Take the captivating Spanish lead (Laia Costa) of the single-take German wonder Victoria, the breakout star of God’s Own Country (Josh O’Connor), and a BAFTA-nominated writer-director of acclaimed shorts (Harry Wootliff), and you have Only You, a romantic drama that makes some of the most vibrant use of Glasgow as a cinematic setting in recent memory.
Following a shared taxi-based meet cute, Elena and Jake start a passionate relationship that turns into something long-term. Ominous signs are afloat, though. Elena, nearing 40 and nine years older than Jake, is insecure about her age, and their romance struggles under pressure to have kids. Complications with conceiving and the ordeal of fertility treatments don’t always get the most nuanced explorations onscreen, if they’re depicted in depth at all, but Wootliff’s film is an intimate and touching exploration of an issue sometimes still considered taboo.
Ahead of Only You’s world premiere at last year’s London Film Festival, Wootliff and her stars spoke to us about their drama…
Full interview for The Skinny
From Bronson and Valhalla Rising to Drive, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon, Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has a reputation for filtering all sorts of reference points, from cinema or other artforms, into movies that never quite feel like anything else out there, even if it might initially seem clear what you’re going to get from a surface glance.
The director’s passion for the idiosyncratic recently extended to the world of digital media with byNWR.com, where an exclusive film – a restored lost gem with little to no previous cultural legacy – is presented each month as a jumping off point to inspire creativity. Although film and the moving image takes up the bulk of the venture’s content right now, the site is moving into music. And not only music, but music festival collaborations.
As part of this year’s Black Deer Festival in Kent, a specially-curated trilogy of films will be presented for the first time in a new form, under the banner of byNWR Expressway. In keeping with the spirit of the Americana and country music-focused festival, each film harks back to America’s drive-in heyday…
Full interview for The Line of Best Fit
The English-language debut of Dutch director Sacha Polak, Dirty God follows a young London mother, Jade (newcomer Vicky Knight), as she tries to reassemble her life after an acid attack leads to disfigurement and burns across her face and upper body – the unprovoked assault coming courtesy of her ex-boyfriend and father of her child. The injuries change the ways in which many people interact with her, altering her sense of self, driving her to pursue cheap plastic surgery in Morocco and fracturing her relationships with her mother, Lisa (Katherine Kelly), and infant daughter.
With co-writer Susie Farrell, Polak eschews common on-screen treatments of burn survivors, avoiding making Jade an object of pity and passivity but also not placing her on a pedestal. She is a complicated, well-rounded character who makes impulsive, sometimes disastrous decisions. Dirty God is a complex story of survival, not victimhood. Her trauma is not easy to boil down: there’s relatively little soul-searching or self-pity, and she has recurring sex dreams about her attacker…
Full interview for the BFI
Too Late to Die Young is Chilean writer-director Dominga Sotomayor’s third feature, though the first since her well-regarded debut, Thursday til Sunday (2012), to receive much international distribution. The new work feels of a piece with the breakthrough film in its focus on the perspective of children and their burgeoning awareness of the complexities of their family situations. At the same time, that focus in the new effort is more expansive, with the juggling of a larger ensemble of both young and adult characters, and more ambitious in its evocation of a specific period and a unique setting rooted in Sotomayor’s own upbringing.
Set in Chile in summer 1990, in the run-up to New Year’s Eve, the film follows teenagers Sofía (Demian Hernández) and Lucas (Antar Machado) and ten-year-old Clara (Magdalena Tótoro) facing various disappointments while living in a partially built ecological settlement in the mountains just off from Santiago. Lucas pines for Sofía; Sofía is drawn to an older man and also longs to move away from the commune to live with her estranged mother; and Clara searches for her missing dog. There is relatively little narrative incident, with Sotomayor favouring a shaggy hangout vibe above a story prone to any concrete definitions. The film’s political underpinnings – it’s set just after the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship – are unobtrusive, relegated to the briefest of period signifiers and occasional dialogue allusions.
I spoke to Sotomayor at the Locarno Festival in 2018, where she became the first woman ever to win the Leopard award for Best Direction…
Full interview for Sight & Sound
Arctic is a survival thriller in which Mads Mikkelsen plays a man stranded in the Arctic Circle waiting for rescue, only for a helicopter that finds him to crash, killing the pilot and forcing Mikkelsen’s character to have to tend to a severely injured passenger while barely keeping himself alive.
It’s visceral, absorbing stuff. What is particularly noteworthy, though, is that director Joe Penna’s background is as a YouTube content producer for over 12 years – his main channel, as MysteryGuitarMan, has nearly 3 million subscribers and has racked up around 400 million video views.
How does someone goes from the culture of YouTube influencer to making their directorial debut (an on-location survival thriller in harsh terrain, shot in Iceland in under a month) with a major international star in a close to wordless performance? And not only that, but managing to get that debut feature to premiere at Cannes last year? We sit down with Penna to talk Mads, polar bears and more…
Full interview for VODzilla.co
Set in Scotland in 1994, Beats follows two teenage best friends, Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald), heading out for one final night together at an illegal rave before life takes them in different directions. Johnno’s family, encouraged by his de facto stepfather Robert (Brian Ferguson), are due to move to a newly built house in the distant suburbs. Spanner’s prospects, meanwhile, look next to zero in the context of local poverty and his relationship with his abusive criminal brother, Fido (Neil Leiper).
Directed and co-written by Brian Welsh, Beats is adapted from Kieran Hurley’s acclaimed one-man stage show, which presented converging stories in the wake of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act’s impact on rave culture. Section 63 of that act gave law enforcement the power to stop any gatherings of more than 20 people in open air settings when listening to music, “Wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”
There’s an end of an era quality to the film’s portrayal of the 90s scene, and while raving didn’t disappear after 1994, the rest of the decade saw a form of it move into the more corporate club scene, heavy on brand image, where the experience, as influenced by those changes in the law, became more homogenised…
Full interview for the BFI
The highly respected Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller died in July 2018, after living with vascular dementia for several years. Just two months later, Living the Light – Robby Müller, a film essay tribute to the man and his work, premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
Having worked on over 70 feature films, it is Müller’s cinematography with the likes of Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, and Lars von Trier that most influenced a generation of filmmakers in terms of his framing, evocation of emotion in his shots, and his use of light. Living the Light intertwines clips from Müller’s oeuvre with footage and images from his extensive personal archives. With the blessing of Andrea Müller, Living the Light director Claire Pijman — a friend of the couple and a cinematographer of nearly 30 years herself — was granted access to thousands of H8 video diaries, set photos, Polaroids, and more that were shot throughout his career; from his earliest days with Wenders to the final few films on his resume…
Full interview for Kinoscope