Leeds Film Festival 2011: Day 2

Summer of Goliath (Mex/Can) (review)

According to this film, middle-aged Mexican women are strange creatures. Leave your wife, and you're likely to find her crawling through a lake wearing your clothes and making a sound like a pregnant hippo. I've just spoilt the ending there, sorry.

How we got there was anyone's guess. We started with a young man (Goliath, even though thats not his real name) accused of the murder of his girlfriend. Mad woman is left alone with an older lady who bears no relation who sells tacky merchandise by handing catalogs to strangers. Two army dropouts act generally useless and idiotic, and make no impact on the goings on, other than to arse about and intimidate old men on walks. Oh, and kick trees. Two lads play and half-bully a younger one who hangs around with them. All the males call each other 'faggots'. No sense is made and no structure reveals itself.

Yesterday's blurry shots and close-up back-following returned in abundance as we followed several of them wandering pointlessly through the undergrowth, leading nowhere and doing nothing when they got there. This is accompanied by many drawn out sequences while nothing happens. Example: Mad woman asks army drop-out son to memorise a letter we have just spent several minutes watching her write out on a pad. She then goes through it several times. It's painful.

There was very little about this film to enjoy. No structure, no meaning. I guess it was meant to show us life in a typical Mexican backwater village. It succeeded in that, but unfortunately they chose to dramatize a particularly disconnected and uneventful day. 4/10

Best Intentions (Rom/Hun) (review)

Romanian cinema often has a cold edginess to it, but this is an unusually benign example of the country's output. Alex and his girlfriend Delia pause their argument-peppered existence when news of Alex's mother having a stroke comes via the phone. Jobs and appointments are abandoned and Alex heads across the country to her side. Turns out he's a bit of a mummy's boy, and his desire to perhaps make up for his absence and ensure she is alright brings him to the centre of the decision making process. Leave her in the local hospital, or go to Cluj, which apparently has a better hospital but involves a risky trip. Mother seems on-off, sometimes lucid and others plastering her whole face with lipstick before it can be wrestled from her grasp. To complicate matters, fellow patients, doctors friends and random strangers all reinforce or knock down his intentions leaving him a confused child getting nothing done.

And that's the extent of the story really, an indulgent study on what happens when a family member has a scare in hospital, and how it affects the family around them, with a slightly useless man who seems to advertise his iPhone by strapping it to his head for half the flick trying to keep control of all the threads. It's not especially exciting, but its deconstruction of a man who thought he could take control and finally realise that he could not was well made. I guess the ideal audience for this would be those in a similar situation, as I guess Alex would generate a lot of empathy from them. Others will probably get bored, or lost in the quickfire subtitles and unnecessary medical terms. 6.5/10

The Other Side of Sleep (Irl/Ned/Hun) (review)

Director Rebecca Daly was briefly present at the start, although she postponed any Q and A until it's showing tomorrow since it was getting late. Her film tells the story of Arlene, a lonely, slight girl working a menial factory job by day and confining herself to her flat by night. Inconceivably, she wakes one morning in the middle of a forest, right next to a dead girl she does not recognise. In a panic she scrambles home and cleans her dirty clothes, and tries act normal at the factory later that day. A conspicuously missing bracelet, presumably left at the scene forever threatens to expose her connection, and as her behaviour becomes ever more erratic, piling on top of a handful of stressful events, she watches helplessly as the investigation close in, and local village tongues wag at the retribution the murderer will receive.

After a strong start, the film gets bogged down a little in the middle - an area which could have been trimmed a bit and had a little pep put in, but the film as a whole is an edgy, entertaining mystery thriller. Antonia Campbell Hughes plays the ambiguous and mysterious lead just perfectly keeps the viewer in the dark about her involvement until the very end. 7.5/10

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