Full Review of The Shepherd over at Flickering Myth
The Shepherd, is a powerful film about the struggles to keep one’s identity and way of life intact in the face of global economics and modernisation. As architectural developments and housing project take up more and more space and land, it is a story that will only become more pertinent as time goes by. The transformation of the story into a darkly beautiful film featuring a rugged anti-hero who asks for nothing in return that nothing is asked of him is a great and memorable achievement.
After the Storm, Hirokazu Koreeda’s (Still Walking, Our Little Sister) latest work of social realist drama beautifully captures the insecurities and doubtfulness of middle age angst. Laced with a darkly wry humour, the film is full of universal observations about ageing, family relations and finding a way in the world. The film is funny, touching and humanistic. Profound in its look at the passing of time and life, the work manages to display a confident and philosophical treatment of hopes, desires and family.
The film follows Shinoda Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), a prize-winning author in his younger days, who while reminiscing on his past glory lives an unsteady life as a gambler and a private eye. Barely able to pay his ex-wife Kyoko (Yôko Maki) child support money for his only son Shingo, Ryota leads a troubled existence bullet-pointed by various scams and dodgy plans. At various times, stressed out and belligerent or humble and resigned, the character is nevertheless likeable and his pained expressions and aggrieved outlook at life’s treatment provide plenty of bitter-sweet humour to what is a poetically honest and refreshingly produced story.
Much of the humour also comes from Ryota’s mother Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki), someone who sees life as an opportunity for acerbic one-liners and darkly funny observations about modern life. While always remaining tough and philosophical about her own solitary (since her husband passed) life, she still values the company of her son and holds out hope that he and his former wife will someday reunite. From the outset this looks unlikely, with Ryota and his mother symbolising the past, and the hard-working career driven Kyoko the present and Shingo the future. Whether these different strands of time and thinking can link up again is part of the film’s success. A beautifully written piece and further evidence of Koreeda’s ability to get to the very heart of human nature.
My review of Spaceship is over at FM now.
Aiming to bring a sense of the intensity of feeling associated with adolescence, Spaceship is an ambitious attempt at illustrating the spirit and psychology of growing up. Using every single colour in the make-up box, it’s partly successful in showcasing teen-age confusion and wonderment, but ultimately disappoints with a mish-mash of styles and an insubstantial and wayward plot.
Essentially the story of Lucidia (Alexa Davies), a teen who dissapears in pursuit of aliens and unicorns, and her friends and grief stricken father Gabriel(Antti Reini) who try to find her, Spaceship works best when describing the seemingly insurmountable gap between adulthood and childhood. It does this in an even handed way, and it is one of the film’s strengths that it doesn’t resort to lazy cliches in its examination of youth sub-cultures and lifestyles. The numerous tics and obsessions of the youth on show are not mocked or laughed at, merely presented as part of the nature of things.
Indeed, Alex Taylor’s debut feature certainly looks the part, with hazy shots of halcyon views emphasising the film’s essential dreaminess. The young actors, along with Lucidia’s main two friends Alice (Tallulah Rose Haddon) and Tegan (Lara Peake), are an integral part of the film’s visual focus, with a day-glo hyper stylised ‘cyber-goth’ dress sense informing the whole construction of the piece in every sense.
Unfortunately, this examination of ‘cyber-goth’ doesn’t seem to have carried over into the soundtrack, a confused melange of indie folk-rock and bargain bin electronica. Still, the visuals are remarkably effective and authentically weird and psychedelic at times, admitting the audience – and Gabriel – into a strange world of circus acts, hallucinations and wonder.
The innocence of youth is well highlighted, with the group of teens seemingly more interested in philosophising and day dreaming rather than in drugs and sex . This heightens the fairy tale nature of the film, bringing out its fantasy play and make-believe. This certainly isn’t a home-counties Kidulthood.
There are also some nice examples of dry humour, with the tale of the forgotten soldier at Aldershot barracks who wants to set up a rave one that could have been expanded on. The main story itself seems to have been left unattended after the first few drafts and the dialogue would have benefited from further edits. In all then, something of a mixed bag. Strange and interesting, but with less to say than it initially thought it did, Spaceship is nevertheless worth a look and Taylor is a name to look out for in the future.