A Life Ahead – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a headstrong, Senegalese orphan boy goes to live with an old woman who takes in and fosters children. With her, he finds a makeshift family and path to a better life. 

Is it any good?: The Life Ahead – La Vita Davanti A Sé (original Italian title) – is an emotional film and is not for everyone. It is about the relationships and the decisions that shape young Momo’s life – brilliantly played by newcomer, Ibrahima Gueye. This is an actors film with everyone in the film turning in great performances. 

Most recognisable in the film is the bombshell of the sixties and seventies, Sophia Loren, who captivates with this performance of an aged Holocaust survivor succumbing to dementia as she looks after children. A touching film. 

Spoiler territory: Lola (Abril Zamora), an ex-prostitute, fighter and transgender, returns from visiting her father with her young son, Babu, to the tenement building she lives in. She sees Momo (Gueye) in the stairwell. He freezes on seeing her. She calls to him. Momo runs off, disappearing down the stairs. Lola runs after him. He disappears into a room in the basement, shutting the door behind him. Abc calls to him through the door. 

Six months earlier, Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren) is out looking around the local market with a couple of children in tow. Orphan boy, Momo, is surveying the crowd. He sees Madame Rosa and sees a couple of candlestick sticking out of her bag. He sneaks up on her and snatches bag. He runs off.

He takes the candlesticks, hoping to sell them to a local dealer, Ruspa (Massimiliano Rossi) but one of Ruspa’s boys, Nala, tells him that the candlesticks are crap and sends him on his way. He returns to Dr Coen’s (Renato Carpentieri), where he has been living ever since social services put him there. The doctor sees him hiding the candlesticks and asks him where he got them. 

Momo lies. The doctor does not believe and tells him he will turn him in to the police if he does not tell him where he got the candlesticks. He takes the candlesticks back to Madame Rosa and makes Momo apologises. 

Madame Rosa does not like his attitude and the two do not hit it off. She is grateful to the doctor and asks him if there is any way in which she can repay him. There is one. 

The doctor wants her to take Momo fora couple of months. She is opposed to the idea, she thinks Momo is too wild. Besides, she does not want to take in children anymore. She used to do it when she was a prostitute for fellow prostitutes, as it was better than letting their children fall into the hands of social services. She was already stuck with one child, Iosif, whose mother had already left him for months. 

The doctor offers to pay her. After a brief bit of bartering, she agrees to take him for two months. Momo does not want to live with her and tell Coen that he would rather go to social services. He runs off. Ruspa catches up with him and tells him he overheard him telling the doctor that he did not want to live with Madame Rosa. 

Ruspa tells him that living with Madame Rosa is better than being with social services, especially when it comes to working for him. He moves in with Madame Rosa.

He meets Iosif. The two get into a scuffle as Momo take his bed. Madame Rosa takes him to a small room of his own. Momo goes to see Ruspa. Ruspa gives him a selection of drugs to sell. 

He returns to the tenement where he is living with Madame Rosa and sees her muttering and going down the stairs into the basement. He follows her. She goes along a long corridor and disappears into a room. 

The next day, Lola comes to collect her son. She puts on some music and encourages Madame Rosa to dance with her. Later, Momo is helping Madame Rosa with the washing up and notices numbers tattooed on her from Auschwitz. 

When he goes to play with Iosif, he asks him about the numbers. Iosif tells him he thinks she is a secret agent and the numbers are a code to get into her base that is in the basement of the building. He says it is like her Batcave. 

Momo becomes one of Ruspa’s best dealers, shifting the gear he is given quickly. Madame Rosa takes Momo to see her friend, Hamil (Babak Karimi). She wants him to let Momo work with him a couple of days a week. 

Hamil, a kindly man, agrees. Momo takes his earnings from his drug sales to Ruspa. Ruspa is impressed and immediately promotes him, giving him Nala’s area. Momo is happy and dances along the street, headphones on. He does not see Nala. Nala comes and punches him in the gut. 

It is raining. Momo returns to the tenement and Iosif calls to him. Something is wrong with Madame Rosa. The two boys go up to the roof, where those that live in the building hang their washing out, and see Madame Rosa sitting in the rain, staring into space. Momo waves a hand in front of her face. No reaction.

He sticks his tongue out. Nothing. He starts dancing in front of her and encourages Iosif to join him. Madame Rosa snaps back to reality, asking the boys why they are out in the rain. 

Momo goes to work for Hamil. Tamil shows him a rug and tells him about what it means to be Muslim. Momo tells him he never knew he was a Muslim until he went to school. Hamil asks why he no longer goes to school. He tells him that he stabbed a boy in there neck with a pencil for making fun of him, so they kicked him out. 

Momo dreams of a lioness, dreams he is playing with the cat and wakes up to see Iosif laughing at him. Madame Rosa takes him to Dr Coen. Madame Rosa thinks he is not right in the head and that the doctor is indulging him too much. She thinks he is dangerous. 

The doctor persuades her to keep looking after him. They leave the doctor and Momo sees immigrants being arrested by police. Madame Rosa pulls him away. 

Back home, she sends him up to the apartment, telling him that she will follow shortly. She goes down into the basement. Momo follows her and sees her sitting alone in a room. She sees him and sends him away. Later she tells him that being in the room makes her feel safe. She tells him he can stay with her as long as he wants. 

At night, Iosif wakes up Momo with his moaning; a nightmare. Momo wakes him up. Iosif tells him he misses his mother. Momo does believe that she is coming back. Iosif is convinced she will. Momo tells him that his mother died when he was six. 

Momo goes to see Ruspa. Ruspa pays him for his work. Momo buys a bike. Madame Rosa, Lola and all the kids go to lunch al fresco. Madame Rosa leaves the table telling them she is going to the bathroom. Iosif and Babu are playing. Lola receives a text from her father. 

It is her birthday and he would like to see her. Lola believes he just wants to see his grandson, not his sex-changed now, daughter. She says she is not going. 

Lola wonders where Madame Rosa has disappeared to and goes looking for her. She enlists the help of Momo to look for her in the vineyards around the lunch area. 

Momo finds her sitting on a wall, looking into space. Lola finds them and asks Madame Rosa why she wandered off. Momo covers for her, saying she just wanted some air. 

Momo, worried about Madame Rosa, tells Hamil that he should get together with her. He tells him that, as a Muslim, he could not be with a Jew. Momo tells him that she is not Jewish, she is old. Hamil explains that old people are too selfish to live together.

Later, Momo helps Iosif with his Hebrew. Madame Rosa has another peculiar episode, locking herself away in her bedroom. 

The boys get Lola. She breaks into the bedroom and finds Madame Rosa babbling as she is packing. She tells the boys to get Dr Coen. The doctor says she needs a CAT scan. 

Momo goes to see her. She has left her room. He finds her in the basement. She tells him about hiding in Auschwitz but Momo does not know what she is talking about. 

She shows him a photo with mimosa trees in it, telling him how much she loves them. She also tells him she does not want to go to a hospital, believing they will want to experiment on her.

Momo’s business kept flourishing, his client base increasing. Madame Rosa’s worsened. Iosif’s mother comes to get him. Momo is angry and tells Iosif that he is glad he is going. Iosif tells him he will miss him. Madame Rosa comes and consoles Momo after Iosif and his mother have left. 

An angry Momo goes to work at Hamil’s place. Hamil tells him that he knows what he does to make money. Momo asks if he is going to turn him in. Hamil tells him no but he needs to think about his decisions. Momo storms out. 

Lola decides to go and visits her father. The phone Ruspa gave Momo rings while he is at the dinner table. Madame Rosa tells him to give her the phone. Momo tells her that the phone is his and he uses it for his dealing. He leaves the table and goes out. He parties with Ruspa. 

He returns the next morning to see Madame Rosa being put into an ambulance. Later he overhears Coen telling Lola that he had to admit her to hospital. He goes to see her in hospital. 

She does not recognise him. He tells her that he is going to come back for her. He goes and sees Ruspa. He gives him his drugs back and quits working for him. He goes and apologises to Hamil. 

Lola goes to see her father. She tells Momo to go and stay with Dr Coen. Momo goes and gets Madame Rosa out of the hospital and brings her back to the tenement. He takes her to her basement room, where her memories live. The police come to the tenement, looking for Madame Rosa. They go to her old apartment and do not find her. 

Madame Rosa is bedridden and Momo looks after her. He gives her a mimosa branch. Lola returns from her visit to her father. She sees Momo on the stairs. He runs and she goes after him. He runs to the room where Madame Rosa is. She has died. 

Madame Rosa is buried. Momo stands away from the crowd at the cemetery. After they have left, he places the photo she showed him onto her grave. He catches up with Lola and the doctor and they leave the cemetery. The end. 

Final thoughts: The Life Ahead is a good film that is more emotive storytelling than is the norm. Gueye’s Momo is the central character, the person who we follow but Loren’s Madame Rosa is just as important. Between the two of them, they are the heart of the film. At opposite ends of their lives and both having lived through personal traumas, the two are odd kindred spirits. 

Based on a book, The Life Before Us, by Romain Gary, the film is a remake of the 1977 film, Madame Rosa. This version is directed by Loren’s son, Edoardo Ponti. He also collaborated on the screenplay with Ugo Chiti and Fabio Natale. The film is beautifully shot and edited and Ponti’s direction is good. 

The Life Ahead is a film one has to concentrate on whilst watching as there is not a great deal of exposition, the story being told as you watch it without much background information.

At ninety minutes long, the film bumps along quite nicely, with no screen time wasted or feeling unnecessary. 

Ultimately, it is an actors film and Ponti gets great performances out of every actor on show. As I said at the outset, The Life Ahead is not a film that will appeal to everybody but it is definitely worth a look if you want to see watch something a little different from the usual.

Fractured – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: Driving back from a family gathering, visiting his wife, Joanne’s, parents, Ray stops off to allow their daughter to use the bathroom. Whilst at the rest stop, their daughter, Perri gets frightened by a dog and falls, injuring her arm.

Ray takes her to the local hospital and the mother and daughter get taken for a scan. Ray goes to the waiting area and falls asleep. When he wakes up he goes looking for his wife and daughter, the reception has no record of his daughter. The only record they have is for him being admitted earlier in the day. Ray tries to find his family.

Is it any good?: Um, full disclosure, I am not a fan of Sam Worthington. It’s not that he is a bad actor or even an irritating screen presence, it is just that he seems to be in awful films or films I just do not find particularly good.

Hollywood seems desperate to make Worthington a star. He has been in one of the biggest films of all time, Avatar, but that film is not, in my opinion, as great as some would have one believe. Fractured is not very good but it is kind of interesting.

Spoiler territory: Ray (Sam Worthington) is driving his wife, Joanne (Lily Rabe) and their daughter, Peri (Lucy Capri) home from Joanne’s parents. Ray and Joanne are arguing. Their marriage is falling apart as Joanne does not feel that Ray is the man she married anymore.

In the backseat, Peri is playing with an electronic game. She interrupts her parents when her game fails because the batteries run out. Joanne tells her that they will pick up some batteries later. Peri then wants to go to the toilet, so they pull into a rest stop. As Peri goes to the bathroom, Ray goes into the store to pick up a drink for his wife and some batteries. He gets himself a coffee and grabs a couple of miniature whiskey bottles.

The clerk (Muriel Hogue) in the store watches himself suspiciously. When he places the items on the counter and tries to pay with a card, she tells him that she only takes cash. Ray does not have enough cash for all of the items. He puts the batteries back.

He returns to the car where his family are waiting. Peri is in the backseat again but she says that she has lost her compact. “Is it under her seat?” Joanne asks. She does not know. She thinks she might have left it in the bathroom. Joanne tells Ray to check under the backseat whilst she goes and checks the bathroom.

As Peri stands outside, Ray checks the backseat area. He spills his coffee on the seat and begins to try and clean it up. A curious Peri goes walkabout. She sees a stray dog and is frightened, shouting for her father. Ray turns around and sees the dog and tries to calm Peri down as she backs up towards some foundations behind her.

Ray tries to scare the dog and Peri falls into the foundations. Ray goes leaping after her. He wakes up to find Joanne screaming frantically over a prone Peri. She comes over to a catatonic Ray, hitting him and screaming at him. He pushes her to one side and turns away. He turns back a moment later and Joanne is back with Peri. Peri is awake but has hurt her arm.

Ray takes charge. He will get her to the hospital. At the emergency room, Ray struggles to find someone to look after his daughter. Joanne thanks him for getting them to the hospital so quickly. She likes his take-charge attitude. Ray is called to see the administrative officer(Dorothy Carroll). She wants to know if he has insurance. He does. She asks him about organ donation. Joanne says no; they do not want to sign up for organ donation.

She checks Ray’s insurance. They do not take his type of insurance. His insurance was attached to his previous employ. She asks about the prior dependent on his insurance, Abby Monroe. It was his wife who died eight years before. He asks if he can pay cash. She tells him she will have to check. That is fine.

Nurse Anne (Stephanie Sy) comes to take Peri to the doctor, doctor Berthram (Stephen Tobolowsky). As they walk through the ward, the nurse tells them about a head-on collision that involved several people, with multiple injuries. The doctor turns up and looks at Peri. He recommends a CAT scan, just to make sure her head is okay. He warns Ray that the procedure is expensive. Ray tells him it is okay, he would do anything for his family.

An orderly (Erik Athavale) comes to take Peri for the scan. They take the lift down to a lower floor. The orderly tells Ray and Joanne that only one of them can come into the scan area. Ray tells Joanne that he will wait. He returns to the waiting area. Some hours later, Ray wakes up. He goes to the reception to ask if his daughter’s scan is finished yet. The receptionist (Natalie Bailey), tells him there is no record of her.

The receptionist tells him that the entire staff has changed shift and the nurses and doctors he saw are off work. Ray goes looking for his family. He is collared by the hospital security, Jeff (Chad Bruce), and Doctor Lucado (Christopher Sigurdson). Lucado asks him what has happened and Ray recounts his story. The doctor checks the scan log.

There is no record of Peri having had a scan. Ray becomes aggressive. Jeff sprays mace in his face and nurse Anne administers a sedative. They put him in a room to hold him. Ray finds a couple of epi-pens and injects them in an attempt to counteract the sedative. He breaks out of the room.

Ray escapes the hospital and gets two police officers, Childes (Lauren Cochrane) and Griggs (Shane Dean) to look into his family’s disappearance. The two officers return to the hospital with Ray. They get the staff to cooperate with Ray’s assertions, making them call doctor Berthram.

Ray mentions his ex-wife Abby. Jeff says they can clear up the confusion by checking the surveillance tapes. They watch the tapes and there is no evidence of Joanne or Peri. The cameras only have one angle.

Ray begins to get agitated and another doctor, doctor Jacobs (Adjoa Andoh) comes to speak to Ray. She is a psychologist. She gets Ray to take them back to the rest stop where the accident happened. The police are there with sniffer dogs. They find a large blood stain and doctor Jacobs speculates that he actually killed his family and his mind came up with the story to protect him.

Officer Childes goes to arrest him. He takes her gun and points it at doctor Jacobs. He locks all of the police and the doctor up in a room and steals a police car, heading back to the hospital. He heads down to the basement. He encounters Jeff again and they fight in the lift. He ends up killing Jeff. Ray searches the basement level and finds doctor Lucado and some others in an operating theatre. He tells them to stop.

He sees Peri on the operating table and finds Joanne in a wheelchair nearby. He goes to take them out but is attacked by one of the nurses in the theatre. He shoots at a light, causing an explosion. He escapes from the theatre, taking his family with him. Another nurse tries to stop him and he shoots him in the leg.

Ray puts his family in his car and drives away. Ray’s mind recalls the true events of the day. Hid daughter died with the fall and his push on his wife killed her, impaling her on a rod. When he went into the theatre and took who he thought was his daughter, it was a young man who had been caught up in the car crash earlier in the day. A becalmed Ray drives into the sunrise. The end.

Fractured is an okay film. Unfortunately, the plot is spoiled ten minutes into the film by some poor direction, giving the entire Fight Club-esque plot away early in proceedings. Burdened with that knowledge—the film really could not have gone in any other direction—the film was just a laborious watch, waiting for the less-than-shocking reveal.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Worthington is a fine actor and, truthfully, I have nothing against the man but he really cannot pick a good film. Yes, he has been in some successful films but good films? Not really.

Because of the cack-handed way the plot is spoiled, the pace of the film is affected with one watching just to check if one’s suspicions are correct, instead of watching the story unfold. I cannot adequately impart just how much of an issue this is for the film. It just made the viewing experience pretty redundant.

The rest of the cast is okay, the acting good but pointless. Worthington’s Ray, whose is highly strung and understandably anxious, is met with anger and obstinance at every juncture, with only Andoh’s Jacobs’ working out that some sort of trauma was what had him acting in such a manner.

The shooting of the film is quite good, lensed beautifully. There are some disorientating effects and oft-kilter shots to add to the, blatantly obvious, splintering psyche of Ray. The music is, though not overwhelming, pretty one-toned, always foreboding and threatening.

Some may enjoy Fractured, even with the easily seen plot twist. It is not an unwatchable film and the acting is believable even if the story is not. Written by Alan B McElroy and directed by Brad Anderson, their creative decisions prevent an okay film from being a good or exciting thriller.

Fractured is a promising idea that is let down by poor editorial decisions.

Unbridled – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis

Abel is heading for victory in his political campaign, supported by his loving wife, Nora. When an old friend, Victor, from his past, threatens to expose a particular incident that would ruin his credibility, Nora, unbeknownst to Abel, fights to keep the truths from coming out.

Is it any good?

Unbridled is okay-ish. It promises more than it delivers and has characters involved who, frustratingly, are no more than red herrings, neither affecting the story nor moving it forward.

Spoiler territory

A panicked Victor Alarcón (Ignacio Mateos) is driving Abel (Daniel Grao) and Carlos (Marcus Ruiz) after the three have been out drinking and taking drugs. Abel is passed out in the backseat. In the passenger seat, Carlos has overdosed and is struggling to stay lucid.

A desperate and frightened Victor drops him outside of the hospital emergency department and drives away. He goes and sees Nora (Natalia de Molina). She asks him about Abel. He tells her he took him to his house but he is not in a good place. She tells him that he is going to help her.

Victor does not want to. Nora is not taking no for an answer. He is going to help her help Abel. Six years later and their lives are very different. Nora and Abel are married and Abel is running for political office, to become the Andalusian president. Part of Abel’s campaign strategy is a promise to fight political corruption.

Nora gets up early and leaves Abel sleeping, going off to the town. As she departs, she stops seeing a car pulling up to her home. A woman gets out of the car. Nora waits for a bit. Her phone rings, it is an unknown number. She rejects the call. Abel goes to meet his campaign advisor, Martin (Mario Tardón). The campaign is going very well and Abel’s popularity is through the roof.

Abel insists on having a particular photographer, an old friend, taking his photographs. Martin gets the photo book. He acknowledges that Felix’s (Borja Luna), the photographer’s, work is very good. Felix knew Abel when he was party animal and like to take drugs. He was part of the same crowd.

No exposition here…


Abel meets Nora back at the house. She tells him that she has prepared the spare room for Felix. Abel tells her that a woman came to see her, Virginia (Natalia Mateo).

She was in Seville and thought she would come and visit. Abel remembers her from the past, he feels she is a little weird. Nora tells him that she bought flowers for Carlos’ grave and that he should go visit his brother’s grave. Abel says he will try. Nora is not convinced.

Felix arrives and the three have dinner. Nora is not happy about Abel replying to text at the table. He tells her it is Martin and he is coming to the party at the weekend. Nora does not really know him and says it is not really a party, more a work thing for him.

Felix jokes about him no longer having just scummy friends. Felix says he should speak about his old friends when he swears in. He also mentions how he will be the boss of Victor. Victor’s father was a powerful figure and a man with money and influence when they were all younger and partying.

Abel refuses to rise to the bait. Felix keeps needling Abel about Victor’s influence and their connection. Abel refuses to talk about him. Later, when Abel is sleeping, Nora puts hundreds of euros into an envelope. She hides the envelope in a book.

The next day, Felix is taking photographs of Abel whilst he interviews him. Abel tells him that his mother used to work for the Alarcón family. Nora is off to a clandestine meeting in a remote location. She sees a car. In the car she sees Virginia sleeping. Victor, who she has come to meet, turns up. Nora is nervous having seen Virginia.

Nora wants to cancel the meeting but Victor insists. She gives Victor the envelope. She waits for him to give her a receipt but Victor is stalling. He tells her he needs to speak to her. He records her speaking about their arrangement. Nora is furious but Victor tells her he only wants her to convince Abel not to fire him when he ascends to power.

He will not use the recording if she does as he asks. A horn sounds. The taxi that Nora had asked to wait is trying to get her attention. The horn wakes Virginia. Victor tells Nora she has until Sunday. He leaves. Virginia recognises Nora and calls out to her. She drives her home. Nora lies to her, telling her she had spotted her car and came to check on her.

This will be good on my showreel.


Felix and Abel discuss Victor’s father, who is in jail. Abel assures Felix that he is suffering for his crimes. Nora invites Virginia to stay at their home whilst she is in town. Later, Nora tries to convince Abel to keep Victor on when he rises to power.

Abel does not know that Nora and Victor have an arrangement. She tells him that she saw him and felt sorry for him, saying he looked down on his luck.

Abel does not want to talk about Victor, his animosity towards him is obvious. Nora keeps trying and Abel thinks that Victor has come to the house to asks for his job. Abel says that as soon as he is in power, Victor and his people are out.

Virginia goes to visit Victor. He is abrupt with her, relishing the power her attraction to him seems to give him. Even though it is morning, Victor insists they have a drink together. She reluctantly agrees. Victor is not happy about her disappearing on him five years before. She wants to know what he and Nora are up to.

Victor lives with his mother, who is incontinent and a little senile. Virginia cleans her up. Back at Abel and Nora’s, Felix is still snapping away. Nora tells Abel she is pregnant, hoping that she might be able to persuade him not to fire Victor because of the stress of the situation and the guilt of having Victor as a friend.

Abel says he is not guilty, he just wants to stand up to bullies with money. With only a day until Victor’s deadline to carry out his threat, Nora texts him, telling him that she needs more time. At dinner, Virginia takes exception to Felix wanting to take a photograph of her. Nora curtly quietens her.

Nora confronts Virginia in the kitchen. Virginia tells her that she knows that she was lying about seeing her from the road as she had deliberately hidden her car. Nora tells her about her issue with Victor.

She tells her about how she knew she had to help Abel after Carlos died. She used Victor’s guilt over the incident to persuade him to give her the money to take Abel away to get cleaned up.

Nora has paid all the money back but, because it came from his father’s crooked dealings, the knowledge of it could derail Abel’s campaign. Abel does not know and blames Victor for Carlos’ death.

Virginia offers to help her. Felix overhears the conversation. Martin asks Abel if there are any skeletons that he needs to know about. Abel tells him there are none.

Virginia goes to sees Victor and seduces him. She does not even try to get the recording. Victor calls Martin. He tells him about the recording and how he is going to the press. Martin tries to get hold of Abel but, having gone for a run, he has left his phone at home. Nora rejects the calls and hides the phone.

Felix says he is leaving. Nora wants him to stay to support Abel. Virginia returns. She tells Nora she could not do anything about the recording. Nora borrows her car and goes looking for Victor. She contemplates killing him by pushing him under a train but loses the nerve. Abel asks Nora if she has seen his phone. She lies.

The party is underway and Martin turns up. He makes a beeline for Abel and tells him about his call from Victor. Abel confronts Nora. He wants to know why she took the money. She tells him that it was to help him and she has paid it all back. Abel is disgusted. Nora says it is all her fault. He tells her that nobody will care.

Abel tells her that she must tell the press that it was all down to her and he knew nothing about it. She wonders aloud what will happen to her. He does not answer. He does not care. Martin interrupts them. Victor has come to see Abel.

Abel angrily confronts Victor. Victor gives him the recording. He tells him that Nora gave him a second chance. Abel goes and apologises to Nora, saying he knows she did it all for him. She tells him she is leaving. The end.

Another great shot for my reel!


Unbridled or Animales sin Collar—which translates as Animals without Collars—is a Spanish thriller that has a good premise but is unsatisfactory. Written and directed by Jota Linares, Unbridled has good performances from all involved, especially Natalia de Molina as Nora. The story of a spouse trying to keep a secret or protect a loved one is one that resonates with most, so Unbridled, even with the story being fashioned around a political campaign, already had that in its favour.

Unfortunately, there are too many unnecessary elements introduced. Natalia Mateo’s Virginia was an interesting but ultimately pointless, character. She had a relationship with Ignacio Mateos’ Victor, which obviously had some history to it, something the actors managed to convey beautifully, but it did not move the story along at all.

The same can be said for Borja Luna’s Felix. He had even less to do in the film. Linares seemed to put him into the film so as he would have someone to channel exposition through. The fact that he seemed to be stirring things up and lurking around, was a story thread that went absolutely nowhere.

Truthfully, one does not care about Daniel Grao’s Abel’s campaign. Not that it is a problem, as the story is not about the campaign and Grao is too good an actor to have been wasted in the way he is in Unbridled. Almost every scene he is in is exposition.

At least de Molina gets to emote and her scenes with Mateos are strong as well. Even Mateo’s Virginia does not have to suffer as many exposition-heavy scenes as Grao does and, as I mentioned before, her character does not add to the story.

The story is, ultimately, about guilt and responsibility, two subjects that are brilliant for any dramatic story. Linares just does not use either well enough to make one appreciate the acuteness of the characters’ situation. Instead of the characters being challenged, we, the viewer, are battered with exposition and explanations. Very frustrating.

Visually, the film is well lensed, the shot selection working really well and keeping you engaged. There is one standout scene that comes near the end that, had the preceding ninety-five minutes been good, would have been excellent. It is the scene when Nora realises that she is putting more into the relationship than Abel is.

Not only is it well-acted, it is also beautifully written. If Linares can string together scenes of that standard over a ninety-minute runtime, that is a film I would be happy to watch. Unbridled is not that film.

Fanatic – review (Netflix)

Brief Synopsis: Rap superstar, Dom D takes advantage of his status and fandom, inviting voluptuous fan, Lexi, to his after-party. Dom D and Lexi hook up at the party. Five years later, Lexi hears Dom D is back in town. She goes to see him but is prevented from doing so by his security. Lexi kidnaps him.

Is it any good?: No. Fanatic is Misery with a bit of La Doña channelled through a hip hop veneer and bad amateur dramatics. It is badly written, acted and directed. The five-point-four score on IMDB flatters it.

Spoiler territory: Dom D (Hosea Chanchez), whilst performing a show in Washington DC, spots the highly attractive and voluptuous Lexi (Denyce Lawton) from the stage. He tells his security guy, Quan (Shawne Merriman) to go and invite her to the after-party. Lexi, who had gone to the show on her own, is caught outside by Quan. He tells her Dom D wants to meet her.

Lexi comes to the party, but is uncomfortable and leaves. Dom catches up with her and sweet talks her into spending the night with him. She succumbs to his charms. Five years later and Dom D’s life is very different. He is still in the music business and a bigger star than ever, but he is now married and settled down with Zoe (Michelle Mitchenor).

He returns to DC to do another show. Lexi, who is working as a nurse, hears about the show. She dolls up, and goes to the after-party, hoping to reconnect with Dom. She tries to get his attention at the party but is intercepted by Quan, who turns her away. A furious Lexi goes to the bathroom. She hides in a cubicle as she hears women coming into the bathroom.

Amy (Shantelle Lee Cuevas) and a friend come into the bathroom. They are chatting about the party. The friend wants to leave, but Amy is determined to get with Dom. the friend leaves Amy alone in the bathroom, fixing her makeup. Lexi comes out of the bathroom and attacks her, knocking her to the ground.

Dom, who is fulfilling a contractual obligation to be in the club, wants to leave and go home to Zoe. Sosa (Sticky Fingaz), Dom’s manager, tries to persuade him to stay, telling him how much money they are making with the club appearance. Dom insists on leaving. He and Sosa leave the club, Quan following behind.

Sosa sends Quan back into the club to pick up some drinks. Dom gets into the car as Sosa has a cigarette. Lexi knocks Sosa out and maces Dom. she then injects a sedative into him and kidnaps him. A confused Dom wakes up to find Lexi sitting atop him, telling him that they are meant to be together.

Zoe and Quan are at the hospital where a comatose Sosa has been taken. Officer Hardaway (Darius McCrary) tells Zoe that Dom has not been seen since Sosa was attacked and that he is the chief suspect. Zoe is convinced that he is missing.

Lexi tortures a less than compliant Dom. She sedates him again and goes to work at the hospital. At the hospital, she sees Quan and Lexi waiting for Sosa. Lexi kills Sosa. A still restrained Dom remembers how he met Zoe.

Zoe investigates her husband’s disappearance, going back to the club and speaking to the owner, Sylvester (Miguel A. Núñez Jr). He points her in the direction of Amy. Meanwhile, a chained up Dom tries to strangle Lexi. She stabs him and breaks his leg with a baseball bat. She sedates him again.

Zoe goes to see Amy. Amy tells her she was attacked by Lexi who she went to high school with. She says that Lexi was always a little crazy and stalker-ish. Lexi has put Dom into a wheelchair. He is still restrained. Zoe asks Quan to get her a gun. She uses her contacts as a journalist to investigate Lexi.

A deranged Lexi is trying to convince Dom that he and she should be together. She looks through his lyrics notebook and becomes enraged when she sees lyrics dedicated to his wife. She works out his pin number and gets into his phone, checking out photos of Zoe. She rages at Dom about marrying Zoe, saying it should have been her.

At least we in focus right?


Zoe speaks to Officer Hardaway, who tells her once again that Dom is the chief suspect in regards to Sosa’s death. Dom lies to Lexi, telling her he remembers her. She questions him, wanting him to recall the details of their encounter. She realises he is lying and punishes him by cutting him.

Quan calls Zoe. He has received a text from Dom saying he is heading back to LA. Zoe has not heard anything. Does Quan believe that Dom would leave without her? Quan does not. He turns around.

Zoe’s friend, Timothy (Zac Titus), has news about Lexi. It turns out that she has a very troubled past. Lexi has been in mental institutions and had other issues. Lexi tells Dom that she wants them to be together. Dom tells her he loves his wife.

Zoe goes to see Lexi at her house. Lexi threatens her with a gun. Zoe receives a text from Dom’s phone. It tells her their relationship is not working out, and that he has gone back to LA. Zoe is not convinced. Zoe is back telling Dom she wants to have his baby.

Zoe returns her hotel room and is met by Officer Hardaway. He has received a complaint from Lexi. He tells her she should go back to LA. Zoe tells him that she is sure that Lexi has something to do with Dom’s disappearance. Hardaway tells her he can make life very difficult for her.

Zoe receives another call from Timothy. Had she looked at the information that he had sent? She had not had time. Timothy tells her about Lexi. Her father died of a stroke and she had a miscarriage. Her father did not know she was pregnant, because she had suffered a gang-rape and had not told him.

The entire incident had been recorded and released on the dark web. She had also been hospitalised several times for miscarriages. Lexi meanwhile, is preparing a bath to baptise Dom in. Zoe returns to Lexi’s home searching for Dom. She watches the tape of Lexi’s rape. Hardaway comes and catches her.

It turns out he was one of the rapists, and his guilt from that act, as well as his misguided love for her, has him helping Lexi in her warped life. Hardaway lays out his entire complicity in the snatching of Dom, and is helping her cover her tracks. Zoe records the conversation. She sends the conversation to her editor.

Hardaway approaches Zoe. She attacks him, knocking him to the ground. Both reach for their guns. Lexi has put a semiconscious Dom into the tub and hears the gunshot. She goes to investigate. Quan sees her leave the basement and goes to rescue Dom. Lexi finds Hardaway dead and tries to shoot Zoe.

Zoe confronts Lexi and tries to talk her down, telling her she understands her suffering. They fight and Lexi’s gun goes off. Lexi is shot. They call emergency services and Dom is taken to the hospital along with a still alive Lexi.

Some months later, Zoe is pregnant and receives a call from Dom, who is away on tour. She receives another call. It is Lexi, she says she is ‘wifey’ and a door opens behind Zoe. The end.

Fanatic is terrible. With a convoluted story by Allen Blackwell and script by Camara Davis and Paul D Hannah, the film takes the lazy stalker trope and tries to hide behind a soap-opera-esque, gang-rape storyline. It is a total mess.

Poorly directed by Keith L. Smith, it is shocking that Smith, a cinematographer of some one hundred and twenty credits, should have such poor shot selection. There are extreme close-ups that simply do not work, random off-kilter shots of Lexi and lazy tripod shots when movement would have enhanced the shot.

It is the story that is really poor though. Fanatic is a wretched piece of cinema, irritatingly relying on well-worn stereotypes to try and inject some sort of drama into proceedings. The ‘angry’ black woman in film, whether it be in comedy or drama, is such an overused stereotype it is becoming insulting.

Though Mitchenor’s Zoe was shown as a positive black woman, the rest of the film is so bad it hardly matters. Lawton’s Lexi, who was batshit crazy, waited five years to exorcise her crazy on Chanchez’s Dom. Five years? What was she doing? Hanging out in mental institutions? Her total madness did not stop her from getting a highly responsible job.

As is the case with a lot of these cinema/made-for-TV hybrids, the music is cranked up to eleven, and as subtle as a shit stain in white pants. The actors try to work with the clunky script, but it is just too woeful and proves beyond the cast’s herculean efforts.

Just whose idea it was to throw in McCrary’s Hardaway as the belated catalyst to Lexi’s craziness, I do not know, but it was not a good one. It just made a bad story worse, not to mention the need for murder mystery-like exposition scene for his involvement towards the end.

The horror film ending of Lexi still being around is exasperating and another reason to avoid this film. At ninety-one minutes long, Fanatic is not lengthy, but it is still too long for any right-minded person to sit through. With an estimated budget of one point two million dollars, it is a cheap production and it shows.

Fanatic is a cheap film and a bad film. Avoid.

My Teacher, My Obsession – review (Netflix)

English teacher Chris Sumner (Rusty Joiner) and his daughter, Riley (Laura Bilgeri), move to a new town after Chris splits with Riley’s mother due to her having an affair. Riley, a bit of a loner, meets Kyla (Lucy Loken), another student who is also a loner, given to taking photos around the school campus.

Kyla sees Chris on his first day and takes a photo of him. Chris is an attractive man, something noted by Tricia (Alexandra DeBerry), the resident hot, popular girl at school. Kyla befriends Riley, even though she is besotted with her father. Kyla’s mother, Jess (Jana Lee Hamblin), begins to see a new man. It turns out to be Chris.

Kyla sees Tricia befriending Riley and gets jealous, warning her not to hang out with Tricia. Tricia tells Riley that Kyla is the bad one. Chris comes to take Jess out for a date. Kyla sabotages her mother’s date with Chris by spilling water on his clothes and suggesting that they have the date in the house.

Back at school, Kyla, having heard that Riley was hanging out with Tricia from her father, ignores Riley. Riley tries to talk to her but Kyla refuses. Kyla threatens Tricia. Her obsession with Chris is getting worse. She frames Tricia for bullying by planting pictures of herself in her locker, making people believe Tricia did it. She also steals Tricia’s mobile phone, sending sexual texts to Chris. Tricia gets expelled.

Riley gets her mother to look at Chris’ phone so as she can see the texts from Tricia’s phone. Jess splits up with Chris. Kyla immediately begins to seduce Chris. Kyla persuades Riley to have an eighteenth birthday party. At the party, Kyla seduces Chris in the bedroom. Riley walks in on them and is furious. Kyla’s goes up a level as she realises that Chris sees his daughter as more important than her.

How you like me now?

Riley tells Jess about her father and Kyla. Kyla tells her mother that she is jealous and that Chris is hers and they are in love. Chris tries to tell Kyla that they cannot work. She uses Tricia to get to him, framing her once again, this time for assault, breaking her own finger to make the attack look convincing. Tricia gets arrested.

In the hospital, Jess tells Kyla that she must not see Chris anymore. Riley tells her that her dad is going to stay away from her. Kyla believes that Chris still wants her, even as he tells her he has no interest in her. Chris tells her he is going to leave the school, as he realises her obsession is delusional. Kyla grabs a scalpel and leaves the hospital.

At the school, Kyla stabs Riley, telling her that Chris cannot have both of them in his life. She finds Chris in his office and threatens him with the scalpel, telling him that they can start a new family. He fights her off of him. She kicks out at him and he is knocked unconscious. A janitor, hearing the commotion, comes to check the office.

Kyla cuts his throat. She chases a still alive but bleeding Riley through the school corridors. They fight in the photography darkroom and Riley knocks her unconscious. The police and ambulance services turn up and take them all away.

Sometime later, Riley and Chris have moved again. Riley is going to college and Chris is about to start in a new post. As Riley drives off, Kyla pops out of the shadows. The end.

I want to shag your dad.

My Teacher, My Obsession is so much hokum. Obviously, with a title that bad, it was never going to be a masterwork or even passably good, but the filmmakers really did not even try to pretend they were making a good film.

Using the old “obsessive, stalker female” trope made famous by far better films—Play Misty For Me, Fatal Attraction, MiseryMy Teacher, My Obsession is so lazy that it is laughable. Loken’s Kyla does not even bother to begin as an even mildly normal student, introduced as a photo-snapping loner from the outset.

The moment she claps eyes on Joiner’s Chris, she is besotted. How her own mother seems to have no idea that her daughter is so mentally unstable is a little bit of a worry. Bilgeri’s Riley not noticing that Kyla seemed to have an unhealthy attraction to her father, even though Kyla was drooling every time she saw the man, is ridiculous.

Kyla’s genius—or the entire town’s stupidity—gets Tricia expelled and arrested, with nary a finger pointed in the direction of the crazed Kyla. Jess, prompted by her loony daughter, immediately thinks the worst of Chris just on the strength of a few texts.

Truth be told, all the glaring plot holes are not really an issue; the film and story, such as it is, is not aiming for coherence or even to make sense. Written by Patrick Robert Young, who I assume was drunk, and directed by Damian Romay, My Teacher, My Obsession, is an obsessive thriller by numbers, ticking boxes whilst bringing nothing at all new to the genre.

The acting is okay, with DeBerry’s Tricia probably being the best performance, which is saying a lot as she is on the screen for less than ten minutes. The rest of the actors are not bad, though they do seem to be acting, making their performances less appealing.

The climax of the film is rushed and makes a film that was already poor even worse, the script, which had not been particularly notable up until that point, taking a definite downturn in quality as Kyla goes fully homicidal crazy.

My Teacher, My Obsession is watchable for all of the wrong reasons. It will leave you incredulous at how bad it is, like a fake soap opera in a sitcom. If you are a fan of bad movies, you may enjoy My Teacher, My Obsession; otherwise, avoid.

Before I Fall -review (Netflix)

The English language is an ever-expanding, evolving, thing. Words get added, some fall out of the common lexicon. It is the usage of words that generally gets a word committed to language. In the eighties, before there was an influencer or even an internet, Thatcherism was a word absorbed into common parlance by virtue of the British press’ coining of the term over the period of the then prime minister’s reign.

Even on the other side of the pond, the term Watergate, once again a term coined by the press, has had every scandal, political or otherwise, since, given the ‘gate’ adage. In the present, with social media the western world’s dominant presence, a new word has entered the modern lexicon.

Personally, I am not a fan of this word. It is kind of stupid and adds nothing to the English language. The word is ‘bae’. ‘Bae’ is a term of endearment, a catch-all pet name, like ‘babe’, ‘sweetie’, or ‘darling’. ‘Bae’ is not a great word. But I digress. Well, actually it is not a digression but it is off-topic. To the review.

I’m going to die today. And again tomorrow…

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is from a well-to-do middle-class family and is part of a popular quartet of girls at her high school. Waking up on February 12th, dubbed Cupid day at school where the boys give girls a rose to show affection, she is picked up by the de facto leader of the quartet, Lindsay Edgecomb (Halston Sage). They pick up the other two on the way, Ally Harris (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi).

Sam, as they all call her, is planning to lose her virginity to Rob Cokran (Kian Lawley) and the girls rib her about it as they drive to school. At school, Cupid day is in full swing. As a teacher takes the class, Kent McFuller (Logan Miller) arrives late, apologising for his tardiness. The teacher continues. He interrupted again as three girls come into the class to deliver roses to the lucky ladies.

Sam receives an unusual rose from somebody. After the class, Kent catches up with her to ask her if she liked the rose. Sam is noncommittal, a little cold towards the obviously smitten Kent. He tells her he is having a party, as his parents are away. Will she come? Perhaps.

The four young women meet at lunch, chatting away. Juliet Sykes (Elena Kampouris), a timid and frazzled looking student, moves meekly through the cafeteria. Lindsay begins to loudly insult her, the rest of the girls joining in, laughing at Juliet’s expense. Later, in the evening, the girls all get ready together for Kent’s house party.

They go to the party and are having a good time. Rob is totally wasted at the party. Juliet turns up and screams at the four girls, calling them out for bullying her relentlessly. Lindsay throws a drink on her and everyone at the party begins to follow suit, embarrassing her. Juliet runs out of the party.

Where are you going? The party’s not finished!

Kent tries to talk to Sam but she shuts him down. The girls leave the party. Lindsay is driving through the rain. She asks Sam what the time is. Twelve thirty-eight. Lindsay hits something and skids the car flipping over.

Sam wakes up. She checks her phone. It is Cupid day. She continues through the day, confused to be living the same day again, right up to the crash. She wakes up on Cupid day again. She tries to change things, hoping that the next day there will be a different result. She avoids the party, persuading her crew to have a sleepover and watches the time tick past twelve thirty-eight.

They all get messages early in the morning. Juliet committed suicide. Lindsay shows no sign of sadness at her death, even though Elody points out that they used to be friends when younger. Sam did not know they had been friends.

Sam wakes up. It is Cupid day. She continues to relive the same day, the only person knowing what is going to happen at every moment. One day she decides to be a bitch to everybody, calling out Lindsay and alienating the other two. She sleeps with Rob at the party as she hears Juliet getting abused by Lindsay and the rest. She bonds with Kent.

She wakes up on Cupid day. She decides to try something different, bonding with her little sister and spending time with her family. She goes to the party to see Kent. She is hanging out with him and remembers Juliet. She runs into the night to try and stop her. She catches up with her and they talk. Juliet runs into the road and is hit by Lindsay’s car, which then flips over.

Sam wakes up on Cupid day. It is the last time. She knows what she needs to do. She tells those close to her she loves them, breaks up with Rob, stops Lindsay bullying Juliet. She kisses Kent and goes after Juliet again. She tries to talk her out of committing suicide but Juliet still runs into the road. Sam pushes her out of the way, saving her life, but gets killed herself. The end.

This is my dark phase…

Before I Fall is a good film. Utilising the much-used story device of reliving the same day, as seen in Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code and such, Before I Fall differs from those films in being a teen set drama. Based on a book by Lauren Oliver, the screenplay is by Maria Maggenti and it is directed by Ry Russo-Young.

At ninety-eight minutes long, the film moves along nicely, Deutch’s expressive face keeping you engaged for the entire runtime. Halston Sage, who holds her own opposite a brilliant Bella Thorne in You Get Me, is given a bit of a darker role in this as the catty Lindsey. The acting is good from all of the actors, even the underused eighties hottie, Jennifer Beale as Sam’s mother.

The directing is very fluid, with Russo-Young employing some great shot selections. There are lovely overhead shots, giving a sense of disorientation to Sam and tight shots on the girls as a group, reinforcing their closeness. Conversely, Juliet is shot mostly from far away, her alienation from the high school masses emphasised.

Maggenti’s script is also good. It is always a bit of a task making such a cerebral story work on the screen, especially as the central premise is for the story to repeat itself. Maggenti’s script manages to convey Sam’s rising frustration without it getting boring and repetitive.

Before I Fall is an entertaining film that gets better over its runtime. It is definitely worth watching on a lazy Sunday.

In The Fade – review (Netflix)

Nuri Sekerci (Nurman Acar) is happy. He is marrying the love of his life, Katja (Diane Kruger). Such is their love and devotion to one another that, rather than buy wedding bands, they have them tattooed on their wedding fingers. The marriage takes place in prison as Nuri is serving a sentence for drug dealing.

Some years later, Nuri’s life is very different. A Turkish national, he helps other Turkish nationals to settle in Germany and also helps ex-cons to reform. They have a son, Rocco (Rafael Santana), who Katja brings to Nuri’s office, as she is going to visit her pregnant friend Brigit (Samia Chancrin) and needs to borrow the car.

Katja leaves Rocco with Nuri as she goes to see Brigit. As she leaves the office, she notices a young woman leaving a new bicycle outside of the office. She calls to her, telling her that she should lock the bike up as someone could steal it. The girl says she will be right back.

Katja spends the afternoon with Brigit. When she returns, the roads around the office are cordoned off. There has been an explosion. Two people are dead and many have been injured.

Katja fights past the cordon, running towards the office. She is restrained by several police officers. Two people are dead, but the bodies are so badly destroyed that they will need DNA to test them. Katja goes to see if her family is amongst the survivors. They are not. The police take her home to get some DNA of Nuri and Rocco.

The tests come back positive; her husband and child died in the explosion. Chief Inspector Reetz (Henning Peker) leads the investigation into their deaths. He wants to establish if her husband had any enemies. No, none. Did she notice anything? No. Wait, there was a woman with a bike. It was new and had a large carrier attached to it.

Katja is bereft. Brigit stays with her as she grieves. The next morning, reports of the bombing are in the news. Nuri is portrayed as a convicted drug dealer. A photofit of the woman Katja described is with the report. Katja’s mother, Annemarie (Karin Neuhäuser), intimates that Nuri might have been mixed up with something that Katja did not know about. Katja gives the notion of short shrift.

Katja goes to see her friend and lawyer, Danilo Fava (Denis Moschitto). Fava was a close friend of Nuri. She asks him if Nuri was involved in any of his old endeavours, Fava assures her he was not. She asks if they know who did it.

He tells her that they are looking at possible Eastern European connections. Katja does not think that is right. The girl who left the bike was German. The thought suddenly occurs to her that it was neo-Nazis.

Fava gives her a few drugs that he took off of clients. The next day, Nuri’s parents tell her they want to take his remains and that of their grandson’s back to Turkey, having decided to return to Turkey. Katja leaves the room. She goes and takes a line of cocaine. When she returns, she tells them no.

At the funeral, Nuri’s parents blame her for Rocco’s death. Back home, the police gain a warrant to search the house. They find the small amount of drugs Katja got from Fava. The inspector tells her that it is unlikely that she will be prosecuted for such a small amount of drugs. She tells the inspector that the Nazis did the bombing. Why? Because her husband was Turkish.

Katja feels overwhelmed with the police looking at her husband’s criminal past as a motive for his death. Back home, her mother intimates that Nuri corrupted her. Before Katja can react, Michi (Uwe Rohde), her mother’s boyfriend, tells her to pack. They are leaving.

Katja goes to the site of the bombing. She returns home, consumed by her depression. Brigit, who had been staying with her, leaves at Katja’s request. Katja continues to grieve, sleeping in Rocco’s bed, ignoring all contact. She slits her wrist in the bath, waiting to die. Fava calls. She was right, it was a neo-Nazi attack, and they have made an arrest.

The girl she saw, Edda Moller (Hanna Hilsdorf), and her husband André (Ulrich Brandhoff), stands accused of the bombing. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence against them and even André’s father, Jurgen (Ulrich Tukur), testifies to the fact that his son embraced neo-Nazi teachings.

The Moller’s defence lawyer, Haberbeck (Johannes Krisch), proves to be very effective, bringing into question not only Katja’s character but also the evidence in regard to his clients. They even have an alibi for when Katja says she saw Edda.

Edda says she was in Greece. The court acquits the couple, saying that though they do not necessarily believe the Moller’s to be innocent, the evidence presented was not conclusive enough to eradicate reasonable doubt.

Some time has passed. Katja goes to Greece looking for Nikolaos Makris (Yannis Economides), the man who provided an alibi for Edda. She finds him but alerts him to her presence by asking for the Moller’s. He sees her but she escapes. By chance, she sees his car passing after she stops to buy cigarettes. She follows him to the beach. He meets the Moller’s. They are living in a caravan on the beach.

He tells them about Katja. Katja, furnished with the knowledge of their location, builds a bomb. She goes to the caravan and places it under the caravan. She waits, the couple having gone for a run.

As she waits, she has second thoughts and goes and retrieves the bomb. She had been ignoring Fava’s calls, her mindset on a particular course of action.

She speaks to Fava. He tells her he is preparing an appeal and that she should come to see him tomorrow. She says she will see him in the morning. She returns to the beach the next morning. The Moller’s have returned from another run. She walks up to the caravan; the bomb is strapped to her. She opens the caravan, goes inside and detonates the bomb. The end.

In The Fade, or, to give it its original German title, Aus dem Nichts, is a sobering, emotional drama written and directed by Fatih Akin. A straightforward story of a heinous crime and its impact on various parties, the film is driven by Kruger’s central performance.

In truth, the story is more about grief than anything else. Though the story of neo-Nazi sympathisers destroying a family simply due to their origin is a powerful and emotive one, it is Kruger’s Katja who draws sympathy, even as it becomes increasingly evident that there can only be one resolution.

A slow burner of a film, In The Fade’s pacing, will not suit everyone. At one hundred and five minutes long, the first hour is raw emotional viewing as Katja struggles to deal with the loss of her family. Strangely, for a film incorrectly billed as a revenge thriller, In The Fade is more an observation of helplessness within a frame of civil society.

Katja’s mourning and pain are amplified by the legal systems inability to mete out any sort of justice. With this being a German film, the Hollywood ending, where she perhaps shoots all who are “deserving” in the face or throws them off of a building or some such movie-esque fitting comeuppance, never materialises.

Katja almost gives us the ending we want but decides against it. She is not a cold-blooded murderer. The final resolution was the only way for her. In The Fade is a compelling watch mostly for Kruger’s strong central performance. Though everybody else is good, it is Kruger’s film and, aside from the two lawyers, nobody else’s character is explored much beyond the surface.

In The Fade is obviously a film that was personal to Akin, with title cards at the end displaying how many neo-Nazi attacks have happened in Germany in the past year. It is a good film, but obviously, due to its subject matter, not an overly enjoyable one.

Elizabeth Harvest -review (Netflix)

    Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) is the young beautiful, newly married wife, of billionaire Henry (Ciarán Hinds). He takes her to his sprawling, modern, mansion, located in a remote and mountainous region. There, she meets his son, who is blind, Oliver (Matthew Beard) and his housekeeper, Claire (Carla Gugino). 

    Henry shows the impressionable Elizabeth around the very impressive home, the rooms accessed by biometric thumbprint scanners. He tells her that it is now her home as well as his and that she is free to go wherever she wants with the exception of one room. 

    The next day, Henry tells her that he will be away on business for a day. Left alone in the vast house, Elizabeth tries to amuse herself and explores the house. As night falls, she sees Oliver and Claire taking a walk in the grounds. She is totally alone in the house. Curiosity gets the better of her and she goes into the room Henry asked her not to go into. 

    In the room she comes across a clone of herself and freaks out, running from the room. The next day, Henry has returned and Elizabeth cannot hide her disquiet at what she has seen, though she does not say anything. Henry acts a little odd, speaking cryptically throughout the day. As night falls the two are in bed. Henry gets up, leaving the bed. A nervous Elizabeth gets up to see where he is going.

    Henry appears before her. He has a large cutlass. He tells her that he knows that she went into the room. Elizabeth tries to flee. He catches up with her and kills her. The next morning, he, Claire and Oliver, bury her in the grounds. Claire is not happy about the situation, discussing it as they sit down to breakfast. It is obvious that it has happened before. 

    Local policeman, Logan (Dylan Baker), comes to see Henry. They have a history and Logan comes to tell him that he is under some scrutiny at work, with colleagues being pitted against one another. Claire is in her room writing in her journal. Oliver comes and interrupts her with a bouquet of flowers. They have a brief exchange and then he leaves her alone.

   Six weeks later, Henry is carrying Elizabeth over the threshold of his home once more, introducing her to Claire and Oliver again. Showing her around the home again and warning her not to enter the room again. Elizabeth is different this time around. She is still curious but seems more worldly. Henry leaves again, repeating the pattern. Elizabeth discovers a clone again, but this time she leaves the room open as she flees. 

    The clone wakes up and roams the house. She finds Elizabeth sleeping. Henry returns the next day. He wakes Elizabeth up. It is midday. He wastes no time in confronting her about entering the room and tries to strangle her. Elizabeth fights him off and runs. She takes up refuge in the kitchen, grabbing a couple of kitchen knives. 

    Meanwhile, Henry has gotten some Halothane, an anaesthetic, and soaked a cloth with it. He grabs her and puts the cloth over her face. Elizabeth goes limp and he thinks she is unconscious. She stabs him in the back, killing him. When she recovers from the effects of the Halothane, she tries to leave the house. None of the locks work, not even for Henry’s fingerprint. She tries to call the police but cannot get through properly. 

    Elizabeth cleans up the blood and hides the body. Claire and Oliver are surprised to see her when they return. Claire is overcome and, with an existing heart condition, collapses. She is taken to the hospital. Oliver stops Elizabeth leaving. He knows she has killed Henry. They burn the body. 

   Oliver quizzes her about her memories. He tells her that she is a clone. Detective Logan comes to the house again. Oliver tells Elizabeth that she has to get rid of him. As she is talking to him, Oliver shoots him. They burn the body. 

   Oliver tells Elizabeth to go and pack a bag, so as she can leave. He then locks her in the bedroom with Claire’s journal. He wants to know what is in the journal. Claire has documented the entire history of her encounter with Henry. She was a doctor who the retired billionaire, also a doctor, had invited to come and see her. 

   His wife, Elizabeth, had died of a rare disease and he had been broken by the grief. He had cloned her in the hope of finding a cure for the condition. That is why he invited Claire to his home. Claire’s curiosity and desire to solve the conundrum caused her to stay with the morally dubious Henry. 

    Claire had catalogued the evolution of the different Elizabeth’s. The Elizabeth who was reading the journal was the fifth one. Oliver still has her captive and she tries to escape when he brings her some food. He gives her the wrong code. When she returns to find him, he has disappeared. She finds him in the room with clone six. He tricks her again, administering a sedative. 

   He locks her up again, this time chains her to the bed. He wants her to keep reading, wanting to know if there is anything about him. He tells her that his father blinded him for looking at her when he was young. Claire’s journal says that she believes that Oliver is not Henry’s son but his clone.

Henry showed Claire Oliver’s birth certificate, Elizabeth tells Oliver. Elizabeth fools Oliver and forces him to give her the keys to the chain on her leg. She is about to escape, but Elizabeth six comes into the bedroom and points a gun at her.

Elizabeth stabs Oliver and takes him hostage. Elizabeth six shoots, killing Oliver and wounding Elizabeth. Elizabeth leaves the house but Elizabeth six shoots her again and she collapses, dying. Elizabeth tells her to read the journal. 

   Elizabeth six finds out that Henry has left everything to Claire, as sort of a deal for her compliance. Claire returns to the house and Elizabeth six leaves. The end. 

    Elizabeth Harvest – a terrible title – is a visually arresting, slow burner of a film. Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, it is a compelling story of obsession, power and morality. Henry’s misguided attempts to recreate his wife, border on obsession and it is only his vast riches and ego that allow him the scope and hubris to even attempt to do so. 

    That he should, intrinsically, know that any clone is not actually the woman he loved, to such a degree that he kills four of them without compunction or remorse, makes the obsession even more macabre. 

   At one hundred and five minutes long, Elizabeth Harvest is not a long film. Having said that, it is a film that needs patience, as the story is not apparent until thirty minutes into the film. With the script being so sparse, the film goes very much with the often-repeated film adage of to ‘show, don’t tell’, with one forced to pay attention to what is going on visually. 

    Gutierrez’s style is very reminiscent of Alex Garland’s works such as Annihilation and Ex Machina, though he does seem to like oft-kilter camera shots a lot more. Their works are very similar in the approach to story however, with the viewer forced to work for it. 

    The setting of the house is quite relevant, especially in its stark, clean, modernity. Vast and spartan in design ethic, it reflects the values and nature of those who reside there; the two scientists in Henry and Claire and the strange Oliver. By contrast, Elizabeth, regardless of the version, seems very much out of place, a visitor not a resident. 

    The acting is good from all the cast. Ciarán Hinds’ Henry is suitably menacing and ego-driven, Matthew Beard’s Oliver, a reticent figure until given freedom by his father’s death. Carla Gugino’s Claire seems initially good until we are shown she is just as complicit in proceedings and weak in the worse way. 

   Abbey Lee, an obvious model-turned-actor, is brilliant as the much cloned Elizabeth. She is at different times, as different Elizabeth’s, afraid, dizzy, dopey, angry and determined. It truly is a multifaceted performance. 

   Gutierrez’s direction is good for the most part. There are some indulgent creative flashes and unnecessary shots, but nothing that is so egregious as to detract from proceedings. Elizabeth Harvest is a good-ish film, slightly let down by pacing and artistic indulgence. Having said that. It is worth a look if you like science thrillers. 

Beats – review (Netflix)

     In one of the black neighbourhoods of Chicago, August (Khalil Everage) Laz (Evan J Simpson) and Niyah (Ashley Jackson) are hanging about and goofing around after dark. August’s Mother (Uzo Aduba) calls him for dinner, not realising he is out. She tells his older sister, Kari (Megan Sousa) to go and find him. 

    August is urinating on a building as Laz films it because the three want to disrespect the youths of that part of the neighbourhood. When some of those same youths come across them, the three are forced to flee to their own part of the neighbourhood.

They arrive back and run to  Vern (Jeremy Phillips) who is hanging on the streets with some of his crew. His mere presence deters the chasing horde and they retreat back to their own neighbourhood.

    Kari finds August and tells him to come home. She warns him about hanging out on the streets, worried that he will die out there. Both are into and make music, they talk about beats as they walk back home. As Kari turns to August to make a point, she is shot and killed, the bullet passing through her hitting August in the chest. 

    Eighteen months later, August is still making music but he never leaves his home. His mother does not allow him to leave the house, afraid he might get shot and killed like his sister before him. August also suffers panic attacks ever since the shooting and is anxious around crowds. 

    At August’s school, The principal, Vanessa Robinson (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is trying to keep her school safe, not at all ably assisted by her estranged husband, Romelo Reese (Anthony Anderson), a failed music producer forced to work as a security guard at the school to make ends meet. Robinson addresses the teachers in a meeting and tells them they need to get students into their classrooms, as it affects the budget allocated by the state. 

   After the meeting is concluded, Robinson and Reese talk. He wants to borrow money. He already owes her money, but she says she will give him the money if he can get five students to return to school. Reese agrees. As he goes to the various homes of absentee students, he meets August mother.

While speaking with her, as she refuses to let him go to school, he hears August’s music. Reese sneaks into August’s room to try and speak with him, but August freaks out. His mother comes into the room and orders Reese out. 

     Robinson calls Reese into her office. August’s mother has lodged a complaint. Robinson, knowing Reese’s desperation to get back into music, is not impressed. Reese says he is not going get back into music. The next day he goes to see August, making sure his mother is not in. Reese slowly gains August trust, introducing him to different musical styles. They always meet when his mother is at work. 

    Though August finds solace in music, he still continues to have episodes of anxiety and panic, nearly burning the apartment down when remembering his sister cooking lunch for him. His mother, the sole breadwinner, also suffers her own mental torment, obsessively watching news broadcast of the shootings that afflict the neighbourhood. 

    Robinson gives Reese divorce papers. He does not want to sign them, wanting to reconcile. She does not want that. Reese continues to work with August on his music. Reese goes to meet an old music acquaintance, Terence (Paul Walter Hauser). Terence is big in the music business, but Reese was the person who got him his break. Terence gives him short shrift, telling him to chat to him when he has a demo. 

    Reese goes to see Mister Ford, (Dave East) as he needs a rapper for the track that August is producing. Ford and Reese have some history, as it seems Reese does with all of the music movers and shakers. Ford is a little cold with him. Reese promises that this time around it will be different. 

    August tells Reese about his panic attacks and why he never leaves the house. Reese finds out he fancies Niyah, watching her walk to and from school at the same time every day. Reese finds a rapper through Ford, Queen Cabrini (Seandrea ‘Dreezy’ Sledge). Reese finds that August has written a song for Niyah. He persuades him to lay it down and give it to her on a CD. 

    Reese takes the track to Ford and they record with Queen Cabrini. Reese takes August out of his home to go and deliver the CD. He then takes him to a musical instrument store. Reese goes to see Terence, asking him to feature Queen Cabrini, with August’s track, in an upcoming show. He lies to Robinson, telling her he wants to borrow her car so as he can do some Uber work and win her back. He takes August and Niyah to the show. 

    August mother returns home early from work and finds him gone. She calls the police. Reese returns to see the police cars. August’s mother freaks out when she sees him and attacks Reese. He gets arrested and the next day is bailed out by a furious Robinson. 

   Reese’s problems continue to mount when Ford and Terence cut him out of the music deal. A drunken Reese goes to see Robinson, proclaiming his continuing love for her. She tells him there will be no reconciliation. Realising she will not change her mind, he signs the divorce papers. 

   Reese gets August a deal with Terence, telling him that the deal is good. After August signs, Reese has a change of heart and torches the deal. August’s mother is furious, especially when she hears Reese was given forty thousand dollars to bring August in. Terence tells Reese that he will destroy him. August freaks out and runs off. 

   August’s mother is distraught, not knowing where her son is. Reese finds him and August confesses that he thinks he is to blame for everything. He feels not only guilty about his mother’s situation but also for his sister’s death. Reese tells him that he is not to blame. He takes August back to his mother. 

   Two months later, August returns to school. Principal Robinson is happy to see him. He is still making music with Reese. August approaches Niyah at school. She is happy to see him but hides it, waiting for him to speak. The end. 

   Beats, written by Miles Orion Feldsott and directed by Chris Robinson, is a film caught between genres. Following on from the success of programmes like Power, Star and most notably, Empire, Beats uses ghetto gang culture and hip hop, rap and beats as the background of the story. What is unusual is the central story of August. Though he is affected by the streets and embraces the music of the streets, his anxiety keeps from them. 

   Along with his mother’s slightly misguided attempts to keep him off the streets, August is effectively shielded from the life that inadvertently took his sister. His life, though safe, is no longer full. With no interaction with the outside world, August is forced to live in a world of beats and rhythms, with only his voyeurism an outlet to the world. 

   Reese’s intervention, even though it is initially selfish, saves August. Reese becomes August’s conduit and guardian in a world as cutthroat and unforgiving as the streets his mother struggles to shield him from. 

    The acting is top draw across the board, with Khalil Everage standout as the traumatised August. Chris Robinson employs some great shot selection and edits to elicit the necessary emotion in the film. From the immersive shots of August lost in music to his mind shifts when he sees his departed sister in his mind. 

    The script is street speak with clarity, the context of every word made easily apparent. Every character has a very distinct voice and character. Even the minor characters are easily recognisable from life of the streets and the hustle. 

  The film glides smoothly through its one hundred runtime, with no scenes unnecessary or forced.  The music is good without dominating proceedings, more of an extra character in the film. Beats is a good film and approaches the well-worn path of life for black youths on the streets in a slightly different way. Beats, if you are a fan of music, is definitely worth one hundred minutes of your time.