Albert Nobbs (2011) dir: Rodrigo García

I didn’t know anything about this movie but was curious as Glenn Close was the lead -and having seen her in ‘Damages’ I was reminded that she has been noticeably absent from the big screen recently.

This film is based on the short story ‘The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs’ by Irish novelist George Moore which first appeared around 1918 and Close played Albert in the stage play back in 1982 – the film has been a personal project of hers for a number of years.

I read Empire’s review of this movie before writing this (not something I normally do) and although I love this magazine, I thought the reviewer was being a total dick.

Set some time in the late 19th Century in Dublin, Albert Nobbs is a woman who has masqueraded as a man so that she is able to work as a head waiter in a posh hotel. Dedicated to her job, naïve, introvert and dreadfully lonely, she carefully saves her hard earned money so that she can one day buy her own business. Her world suddenly changes when her actual sex is discovered and this opens her eyes to the possibility of a future where she perhaps doesn’t have to be alone.

It was interesting watching such a quiet understated performance from Glenn Close, no barn storming here, in fact so understated that I could feel how squashed this character had become, a cog in a wheel, not wanting to bring attention to herself, not wanting the masquerade to slip – but still daring to dream.

I’m not going to go through the various plot machinations, but I was kind of expecting the various strands to be predictable and actually – they weren’t. The supporting cast all do pretty well with their Irish accents (to my non-Irish ear anyway) and although small scale I was hooked to the end and came away curious to know whether such things (you’ll know what I mean if you see the film) actually happened.


Don’t Worry About Me (2009) dir: David Morrissey

David Morrissey is one of the UK’s great actors and this is his first feature film as a director. Adapted from the play ‘The Pool’ originally written and performed by Helen Elizabeth and James Brough, Morrissey worked on the screenplay with them and bravely cast them in this film. Shot in three and a half weeks in Liverpool with the £100K budget raised from local businesses, the film is about a new romantic relationship, spread over one day, between Tina (Helen Elizabeth) and David (James Brough), and how this relationship allows Tina to address her painful past and move on with her life.

Simply shot but often effectively framed by stills photographer Stuart Nicolas White, the film pretty much stands or falls on its two leads who are at the centre of the story and this I felt was it’s great strength and weakness. Neither actor had worked on screen before so the director obviously brought his considerable experience to aid and refine their performances. The result is that Helen Elizabeth is fantastic in her role, making her character ‘Tina’ a real natural screen persona. She’s so good that James Brough’s ‘David’ can be seen very much acting his socks off, but his director is not getting the same level of natural performance from him.

The film is definitely worth catching for Helen Elizabeth’s fine portrayal. It’s an interesting story and you definitely care about the characters and want to know what will happen to them. David Morrissey has done a pretty good job with his first film and I look forward to his next. In the UK it’s being released on DVD and being screened on the BBC in March.

Freestyle (2010) dir: Kolton Lee

The third project from Film London’s microwave scheme where a film is produced for a budget of £100,000 (with all the constraints that brings), ‘Freestyle’ is the sort of story that usually comes out of American indie cinema and is probably the first British basketball related movie.

The story of two black teenagers from ‘opposite sides of the tracks’, ‘Ondene’ (Lucy Konadu) from a well off family who have hopes of her going to Oxford University and ‘Leon’ (Arinze Kene) a basketball freestyler who lives on a council estate. Leon is secretly studying and has dreams of going to university but needs to win the Freestyle championships so he can use the prize money for his tuition fees.

The film is small scale, though thanks to director Kolton Lee and the producing team around him, achieves much beyond its budget. The story is simply told but wears its heart on its sleeve. I have to say that I didn’t immediately warm to the film but by the end was won over by its charm and the enthusiasm of the cast.

Talking of which, the cast had a mixture of non-actors (who would actually be able to freestyle for the film) and experienced actors. Both groups acquit themselves pretty well, in particular Rhoda M’Hango (‘Prunella’) a basketball enthusiast who went for the part of an extra but is great here as Ondene’s antagonist and Alfie Allen (‘Jez’) who has all the best lines and really carves out his role.

In the UK it has a multi-platform release (including selected independent cinemas) on the 26th February and is out on DVD a week later, and although aimed squarely at a teen audience has much to offer anyone looking for a different type of British film.

Heartless (2009) dir: Philip Ridley

I had no preconceived expectations for this film whatsoever as I had no idea who Philip Ridley was so I sat down to watch with interest.  (Turns out he wrote ‘The Krays’, is a playwright and lyricist and is a very nice man who is passionate about film making.)

A Faustian story of Jamie (played by Jim Sturgess in a pretty committed performance), a young man with a heart shaped birth mark covering part of his face and upper body, who shuns direct contact with people but sees lizard type daemons dressed as hoodies on the streets of East London. These daemons go around viciously killing people.

Watching it I felt myself torn in different directions because the film is both pretty conventional and kind of obvious where it’s going to any horror fan, and yet unconventional at the same time with it’s setting and style. So watching it, I could feel myself going “this is not too good”, then something would happen and then I’d go “actually this is really good after all”, then something else would happen and it would be “oh man that’s annoying – you should watch more horror films mate” then boom “that’s pretty clever, I’m hooked!”.

Afterwards, I realised that I had missed some of the subtle details in the overall design and look of the film but other story elements were a bit obvious and I personally would have preferred the film to have ended differently – but that’s just me.  But you know what?  I really liked it! And it was great to see part of East London (Shoreditch to Bethnal Green) which I’m pretty familiar with. I even noticed that one particularly seedy looking location (where Jamie hooks up with a rent boy) is the exact spot where I often park (not to pick up rent boys I hasten to add but to go to one of the many great Vietnamese restaurants round the corner). Anyway, I digress.

Interesting supporting cast includes Luke Treadaway, Noel Clarke, Timothy Spall and the lovely Clémence Poésy. The always brilliant Eddie Marsan almost steals the movie as ‘Weapons Man’ (and is worth the price of admission alone) and Joseph Mawle is pretty creepy as ‘Papa B’.

I think it’s going to split an audience’s reaction (which is not necessarily a bad thing) – but it’s definitely worth checking out.

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