Director – Greta Bellamacina – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12a – 85m
A single parent mum poet and her upstairs lodger actress pursue their dreams in London’s Fitzrovia and Margate – in cinemas from Friday, September 18th
A strangely likeable, meandering little movie, this concerns single mum Celeste Blackwood (director and co-writer Greta Bellamacina) who writes poetry from her flat in London’s Fitzroy Square, in the immediate shadow of the BT Tower. Her out of work actress upstairs lodger Stella Mansell (co-writer Sadie Brown) helps out with the childcare.
Celeste’s father left when she was five and she hasn’t seen him since. However, she has a plan to go through al Blackwoods in the telephone directory until she finds him. Stella, meanwhile, is approaching a year of chatting nightly over the internet to a man she’s never met. But, as Stella says, you can tell so much about someone from their writing.
Throughout the film, which feels heavily improvised and consists mostly of scenes with both of one of other of the women in situations with Celeste’s little boy and / or other people, like a short series of sketches. Early on, Celeste visits a publisher (Nicholas Rowe) with her poetry manuscript only to be told that poets never make any money unless they meet death in a particularly nasty way, at which point their sales go through the roof.
Stella has a particularly good scene with a postman (Fabio Paleari) who feels like a real postman captured on camera, a man for whom English is clearly not his first language and who says he might be around very long because of Brexit. And another where she turns up for an audition with Celeste’s child in tow.
Stella’s online romance eventually develops into a plot of sorts as she goes of to meet her mystery man in a hotel in Margate. Worried that her friend might have latched on to a psychopath, Celeste takes a later train with her son in tow. When she gets there a few surprises await her.
Through a mixture of writing, casting and performance, the piece boasts some enjoyably quirky characters such as the publisher’s receptionist (Natalie Hand) sure she would have remembered a missing manuscript with the title, ‘Think fast! The future is a rabid dog’ or or the foppish lady proprietress (Camilla Rutherford) and the two increasingly drunk guests (Jason Thorpe and Veronica Clifford) at the Margate hotel bar who know all the local cabbies.
The whole is punctuated by lines of Celeste’s poetry in ten periodic numbered ‘Verse’ intertitles on the screen augmented by restful jazz piano noodling on the soundtrack. It’s not really like anything else I can recall seeing in a cinema and is a pleasant enough if ultimately insubstantial experience if you fancy an undemanding, gentle afternoon’s or evening’s viewing.
Hurt By Paradise is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, September 18th.