Before I go to Sleep – It deserves an audience, but not a place in the history books

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Before I go to Sleep (UK, 2014)

UK Release by StudioCanal – 5th September 2014

Directed by Rowan Joffe

Brief Synopsis: Christine Lucas wakes up feeling exactly the same every morning: confused as to her whereabouts and believing she is still in her twenties. She is only able to store information for a day, but soon begins to seek terrifying truths in her life when her psychiatrist gives her the upper hand. 

Credit is due for Nicole Kidman who continues to take on interesting and challenging roles (Grace of Monaco, The Railway Man, Stoker, The Paperboy), or rather she isn’t afraid of a bit of independent spirit. Admittedly, Grace of Monaco and The Railway Man are largely forgetful, but her elegance and depth as an actress is always current. Here we find her playing Christine who is battling with daily memory loss, a role that shows off Kidman’s effectual paranoid traits evident in The Others. It isn’t Memento and it isn’t Spellbound, but it isn’t entirely insensible either. The film leaks a steady rush of adrenaline in the viewer and will continue to trick them, even if the twist finale does come with a slight pinch of salt.

What I find most appraising is the achievement by Rowan Joffe to get this project off the ground (or quite literally the page) and boast British talent from Ben Davis’s noteworthy cinematography that plays on every axis to Melanie Oliver’s watertight editing. The project clearly had international backing with Sweden (Filmgate), France (StudioCanal) and Millennium Films in the US all packing their heat. Although, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions involvement does a great deed to make this film British, or does it? Who knows, at least we get to see it over a month before the US! London is also on great show with wide-shots of the city from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The British weather is also heralded with rain more often than not and a remote house in the woods, where most of the action takes place, provides the complimentary backdrop; this is a thriller after all.

Whilst the film doesn’t dig deep enough to obtain a meaningful psychological existence in the viewer, it does highlight the importance of keeping a healthy brain (or mind rather) and how intolerable it must be for one without so. The condition here labels Christine as an amnesiac, in fact, this is clearly reiterated throughout, though it induces efficacious reality in the viewer more than it does frustration. Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth’s chemistry rightly demonstrates the dedication and audacity needed to live such a banishing lifestyle. Here, Colin Firth as the sinister husband of Christine, Ben, is thankfully somewhat more infusing than usual; lets just say it is more daring and the emotion far more vivid and certainly less pretentious than his abominable portrayal of Eric in The Railway Man and even more so Harry Deane in Gambit. I nevertheless, highly anticipate Firth’s role in Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, lets see if Allen can make good of him.

The plot in Before I go to Sleep thickens fast, yet one is always aware of where it will lead even if the ending is far more sentimental than I had expected; a sharper note would have brought the picture to a close with far more substance. Still, good performances on show (Mark Strong is also admirable as Doctor Nash) and a definite watch for psychological thriller fans, just don’t expect it to make any of your top ten lists.

3/5

 

Starred Up – A Revelation of Talents

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MOVIE REVIEW

Starred Up
Film4, Sigma Films et al, GB
106 Mins
UK Release: 21st March 2014

Director David Mackenzie
Producer Gillian Berrie
Screenwriter Jonathan Asser
Cinematographer Michael McDonough 
Cast Jack O’Connell, Rupert Friend, Ben Mendelsohn, Sam Spruell

It is raw, vicious and compelling, David Mackenzie has boiled up a British prison drama (our take on A Prophet) to please the tough skinned and humanist hunters, but also the subtle and complex. It is a sharp-toothed affair with the peak of human hostility on offer, yet Mackenzie brings his direction to, ultimately, what is a stirring and touching family drama, be it the cliché of a father-son relationship (interestingly, it is biological).

Mackenzie does not shy away from the jargon of high-risk convicts; the “c” word is used countless times alongside a myriad of crudeness and repulsive deeds. Whilst, this may sound off-putting for some, it is compulsory for the realist approach Mackenzie takes in order to effectively portray this nitty-gritty prison drama.

The film begins and our Starred Up teenager (19 years of age) Eric (played by the rising star Jack O’Connell) is stripped down and moved to his new cell. Immediately, we are immersed in the prison environment, which is to remain so claustrophobic for the entire rest of the movie. Mackenzie likes to linger, and his camera scrutinizes Eric, it penetrates his soul and then it unleashes the animal before our eyes. It soon becomes clear of Eric’s troubles and expertise, if you like, at his exertion of frolicking and literally pounding his opposition. What may sound excessive is in fact highly believable. The screenwriter, Jonathan Asser, draws on his experience as a therapist (similar to the character of Oliver played by Rupert Friend) to shape the immersive world. Yet, more importantly, the cast and the entire ensemble give superb performances that yearn for unfathomable insight from the audience. The question swiftly develops, do we sympathize with Eric, or is he simply a lost cause, as Governor Hayes (Sam Spruell) likes to believe?

The answer is that we wish to understand Eric’s behaviour and jaunt along with him; indeed his traumatic childhood is discussed and his inept father evident. Jack O’Connell’s performance is something of a revelation, composed one minute, explosive the next; his character turns all the emotions one might expect to see from a disfigured adolescent. Neville, the father, played by Ben Mendelsohn, is a distressed and colossally troubled character. I could watch Mendelsohn continually perform and find him evermore impressive and enthralling. The two meet each other as their match, Neville the assumed prison superior and Jack the ‘rising star’ battle it out through love, hate, jealousy and sheer animosity. The love broods through the fortification and intrinsic self-possession of a father for his child, this is present in a climax scene that exposes the shock and corruption of prison-life.

It is great to see Film4 head the funds of yet another successful British film where acting and filmmaking talents are so vivid. Don’t let this film slip under the radar, as it nearly did for myself. Eric is waiting for your support.

4/5 stars

Watch the trailer below:

Personality Type Testing

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My girlfriend, who is studying to become a psychologist, keeps me informed from time-to-time with various insights into how our minds work. I am always intrigued, as whose mind doesn’t battle with itself from day-to-day? From a filmmaker’s perspective, personality is fundamental to understanding character, and consequently directing an actor to play that character. I am beginning to think that all film directors should take a few months out to study some psychology!

Anyway, she was doing a personality test online and showed me the results – scarily accurate! The test gives you a certain personality type coded by 4 digits, of which there are apparently 16 types, all of which are official by research and study across the board today. It is a surprisingly aggravating test of 72 thoughtful questions, once completed you are presented with a long description listing basically how you live your life and interact with the world. This may all sound a bit overboard, but I found the answers frighteningly truthful, it’s the equivalent to having David Blaine walk in on you.

One of the most interesting lists provided on your personality type is the prospective career field. A bit intimidating, hopefully you will be on the right lines, though it is all possibility of course. My personality type turned out to be ‘The Artist’ (ISFP), how wonderful, I appear to be on the right path – and yes filmmaking is considered an art (a discussion for a different day). After answering 72 questions it is especially reassuring to be categorized as you might expect, but then the database hammers home the reality of your personality, the inherent weaknesses. All of us humans will have our weaknesses, but ‘The Artist’ appears to have a quite a few significant ones! Notably, “life is not likely to be extremely easy for the ISFP.” Great!

So there it is, a bit of fun, or rather a life-changing exercise if you wish to go along with it and ritually embed yourself to a personality type. I have put the links below. Please share your thoughts and your life destination in the comments below!

The Test: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

The Personality Type Information: https://www.personalitypage.com/high-level.html

Do you believe in mind reading?

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Luke Jermay thinks you should.

Recently the psychology society at the University of Leeds put on Luke Jermay’s psychic cabaret show to great appeal. It was an unforgettable show in my eyes, and I’m sure most psychology students in the room would agree, though they may now be feeling rather dumbfounded by their studies. Lets just say, Jermay certainly gave those in doubt a run for their money.

If you get a chance to see the man in action, or those alike, for example Darren Brown, then do. It’s great food for thought and gives you a chance to ponder over are inflicted realm of reality, something which perhaps we don’t do often enough.

Watch the video below to see some visuals from the show in action. The video is made up of clips I shot during the event.

Happy holidays!

A Psychological Warfare

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My new short film takes us on a delrious girls journey alongside her fracturde mind. She has distorted vision and perspective on her actions caused by drug addiction, but also due to a lack of love and well-being. This lends part of the film to having surrealist qualities.

She is nestled in the detached basement of an upper class home, but she soon comes to realise that this home is all too familiar. The themes raised are far beyond that of addiction and paranoia, but more about family status and equality.

I shot the film single-handed with my lovely actress, who also did the make-up and set design. Thank you to Toby Archer for creating a perfectly abstruse score and to my brother, Tom Bury, for his wonderful piano skills.

Watch the film for free below:

Is Film Watching an Addiction?

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If you define addiction as an overcome passion for something, then yes, many people are addicted to film. If you class addiction, more correctly and formidably, as something which causes withdrawal symptoms, then yes, film is very much still an addiction.

When going on holiday, I’m of course greatly excited, but my conscience never fails to tell me “No films for a whole week!” Though these symptoms never lead to genuine physical reactions (such as a drug habit would induce), I still have mental desires for the beautiful medium so much that it does affect my mental health (something which, in turn, does actually affect physical conditions).

A film can be comforting, mentally relaxing and ultimately soothing – if you stay clear of Michael Haneke pictures! It takes us into a fictional panorama, which allows our minds to drift and wonder for at least 90 minutes, and a day or two after (if the film you are watching has meaning and depth – undeniably a rarity in todays marketplace). It’s this form of escapism that allows for a fresh start once the credits roll. When this ability is reduced we may become frustrated and itching for a new realm – in the paradoxical sense.

“Our lives are a metaphor for story”, Robert McKee wrote in his treasure ‘Story’. And so, story, and the medium of film, can act as a metaphor for our lives too – something that we hope to reach out and grab on a trip to the cinema. This is cinema acting as the influential medium that it so transparently is.

In conclusion, a more correct term for the moviegoer’s addiction may just be pure obsession. But, within the obsessive mind, the latter does have the ability to lead on authentic symptoms of withdrawal.

If there’s something for one to become obsessive over, the cinephiles lifestyle is certainly an easy, tranquil and rather inviting place to start.

Your opinions? Do you crave film?