Love Sarah

Thought I’d start the day with a bit of fluff with Love Sarah. My biggest concern going in was that it would be too saccharin.

It was awful. Just awful. Was ready for walking out a few minutes in. Picked it because it had a good cast with Celia Imrie and Bill Paterson, but the majority of the screentime goes to the rest of the cast who sound they’re giving their first read-through at community drama class. Because the actors don’t convey any emotion, it’s left to the score to fill in the blanks, which comes off as overdone.

The script is cringey, and I at several points closed my eyes so as to get some respite from the film, only to once again regret that we don’t have sphinters in our ears to allow us to block out sound.

The basic plot is that Sarah is going to open a bakery, when she dies suddenly. Her mother, daughter, friend and ex band together to open the bakery in honour of her memory. I don’t mind a bit of mushy fluff from time to time, but this was both just really bad on every metric and just achingly white middle-class in that Richard Curtis way. When it’s first proposed that they open a bakery without Sarah, they lament aloud, “But where will we find a Michelin star chef to make the cakes?!” Fuck all these people.

As the bakery struggles, Celia Imrie’s character has a thought, “What if we make cakes for more than just white people?” and they thrive by making ethnic food for their diverse range of neighbours. Isn’t London wonderful, with all these delicious foods from all these exotic cultures being brought here to decorate our lives? The film is really white gaze-y, which they try to mitigate by having biracial actress Shelley Conn in one of the leading roles.

All in all, it sucked. So hard.

Body of Water

Tonight on a very special episode of Body of Water . . .

Body of Water is a film about a woman leaving recovery for anorexia and trying to re-establish her relationships with her mother and daughter. She does this by ignoring all her daughter’s boundaries and trying resume the relationship on her terms and on her timetable, which unsurprisingly doesn’t work well as a plan. Her mother is initially more receptive but becomes gradually more frustrated when she sees signs of backsliding.

My problem with Body of Water is, despite its commendable attempt, it is ham-fisted, obvious, and lacks emotional reality. The dialogue verges on cringy, being very on-the-nose. The characters seems like sacks into which issues are stuffed so we can hit on as many at once – drug use, sexting, self-harm. It comes off as clumsy and reduces the characters to two-dimensional puppets for the director to speak through.

What I will say in its favour though, is the main actress does a great job at showing her uncomfortable imprisonment inside her own body.

If you like this

Are You Proud?

Are You Proud? is a documentary looking at the history of Pride movements here in the UK. Maybe like me you are up on your American queer history a lot more than you are your British queer history.

It came at it from an angle I didn’t expect, namely ‘isn’t it great British has such a wide diversity of Prides taking place!’. This is not normally the tack taken on the subject. Usually the refrain is the movement has become too fractured, we’ve become too divided internally within the queer community. This documentary flips that on its head and says, isn’t it great to live in a country where pride can mean so many different things to so many different people and it all coexists. It doesn’t take a side in any debate but lauds the idea of queer activism spreading out in many different directions. That our differences, rather than divide us, in fact gives us a soldier in every corner, fighting on every front for queer rights.

As someone who has felt very disillusioned and increasingly alienated from recent Pride celebrations, it was heartening to see a documentary reminding us that it is up to each generation to make and remake its own Pride.

True, it was mostly a history of G with a side of L, no B and very little T, but in some ways that does reflect the hierarchy and thus history of Pride movements. A and other pluses will have to wait another 20 years before they start getting included in these movies.

Despite those limitations, it does do a masterful job of fitting 70 years of history into 2 hours.

Dead Good

Dead Good is a really interesting documentary about the movement in the UK away from traditional funeral directors and services towards more tailored and open ways of working with the bereaved.

For most of us I think, after a loved one dies, a doctor comes to pronounce the death, followed by a funeral director. The deceased is then spirited away, not to be seen again until their funeral, or perhaps the wake the night before. In closed casket funerals, you may never see them again at all.

The documentary follows Arka funeral service in Brighton and their choice work in a more open and engaged way with the bereaved. Relatives are able to come down to view the body, wash their loved one, dress them themselves. In every way, they are allowed to take part in the preparation of their loved one for burial. One woman even attends the workshop where her mother’s coffin is being made and helps make part of it.

The women who run Arka want to empower relatives more, make people aware they have both the option and the right to be in control of this process.

The film itself is neither sad nor judgmental, simply an attempt to open up dialogue on the subject. In places I found the camera work and music choices a bit clumsy, but that’s a small criticism of a director’s first full-length feature. Everything involving the relatives and the deceased themselves is tastefully, respectfully and sensitively done.

I just came away from this with so much I wanted to talk about.

Of Fish Or Foe

Of Fish Or Foe is a documentary about one of the last coastal salmon netting fishing family businesses running in Scotland, and the pressure that is brought to bear on them over the course of a year to put them out of business. The pressure comes from 2 groups, a branch of hunt sabs called Sea Shepherd and the angling interests board.

This is a culture clash film about people who want to carry on the family business that they’ve been raised and fed with for generations, and the animal rights activists who will stop at nothing to stop the death of any wildlife at their hands. There is not a clear side to come down on, both perspectives are given time and the audience is very much left to decide what they think.

The central conflict is very much a war of attrition. There can be no compromise between their two positions without it meaning the end of one of them. This leads both groups to view the other as the devil incarnate. The fishermen view the sabs as idle, childish, spoiled, ignorant, crunchy students. The sabs view the fishermen as slathering psychopaths, foaming at the mouth for the extermination of innocent animals. It leads to a lot of comic scenes where they both stand holding cameras 2 inches from each others face, screaming, “You’re assaulting me! You’re assaulting me!” because their breath is disturbing the others hair. You just think, bunch of fucking weans.

There’s no attempt to see things from each others perspective or give respect to the fact that others might not think like you or have your priorities. Any compromise to make the fishing less detrimental to wildlife, but still continue, would destroy the fishermen’s bottom line, and would violate the principles of the sabs that every animal has a right to its own life.

The scales are finally tipped when the angling lobbyists take against the netters, saying their netting at the coast is preventing salmon from entering the inland rivers in sufficient numbers. Weirdly, they are the biggest allies to the sabs, despite the fact the anglers catch many more salmon that the netters do.

It is a weird film, neither side is particularly likeable. But it definitely seems that times are changing, priorities are changing, and the winds of support are blowing against the fishermen.

Super November

The worst kind of Yes voter masturbatory persecution fantasy. Three friends sleepwalk into a dystopian future, unable to see the oncoming political threat over their attention-consuming everyday lives. Despite the heavy-handed nature of the story and having all the marks of a first film, it does achieve a warmth and sympathy for the characters and a naturalistic style for much of the drama. 

Pin Cushion

A British Mean Girls with no jokes. Played straight down the line, this is a tale of female loneliness. With echoes of the start of Carrie, this is a film about the outsider, what it’s like to be permanently locked out of the society the rest of us seem to share in with ease. It’s also about mother-daughter relationships, and how we can need them most at the times we have pull away from them to grow. The ending is horrendous and brought me to sudden, stinging tears.

If you like this

Lean On Pete

A movie about youth homelessness. The film really begins when the main character, now without parents or a home, steals a racehorse called Lean On Pete that’s been marked for slaughter, and together they go on a journey to find his estranged aunt. The lead actor is convincing as this quiet, tall, skinny, silent kid who’s seen so much but doesn’t know how to say anything, how to ask for help.