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Features Live Action Movies

Better Days (Shaonian De Ni)

Director – Derek Tsang – 2019 – China – 12A – 135m

***1/2

A bullied exam student is protected from her tormentors by and seeks solace in the company of a small time street criminal – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now, and Hong Kong’s entry for the 2020/2021 Oscars

The combination of impending exams and bullying by her peers causes student Hu to throw herself off the rooftop of a school building. Feeling guilty because she never stood up for the girl, fellow student Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu) covers the dead girl’s face to protect it from prying eyes and smartphone cameras. The next thing Chen knows, the late girl’s three bullies, led by the well-heeled and vindictive Wei Lai (Zhou Ye) have it in for her.

Not that Chen is having an easy time of it anyway. In the short term she’s being questioned by police about Hu’s death and like everyone else there’s the huge pressure of impending Gaokao university entrance exams, doing well in which is packaged in school rally chants as not failing the country or your parents. Her single parent mum (Wu Yue), beset with parental inadequacy as she tries to scrape a living from selling illegal goods away from home, has successfully convinced Chen that studying hard and getting excellent exam results is a way out of the poverty trap in which the family find themselves.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Adoration

Director – Fabrice du Welz – 2019 – Belgium – 107m

*****

Boy meets girl. Alas, girl is in a psychiatric hospital convinced that the world is out to get her… in this filthy genius Belgian movie – from the BFI London Film Festival and available on BFI Player from Friday, December 11th

Twelve-year-old Paul (Thomas Gioria, familiar here as the child in Custody (Xavier Legrand, 2017) likes caring for animals. Such as, for example, the fallen chaffinch he discovers at the bottom of the tree in which he’s building a treehouse. He’s used to foraging outside for food. He spends much time in the woods surrounding the mental institution where his single parent mum works and has their accommodation. One of her conditions of employment, stressed by her female boss Dr. Loisel (Gwendolyn Gourvenec), is that Paul not have any contact with any of the institution’s patients.

One day, his playing is interrupted by the arrival of a girl about his own age in a red dress. The staff are looking for Gloria (Fantine Harduin). Before they find her and take her back into their care, she and Paul have made friends. Aware of the rules, he has admonished her that the institution must not even so much as see them together.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

County Lines

Gang life

County Lines
Directed by Henry Blake
Certificate 15, 90 minutes
Released 4 December

*****

‘Do you know what an acceptable loss is?’, a voice asks a teenage boy. ‘In your business, you’re the acceptable loss.’ County Lines may be this year’s hardest hitting movie, a British drama about a vulnerable boy groomed into working for county lines drug networks. A tough film to watch that deserves to be widely seen, not least by teenagers, it’s an uncompromising look at a pressing social issue… [Read more]

Read the full review in Reform.

In cinemas and on VoD platforms including BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and IFI Online.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Days Of The Bagnold Summer

Director – Simon Bird – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12 – 86m

**1/2

Currently streaming on VoD

Librarian Sue Bagnold’s (Monica Dolan) husband Bob left her for another woman several years ago. Her teenage son Daniel (Earl Cave) is supposed to be going over to Florida to visit his dad this summer and meet his dad’s new baby, but then the phone call comes through that it’ll have to happen at a later time. This means Daniel will instead have to spend summer at home with his mum. He was looking forward to Florida, so he’s not too happy about this new development.

What follows is a very English deadpan comedy of manners. It’s all very charming at at times mildly amusing, likeable in an unchallenging fashion. The script gives Dolan and Cave great scope to milk the mother-son relationship for all it’s worth. She does a nice line in that English national female tendency to be very prim and proper as a compensation for being painstakingly shy. He is the archetypal Metallica T-shirt and black clad, grumpy teenager.


One day she tells him to do his CV in the morning and pass it round places of potential employment in the afternoon to get himself a Summer job, which he does – but wearing the same clothes and wondering why she complains that that would probably undermine his efforts.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Marona’s Fantastic Tale (L’Extraordinaire Voyage De Marona)

Director – Anca Damian – 2019 – France – 92m

****

Marona’s Fantastic Tale opens with a device straight out of film noir. The main character has been hit by a car and is dying in the arms of an old friend who got to him a few seconds too late to prevent disaster. Him isn’t correct though: both characters are female. Marona is a dog while late teenager Solange is her owner.

The narrative flies in the face of the idea that people take on pets and everything is hunky dory thereafter. Marona never has a stable life. She’s the last of nine puppies in the litter, so her mother names her Nine as if knowing that her daughter may not be around long and that a new owner will likely give her a new name.

The last to be born is the first to be given away as Marona is placed with her father, a haughty Argentianian mastiff of high birth. Marona only lasts about a day there and ends up walking the streets.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Marona’s Fantastic Tale for DMovies.org.