Leeds Film Festival 2010: Day 8

Tuesday After Christmas (Rom) (wiki)

Thirty-something Paul has a beautiful wife and daughter who he loves very much. Unfortunately he's carrying on with the local dentist, Raluca. Brazenly, he continues with both lives with a carefree attitude; Raluca is well aware of the situation and doesn't seem to mind, and wife Adriana is oblivious to his capers, trusting him implicitly with tales of working at unseasonable hours or weekends. It's a situation that the movie cannot allow to go on forever, and eventually, after a tension-packed time at the dentists where wife and lover talk about her daughters' dental options right in front of him, Raluca's subtle hints to make his mind up make more sense than ever and force him into a hastily made decision.

As a study of the point at which a relationship forcibly breaks, this film is one of the most powerful examples. The several extended single take scenes prior to the big one are slow and deliberate, often charged with a sexual, vengeful or deceitful undercurrent, but it's the break-up scene, filmed in a single take and loosely scripted to allow the actors to keep the situation spontaneous, which is the most powerful and compelling. The post-bombshell family Christmas get-together is not noticeably different from early scenes in terms of outward action, but much more powerful as the audience contemplate the turmoil going on in Paul and Adriana's behind their painted smiles. If you have trouble with excessive subtitles (the intimate conversations are quite involved), you will struggle here, but those who can speed-read will find a subtly powerful film. 7.5/10

Upperdog (Nor) (site)

The lives of several twentysomethings come together as events ensure their paths cross. Too young to shoulder his memories, Per returns home to his family from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, only to leave them again for a distant university, his army career cut short after being photographed with the end of his rifle inches from the face of a terrified child. Withdrawn, he finds the first few weeks away in his student flat to be slow and isolating. In the local Chinese restaurant across the street, student friends Maria and Yanne work part time for a bit of cash as waitresses, Yanne a quiet and reserved woman, adopted after a family breakup in China. Maria is outgoing and free-spirited, and holds down a second job as the cleaner at the house of a wealthy family, whose son Axel is a conceited and clumsy mummys boy, living comfortably at his parents' expense and generally being an arse in the marketing company where he works, a place that just happens to employ the woman who took Per's infamous picture, now being splashed all over the papers.

It takes the inquisitive nose of Maria to make the connection between Yanne and the asian-looking Axel, who notices they both have in their possession the same picture of when they were young, although Axel's is missing half of it that tells him he has a sister. As the four slowly get closer to each other, the inevitable surely happens.

Although there are few twists, this doesn't stop Upperdog from having a meaty storyline and thus being very entertaining, with good chunks of humour, empathy and emotion that never gets cloy or feels forced. All the main actors give great performances, and the exiting crowd from the cinema was abuzz talking about it afterwards. A really good film with a beautiful classical score, particularly recommended as a date movie with a little more meat on the bones than the usual ones. 8/10

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