Murmur

Murmur is a tender portrayal of a woman alleviating her loneliness by adopting a terminally ill dog.

Donna is this weary, humphy-backit, older woman, recovering from a heart condition. She lives alone and has quite a serious estrangement from her only daughter. As community service resultant from a DUI, she is sent to work in an animal shelter.

There she meets Charlie, an auld, sick, incontinent, scruffy dog, with his tongue sticking out one side of his mouth and a scraggly fringe hanging down over his eyes. He, like Donna, has a heart murmur, as well as a list of health complaints besides. Donna insists on taking him home when time comes for him to be put down.

Murmur is an extraordinarily quiet film. There is no background music. At the opening of the film, Donna’s flat is mostly silent, with only the sound of her drawing on her e-cigarette, or splashing red wine into a glass as she watches telly. There is no one to talk to, so she is wordless. As she takes on the job at the animal shelter, you get all the sounds of the animals, barking and meowing, and the sound of her working to mop and hose the place down. And when Charlie comes to live with her, suddenly her life is full of sound, his little breaths, his sighs, his little susurrations. She coos over him as she washes his coat with medicated shampoo, and chitter-chatters to him as she persuades him to eat to get his weight up. His every yip fascinates her, and she has this real connection with another living being again.

Then the addictive element of her character that got her into trouble with drink-driving seems to kick in, and soon she has a menagerie of every kind of animal, her flat becomes a midden, the whole place stinks of piss and shit, and she jeopardises her place at the shelter by trying to make off with every unwanted animal.

As the film winds towards its inevitable conclusion, you are left moved by the inestimable impact of these tiny creatures who share our lives.

The Toll

The Toll is crime comedy, a sort of Fargo meets Hot Fuzz, but with a dry, dark humour. Like an utterly parochial No Country For Old Men, where a simple plan turns to shit. Michael Smiley plays a toll booth collector on a stretch of unremarkable tarmac in the middle of buttfuck nowhere in Wales. Much like the plot of A History of Violence, a face from his past comes across him by chance, and his boring and anonymous idyll is shattered. But unlike A History of Violence, things don’t burst into slick, cool, stylish violence, but bungling, British, incompetent criminality, as local crooks and wannabe gangsters are pressed into service.

The cast is incredible, with a host of Game of Thrones escapees showing up in the form of Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Snow), and Paul Kaye (Thoros of Myr). Michael Smiley always delivers. The whole thing works really well together. (Side note: Is it ok to fancy Iwan Rheon now he’s not playing a psychopath? Is it just me or does he look like an adorable, fuckable, mischievous elf?)

Very funny and worth a watch.

If you like this…

The Garden Left Behind

Ok, so this is another movie about trans women that obviously has good intentions. All trans characters are played by trans actors. It shows trans activism and resistance to trans oppression.

That being said, this is another film that shows being trans as the single defining problem of the main character. Tina is a Latina trans woman who doesn’t have legal status in the US. She has a shitty boyfriend and is constantly struggling to make money. Yet the film acts like she has a single issue life. Much like the movie Girl, even other aspects of her life boil down to this one thing which is seen as a giant problem.

Now obviously it’s right and proper to highlight the struggles of being trans, but not to the point where a single characteristic of a person is portrayed as all-defining, and as a negative burden upon them.

It’s very after school special, and much of the writing and acting is cringey. Like all movies that portray being trans as a ‘problem play’, this ends with the expected outburst of violence.

I’m glad to see trans actresses portraying trans stories, but this film just felt like it spoke to a cis audience the whole time. It was a plea to a cis audience for tolerance and therefore was kinda defined by the cis gaze. Mm.

Song Without A Name

Song Without A Name is based on real events where poor Native Amerindian women had their newborn children illegally adopted without their knowledge or consent. Even when the struggle to bring those to justice is finally over, the attitude prevails that these kids are probably better off with the rich whites that have adopted them overseas than with their poor indigenous mothers, so no real effort is put into reuniting them.

For the main character, this just destroys her and her husband. Unable to provide or protect his family, he falls into despair and is led astray by a bad lot. She is left in this permanent state of unresolved mourning.

A sorrowful tale.

Son-Mother

Son-Mother is the story of a young widow who receives a proposal of marriage.

What’s good about this movie is no one’s an asshole. The mother just wants what’s best for her son, her son just wants what’s best for his family, the new step-daddy just wants what’s best for everyone. And the new step-dad really is a nice guy, and is totally ok with raising her kids from the previous marriage.

But this is Iran. And in Iran, there’s always a way your life as a woman can be made that bit more difficult.

The step-dad has a daughter from a previous marriage, and she can’t share a house with a male she’s not related to. So what’s to become of the mother’s son?

The first half of the movie is the mother doing everything she can to not accept the proposal, even though she likes the man and thinks well of him. She’s working to keep a roof over their heads, she can’t afford nappies for the baby, she even scabs at her work out of fear of not being able to support her kids. The walls start to close in, her baby gets sick and she has no way to pay for health care, and she finally gets laid off from her job. Her choice is send her son away or the streets.

Unfortunately she has no family and nowhere to send him. A family friend comes up with a scheme to stow him in a residential school for the deaf. The second half of the film is her son’s sacrifices to keep his family together and better-off, even if he can’t be part of it.

A great movie that leaves you wanting to collectively slap the social mores of Iran.

If you like this

The Death of Dick Long

A trio of shitkicker, garage band, fuckwits spend the night getting drunk, high, shooting fireworks off from their arse and generally partying like a shower of fannies. This leads to one of them, the titular Dick Long, getting dropped off at the hospital while the others scurry their high asses home.

The whole movie more or less takes place over the next day, when Dick’s death becomes labelled a suspected murder, as you root for these useless fuckknuckles to make it out of this jam intact. By turns funny and tense, more than a little stupid and a really enjoyable film.

Pacarrete

Before the title card was even up, I had decided I loved Pacarrete, thought she was a legend, and wanted to be her.

Pacarrete is an elderly woman, who loves ballet and takes every opportunity to dance, and share her art. She is also a salty auld queen with a raspy smokers voice and barbed tongue. I absolutely loved her.

Goan yersel Pacarrete! Why should you fade into demure ignorability? Wear bright red, vibrant lipstick and live out loud. Just because you’re past the age of supposed fuckability, you shouldn’t want to be pretty, or admired, or graceful? As if you only exist in the male gaze and since it’s lost interest, you should just curl up and blow away.

Pacarette is about how, even when you are seen as having no talent and no beauty, you must insist on your own worth, and how people need art to survive.

The Translators

A twisting, turning, locked room mystery. A group of translators are locked underground to translate the final installment of a worldwide bestselling novel series in time for its simultaneous global multi-lingual release. But somehow the first few pages get released online, and the publishing agent in charge proves much more ruthless at finding the culprit than anyone expected. Starring Alex Lawther (the kid from Ghost Stories) who I did not realise was a fluent French speaker.