- David Parkinson
Parky At the Pictures (2/7/2021)
(Reviews Another Round; Dr Bird's Advice For Sad Poets; Tyger Tyger; Daisy Quokka: World's Scariest Animal; The Filmmaker's House; and Mosley: It's Complicated)
Cinemas are open again, then. But not everyone is going to want to sit in the dark being distracted by the prospect of whether everyone else in the auditorium is following the social distancing guidelines as strictly as they are.
Consequently, the streaming platforms who have done rather well out of lockdown are going to keep up their good work for the time being at least. Therefore, in addition to subscription sites like Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI, Netflix and the BFI Player, the likes of iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation will be staying open for business. Whatever choice you make, stay safe.
Given the tragic circumstances of its production, Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round is a remarkable film. Four days into the shoot, the Danish director learned that his 19 year-old daughter had been killed in a car crash in Belgium. Ida had been due to make her acting debut as the protagonist's teenage daughter and many in the same situation would have been too crushed to continue with the project. But the Dane realised that he needed to complete a picture that had been inspired by Ida's stories about the drinking exploits of her classmates.
Screenwriter Tobias Lindholm took the helm on days when Vinterberg was overwhelmed and, along with the cast, they deserve enormous credit for producing such a poignant treatise on the need to appreciate life. Quite whether its central premise holds water, however, is an entirely different matter.
Copenhagen history teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) has lost his spark. His lessons are dull and his classes are as concerned as his daughters by his detachment from reality. Wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) takes a more practical approach, as she works night shifts to avoid bumping into him. Even his colleagues tease him about sticking to soft drinks when he joins them to celebrate the 40th birthday of psychology teacher, Nikolaj (Magnus Millang).
As wife Amalie (Helen Reingaard Neumann) is wealthy, Nikolaj serves up the best of everything and Martin is coaxed into joining games master Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and music instructor Peter (Lars Ranthe) in over-indulging. Indeed, he's easily won over when the conversation shifts to the theories of Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who insists that the human blood alcohol content is too low and that daytime drinking to keep it around 0.05% makes people more relaxed and creative.
Emboldened by a couple of slugs of Smirnoff, Martin strides into a class and soon has the students eating out of his hands. He reveals that the Second World War was won by frequent tipplers like Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while Adolf Hitler was bound to lose because he was teetotal. Sipping from what seems to be a water bottle, Martin proceeds to enthuse about Ernest Hemingway and current world leaders who like to wet their whistle.
Tommy also finds himself inspired under the influence and one of his teams enjoys unprecedented success because of his gung-ho tactics. Convinced that the principal (Susse Wold) is oblivious to their antics, the quartet agree to take their experiment to the next level. Swayed by the logic that if a little is good, more must be better, Martin convinces his pals to up their BAC to 0.10, while ensuring that no booze is taken after 8pm.
Following a drunken night out, however, both Martin and Nikolaj are confronted by their wives. Anika berates her spouse for not having the gumption to realise that he hasn't been in control for weeks. Their argument eventually grows so fierce that Martin storms out after Anika taunts him with the revelation that she has been having an affair.
A few months pass and Nikolaj, Martin and Peter are on the wagon. But Tommy has become an alcoholic and he is fired when his secret store is detected. Shortly afterwards, he sets out to sea in his boat with his faithful dog and kills himself. Following his funeral, the remaining trio go out for dinner. As they eat, Martin receives a text from Anika offering a reconciliation.
Sidling out on to the street, the teachers see some of their students celebrating their graduation beside the harbour. The teens are pleased to see them and invite them to join the festivities. Despite having always resisted the offer to hit the dance floor, Martin taps into his past as a jazz ballet dancer and throws himself into a frantically cathartic that culminates in him taking a running jump towards the sea that is halted by a climactic freeze frame.
Vinterberg made Oscar history by becoming the first Dane to be nominated for Best Director. He lost out to Chloé Zhao for Nomadland, but he did triumph in the Best International Film category and repeated the feat at the BAFTAs. Feature writers have gone to town on how a project rooted in such sorrow has managed to become the feel-good film of the pandemic. Yet, for all Vinterberg's fortitude and technical nous and the poise of Mads Mikkelsen's performance (his gyrations around the harbour are more than a match for Denis Lavant's similarly frenzied outburst of energy at the end of Claire Denis's Beau Travail, 1999), this is a deeply flawed drama that can't hold its drink.
Opening with scenes of bladdered teens revelling like there's no tomorrow, the action quickly turns to the notion of lost youth and unfulfilled dreams. In other words, this is another little boy lost saga in the vein of Todd Phillips's The Hangover (2009), as the foursome swig down hooch to feel young again and give them the courage to do the things they feel they should have done.
While the concept is vaguely amusing, it leaves the story with nowhere to go once the first cork has been popped. A quarter of a century ago, Vinterberg may have made his reputation with the daring Dogme outing, Festen (1998), but he has never possessed compatriot Lars von Trier's sense of the outrageous and, consequently, this paean to carousing merely peters out, in spite of the tone-shifting brilliance of Sturla Brandth Grøvlen's photography.
It's inevitable that someone will get caught and dismissed, just as the advice to a student to get some Dutch courage before a viva voce examination is bound to backfire. Obviously, Tommy dies. But the other three get away with it, as the chauvinist undercurrent ensures that Anika and Amalie will be grateful to keep their family units intact. At a time when society is waking up to the fact that the world doesn't revolve around ageing middle-class white males, this feels like a cold glass of Carlsberg in the face of everyone else.
DR BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS.
Five years after completing his feature bow, Son of Morning (2011), Yaniv Raz made a 28-minute short inspired by Evan Roskos's novel, Dr Bird's Advice For Sad Poets. Now, he has returned to the material for a feature-length adaptation that cleaves more closely to the original text and contains a panoply of directorial gambits that confirm Raz as a distinctive visual stylist, while attesting that he might be a better storyteller if he reined in the flamboyance.
James Whitman (Lucas Jade Zumann) wakes each morning to recite a song of self (`I am light! I am truth! I am might! I am youth!') that owes much to Leaves of Grass, the masterpiece by poet Walt Whitman (Michael H. Cole), who talks to James from a poster on the wall. He's not the only figment of the 16 year-old's imagination with whom he has regular conversations, however, as he has also daily therapy sessions with a pigeon he has dubbed, Dr Bird (Tom Wilkinson).
James's anxieties are fuelled by the fact that his adored older sister, Jorie (Lily Donoghue), has run away from home after being slugged by her father. Carl (Jason Isaacs) has struggled to cope with life ashore after leaving the US Navy to open a sushi restaurant with his wife, Elly (Lisa Edelstein), who gave up her career as a promising avant-garde painter to raise a family. She calls Carl `The Brute' and James blames him for his woes during excruciating mealtimes that invariably end with his parents rowing.
At school, James hangs out with Kwame (Odiseas Georgiadis), a migrant from Ghana who learned English from videotapes of 1980s teenpix. While he is super popular, James is almost invisible until students start sharing their theories about Jorie's fate. But he's thrilled when girl of his dreams Sophie Seltzer (Taylor Russell) asks him to search Jorie's room to see if she had finished the graphic poem she had promised to submit to the school's literary quarterly, The Conundrum.
When Kwame lands an invitation to the Croquet Club Champagne Social being thrown by a kid nicknamed The Baron (Milo Wesley), James consults Dr Bird about his fear of social gatherings. On hearing that Sophie will be going, he decides to attend, even though she will be escorted by her boyfriend, Martin (Chase Stokes), who wears hipster pants and sports a large ironic moustache. Moreover, while searching Jorie's room after a message had flashed up on the TV that she needed rescuing, James finds a hidden compartment behind her computer screen and sees a photograph of her with a group that includes The Baron.
Convinced he will know his sister's whereabouts, James follows nervously, as Kwame struts into the party. He hooks up with Sally (Caroline Arapoglou) and they drag James on to the dance floor. But he is more interested in Sophie, who looks embarrassed when Martin declares that poetry has been killed by hip hop (cue a cutaway to a Shakespeare lookalike rapping). Sidling over to The Baron, James asks about the people in the photo and is surprised when he reveals that Jorie was into cosplay.
Just as he in thinking that it's impossible to really know someone, James sees Sophie dump Martin after he tries to get fresh in an upstairs room. He tries to console her on the terrace and they kiss. Fireworks explode in his imagination and he suddenly feels that anything is possible, especially when Sophie agrees to help him follow the clues to find Jorie. She gives him a camera to chronicle the quest and they make a list of every business in town with the word `clover' in its name, after James finds among Jorie's things a folded piece of paper bearing a clover motif and the question, `Are You Curious About Yourself?'
Ignoring Carl's warning not to end up like his sister, James embarks upon a search that starts out like a monochrome 1940s noir before morphing into a colour version of a French nouvelle vague jump-cut saga. Back in trenchcoats, the pair do a soft-shoe dance routine before finding themselves in a silent melodrama entitled The Confession, in which James declares his love.
Returning to reality with a bump, James gets home to find Elly in a funk because she has been invited by a former beau to teach at an art school in Provence. She's tempted to go because life with Carl is impossible, but she can't leave her baby boy behind. Dr Bird cautions James that it's not his duty to make his mother happy, but he convinces himself that finding Jorie will make Elly so happy that she won't want to leave.
After drawing countless blanks, James and Sophie visit a bee farm. They think they've lucked out, but a female assistant informs them that Jorie had used the name Bianca while part of cult led by Xavier (David Arquette), known as the House of Clover. The duo infiltrate a meeting and Sophie quickly deduces that Xavier is a predatory fraud. She accuses him of having sex with Jolie while she was underage and he blurts out that he let her leave when her red-haired brother came to collect her. Fleeing the premises so exhilarates Sophie that she offers James hand relief and he is too taken aback to accept.
Over supper with his parents (whom he has imagined as French-speaking, art-loving sophisticates), James asks if he has a redheaded half-brother. While out with Carl, James asks about insanity in the family and is less than impressed when his father tells him the only way to deal with fear is to swallow hard and carry on. However, he does reveal that he sacrificed the chance to become an officer by marrying Elly, who was feeling fragile after the death of her father.
Not knowing where to turn, James spots a youth with red hair in the cosplay photo and he threatens to expose the fact The Baron lives in a shack and isn't descended from Hungarian royalty unless he tells him where to find his sister. Despite this promising lead, James is feeling blue because Sophie has surmised that they will probably break up once the mission is over.
Dr Bird placates James by insisting she was joking. But Kwame bluntly declares that everyone cheats and his fears seem confirmed when he sees Sophie and Martin canoodling in a school corridor. James confides to Dr Bird that he feels like he's playing a video game of his own life, but can't control the characters. He decides to end it all by walking into the lake. But The Baron calls with the water only thigh deep and he is still wet when Sophie finds him. She explains that Martin had merely been apologising for starting some unsavoury rumours about her and assures James that this was the sole reason she had delayed sleeping with him.
They take the train into the city and head for a nightclub called The Island of Misfit Toys. Slipping into the inner sanctum, they find Jorie dancing on a plinth. The bouncer captures a freaked out Sophie, but James opts not to help her in order to speak to his sister. She explains that the red-haired Keith (Bryan McClure) is her boyfriend and that he is helping her sort her life out. Jorie is sorry to hear that James is having blitzkriegs again, but tells him to stop blaming Carl for her disappearance, as he had been trying to help her. When she refuses to come home, James calls her `The Brute' and storms off, leaving Sophie to find her own way back.
On arriving home, James is chewed out by his parents. But he demands to see a psychiatrist and avers that Carl needs to do the same. Dr Bird feels rejected and pleads with James that he can still help him. They are interrupted by Elly, who confesses that she had told Jorie to leave and had known all along where she was. She cries when James accuses her of living vicariously through Jorie after getting herself trapped into a marriage she despises. But she swears she has loved being a mother (even if she was no good at it) and urges her son not to let fear dictate his choices.
As Sophie has been blanking him since he abandoned her in the city, James leaves a phone message to meet at their spot near the clover maze where he had played with Jorie as kids. She accepts his apology and lets him down gently in insisting that she needs to be alone for a while. He gives her a display of the pictures he had taken with her camera and she publishes it in The Conundrum.
We see a flashback of how Jorie (YaYa Gosselin) had given Dr Bird to James (Roger Dale Floyd) to help him cope with childhood nightmares. But the pigeon decides the time has come to fly away and he reminds James to celebrate himself, as others will only love him if he has confidence in himself. No sooner has he flapped away, however, than James needs him to deal with a panic attack caused by a cute classmate (Hunter Deno) congratulating him on his article.
The most notable difference between the two versions of Dr Bird's Advice for Sad Poets is that the shorter one is very white, with Sophie and Kwame being named Sarah and Derek. Time obviously caught up with Nicholas Alexander, who makes a suitably skittish James Whitman in the 2016 telling, but Lucas Jade Zumann brings a keener edge to the teenager who evidently needs more psychological help than an imaginary pigeon can provide. In truth, Yaniv Raz might have devoted more time to James's mental health and approached it with greater sensitivity, as the tonal switch in the closing scenes does feel more like a lurch.
He might also have resisted the need to depict everything from butterflies fluttering in James's eyeball to the detonating atom bombs, microscopic glimpses of the ebola virus and clips of child soldiers in Africa that presage his blitzkrieg attacks. Even the affectionate movie montage feels a tad overcooked, especially as the kind of new wave self-reflexivity Raz cites tended to be filmed in black and white rather than colour. However, sophomores are still entitled to the odd flourish, even though Raz actually captured James's drunken bewilderment at the champagne social more effectively first time round.
Such is the focus on James's psyche that none of the other characters are particularly well-rounded, with Sophie being very much entitled to complain that she is more than `some quirky character' who exists solely to guide James to his epiphany. With the brute father, artistic mother and rebellious daughter, the domestic subplots also feel somewhat formulaic and don't become any more persuasive with the third-act rug pulls.
Nevertheless, Jason Isaacs, Lisa Edelstein and Lily Donoghue provide deft support. Taylor Russell also suggests there's more to Sophie than soft-focus sweetness, while Tom Wilkinson brings gentle wisdom to the eponymous pigeon. But Odiseas Georgiadis is left to spout 80s anachronisms in a manner that feels more patronising than amusing, while even a practiced eccentric like David Arquette is stymied by the risibly caricatured cult leader.
Jeremy Woodward's production design is as intriguing as Pierluigi Malavasi's photography, Daron Murphy and D. Chris Smith's sound design, and Jennifer Leigh-Scott's costumes. However, Steven Centracchio's intra-scene editing couldn't be sharper. the picture feels overlong and cluttered. Dare one say, it might have been just right without all those self-conscious pyrotechnics.
At the height of an unexplained pandemic that randomly requires people to wear masks, Blake (Sam Quartin) and Cole (Max Madsen) steal medication from a Sherman Oaks pharmacy. Mid-robbery, Blake insists on changing clothes with Luke (Dylan Spouse), who is trying to get a prescription filled when they burst in.
Ignoring boyfriend Cole's insistence that they keep the stash, Blake delivers the pills to Dr Rosa (Alma Martinez), who asks her to courier them to Free City. As Blake has developed a crush on Luke, however, she kidnaps him with the help of her non-verbal friend, Bobby (Nekhebet Kum Juch), and he is shruggingly forced to come along for the ride.
They stop to meet Rosa's go-between, Joe (Craig Stark), who offers them some boiled crab. He twigs that Luke is a heroin addict and orders him to stay out of his cabin. But he barges into the bathroom and, while stealing pills from the medicine cabinet, realises that Joe can't be trusted. Blake calls Rosa. but Luke advises her to keep their location secret and, after they get directions from Tammie (Eden Brolin) at the local motel and get their wheel stuck in the desert sand, they seek refuge in an off-the-grid commune, where they are befriended by Emerald (Thea Sofie Loch Næss).
Crashing in Emerald's `dead bus', Luke and Blake become lovers, even though she warns him that she could pass on the contagion, as she did with Cole. He smokes drugs with Tammie, while Blake and Bobby drink tea with Emerald. Someone chases a rabbit and another person trades eggs for a necklace before a car gets torched in a trippy montage cut to a psychedelic song.
Emerald is taught how to use Bobby's homemade make-up to wear to a party on the beach. But Cole and Joe have caught up with them and, while Emerald clings to Bobby and muses about how her parents died, Joe helps Luke shoot up a fatal dose. Blake finds his lucky t-shirt and a note that he left for her, which contains lines from William Blake's poem, `The Tyger'.
Although this 2019 road trip often feels like a millennial take on Chloé Zhao's Nomadland, the closing sequence links it more closely to Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), as Blake is called to an appointment at a rehab clinic and all of the characters who appear in her fever dream turn up a patients or members of the medical staff. It's a neat twist, but it does as little to redeem Kerry Mondragon's feature debut as the strainedly arch references to the fearful symmetry of Blake's big cat.
This is a shame, as his aesthetic approach is bold and confident, with Ben Braham Ziryab's handheld camera picking up self-consciously filtered images as it teeters through the commune (actually Slab City in California). Mongragon and Joe D'Augustine's fragmentary editing similarly reinforces the action's mind-blowing sense of ethereality, which is pushed further by the quirky tunes peppering Daniele Luppi's skittish soundtrack (one of which is sung haltingly by the otherwise silent Bobby in the pre-coda denouement).
However, such is the banality of the dialogue and the negligibility of the characterisation that it's difficult to empathise with cast members whose performances veer from the antic to the awkward. Sam Quartin carries the weight of the world on her shoulders with a brittle toughness that keeps her watchable. But a little of Thea Sofie Loch Næss's twee princess act goes a long way, especially when contrasted with Eden Brolin's brassy receptionist.
Quite what Mondragon was shooting for is unclear. Gambits like letting the footage slide into digital animation suggest he had cult status in mind. But the lack of socio-political context and character depth means this is rarely more than a gimcrack curio.
DAISY QUOKKA: WORLD'S SCARIEST ANIMAL.
Before a lost tourist discovered its short-tailed scrub wallaby inhabitants, Quokka Rocks was a quiet outcrop opposite Sanctuary City. But everyone soon wanted a selfie with a smiling quokka and the whole island started to devote itself to tourism. Daisy Quokka (Angourie Rice) wants to emulate her crocodile hero, Frankie Scales (Sam Neill) by winning the Scary Animal Games. But her parents (Grant Denyer and Lucy Durack) think she's better suited to being the new poster girl for Quokka Rocks.
When they buy her a ticket to market her home in Sanctuary City, Daisy discovers that the World's Scariest Games have returned for the first time in 20 years. She sees reporter Flightless Feather (Frank Woodley) interviewing local champion Ronda Saltie (Sharnee Tones) and announcing the trials for Sanctuary's second entrant into the WSG. When Ronda laughs at the idea of a quokka competing, Daisy bridles with indignation.
So, when some mischievous drop bears wheel her promotional barrow into the Wild, Daisy follows without fear and bumps into Frankie, who has been hiding in the swamp since his WSG records were expunged for accidentally knocking kangaroo rival Jerry Whiskers (Andrew Cook) off a mountain. He sneers at the idea of a smiley quokka entering the games, but agrees to coach Daisy after hearing that Ronda is the favourite to win.
Jerry runs the trials over a daunting endurance course and only Ronda and cockatoo Dex Brown go clear in competitive times. However, WSG president Augustus Maximus (Ricard Cussó) notes that Dex failed to ring the completion buzzer and is disqualified, thus, leaving Daisy to line up alongside Ronda, Tyrus Polar, Adewale Khan and Fire Isle's fearsome champion, Drago Modo.
Bursting with pride at the opening ceremony, Daisy finds the going tough in the first event and Ronda loses time in going to help her. Consequently, they find themselves at the bottom of the leaderboard, with Drago out in front. Ronda is so angry she tells Daisy that it's now every animal for themselves. While she calls home and her folks affectionately tell her how dreadful she was in suggesting she comes home, Frankie catches up with the estranged daughter who knew nothing of his erstwhile achievements.
Fearing that Daisy has taken the ferry home, Frankie goes to the quayside amusement park and gives the dispirited quokka a pep talk about seizing dreams and being herself. She whizzes around the assault course and agrees to let Frankie put her through her paces in a rigorous overnight training regime.
Filled with new confidence, Daisy climbs the standings and even has the odd bonding moment with Ronda. What's more she even gets her own line of memorabilia. With the polar bear and lion beaten into submission, the field is narrowed to the dragon, the croc and the quok. There seems to be no stopping the runaway leader, however, as he romps home in each event. But, by pipping Ronda in the penultimate task, Daisy gets to face Drago in the final.
With Ronda and Jerry cheering beside Frankie, Daisy chases Drago across a course dripping with molten lava. Irritated by her refusal to give up, the steamed-up Komodo dragon tries to cheat and causes the totem pole bearing the winning buzzer to catch fire and start to teeter. The crowd flees in terror, but Daisy stays to tether the pole and is plucked from danger by Frankie after he saves Ronda from a falling beam.
Waking in hospital with her new friends at her bedside, Daisy learns from her mother and father that Drago has been arrested. She's disappointed to hear that the tournament was abandoned, but she is overjoyed to see a crowd outside waving banners proclaiming her to be the world's bravest animal. Reiterating the message to never give up on your dreams, Daisy returns to Quokka Island to live happily ever after - or, at least, until her next adventure.
Coming after The Wishmas Tree and Combat Wombat (both 2020), the third of Richard Cussó's animated features from the `Tales From Sanctuary City' franchise follows its predecessors in being brash, breezy fun that often leaves the audience feeling as though they've been trapped inside a video game, albeit one that ends by reminding Australian audiences of the perils of bushfires.
The CGI imagery is colourfully proficient, although the combination of the pulsating score and the cacophonous sound effects comes close to overpowering. On the plus side, the messages contained in Ryan Greaves's screenplay not only provide a bit of fist-pumping inspiration, but they also remind any girls watching that they are more than a match for the boys at whatever they set their minds to.
Angourie Rice is engagingly vivacious as the little quokka who could and tinies everywhere will be begging their parents for a cuddy version of a critter that Daisy claims is `half-kangaroo, half-rat, crossed with a teddy bear'. Reminding older viewers of a crocodile in a 1970s Heinz baked bean commercial, regret-filled Frankie Scales is genially voiced by Sam Neill.
The sweetest moment is undoubtedly the call home to parents whose pride is tinged with pragmatism, as they urge their daughter to come home before she hurts herself. The comic highlight involves a pair of sock puppets, as Daisy provides an impressionable drop bear with a DIY recap of Frankie's career. Indeed, more might have been made of the hilariously manic drop bears (a fictionally ferocious variation on the docile koala), including one called Bernard, who winds up being Flightless Feather's silent co-commentator. Maybe they should be given a movie of their own, as they have the potential to become the marsupial equivalent of the Despicable Me Minions.
THE FILMMAKER'S HOUSE.
Renowned for such studies of enclosed spaces as Lift (2001), Travellers (2003) and Outside the Court (2011), director Marc Isaacs also excels at reflecting the mood of the nation in such items as All White in Barking (2007) and The Road: A Story of Life & Death (2012). Now, he combines both elements in The Filmmaker's House, a blend of cinéma vérité and scripted reality that also explores the state of documentary cinema in an age in which a film's message has come to matter less than its
Having visited his homeless Slovakian friend Mikel (Mikel Novosad) in hospital, Marc Isaacs comes home to a Skype chat with his agent, Rachel (Rachel Wexler). She has bad news, as the commissioning editors she has approached with his new project don't feel they can pitch it upwards. He despairs when she explains that the money people want films about crime, sex and death and jokes that maybe he should do something about the every day lives of serial killers.
Builder Keith (Keith Martin) and his assistant, Jed (Jed Thomas Isaacs), come to replace the panels so that Marc can have a lower fence with his niqab-wearing Pakistani neighbour, Zara (Zara Akram). While they are working, his Colombian cleaner, Nery (Luz Nery Villada), arrives and holds back the tears as she discusses her recently deceased mother. Marc insists it might do her good to talk on camera and Nery shows him a phone photograph from the last time she visited her mother in hospital.
He keeps trying to interview her when Mikel shows up and he gets peevish about him begging for money and kipping on the sofa. But Nery is more welcoming and sings a sad song, as she dusts the bric-a-brac on the mantelpiece. Determined to keep an eye on Mikel, Marc films his cats checking him out and follows Keith and Jed, as they carry fence panels through the narrow hallway and out through the front garden.
Nery gets into a panic when the grey cat, Leno, brings a pigeon into the house and gets blood on the kitchen rug. At the same moment, Zara comes in with some curry because she has spare food because it's Ramadan. Keith thinks it's a bit odd to be eating curry so early in the day, but Zara explains that sharing increases the blessings during the holy month.
Marc asks Zara why her mother-in-law is so interested in the fact he's Jewish and she regrets that her generation believe that Muslims and Jews are natural enemies. He sympathises with her having to look after a chain-smoking husband and she shrugs that it's her culture to care for the father of her son, but she hints that she would escape if she had somewhere else to go.
Outside, Keith rips off his shirt while hammering in a new fence post. He can't understand why anyone would want to lower a fence and confides in Jed that he used to argue all the time with a Greek neighbour he detested. Keith's glad he doesn't live in London any longer and would much rather be surrounded by fields than be snooped on all the time. As he speaks, the camera picks up Zara peering from behind a curtain at the obese bald man venting his spleen.
As Nery tries to dust his study, Marc gets snippy with her for moving a box of tapes. He apologises and reveals that the videos feature a man who had lost his memory and was trying to piece together his past when he murdered his wife. The experience affected Marc profoundly and he came to question whether his project had unleashed the killer's demons.
Nery tells Marc that God sees his efforts to help people and assures him that good things will come his way. She washes Mikel's feet on the sofa and consoles him when he says he was happiest in his mother's womb, as he's faced problems since the moment he was born.
He wanders into the kitchen, where Zara is heating the food. When he tries to steal a piece of chicken, she chides him before describing the Muslim tradition of offering hospitality to the poor for three days and nights. Wearing a pair of Marc's slippers, Mikel likes the sound of this and thanks Nery for a glass of orange juice.
Zara asks Marc how the Jews treat the needy and uses the Old Testament story of Lot and his daughters to remind them of the need for moderation, even in generosity. However, he invites Keith and Jed to join them for lunch and they all let Zara and Nery wait on them. As he doesn't like curry, Keith sends Jed to fetch his packed lunch from the van and he ignores Marc when he opines that it wouldn't kill him to try something new. But Keith claims to have a heart condition, which occasionally slowed him down while he was working.
Marc goes out to admire the fence, which he wanted lowering so his children could play with Zara's son. Inside, Keith shows her footage of the museum he has built in his house to Arsenal. She asks him why he is obsessed with guns and he gives her a brief history of the Gunners. He snaps at her when she says she prefers cricket to football and gets antsy when Mikel claims that Arsenal fans once smashed up Bratislava.
When Mikel comments that he can't get back to see his mother, Keith orders him to tidy himself up and call her because he only has one mother and she will be delighted to hear from her son. He also urges Nery to attend her mother's funeral, but she is content to keep her good memories in her heart.
Mikel offers to help with the washing up and is rewarded with a bath. Marc tries to coax him into discussing his past, but Mikel insists that people can never really know each other. When he requests a little privacy, Marc appears on the landing in time to see Nery drop a pile of tapes on the stairs. She implores him to get rid of them, as they contain bad energy.
As she speaks, Zara calls for them to come into the garden because Keith has collapsed and they help him to the sofa in the front room. Zara prays over him and cautions him to stop smoking. When Marc questions why she doesn't tell her husband the same thing, Zara shoots a look at him and mops Keith's brow.
Mikel wanders in wearing a white hooded bathrobe and claims to be able to do CPR. But Keith refuses to let them call an ambulance and sends Jed home with the van to get his mother's supper and reassure her that the job has overrun. Inspired by Keith's concern, Mikel borrows Marc's laptop and Skypes his mother, who is pleased to see him and he promises to come home soon.
Needing a drink, Mikel produces a can of lager from his haversack, but this offends Zara, who makes her excuses to leave. She breaks a plate in picking up the tray and tells Marc that his house is unholy. Back in the front room, Keith tries to give Nery his fee so that she can fly home for her mother's funeral, while Mikel gets so drunk on half a bottle of vodka that he throws up in the bathroom. Nery is too upset to stay and departs with a bin bag full of videotapes.
At that moment, Marc's wife (Lucy Kaye) comes home and she is furious with him for filming in the house without telling her. She struggles to wheel her bike into the garden and berates him for making a mess everywhere. He apologises and joins his two female assistants in helping Mikel and Keith gather their stuff so they can leave. They make arrangements to finish the shoot the following week and leave.
When Marc calls Rachel, she informs him that a producer is interested in the amnesiac killer story and she's frustrated with him for dispensing with the tapes when they finally have a chance to make some money. Instead, he decides to finish this film and has to spring Mikel from hospital to do an afternoon's shooting. He asks if Marc can put him up for a few days when he is discharged, but he has to decline.
As Nery sees him off in a cab, the screen fills with Jacques Derrida's contention that `an act of hospitality can only be poetic' before fading to black. It's both an amusing and a troubling sign-off to a film that has deftly laid bare Brexit Britain in just 76 minutes. There are also echoes of the last line of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959), as no one is perfect in the scenario concocted by Isaacs and Adam Ganz.
The closest is Nery, who is warm and accepting to everyone, even though she meddles from the best of motives with Marc's tapes. Curiously, Jed also proves relatively untainted, as he tucks into the curry without prejudice and shows his concern for Keith before heading home to reassure his ageing mum. By contrast, Marc's wife feels that the open house policy has gone on long enough and is unfair to her and her children and this consideration seemingly persuades Marc to turn down Mikel's request for a couple of nights' crashing.
Only seen as a hand passing a banknote to the Slovakian in the opening hospital scene, Isaacs self-deprecatingly parodies the opportunist docu-maker's sometimes insensitive determination to record everything and turn each sit-down conversation into an interview. He also lands a dig in on the small-screen commissioning editors who are only interested in the kind of sensationalist topics that have launched the vogue for docbusters.
But there's also a tragic truth behind the anguish that Isaacs feels over the case of Erez Tivoni, who feigned amnesia in 1999 in order to entice producers on the BBC's Inside Story strand into helping him reconnect with his young family in Israel. Following a supervised reunion with his offspring in Tel Aviv, however, Tivoni doused them in petrol and set light to the toddlers, leaving his ex-wife, Etti, to blame the programme makers for their murder by abetting Tivoni in his bid to track her down to a safe refuge.
At times, the action feels a little handcranked. while the cutting between the one-shots during the lunchtime discussion seems so clunky that it risks tipping the principals into caricature. There are also arch moments. like the camera being placed in the box full of `cursed' videotapes so that only the feet of Zara, Nery and Marc can be seen as they help Keith to the settee. But the occasional stiffness in the performances by the non-professional cast adds to the disarming charm of a docu-fiction that doesn't need any boosting upwards.
MOSLEY: IT'S COMPLICATED.
Given the number of skeletons in Max Mosley's cupboard, it should come as no surprise to learn that Michael Shevloff's profile, Mosley: It's Complicated, is a bare bones affair. Clearly intended to spruce up his reputation, this valedictory overview seems more interested in Mosley's road safety campaigns than the headline events of a chequered career. However, with the 81 year-old succumbing to cancer on 23 May, this proficient documentary has come to stand as a memorial.
Born on 13 April 1940, Max Rufus Mosley saw little of parents Sir Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford during his first formative years because they were interned in Holloway Prison for the first four years of the Second World War. He describes his subsequently itinerant childhood and disrupted schooling with sang froid and concedes that he was influenced in his youth by his charismatic father's status as the leader of the British Union of Fascists. However, he is keen to point out that although Adolf Hitler attended his parents' wedding, Sir Oswald didn't get along with the Führer.
Having studied physics at Christ Church, Oxford, Mosley made headlines when he was arrested for threatening behaviour while trying to protect his father from a London mob in 1962. He was acquitted, but decided to distance himself from his father's Union Movement and try his luck at motor racing. Shevloff doesn't push Mosley on his political sympathies, but he is more forthcoming about his talents as a Formula Two driver. Moreover, he recalls competing in the Hockenheim race that claimed the life of double world champion Jim Clark and made Mosley a lifelong advocate of auto safety.
Determined to stay in the sport, Mosley hooked up with Oxford pal Robin Herd to form March Engineering in 1969. Based in a disused dairy in Bicester, the team shook Formula One by winning three of its first four races. However, operating on modest funds in a ruthlessly competitive field proved taxing and Mosley opted to devote his energies to the Formula One Constructors' Association, which brought him into the orbit of Brabham owner, Bernie Ecclestone.
Shevloff rather presumes that everyone will be au fait with the ensuing battle for control of the sport with the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile. But the `FISA-FOCA War' that was driven by Jean-Marie Balestre's contention that Mosley and Ecclestone were outsider chancers is worthy of a film on its own and many viewers will feel short-changed by this breakneck recap. Little is made of Mosley's brief sabbatical with the Conservative Party and some of the politicking involved in securing the presidency of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile in 1993 and the deal two years later that afforded Ecclestone the commercial rights to F1 are also rather skated over.
Instead, Mosley dwells on his efforts to improve the safety of the sport following the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. Yet, while we hear about his determination to pass the lessons learned by the sport to general motoring with the New Car Assessment Programme, nothing is said about Mosley's tenacious defence of tobacco sponsorship. Much is made during a trip to New Delhi about the number of lives that could be saved if India could manufacture a vehicle worthy of NCAP's Five Star rating. But the health benefits that might have accrued from a tobacco ban are overlooked.
In becoming the F1 supremo, Mosley made numerous enemies, among them Ron Dennis, the McLaren owner caught up in the 2007 Spygate saga. Without naming names, Mosley avers that one of three prime suspects was responsible for the 2008 News of the World exposé of his participation in what was described as a `sick Nazi orgy'. The 68 year-old won his case against News Group Newspapers by arguing that the report on his participation in sadomasochistic acts with five consenting women breached his privacy.
He glumly admits that he had a tough weekend with his wife of 51 years, but the shabby episode steeled his resolve to challenge the power of the tabloid press. Hugh Grant pops up to commend Mosley's efforts in bolstering the phone-hacking protest and he rightly ranks his battles with press baron Rupert Murdoch and Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre among his proudest achievements.
Despite it being proved that no Nazi uniforms had been worn at the S&M party, the scandal prompted an attempt to unseat Mosley from the FIA presidency. As former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt recalls, Renault team principal Flavio Briatore drove the bid and Ecclestone confesses shame at his failure to defend his old friend. Once again demonstrating his remarkable fighting qualities, Mosley held on to his post by 103-55 and he remained in situ until July 2009, when he was succeeded by Todt.
Considering that his 39 year-old restaurateur son, Alexander, had died of an accidental overdose in May 2009, Mosley's readiness to keep fighting his corner confirms the pugnacity that underpins his interviews with Shevloff. Evidently viewing the project as an opportunity to secure his legacy, Mosley manages to seem plain spoken while actually giving very little away. He admits to the odd misjudgement, but his patrician air of rectitude leaves one convinced that he's the one calling the shots.
When he won a Cross Sports Book Award for his 2015 autobiography, Formula One and Beyond, Mosley expressed surprise because he hadn't really written a sports book and this film feels similarly Janus-faced. Shevloff lines up an impressive cast of F1 insiders that includes David Ward, John Watson, Ian Phillips, Adam Parr, Patrick Duffeler, Marco Piccinini, Gerhard Berger, Charlie Whiting and Alan Donnelly. But, while admitting that Mosley was a divisive character, most are guarded in their remarks.
Editors Jason Schwab and Paul McAleavey do a creditable job in stitching together the archive clips, which are driven along by Adam Peters's score. Yet, this slickness merely reinforces the impression that this is a strictly marshalled PR exercise that leaves far too many questions unanswered from all periods of Mosley's unconventionally eventful life.