Leeds Film Festival 2010: Day 11

The Woman who Dreamt of a Man (Den) ()

A sour romantic thriller from Denmark in the same vein as Anna M, a story of how obsessional desire can only destroy everything you know. Fashion photographer K dreams over and over of a man committing suicide by falling from a hotel room balcony. In the waking world she finds Machek, a happily married man by chance at a cafe who is the spit of the one in her dreams. Forming an immediate bond to the man and a desire to protect him, she follows and finds him responding with equal passion to her advances, the lives of both their families forgot in the throes of passion.

But the situation cannot last, and Machek begins to step back from the edge, with only K's overpowering desire keeping him close. Both sides risk losing everything for their passions, and K appears to be losing her mind.

This is a good movie to introduce to your average cinema goer, to show them that just because it's not made in the US doesn't make it inaccessible. Most of the film is in English with only the occasional burst of subtitles, and from the look of the friend I took with me who doesn't go for this sort of thing, he really enjoyed it (although that might have been to do with the large amounts of casual nudity). 8/10

Erratum (Pol) (review)

Long since leaving behind his parents, home and friends in Szczecin for a new life elsewhere, Michal is asked by his boss to return there to pick up a new car. On the start of his drive back however, he knocks down an old man who wanders drunkenly into the road. Initially fleeing the scene, he returns to face justice, and is fortunate to spend a quiet conversation in police custody with a wise old officer who understands the situation; the old man was drunk and Michal was driving correctly. Enough to cause the end credits to roll in many films, this was not the end of the story but the beginning. Whilst waiting for the hastily contacted mechanic to get the parts to repair the damage to the car so the boss won't find out, Michal's conscience kicks in and with time on his hands tries and find the friends and relatives of the old man, who died without anyone seeming to know who he was. As he learns more, the life of his own father, who he has not talked to at all since leaving, begins to sound very similar leading to a few small attempts at reconciliation.

A very quiet and unassuming feel-good film, Erratum warms the cockles with its gently progressing storyline and the messages of maintaining, or at least re-establishing contact with loved ones before it's too late. 8/10

Animal Kingdom (Australia) (site)

There are several films in the 'innocent kid getting mixed up with the gangster part of the family' group films, and this one fits nicely into that pigeon hole. Already in a ropey family unit, teenager Josh comes home to find his mother dead from a heroin overdose, and goes to stay with his aunt, who happens to live with an extended family of rough and unpleasant gang members headed up by Uncle Andrew, known in the streets as The Pope, They're the source of much of the crime in the area and to complicate things, the Australian police force is about to lose by legislation, its tough and controversial armed squads, and so they are determined to make the most of it in their remaining weeks.

Josh, not the brightest of buttons, spends a lot of the movie navel-gazing and looking a bit gormless, and invites his unknowing girlfriend into the evening drink, drugs and TV get togethers, something she drinks up with pleasure, unaware of who it is she is dealing with. When the police make an unprovoked killing of one of the members, they respond in kind, and things begin to escalate. Josh's semi-liveable existence and that of his girl is put into serious danger. Does he trust his family to see things through or go to the police, headed by a moustached Guy Pearce, to give him protection against any vengeful kin, or maybe the lawyers in the middle can give the remaining members a deserved spell in the cells.

It's better than Edinburgh's A Spanking in Paradise, but not quite on the level of The Misfortunates from last year. Animal Kingdom is light on humour but plenty of thrills and danger. 7.5/10

R U There? (Ned) (site)

One of an emerging batch of films that bring to the big screen the on-line multiplayer world. Jitze is a computer games wizard, taking the crown in massive on-line tournaments, but he is frustrated and tired with his obsession, and takes a holiday away from everything to the far east. Conspicuously out of place and not speaking the language, he searches for some relief from his RSI-induced arm ache, he meets with the intriguing Minmin, who shows him life away from the guns and ammo of a thousand first person shooters, and a more calm and sedate existence both in the real world, and through Second Life.

The film uses footage from the game as a gateway to the feelings they project onto their avatars, with Minmin far more affectionate in the on-line world than she does outside. An entertaining variant on the clueless tourist abroad stories, R U There shows a both critical and sympathetic sides to the mass adoption of video games, but its story about the regaining of a persons human side never quite realises it's potential. 7/10

Never Let Me Go
(UK/US) (wiki/site)

Based closely on the book of the same name by Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro, who also gave us the excellent Remains of the Day, and by the director of One Hour Photo, that managed somehow to make Robin Williams into a decent actor again, this film is a sort of sci-fi film with no sci-fi elements. Based in an alternate 1970's - 1990's middle England, where medical science took a leap forward into cloning for the creation of donor organs, the donors themselves 'modelled on' (i.e. were clones of) other people, and are seen as subhuman creatures.

The Halesham boarding school churns out many such clones every year, and the film follows three of them, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, from their early years at the school to their graduation and eventually when they reach the required age, their passage into the status of donors. Rumours fly around that those who fall in love may be granted some deferment so they may live a few years longer together, and Kathy and Ruth both see Tommy with some affection; the more confident Ruth taking her place in front of Kathy, who was beginning to form strong bonds with him.

There is a sense of helplessness and dread almost from the first scene, the audience first made aware of a general sense of the transitive lives of the children, which is grimly fleshed out as the film goes on. Your heart cries out at the screen for them to rebel or run away, but their resignation to their fate seems to be too strong. It's a really moving film, and one for times when you want to have a good cry, but it sometimes the sheer weight of sorrow for the damned characters gets a little overpowering. Still however a very beautiful and haunting film. 8/10

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