• Another Year

    Another Year

    ★★★★

    A typically insightful and compassionate human drama from Mike Leigh, one where the mood gradually shifts from warmly humorous to wistfully elegiac in a way that deftly reflects the changing of the seasons. It covers four chapters during a single year in the lives of happy couple Tom and Gerri Hepple; drawing an understated yet still impactful contrast between their stable contentment and the disorderly existence of their friends, in particular the wayward Mary who believes that she can catch…

  • Happy-Go-Lucky

    Happy-Go-Lucky

    ★★★

    Certainly lives up to its title by being a predominantly lively and cheerful affair, fundamentally a character study following ebullient primary school teacher Poppy as she approaches every situation with unbridled optimism. It's like Mike Leigh essentially decided to make a direct contrast to Naked using a similar framework, the main difference being that we're seeing things through the eyes of someone vivaciously empathetic instead of intensely hostile. We subsequently see what happens when someone views kindness and compassion as…

  • Vera Drake

    Vera Drake

    ★★★

    The first half of Vera Drake offers us an interesting look at the steadily rhythmic daily routines of the titular character, a deeply empathetic house cleaner moonlighting as a back alley abortionist unbeknown to those closest to her. It's quite shocking to see such a seemingly kind and gentle person involved with carrying out what was a serious crime in 1950s London, but it's an astute decision from Mike Leigh as it provides us a sympathetic viewpoint to convey the…

  • All or Nothing

    All or Nothing

    ★★★★

    All or Nothing is a sorrowful portrait of the struggles faced by working class people on a day-to-day basis when barely making ends meet forces survival to become the main priority, necessitating that vital aspects of familial life like care and affection are to be neglected which causes deep-rooted despondency. Mike Leigh always provides an unflinching yet compassionate touch to this type of subject matter, but even for him this is a heartbreaking effort. Every character here suffers from varying…

  • Topsy-Turvy

    Topsy-Turvy

    ★★★★

    I can imagine that Topsy-Turvy seemed like an unanticipated and potentially risky deviation for Mike Leigh at the time. A large-scale, light-hearted period piece revolving around Victorian era collaborators Gilbert & Sullivan as they assemble their comic opera The Mikado appears to be completely at odds with the sobering nature of his works prior. So it's a true testament to Leigh's versatility that he was able to reconfigure his naturalistic, semi-improvised approach to comfortably fit the material. He constructs a comprehensive…

  • Beau Travail

    Beau Travail

    ★★★

    Quite captivating as a pure mood piece, but constrained by the vague narrative and character choices that leave it nearly impenetrable on an emotional level. Beau Travail seems to be in dispute with itself over what it is trying to be, so it's little surprise that my thoughts about it are similarly conflicted.

    The story of a commanding officer's distorted jealousy towards one of his troop explores despotism, repression and foreignness through the lenses of colonialism, military power structures and…

  • Confessions

    Confessions

    ★★★

    If you've ever wanted to see a revenge thriller that is shot and edited like a late-2000s metalcore music video then this is the film for you.

    Confessions starts out very strong. The entire first act, which takes the form of a prolonged monologue, is so impressively constructed and delivered with such intense visual verve that I thought we could be heading into superlative territory. Unfortunately, my fears that it was too front-loaded were confirmed by what followed. The twist-laden…

  • Like Someone in Love

    Like Someone in Love

    ★★★★½

    It feels somewhat fitting that Like Someone in Love was the final film released by Abbas Kiarostami during his lifetime. The gradual, wistful manner in which it unfolds practically forces the mind to wander in contemplation in a way that makes its subject matter resonate deeply. There's a pensive haziness that engulfs every frame which is both elusive and captivating, making the viewing experience akin to being put into a trance.

    The narrative sees Kiarostami returning once again to the…

  • Certified Copy

    Certified Copy

    ★★★★

    There is no doubt whatsoever that Kiarostami was a true virtuoso at obliterating the conventional expectations of narrative driven cinema. Certified Copy appears to push his reoccuring thematic elements of self-identity, perception, fragile relationships and fiction overlapping reality to their very limits within such a medium in a way that casts a disorientating spell over the entire picture.

    What initially looks like a prolonged interaction between two people who've just met undergoes a metamorphosis before our very eyes until it's…

  • The Wind Will Carry Us

    The Wind Will Carry Us

    ★★★★

    Just imagine the kind of evocative and lyrical ruminations on life typically found in Kiarostami's works imbued with a picturesque tranquility that makes the whole thing flow as if it really is floating on air, then you're in the sort of space which The Wind Will Carry Us occupies. It's a relatively straightforward yet completely sincere story about a worker named Behzad assimilating to the culture and routine of the quaint village that he's been assigned to. We're never explicitly…

  • Taste of Cherry

    Taste of Cherry

    ★★★★½

    Abbas Kiarostami does something quite remarkable with Taste of Cherry by looking at the all-encompassing nature of suicidal thoughts in a way that feels completely genuine. Not for one second is he guilty of being overly sentimental, ostentatious or preachy because he clearly understands that such thoughts aren't usually displayed in a conspicuous manner. It's such a pure view since feelings of hopelessness often infect a person's life through gradual, undetectable means before overwhelming them entirely. This film strikingly captures…

  • Hiroshima Mon Amour

    Hiroshima Mon Amour

    ★★★

    I really like the central concept here, drawing a hazy contrast between a fleeting relationship and the aftermath of the horrific bombing of Hiroshima as a way to explore how we're forever unable to escape the destructive events of the past because they continue to haunt the present. Lingering despair causing cycles of heartache, memories to distort and commitment to cease; most effectively demonstrated with the striking opening monologue interlaced with images of devastation and Emmanuelle Riva's poignant performance. Sadly,…