‘Writers Choice’ is a monthly segment. Each month a theme will be chosen and the contributors asked to choose a film to mini-review based around said theme. This month’s theme is ‘love’.
MILLENIUM ACTRESS (2001)
Satoshi Kon’s operatic love affair, Millennium Actress, tells the story of Chiyoko Fujiwara, a former Japanese film star who met a runaway artist as a teenager. After the encounter, she spent the next 30 years trying to track him down and return a key he left in her possession.
Told through flashbacks of Chiyoko’s films (with a duo of documentary filmmakers following her every move), we’re transported to different generations of the actress’s career as she recalls her journey to adulthood.
On a superficial level, Millennium Actress could have been a hopeless quest to save a man that Chiyoko had a chance meeting with, adding nothing to the substance of the film. In the masterful, poetic hands of Satoshi Kon, it morphs into something completely different – an ode to Japanese cinema, a reflection of famed director Yasujirō Ozu’s muse, Setsuko Hara, and a lesson in the history of Japan and its many long forgotten eras.
Chiyoko’s chase to find her loved painter poses as something of a metaphorical voyage. Piecing together her real motives to take part in the documentary – and what Millennium Actress is about – proves to be a secret in itself, emphasised more by the ambiguous and beautifully scripted closing line. Even through my welling tears come the credits, it is a mystery I am always ready to try and solve once more. -Cherokee
SUMMER WITH MONIKA (1953)
“Summer with Monika” (Sommaren med Monika) is a 1953 drama/romance directed by the great Ingmar Bergman. The story focuses on a young couples summer-long escapade on the archipelago’s of Sweden. The story goes a little something like this: The simple-minded Harry meets the adventurous Monika at their workplace and they both fall in love. After getting into a fight with her family Monika packs up her things and runs to Harry with the intention of staying with him. Because Harry lives with his father/aunt they end up stealing his father’s boat and spending the next few months travelling around the islands that surround Sweden in perfect solitude. During their vacation the spontaneous and fun-loving Monika becomes pregnant and when they return home after the summer they are faced with the challenge of how they’re going to support it since they are both unemployed. Harry accepts his new responsibility immediately gets a full-time job while also continuing his education while Monika becomes disgruntled with her new role of being a mother, craving the excitement and adventures she once always had before she became pregnant and maybe even meeting Harry. Although Harry tries to make the relationship work out, Monika’s lack of happiness causes her to abandon Harry and their daughter. I believe that “Summer with Monika” is a cautionary tale to all young lovers about the responsibility of being in a relationship, their newborn child becoming their greatest responsibility and possible rift between the two. Monika and Harry represent the irresponsible and the responsible, the selfish and the selfless, the passionate and the practical, and the immature and the mature aspects of any relationship. Monika yearns for the passion once felt during the summer and feels like their relationship is nothing without it while Harry knows it’s gone but feels like their relationship should still thrive without it. “Summer with Monika” may not be a “Dear John” or “Titanic” but it is still a remarkable romance film, a true gem if I should say anything myself. It can actually be seen on YouTube with a selection of captions or even caught on TCM if you’re lucky. Overall I give this movie a 7 out 10, if it matters to any of you and is worth watching. -Monica
THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013)
When given the term “teen romance”, I generally feel pretty nauseous. Images arise of bland high school stereotypes texting winky faces and dancing without music mid-road (health and safety hazard AND awkward. Wow.). The Spectacular Now disputes this image and is instead wonderfully powerfully truthful.
The plot is perhaps clichéd; many of the character’s struggles have been featured in other coming of age storylines. What I really love about this film is even through a somewhat simple narrative, it only highlights the incredible realism director, James Ponsoldt, depicts. The struggles, although major for the characters, are broadly insignificant. They are relatable and recognisable and in the large scale of things, unimportant.
Similarly, the characters are incredibly honest. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are exceptional (it’s a big word). Again, they are relatable and refreshingly NORMAL. Often I can’t empathise with characters due to my lack of connection with them, often teens being glamourized and fulfilling a ridiculously exaggerated stereotype, but the performances in TSN are brutally beautifully raw. They also have enormous depth and are genuinely intriguing. I was continuingly consumed with Miles Teller’s character, his motives and emotions kept me questioning him, and kind of disliking him (especially at first) yet I was also rooting for him to get his shit together, as though I knew him better than he himself.
The cinematography is beautiful. Perhaps not a film in which it is largely recognised, to me, the raw washed imagery provokes a nostalgic instagrammy feel to it. Mmmm yeah.
Ooh daym. How refreshing it is to see an honest and sweet, slightly awkward, slightly painful and fundamentally REAL sex scene. What they don’t often show in usual teen flicks “big losing of the V” scenes is a non-glorified proposal of sex, the awkward pause of taking off the underwear and putting on the protection, and the beginning discomfort. I mean they have sex in daylight. It’s completely REAL. That’s what makes it slightly uncomfortable to watch. There is a sense of familiarity about the scene (annnnd I guess because I was with my parents) as well as the fact it is so truthfully presented that it makes you feel like you are properly just watching these two teenagers have sex for the first time.
In my opinion, its honesty and fabulous performances wins me over. The Spectacular now just presents love and first love simply and truthfully. No more needed really. -Zoe
MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)
This film is the pre-pubescent runaway love story many can only dream of. Sam and Suzy run away in the 60’s wonderland forests of New Penzance in an attempt to escape their unhappy lives and start a new life together whilst unequivocally, fatally in love with one another in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Sam and Suzy’s young love is intense and much, much bigger than their 12 year old selves. ‘I admit we knew we’d get in trouble. That part’s true. We knew people would be worried, and we still ran away, anyway. But something also happened, which we didn’t do on purpose. When we first met each other, something happened to us.’ Sam’s words are an example of how beyond their years Sam and Suzy are, in understanding love and its consequences. It’s beautiful and funny and moving, not to mention the incredible aesthetic of the film (duh, it is Wes Anderson). I fell in love with Sam and Suzy, I fell in love with New Penzance and the colour schemes, I fell in love with the binoculars and the lighthouse, I fell in love with Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ and the kitten in a basket, I fell in love with lefty scissors and Scout Master Ward, I fell in love with absolutely all of it. Moonrise Kingdom is an iconic love story, one that I think will be watched and loved for many years to come. -Beth
Richard Adaoye’s deadpan comedy, served with a thick spread of irony, is a sweet love story between ‘80s teenagers, Oliver and Jordana. Oliver spends his time speculating about how others would react to his death, learning interesting new words, and plotting how to lose his virginity. Jordana is sarcastic, into mild pyromania, and the owner of a natty red coat and chocolate bob. Jordana and Oliver fall in love; Oliver’s parents drift out of love. It’s refreshing to watch a “coming-of-age romance” where the main characters are far from entirely desirable (or played by 25 year olds who with a model’s looks), whose eccentric mannerisms and loneliness make them endearing and sad, rather than just plain “quirky”. Adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel, Submarine remains reassuringly close to it’s source material, not just in story, but also in darkly dry sense of humour and spirit. If you’re not a fan of self-conscious made-for-Tumblr montages (think running through derelict land together, playing with sparklers, moody meaningful staring), this film might not be you, but stick with it for it’s angsty honesty and truthfulness. Plus, it has a delicate soundtrack, good enough to listen to separately of the film, by Alex Turner, pre-arrogant-dickhead persona days. -Molly Kerkham
NEVER LET ME GO (2010)
Although I am not the biggest fan of rom coms, I am all about heart-wrenching stories that revolve around unrequited love. The film Never Let Me Go, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, takes place in a British, dystopian society. Although it is categorized in the science fiction genre due to the idea of cloning and organ donating, the complicated love triangle amongst the characters Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), places it into the drama genre as well. So we all know what that means: TEARS. LOTS OF THEM.
The film begins with an adult Kathy looking through a surgical room’s window at Tommy. She then starts narrating the film about how proud she is of the scientific progress carers and donors have achieved. Referring back to this first scene after watching the entire film gives me the chills. Kathy is watching her true love about to give up his organs, and she’s thinking about the beauty of cloning and donating! This makes me so frustrated and sad for her, but then I always forget that Tommy was never fully hers in the first place.
Since Kathy’s childhood, she has seen Tommy and her (back-stabbing) best friend Ruth fall deeper in love. It’s easy to hate on Ruth because she knew that Kathy had a crush on him. She knew! She witnessed Kathy sit on her bed whilst listening to a cassette tape Tommy got her (the song she listens to “Never Let Me Go” is where the title is from. Wooo!) She watched Kathy try to comfort Tommy when he didn’t get picked to play on a team by the other boys. What I’m trying to say is, Ruth wins the ‘Worst Best Friend of the Millennium’ award. At least, that is, until they grow up. But that’s way into their adulthood when Ruth and Tommy are in their final stages of donating, so Ruth still sucks.
Kathy gets the shit end of the stick (pardon my French, but she totally does.) It isn’t until she’s 28 years old that she is reunited with Ruth and Tommy. At this point, Ruth admits to Kathy and Tommy that she kept them apart, even though she knew they were meant to be. Feeling terribly guilty, she gives them the address to a house that will allow them to apply to live together for three years until Tommy has to come back to reality and donate the rest of his organs. This turns out to be phony, so Kathy gets one night with Tommy. What a pity. No matter how many times I watch this movie, I can’t help but melt into a puddle of sadness when Kathy states, “Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.” You bet your bottom dollar I cry. And it’s full-on ugly crying.
Basically, love sucks. -Cristina
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (2001)
TWS: slight homophobia, mention of incentsual rape, dysphoria, loneliness
Hedwig is certainly more of an unconventional love story to new comers of less mainstream movies. Hilarious, touching and Hedwig, formely Hansel, is a m to f transexual, who faced the chop of her life to get away from communtist east Berlin in the ‘late mid eighties’ by marrying her gi boyfriend Luther, but her sex change operation was botched and left her with the infamous mound of flesh ‘the angry inch’. The day Luther leaves Hedwig is the day everything turns upside down for her, she discovers the Berlin wall has fallen, which means she only had to wait one more year in EB and could have still left with her penis. Hedwig didn’t exactly want to become a woman, but was so eager to get out of EB, she would do anything to be free. So Hedwig starts a rock band to cope with her troubles, which include trying to find her other half and being unhappy with her botched body and along the way meets Tommy Gnosis (I’ll leave it there so as to not spoil any more of this fab film!). The film is brilliant, funny, unique and asks alot of important moral questions such as: ‘do we really need another half to be truly full and happy?’ and ‘does not having a penis make you any less than a man?’. The movie also has some beautiful animation sequences. I saw it screened in 2012 at Shambala Festival and instantly fell in love with the movie. This movie is certainly a beautiful story of love and identity and is perfect for any like minded person. A must see! Oh and did I mention, its also a musical? -Katie