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The glass may be half empty but it will contain good whiskey. I write film reviews for http://www.scannain.com/ , say hi and we can debate films forever and ever and ever...... Warning this blog may contain more than just film talk.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Film Review - The Other Side of Sleep (2012)

Rebecca Daly’s The Other Side of Sleep comes to our cinema screens with the weight of expectation on it shoulders. Daly was the first Irish woman to be featured in the director’s fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival receiving praise from filmmakers such as Jane Campion. Some films struggle to fulfil those kinds of expectations and in Ireland particularly, it is all too easy to cut someone down to size lest they get big headed. The important question is: does The Other Side of Sleep live up to the hype?

The answer to this must be an infuriatingly fence sitting yes and no. The film stars the mesmeric Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Arlene, a factory worker in Offaly who is prone to bouts of sleepwalking at night; she has a tendency to wake up outdoors. Indeed the startling image that begins the film is of her lying beside a dead body of a woman who is wrapped in a duvet. It is a shot of stunning beauty and horror. She sleeps oblivious to the dead woman lying inches from her face. It is an intimate and invasive shot, beautifully composed and it gets to the heart of the story in a much more interesting way than simple exposition.

Daly manages to do a wonderful thing throughout this film which is to make the small town where Arlene lives a living breathing character, full of menace. The threatening drone of the machines in the factory where she works, the local forest which has that dark fairytale feel of terror, and the roadside at night, where one could easily imagine women disappearing from quite easily. Even the bedsit Arlene lives in feels like it is closing in on her. It is small and claustrophobic. The grainy long shots of Arlene walking through a deserted town almost feel like surveillance footage, adding to the feeling that there is a threatening presence watching her.

There are no real problems in the first 45 minutes or so of the film as the nightmarish feel and the film’s refusal to make what is happening clear really work well. Your expectations and your lack of knowledge as to what precisely happened keeps you on edge and it is here that the film is at it’s strongest. It is after this though that the film’s problems start to come to the fore. In its imagery and style you are reminded of better films. In terms of the body in the forest, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks comes to mind. The dread associated with the feeling of being watched recalls some of Michael Haneke’s work. The associations are against some seriously good filmmaking and The Other Side of Sleep cannot stand up against these films. The main problem is that the story is actually quite slight which means it has difficulty sustaining itself over its quite lean 93 minute running time. As the film moves on and the red herrings and revelations start to mount up, the edgy electricity of the first half of the film dissipates which drags the film into whodunit territory. This is unfortunate as it undoes a great deal of the impressive work in the earlier parts of the film.

It must be said that there is a lot to like here. Daly has a great eye for composition and there are some really terrific scenes, particularly in the first half. The cast are very good and there is a sense of authenticity throughout the film. This is actually harder to achieve than it seems but Daly makes the film feel terrifyingly real at times. It is worth catching on the big screen to get the sense of menace the film generates. I have no doubt that with a better structured script, in the future we could be talking about Daly as one of our finest filmmakers.

Monday, 12 March 2012

5 Irish films you must see this year

Everyone knows about the big films in Ireland. Generally they know about the ones with stars such as Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne (although somewhat less so in recent years) or Brendan Gleeson in them. This is not said to disparage their work, more to highlight the difficulties faced by lower budget films or films by lesser known filmmakers to get noticed here. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at 5 films that I am personally interested in seeing this year that you may or may not have heard of yet. These all have the potential to break out and become a hit. Indeed there is much buzz on the festival circuit about some of these films already that it seems likely that at least one two of them might have a decent run at the box office. This to some degree is the whole philosophy behind writing this blog, to try and raise awareness of the types of films that the general public may not usually get to see in any given year. Of note about these films is that there is a dark and hopeless feeling to most which may well reflect the times we live in at this moment.
  1. Citadel
This barren and apocalyptic vibed horror received its world premiere at the prestigious SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas. It has now won the best Irish first feature at the Galway Film Fleadh and the best film award at the Neuch√Ętel International Fantastic Film Festival Filmed on location in Glasgow and Dublin, Ciaran Foy’s film tells the story of a housing estate abandoned by society and the young people left there who have turned feral. They kidnap a young girl and are relentlessly pursued by her father. The film looks ferocious and from the trailer it looks like it cost a bit more than it actually did. Irish people may be interested in a film that intentionally or otherwise reflects our society. Maybe a reflection of our very own ghost estates anyone?

Citadel - Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: The Citadel (film), James Cosmo

  1. Limp
This is a film that really interests me. Perhaps the least known of the films on the list but with a trailer as good as this it surely won’t stay that way for long. Directed by Shaun Ryan and staring Eoin Quinn, Limp tells the story of a relationship told through the eyes of a man whose brain has been diseased by loneliness and isolation. A film that has the potential to be that rarity for Irish film these days: a contemporary dark adult drama for a grown up audience. If it lives up to the beautiful trailer, this could be something special. It is expected to be released during the Summer of 2012.

'Limp' Trailer. from Jack Shepherd. on Vimeo.
  1. Dollhouse
Ok, so most of you will have heard of Kirsten Sheridan. She is not exactly an unknown in the film world. But her film, set in contemporary Dublin, recently showed at the Berlin Film Festival and marks it as one to look out for. A story of a home invasion by a gang of crazed youths, Sheridan’s film looks set to be big this year. Sheridan is an interesting filmmaker, with Disco Pigs establishing her as such. She was also nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay for In America. Already doing interesting things in Ireland with the setting up of The Factory in Dublin it looks like Dollhouse could be a successful film for her this year.

  1. Charlie Casanova
Regular readers of my blog will know that Charlie Casanova featured on my 10 reasons to be optimistic in 2012 blog piece. The terrific trailer and the confident and aggressive feel of the film made me sit up and take notice. This rarely happens for films made in Ireland. Cinema distribution has already been secured in the UK and Ireland. Premiering at the SXSW festival last year before winning awards at the Galway Film Fleadh and then nominated at the IFTAs, Charlie Casanova has the potential to be a hit, but also the potential to divide audiences. And with most films playing it safe in the current climate, this is no bad thing.

  1. Grabbers
This film is perhaps best set to be a big international hit when it comes out. Set on the fictional Erin Island off the coast of Ireland, the very witty premise of a town of people who have to be drunk to survive an alien monster invasion is just too good. The wonderfully silly reason is that their blood will be so toxic from the alcohol that they won’t be eaten. Grabbers looks set to carry on the fine tradition of horror comedies such as Tremors and that is no bad comparison to be made. It premiered in Sundance this year and already seems destined to be a cult classic. Released in cinemas in Ireland August 10th.

This is my list. Now it is over to you. Please let me know if any other Irish films out there have your pulses racing this year.