‘Unwelcome Sentiment’ Screens at Carlow International Film Festival

The short film Unwelcome Sentiment screens at Carlow International Film Festival on Saturday 16th of November.

Directed by Noel McInerney and written by Jill Smith, Unwelcome Sentiment is a tender tale about a man at the end of his life determined not to accept kindness when it doesn’t come in a form he appreciates.

William (George Bracebridge) and his nephew Jarlath (Ste Murray) don’t see eye to eye but, with the help of a nurse named Kate (Amy O’Dwyer), who helpfully offers some sage wisdom, he comes to realise that Jarlath is simply offering comfort as best he knows how.

The full festival line-up:

Friday Nov 15-
Shorts One- 2pm

9 Months- Writer/Director Michael Wohlfeld
Continental Breakfast- Writer/Director Alec Liddle
Delusions of Grainne- Director Fiachra O Longain; Writer Paul Moore
Family Spirit- Writer/Director Gabrielle Deeny
Five Course Meal- Writer/Director James Cadden
The Funeral dancer- Writer/Director Natalie MacMahon
Hold the Line- Director Karen Killeen & Laura O’Shea; Writer Laura O’Shea
Postfactum- Writer/Director Onofrio Damiano
The Fruitful- Writer/Director John Collins
The space Between Us- Writer/Director Elaine Kennedy

Feature Two
7pm followed by Q&A

Spa Weekend- Director Maureen O’Connell; Writer Karl Argue & Maureen O’Connell

After living in London for 5 years, actress Jo Murphy is back in Dublin. Everyone expected her to make it. She expected to make it. But, she’s back in Dublin

 

Share

Trailer: ‘The Last Right’ in Cinemas 6th December

Starring Michiel Huisman, Niamh Algar, Samuel Bottomley, Eleanor O’Brien, Colm Meaney, Brian Cox

 Directed by Aoife Crehan

New York-based DANIEL MURPHY wakes on a flight home to Ireland for his Mum’s funeral to find elderly passenger PADRAIG MURPHY has died in the next seat. To his surprise the lonely Padraig had just listed him as his next of kin.

In a bid to persuade his autistic brother LOUIS to return to New York with him, Daniel agrees to drive Padraig’s remains across the length of Ireland, from Cork to Rathlin Island, to be buried with his brother. Hitching a ride in the passenger seat is the funeral home temp MARY, who is on a mission to correct a drunken mistake. Meanwhile, the police realise Daniel has no business driving off with Padraig’s body, and Daniel, Mary and Louis find themselves the focus of a nationwide manhunt.

As they cross the country and the border, sparks ignite between Mary and Daniel. But when a long-buried family secret endangers the fragile truce between the brothers, Mary finds herself caught in the crossfire.

With its uniquely Irish sense of humour, this is a heart-warming and bittersweet comedy drama about family and finding home.

Opens in Irish cinemas December 6th, cert: 15a.

Share

Review: Marriage Story

DIR/WRI: Noah Baumbach • DOP: Robbie Ryan • ED: Jennifer Lame • DES: Jade Healy • PRO: Noah Baumbach, Leslie Converse, David Heyman • MUS: Randy Newman • CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Merritt Wever, Adam Driver

It’s already well documented that this is much more a divorce story, as writer director Noah Baumbach utilises the dissolution of one relationship to rail against an entire industry set up to profit from marital breakdowns.  Naturally, Noah is far too reserved to actually howl against the very real business of divorce in America but he does steep the entire film in a palpable air of anguish and occasionally anger. Mercifully he doesn’t exclude humour from the mix and it’s that seam that makes the bleak bearable and the characters warm enough to root for. 

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play an agonisingly hip theatre couple, ostensibly happy in New York, but the fault-lines in their relationship turn into chasms when Scarlet’s character Nicole moves to her hometown of LA to shoot a TV pilot. Divorce proceedings start in a civilised manner with an apparent pact to not lawyer-up and an expressed desire to remain friends during an amiable division where their child is the mutual priority. This film suggests that these good intentions simply curdle in the adversarial culture of American divorce and so it comes to pass – a gradual ramping up results in each side siccing their own legal Rottweilers on the other. The rival attorneys, as depicted deftly by Laura Dern and Ray Liotta, pass as personable, seductively reasonable and even sympathetic to the other side. And yet the creeping drift into costly trench warfare is painfully inevitable. 

I wasn’t personally paying enough, or frankly any attention to Bambauch’s private life prior to seeing this film. So I didn’t know that he has been through a divorce in recent years. Naturally, he must be mining his experiences and collated observations here but he is at pains to be balanced and depict both parties fairly and warmly. Giving each character equal agency and air though can’t dismiss the notion that his sympathies tilt at a discernible point in the direction of Driver’s character Charlie. The theatre director’s initial dazed bemusement gradually slides into utter disdain for the process itself and its complicit practitioners. Even the cuddliest lawyer of the bunch, played with immense grace by Alan Alda, isn’t immune to a tongue-lashing from Charlie who rightly assumes every moment is at his expense. The lawyers’ giddy excitement at where to order lunch literally turns Charlie’s stomach.

Though attracting raves everywhere, the film is often as imperfect as the people it portrays. Like all auteurs with any modicum of autonomy, Baumbach has pushed the running time to patience and bladder testing extremes. At certain points, one might wonder if we are watching this divorce in real time. 136 minutes might not sound long these days but dwell on the fact that it’s a film about a testing, stressful divorce, not a Marvel film with twenty five minutes of credits. 

Equally, however heartfelt and organic the emotions, the film falls into the trap of often mistaking arguments for drama. Spending time in the company of bickering couples is low on everyone’s priority list in real life. Expecting us to seek it out at the cinema seems wildly optimistic from the filmmakers. And finally the film never quite sheds the ambience of the ‘improv space’ as if weeks of character work has been transported in from some black-box rehearsal room without some judicious pruning. And a final warning, Marriage Story joins the pantheon of super awkward first-date movies. Don’t get fooled by the jaunty poster of two beaming movie stars. Anyone wandering in expecting a rom-com may get a rude awakening.

That said, here is a list of some of the film’s many attributes. It’s raw, honest, heartfelt, compassionate, sensitive, tender, touching, witty and charming. Praise be to any film hitting these heights and plumbing these depth simultaneously.  Hats off to all involved. 

James Phelan

136′ 41″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Marriage Story is released 15th November 2019

Marriage Story – Official Website

Share

Review: Last Christmas

DIR: Paul Feig • WRI: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings • DOP: John Schwartzman • ED: Brent White • DES: Gary Freeman • PRO: Erik Baiers, Sarah Bradshaw, Jessie Henderson, David Livingstone, Emma Thompson • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • CAST: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart…”, inspired by the Wham! classic, the idea for the movie Last Christmas was sprung from these very words. Directed by Paul Feig and based on a story by Emma Thompson and husband Greg Wise, Last Christmas has all the cheesy romance of Love Actually, and the sadness and hope of Collateral Beauty. With the soundtrack filled with the catchy tunes of George Michael and Wham!, the cast made up of well-known and likeable actors (Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, and Michelle Yeoh), and the setting of London at Christmas time, it is very hard not to like Last Christmas. However, the critics seem to be rather ‘bah-humbug’ about the whole affair, with the film receiving 48% on Rotten Tomatoes; and yet audiences, thus far, have given it an 81% rating. Personally, I’m on the side of the audience, but I do have a weakness for romantic movies, and Christmas is my favourite time of year. Let’s be honest, Last Christmas is not one of these ‘powerhouse’ movies that will have people dissecting it for weeks, but it does have a rather poignant insight into the human condition. 

Kate (Clarke), and her family, escaped former Yugoslavia in the late nineties during the Yugoslav wars that led to the breakup of their home country. Having sought refuge in the United Kingdom, Kate’s mother Petra (Thompson) is saddened to feel unwanted and unwelcome in the country they now call home, with the introduction of Brexit. This feeling of being an outsider, a stranger, is one that runs within Kate; after suffering a major illness the Christmas before Kate hasn’t been the person she once was, she is unrecognisable to herself, and to those close to her. Kate is cynical (working in a Christmas shop in Covent Garden all year round would do that to a person), lacking in enthusiasm for anything in her life, and fails to look after herself. However, it is the serendipitous encounter with the charming Tom (Golding) that sparks an awakening within Kate, making her appreciate the second chance she’s been given. Tom shows Kate London as she’s never experienced it before, reminding her to ‘look up’ and admire the simple joys around her, something which most of us do not appreciate in our busy, ‘connected’ lives. Tom shuns technology, spontaneously dances in the street, and randomly pops into Kate’s day; he is everything she is not.

Inserted throughout the film are songs sung by George Michael, including one that has never been heard before, “This is how” (stay for the credits), a song from an album he was working on before his death. While the songs do not always necessarily act as a secondary dialogue to the story unfolding on screen, and sometimes feel randomly placed, I’m not going to complain to having “Freedom” or “Faith” played in a film; it is very hard not to bop in your seat. Some of the songs are used better than others, and some are more recognisable than others, but they add to the joy and sadness of the connection shared between the characters in the movie. 

With the blessing George Michael gave to this film before his death, it adds another layer of poignancy for fans of the singer, and the twist towards the end of the movie will leave you weeping (I defy anyone not to even feel a twinge of sadness). I’ll admit I didn’t see the twist coming, although some critics claim they could see it from a mile off and declared it clunky and outrageous in the extreme, I found it both heartbreaking and uplifting. It was an interesting interpretation of the words of “Last Christmas”, and I really liked how it wasn’t your typical ‘la la la’, rosy in the garden, Christmas movie. It dealt with issues such as mental health, familial divisions, xenophobia, and loss. This approach to the Christmas movie, along with the joy you get from watching Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding together on screen, and the great soundtrack, puts Last Christmas in my list of movies I will watch every single Christmas, alongside Love Actually and Home Alone.  

Shauna Fox

102′ 57″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Last Christmas is released 15th November 2019

Last Christmas – Official Website

Share

WFT Ireland at Cork Film Festival 2019

 

Women in Film and Television Ireland (WFT Ireland) in partnership with Cork Film Festival 2019 will hold several events to help inform, inspire and celebrate women in the film and television industry. 

“Women in Film and Television Ireland is delighted to be heading down to the Cork Film Festival again, always a great event,” said Dr. Susan Liddy, Chair of WFT Ireland. “Earlier this year Cork Film Festival led the way by being one of eight Irish film festivals to sign the 5050×2020 Parity Pledge for gender equality and inclusion which was launched at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, so they’re good partners in the push for 50/50 across the industry. We’re really looking forward to catching up with our members,  supporters and the festival team.” 

WFT Ireland will hold a special legal event for filmmakers on Thursday, 14th November, 2019 at 3:00 pm at the Maldron Hotel 93 South Mall, Cork, T12 EE72. Led by Aideen Burke and Jeanne Kelly of the entertainment law firm LK Shields the presentation will be on Copyright Law and Section 481, a tax incentive for film and TV production in Ireland. The presentation will be followed by a legal clinic for WFT Ireland members on issues that relate to film and TV production. WFT members can sign up for 10 minute consultations with the law firm. 

Also on the same day, a panel of leading Irish and international film programmers delve into the 50/50 by 2020 initiative, the gender parity and inclusion pledge which was launched at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. This day-long event features case studies and panel discussions which will promote fresh thinking amongst attendees and to inspire them to be proactive in promoting their own film work. Speakers include: 

Anna Bogutskaya, Festival Director, Underwire Festival

Fiona Clark, Director and CEO, Cork Film Festival

Diane Henderson, Deputy Artistic Director, Edinburgh International Film Festival

Susan Liddy, Chair, Women in Film & Television Ireland

Thursday evening, WFT Ireland will celebrate with a drinks mixer at 8:30 pm at the Cellar Theatre, Mardyke Entertainment Complex Sheares Street, Cork, T12 CX7A.

“The voice of Irish women has never been so clear and so articulate: we stand together for an equal and inclusive film industry and nothing less is acceptable anymore.” said Dr. Liddy.

Producer/Director and WFT Ireland board member, Vanessa Gildea, will be moderating a panel called “Working with the Archives,” during Cork Film Festival’s Doc Day on Friday, 15 Nov 2019. An assembly of leading documentary directors and producers will discuss their experience and creative approaches to using archival materials. 

Register for the legal clinic, the industry panel, and the drinks mixer on Billetto at the links below. 

WFT Ireland Events at Cork Film Festival:

50/50 by 2020: The Quest for Gender Parity

Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

11:00-16:15

The Cellar Theatre

Mardyke Entertainment Complex
Sheares Street, Cork 

T12 CX7A

https://wft.ie/wft-chair-dr-susan-liddy-on-first-take-panel/

 

WFT Ireland Legal Clinic

Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

15:00

Maldron Hotel 

93 South Mall, Cork

T12 EE72

https://wft.ie/wft-legal-clinic-at-the-maldron-south-mall/

 

WFT Ireland Drinks Mixer

Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

20:30

The Cellar Theatre

Mardyke Entertainment Complex
Sheares Street, Cork 

T12 CX7A

https://billetto.ie/e/wft-cork-film-festival-networking-drinks-tickets-391181

 

For more information please go to: www.wft.ie or contact us at info@wft.ie

 

Share

Derek Jarman – The Last of England – Void Gallery, Derry

16 November 2019 – 18 January 2020

Preview Friday 15 November, 6:30-8:30pm

  

Void presents The Last of England, an exhibition that explores the work of one of Britain’s most iconic filmmakers, painter, writer, gardener and political activist Derek Jarman. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, Jarman shifted from being apolitical – with his films documenting his private life in a ‘cinema of small gestures’ – to being at the centre of the queer movement, with his activism firmly integrated into his films. In this exhibition Jarman’s politics and activism are at the forefront; the GBH painting series (1983-84) and his film The Last of England (1987) reflect and resonate with our current political crisis. 

 

Created in response to social injustices of the late ‘80s, the themes of The Last of England still reverberate widely across contemporary Britain and Northern Ireland. Jarman’s apocalyptic, postcolonial depictions of the ‘fall of England’ – reflecting the country’s desire to return to its ‘Imperial days’ – are ever present in the current political landscape, from Brexit, parliamentary suspensions and the absence of a government at Stormont, to the rise of nationalism, fascism and state surveillance. We are at an impasse in Northern Ireland and are once again at the mercy of Westminster decision-making. The film references the AIDS epidemic and the collective trauma that was experienced at that time. The film was initially going to be titled GBH The Last Of England, reflecting the destruction of the landscape and culture of England, and more personally the body through AIDS. Jarman said the GBH could stand for “whatever you want it to: grievous bodily harm, great British horror, gargantuan bloody H-bomb”. Instead he used the GBH title for his painting series, depicting the map of England in various stages of being enflamed. In exhibiting these works, it punctuates this particular moment in Northern Ireland and the UK political history, to show the parallels in the political struggle from then and now.

 

In the Shadow of the Sun (1981) will also be exhibited, reflecting his earlier works that are more biographical; a series of Super 8 films that were shot between 1972 and 1975, edited together with the soundtrack by Throbbing Gristle. This film was part of a body of film works referred to as the ‘cinema of small gestures’; the use of filters and the atmosphere of the film contrasts the dystopic sensibility of The Last of England

The culmination of these works at Void allow for both a celebration of his work and highlight the continuing need to agitate and disrupt. The legacy of Jarman’s work and gay rights activists both past and present are demonstrated in recent societal and legislative changes; legalisation of gay marriage in Northern Ireland. Jarman’s work is prescient and has a strong resonance to our times.  

Artist’s Bio

Derek Jarman (1942-1994) was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener, political activist and author. He was educated at the University of London and at the Slade School of Art. In 1967 Jarman exhibited in Young Contemporaries, Tate Gallery, London (prizewinner); Edinburgh Open 100, Lisson Gallery, London and Fifth Biennale des Jeunes Artistes, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris. Jarman’s first work in the cinema was as a set designer on Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), selected set designs include Savage Messiah (1972) and The Rake’s Progress (1982) with numerous designs for stage and ballet. Jarman’s first films were experimental Super 8mm shorts, his first full-length feature film Sebastiane was released in 1976, followed by selected films Jubilee (1978), Angelic Conversation (1985), Caravaggio (1986), The Garden (1990) and Edward II (1991).

Selected solo exhibitions: Sarah Bradley’s Gallery, London (1978); Edward Totah Gallery, London (1982); ICA, London (1984); Richard Salmon Ltd., London (1987) and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (1994). Jarman also wrote several books, including the autobiographical Dancing Ledge (1984) and two volumes of memoirs, Modern Nature (1992) and At Your Own Risk (1992). Derek Jarman’s Garden, which documents the creation of his extraordinary garden at Dungeness was published in 1995.

PROTEST!, published by Thames and Hudson 2020
IMMA and Thames and Hudson will publish a major new monograph on Derek Jarman to accompany the retrospective at IMMA, covering Jarman’s artistic development as well as reflecting on his life and legacy. The book will feature contributions from Seán Kissane, Curator, IMMA; Mary Cremin, Director, Void Gallery, Sir Norman Rosenthal; Jonny Bruce, gardener and journalist; Professor Robert Mills, University of London; Jon Savage, music critic and writer; Michael Charlesworth, an authority on landscape and the history of gardens and author of the book ‘Derek Jarman, Critical Lives’, and writers Olivia Laing and Philip Hoare.

The exhibition will coincide with a major retrospective of his work at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in partnership with Manchester Art Gallery (2 Apr – 31 Aug 2020), and is accompanied by additional projects at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.

  • After party at St Columb’s Hall with music by Michael Bradley, doors from 8:30pm, music 9-11pm
  • Screenings of Derek Jarman’s Super 8 films with introduction by film producer and moving image curator James Mackay, Saturday 16th November, 1-3pm, Void Process Room
  • James Mackay (born 1954) is a British film producer and moving image curator. He studied at the North East London Polytechnic and worked in the London Filmmaker’s Co/op as cinema programmer. He has programmed for Edinburgh International Film Festival 1978; Berlin International Film Festival (Forum) 1979 and was Film and Video curator at B2 Gallery London from 1982-3. As an Independent Film Producer, he has produced many features, shorts, documentaries and music videos from 1980 – 2000. He was won numerous awards including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for the Best Independent Film in 1988 for The Last of England; the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature in 1993 for Blue, Derek Jarman 1993 the Sony Awards – Best Drama Production 1994 for Blue, Derek Jarman.

In 1981, he established a production and distribution company Dark Picture, specializing in new film and video, an began his collaboration with Derek Jarman. He produced some of Derek Jarman’s most important films including The Angelic Conversation (1985), The Garden (1990) and Blue.

Mackay has been a programmer for the Cambridge Film Festival – where he devised the microcinema strand – since 2001. He was a consultant to Tate Media in 2013/4 and has been consultant on moving image to the LUMA Foundation since 2010.

 

  • This exhibition is produced in collaboration with IMMA, Whitworth Gallery, John Hansard Gallery, Euro London Films, LUMA Foundation, and St Columb’s Hall.
  • Image credit for promotional content: Derek Jarman, The Last of England, 1987 Photo Mike Laye

 

  • For further information on Void Derry or to arrange a tour or interview, please contact: Tansy Cowley, Press & Marketing Coordinator, Void Gallery, Derry

marketing@derryvoid.com / 028 7130 8080

 

Void Gallery:

 

  • Void Gallery is a contemporary art space located in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. With up to 5 exhibitions per year showing the work of established international and Irish artists, Void has created an international reputation for its wide-ranging and challenging exhibition programme. A key element to the gallery is the Engage programme, which places participation, engagement and learning at the heart of Void, making contemporary visual art accessible to visitors of all ages.

 

Mission statement: Void is committed to exhibiting national and international artists, we commission and produce new works that allow for artists to expand their practice. An integral part of Void is the Void Engage Programme that engages with diverse audiences through the education and outreach programme.

 

  • Void Gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 5pm. Admission is free. Void Gallery is supported using public funding from Arts Council Northern Ireland and Derry City and Strabane District Council.

 

  • Each exhibition launch is kindly supported by Northbound Brewery.

 

  • For the latest news and events follow @derryvoid of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – #voidcommunities – or visit our website at www.derryvoid.com.

Void Gallery, City Factory, Patrick Street, Londonderry, Derry, BT48 7EL.
028 71308080 / www.derryvoid.com.

Share

Irish Film Review: ‘Calm with Horses’ @ Toronto International Film Festival 2019 

 

Aoife O’Neill was at the Toronto International Film Festival 2019 and sent us on this review of Nick Rowland’s Calm with Horses.

 

One of a few Irish films that closed Toronto International Film Festival this year is that of Nick Rowland’s Calm with Horses; a film that was adapted by Joe Murtagh from Colin Barrett’s acclaimed collection of short stories. Calm with Horses premiered at the festival alongside an Irish Canadian co-production starring Dakota Fanning called Sweetness in the Belly, (also a book adaptation from Camilla Gibb’s book of the same name), as well as Neasa Hardiman’s film Sea Fever. It is clear that Ireland was definitely represented on the big screen in Toronto this year.

Calm with Horses tells the story of Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong, an ex-boxer, who has been adopted into the deadly Devers family. Used as a muscle man, particularly by Daimhin Devers (Barry Keoghan), he is treated like a lap dog doing the violent bidding for the family and he is also kept on a very short leash. At the centre of the film is the struggle of Arm and where his loyalty lies. Is he loyal to the adopted family that ‘protects’ him or to his actual family that he must protect? At first, the audience is led to believe that Arm should be hated and is a violent thug at heart, but then, as the story unfolds, we see the person behind the brutally-violent actions.

The catalyst of this thriller-crime drama is when Arm must choose to either kill a man for the Devers or provide money for the education of his five year-old autistic son, Jack. The viewer is thrown into the action of the film almost immediately, only discovering the motives behind the actions of the characters as the story reveals itself. The brutality and unyielding wrath of the Dever family illustrates clearly, the fact, that they will stop at nothing to maintain their power in the community, even at the expense of Arm.

Violent from the get go, this film is not for the faint-hearted. After seeing this film with a Canadian audience, it was almost amusing to hear the loud gasps and shock from audience members at the most violent scenes. Not that the violence is amusing but, Canadian audiences, I have found, are very vocal when watching films in the cinema.

With a similar vibe of RTÉ’s Love/Hate, Irish viewers, I think, will enjoy this thriller. Set in  rural Ireland, Calm with Horses puts a spin on the gangland drama usually set in Irish cities. Trained eyes may recognise some of the backdrop of the Irish countryside throughout the drama (filmed in both Galway and Clare).

The slow pace of the film reflects the lifestyle of the characters and the community they inhabit; their simple survival for money and opportunity while wanting a better life. The depiction of rural Irish life is true to form, where the community knows or think they know everything about you. The isolation and judgement one feels is shown particularly well as it affects the character of Ursula, in her desire to escape the judgemental town they live in. Ursula is condemned by the community as they accuse her of giving her son Jack his medical condition.

Despite the brutal violence in the film, the story is juxtaposed with moments of calm as the title suggests. As Arm tries to bond with his son, Jack, it is clear that he has not grasped the concept of Jack’s medical condition and diagnosis, unlike Jack’s mother, Ursula. Played by Niamh Algar, Ursula provides the voice of reason to Arm, trying to release the grasp the Dever family have over him.

Headed by a heavy Irish cast including outstanding performances from Barry Keoghan and Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders), as well as American born actor Cosmo Javis (Lady Macbeth) taking the lead role of Arm in the film. Calm with Horses is from the DMC Film production company. The production company, founded by Michael Fassbender and Conor McCaughan, and producer Daniel Emmerson developed the project with Film4 as Nick Rowland’s feature directorial debut.

Most importantly, it was nice to have the opportunity to watch an Irish film in Toronto on the big screen being so far from home. After supporting many different world cinemas throughout the festival, such as Latin America, Spain, France, Japan, India and Africa to name but a few, it was fantastic to get to experience this film with a very packed Canadian audience excited to see Ireland represented on screen.

 

Calm with Horses had its world premiere 8th September 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

‎The Toronto International Film Festival 2019 took place 5–15 September 2019.

Share

Review: Driven

DIR: Nick Hamm • WRI: Colin Bateman DOP: Karl Walter Lindenlaub • ED: Brett M. Reed • DES: Fernando Carrion • PRO: René Besson, Brad Feinstein, Walter Josten, Luillo Ruiz • MUS: Geronimo Mercado • CAST:  Jason Sudeikis, Lee Pace, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll, Isabel Arraiza, Michael Cudlitz

Complete with its own chaotic backstory (filming in Puerto Rico being was disrupted and delayed by Hurricane Maria), this drama/comedy version of the story behind the sportscar visionary John DeLorean – and the man who brought him down – is now available to watch.

Driven begins with huckster and drug-smuggling pilot Jim Hoffman (Sudeikis) and his family being arrested. Bang to rights, Hoffman later finds himself walking his way into court as the star witness for FBI agent Benedict Tisa (Stoll) in a truly sensational case.

Switching from that court case to moments back in time, we see how Hoffman became an informer for agent Tisa and was told to target Morgan Hetrick (Michael Cudlitz), the brash, mustached drug smuggler that Hoffman swears set him up.

A few years before, Jim and Ellen (Greer) had met their new neighbors, John and Cristina DeLorean (Pace and Arraiza). DeLorean was the charismatic car designer behind the GTO muscle car, and Cristina, his charming, model wife. 

DeLorean had just launched his own, new car – the DMC-12 – and the stainless steel, gull-wing design was a smash. Celebrities lined up to invest, and Jim was drawn into DeLorean’s world as a kind of uneasy confidante/gopher. Ellen is less than convinced however; she thinks the smooth DeLorean is a fraud. 

Sure enough, DeLorean’s new car company starts to fall apart at the seams. Jim realizes it’s happening, but still wants to be part of the hip gang that’s all parties and champagne. Then DeLorean, in need of big cash quick, asks Hoffman for some real help – and it involves Morgan and his white marching powder.

Or does it? As Hoffman is grilled in court while DeLorean stares at him from the defendant’s table, a vital question hangs in the air. Did a desperate DeLorean suggest the scam to save the company and the jobs of the 2000 workers at the Belfast factory, or was it the eager-to-please Hoffman trying to finally be useful to his next-door hero? 

The story of DeLorean and his famous – but short-lived car – has been well-documented elsewhere, and doubtless much artistic license has been taken with what happened in this screenplay.

Billed as a drama/thriller, Driven also has many comic moments – probably due in part to the participation of former “SNL” favorite Sudeikis, who is perhaps rather miscast as the lead here. 

Hoffman was doubtless necessarily a likeable conman, but with Sudeikis’ perpetual wide eyes and twinkly smirks – and a ’70s mustache Hoffman actually didn’t have – it never seems like he’s more than a bit of a hapless jester.

Sudeikis certainly comes a poor second to the excellent Greer in terms of the dramatic moments, and then there’s Pace. With his almost-hypnotic voice and ice cool demeanor, you can see how people might follow him through the flames.

There aren’t really any big stakes for protagonist Hoffman either.  We know what DeLorean has at stake of course, but aside from Tisa’s constant threats of prison and no revenge from the spitting-mad Morgan, what does Hoffman really lose? Even the spitfire Ellen comes back after leaving him for a moment after she learns he’s a lying, long-term informer.

The comic tone sits rather uneasily with this limited drama, and you wonder if going more blackly comic might have made this more engaging. As it is, this is mildly entertaining but largely forgettable, with the emotional moments that Jim and John share seeming forced rather than genuine friendship. 

Who knows if that’s what they had, as Hoffman disappeared into Witness Protection after the trial and DeLorean lived until 2005, his car living on long after people forgot he was a real person (and that the car wasn’t just a time machine created for Back to the Future).

Ironically – and perhaps perfectly – John DeLorean was in fact close to basing his factory in Puerto Rico, not Belfast, before he pulled out of the deal at the last minute. Guess which place offered more cash subsidies?   

Either way, it’s certainly worth pointing out that this movie comes from Northern Irish talent. Director Nick Hamm was born in Belfast, and screenwriter Colin Bateman is from Bangor in County Down, some seven miles away. 

Driven also had a prime spot closing last year’s Venice Film Festival, but seemed to be clinging on to the coat-tails of the superior Alec Baldwin-starring Framing John DeLorean, which came out earlier this year.

It’s a pity that the extraordinary DeLorean story hasn’t made a really effective transition to the silver screen yet, though the rumored George Clooney project might well blow it all out of the water. 

DeLorean would certainly have appreciated being played by a genuine star. 

 James Bartlett

148′ 
R

Driven is available on Amazon Prime 1st November 2019.

Share