  But mostly there’s a sadness, like a duck shot out of the sky and left with a broken wing.  You can only hope she’ll fly again.  Lucky duck if she’s saved.  But is she lucky if she can’t fly?

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