Movie Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

It was all smiles leaving the cinema but let’s see what Hooked On Film’s three reviewers really thought of Bohemian Rhapsody.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I think it’s safe to say it’s never a good sign when a film’s director is abruptly dispatched from a project in the middle of production. No good comes of it. It’s like sitting through a Beatles record only to have Justin Bieber finish out the last three songs. Bohemian Rhapsody suffers such a fate, which is a shame because it’s about one of the most powerful bands of the rock era and is carried by a lead performance that is sure to be around come awards season.

Queen was fronted by Freddie Mercury, who famously said, “When I’m performing I’m an extrovert, yet inside I’m a completely different man”. In Bohemian Rhapsody Mercury is played by the brilliant Rami Malek, who indeed commands the screen with Freddie’s mystical charm and achieves something special – he holds us in the palm of his hand. Too bad, then, that the film constructed around him feels like an empty B-side. Directing difficulties aside, the writing by Anthony McCarten is filled with placeholder dialogue that does little to elevate the material beyond a very basic, predictable, and often frustrating fictional biography.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill 

Bohemian Rhapsody has it’s faults and to be fair, it’s a hard task to recreate the story of a legendary band who’s reputation proceeded them. What is brilliant about this film is the cinematography and costume design. Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel does some impressive camera manoeuvres, making use of the set design by weaving in, out and under objects, and using mirrors to capture reactions of characters. Similar to his work on Drive, Sigel almost utilises the camera as an extension of Mercury, creating a visually intimate style that captures the rawness of the emotion of screen.

Equally as spectacular as the cinematography is the costume design. Costume designer Julian Day manages to capture the incredible sense of style that Mercury had and recreate some of the more memorable costumes he wore during Queen’s stage shows. There’s an energy and empowerment that clothes gave Mercury, and Day not only captures his flamboyant style but Mercury’s change in fashion as the band progressed and grew in popularity.

There’s a lot of fun to be had while watching Bohemian Rhapsody, and while it’s not perfect, there is a lot of fantastic talent on display in the film, and it maturely handles Mercury’s life without detracting from his legacy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐  ½
Corey J. Hogan 

As already mentioned, Bohemian Rhapsody is undeniably flawed in its approach to writing and storytelling. It’s more than a little telling that the band’s surviving members held some of the creative reigns, given that the expected focus on Mercury is pulled back to incorporate his less exciting band mates more – not to mention playing it safe and relatively formulaic, while glossing over some of the grittier elements like Mercury’s sexuality, substance abuse and HIV struggles.

But for all its shortcomings, Bohemian Rhapsody makes up for it in sheer spectacle. This is thanks almost entirely to an absolutely all-conquering performance from Malek as Freddie, who dazzles in an explosive, deliciously flamboyant turn that transforms him completely into the enigmatic legend. If Mr. Robot proved he had talent, this will skyrocket him straight to the A-list; you simply can’t take your eyes off him.

Elsewhere, the film succeeds where it recreates Queen’s many incredible live performances, perfectly capturing the energy and electricity that must have been felt amongst the thousands of people who witnessed them in the flesh. It culminates in an extended replica of their outstanding Live Aid performance of ’85 to a crowd of 100,000 people, a high note to ensure you leave the cinema positively buzzing. It might not be the great Freddie Mercury expose we dreamed of, but fans of Queen are in for a treat – as are Wayne’s World devotees, with a genius reference thrown in for good measure.

Bohemian Rhapsody  is available in Australian cinemas from November 01

Also screening as part of  the RoofTop Movies Program 1 on Dec 06.

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

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Halloween (2018)

David Gordon Green’s powerful sequel to the beloved Halloween shakes things up and effectively erases decades of tainted mythology.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

There have been so many Halloween movies as to lose count. Sequels upon sequels. Spin-offs upon remakes. I have not seen them all, thank god, so I was relieved to discover this new Halloween movie doesn’t require me to. It’s a direct follow-up to the great 1978 original, which means we can forget about all the nonsense that has polluted the past 40 years. Rightfully so – this sequel is a whole lot of fun, right down to the scene of a little boy clipping his toenails.

Of course it’s not fun in any conventional sense. This is a movie where a gas station attendant gets his jaw smashed on a counter and a housewife is battered with a hammer. But the key to these Halloween movies is the way their characters draw attention away from the violence. Most slasher pictures glorify the bloodshed. They’re not so much about who is getting killed as about how much brain is being splattered. Halloween goes to great lengths to make its heroes and villains interesting, so that on some basic level, they are worth caring about.

I, for one, care a great deal for the killer Michael Myers (played in unison by Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney and Tony Moran) and the frantic heroine Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis). Myers is a monolithic creature of murder, yes, but why? He kills in cold blood, but one gets the feeling there’s a labyrinth of dread and intelligence beneath that pale mask. Perhaps the mystery of his mind is why he’s always accompanied by a psychiatrist who wrongly believes he is exempt from Michael’s blade.

Curtis, who originated the role in 1978 and returned in many of the forgettable sequels, is now a weathered grandma determined to see her tormentor perish. Her daughter and granddaughter are estranged, broken by years of paranoid delusions that Myers will return to finish them off. Her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), the poor girl, spent her childhood rigging booby traps and abusing mannequins as target practice. It’s a wonder she didn’t grow up to become G.I. Jane.

Naturally, Michael escapes, on Halloween night no less, and at first I thought it was all going to happen again. Michael kills. Laurie and the cops try in vain to stop him. Michael flees. Roll the credits. But then the movie shifts by turning the plot from violence to intimacy. It becomes a showdown. A showdown between two well-acquainted predators. It’s very intense and very well-made, utterly thrilling, clever, at times funny, and totally worthy of John Carpenter’s great masterpiece. Seldom is a sequel this fulfilling.

Halloween is available in Australian cinemas from October 25 

Image © Universal Pictures 2018

Movie Review – Goosebumps 2 : Haunted Halloween

Not as smart or entertaining as the first, but Goosebumps 2 isn’t a total loss.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Against my better judgement, I actually enjoyed the first Goosebumps movie. It was well made, moderately clever with a lightness in its step. Now comes the inevitable sequel – helpfully titled Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween – and whatever innovation and ingenuity that once existed is gone, replaced instead with a blanket of computer graphics and a plot so transparent it can be used to trace over itself. This is not a movie but a product assembled to keep kids distracted.

The plot, such as it is, follows Sarah (Madison Iseman), Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) in the town of Wardenclyffe, NY, three kids who discover the magical ventriloquist dummy Slappy from the first movie and accidentally bring him back to life. Slappy, voiced effectively by Mick Wingert (even though he sounds an awful lot like Jack Black), desires a family, so he hatches a cockamamie scheme that involves Halloween lawn ornaments bursting to life and running amok down the streets.

Of course, this happens so the movie’s visual effects artists can earn their paycheques. Many of the visuals are indeed impressive, but they would’ve been more thrilling if they had serviced a smarter plot and done more terrifying things. I think kids want to be frightened, just enough to make them jump but not too much that they can’t sleep. Goosebumps 2 plays more like a parody of scary images. It lacks the conviction to be truly intense.

The screenplay, penned by Rob Lieber, is not particularly well structured but contains several genuinely amusing exchanges I wouldn’t have expected from a fluffy movie like this – “So put on your shoes and let’s go!” “But my shoes are already on!”. It’s the kind of broad humour that’s just narrow enough to be funny. Or maybe it’s not, and I was simply trying to empathise with the mind of a five-year-old.

Naturally, there were a lot of five-year-olds at the screening I attended, accompanied by parents who I’m sure would’ve rather observed a dying cockroach. I think maybe it might be fitting then to evaluate Goosebumps 2 based on how raucous the children were, since I’m clearly not its intended audience. I thought it was foolish but entertaining. The kids, on the other hand, were very quiet. Could it be they were too frightened, or too bored?

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween  is available in Australian cinemas from October 25 

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Movie Review – BackTrack Boys

Australian filmmaker Catherine Scott makes a heartfelt documentary that looks into how troubled kids can be taken in and taught responsibility by caring for and training dogs.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill 

BackTrack Boys is about a rehabilitation program for troubled youths in New South Wales run by straight-talking Bernie Shakeshaft. The documentary follows three troubled kids, Zak, Tyrson, and Rusty who are all part of the Backtrack program, and their journey in and out of trouble as they struggle to take the lessons they learn through the program and apply them to their dysfunctional home life.

Similar to documentaries focused on groups of people like Jesus Camp and Dying to Live, what really makes BackTrack Boys a documentary worth watching are the characters featured. Director Catherine Scott does a brilliant job at drawing out the personalities of the three featured children and the harsh environments they have grown up in, which would have more than likely led them to a life in jail. Whether it be good-natured Zak who has worked his way through the Backtrack program to become a leader; Tyrson who regressed after leaving the program and wound up in jail for a couple of years; and the youngest of the group, Rusty whose foul-mouthed, tall tales are tolerated by the others as they realise he’s just a young kid who hasn’t had the easiest start to life.

The program itself is interesting in that Shakeshaft pairs the kids with a dog that they are expected to train, feed and prepare for local shows in events like high jump wall. The idea is that the dogs don’t judge the kids but instead give them a sense of responsibility. Intermingled in this are campfire heart-to-hearts, where the boys share stories, their feelings and fears when they’re ready to. It’s group theory done in a trusting environment and it’s Shakeshaft straight-talking both around the campfire and in private with the boys that helps them take responsibility for their actions, and more importantly, their lives.

The documentary is beautifully shot and Scott manages to get access to a lot of areas to really capture the kids’ realities (including the juvenile prison). Ultimately the documentary is about second chances and showing that there are alternatives for troubled kids, and that whilst these alternatives might be a bit left of field, they may just be the best circumstances for these kids to learn and grow into responsible adults.

BackTrack Boys  is available in Australian cinemas from October 25 (Western Australia limited release 27th -29th Oct)

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment

Movie Review – Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy is a brutally honest portrayal of drug addiction and the affect it has on the families of the addicted.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill 

Beautiful Boy is based on the true story of Nic Sheff, a young man who succumbs to drug and alcohol addictions, and his family’s experience as they attempt to help him overcome them, even after repeated relapses. Told mainly from the point of view of Nic (Timothée Chalamet) and his father David (Steve Carell), the film seamlessly covers many years in a seeming blur of time as Nic continually battles his inner demons.

Beautiful Boy is a heavy family drama that tackles one of the biggest issues affecting young people today. From the escapism and sheer terror felt by Nic, the desperation and grief David experiences as he desperately searches the streets for his son time and time again, the frustration of Nic’s stepmom, to his mother’s complete helplessness, it’s a difficult film to watch. For anyone who has experienced drug addiction amongst their loved ones, the tropes utilised in Beautiful Boy are all too familiar and equally painful to see played out on the big screen.

The film is led by an extremely talented cast. I’m a huge fan of Carell’s, of both his comedic and dramatic work, and he doesn’t disappoint in this role. He brings a different presence to the father role from other similar roles, choosing instead to take on a quiet desperation in David’s characterisation rather than the aggressive, shouting father figures that are all too common. This approach grounds the performance and has you empathising with David’s character a lot more. Chalamet is equally brilliant, and it’s his neurotic take on Nic that further alienates him from society. Chalamet’s ability to flick between his raging mood swings and playing the victim to try and get money from his family is both impressive and horrifically sad to watch.

Director Felix van Groeningen brings a hallucinogenic feel to the film and the timeline it operates within, causing confusion as to how much time has passed and where we are in the story, but just as quickly, it centres itself again and the story continues. Groeningen also manages to tell an intricate but honest story about the impact drugs have on the whole family. Maura Tierney does a great job at playing Nic’s stepmom, capturing the pain and detachment of someone who isn’t directly related to Nic but is emotionally attached to David. Her love for Nic is evident but the need to protect her own children from the realities of the world is also a driving factor that sees her take a much stronger stance against Nic.

The film is great, from the eclectic soundtrack all the way through to the brilliant casting and beautifully written script. The film is intense and feels longer than its two hours, but not in a bad way. It’s a well-balanced story that allows room for character growth and story development, without skipping over any characters or leaving questions unanswered. There are times when it’s hard to keep track of how much time has passed as the characters don’t seem to get older, but it’s a film that keeps you thinking long after you’ve seen it. That, for me, is the mark of a great film.

Beautiful Boy  is available in Australian cinemas from October 25 

Also screening as part of  the RoofTop Movies Program 1 on Dec 05.

Image courtesy of Transmission Films

Movie Review- Mary Shelley

The tale of the mastermind behind Frankenstein is ironically much like the monster itself – pieced together with unusual and unexpected things and given life through shock and lunacy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey J. Hogan

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning), a teenage girl bored with her familial duties under her philosopher father (Stephen Dillane) in 18th century London, escapes reality by burying herself in books and conjuring ghost stories for her own amusement. Seeing her need for a more meaningful lifestyle, her father sends her off to live as a ward in a Scottish residence, where she meets the handsome and talented young poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). Their chemistry is instant, and so begins to burn the fires of an incredibly unconventional and bohemian love affair, one filled with both passion and tragedy and that would eventually inspire Mary’s gothic magnum opus, Frankenstein.

Haifaa al-Mansour (director of the game-changing Saudi Arabian gem Wadjda) and writer Emma Jensen’s bibliographical Mary Shelley is a very curious interpretation of the life and loves of history’s great horror author. Veering off-course from the typical tune of a period piece or biopic, it brings to mind last year’s A Quiet Passion, which also told the life of a famous female wordsmith of centuries past. However, in many ways this feels like that film’s antithesis; where Passion had marrow but was placid and loaded with antipathy, Shelley sacrifices historical accuracy for entertainment value but becomes over-the-top and melodramatic in the process, leaving us with a puzzling portrayal of the brilliant author.

Like a soap opera, we ride a rollercoaster of overplayed emotional moments that sporadically form Shelley’s coming-of-age, which, strangely, draws much of its drama from sudden shock events or characters having a change of heart at the drop of a hat. It’s frankly bonkers, making less and less sense at it goes on; almost every character seems to suffer from bipolar disorder as a means of causing grief for Mary when convenient.

The worst offender is of course Percy (a portrayal that has already been criticised as ridiculous by many), who is smug, careless and frustratingly inconsistent. He lives a bourgeoisie life that stops and starts depending on a mysterious trust fund from his parents, and seems to go in and out of loving Mary as he makes poor judgement calls that lead to the death of their child and selfishly takes credit for Mary’s writings while passing her off as a piece of meat for his similarly absurd friend Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge). Whether or not we are meant to love or loathe this man as Mary does is never clear, and Booth’s mugging through it never helps.

Thank goodness then, for Fanning, who brings some kind of balance to the madness running rampant. She confidently carries the doom magnet that is Shelley through her tumultuous journey; bringing her trademark dainty assurance, tenacity and sexual energy to make her depiction the most believable thing in an otherwise farcical memoir.

So like Frankenstein’s monster, this is a real patchwork and stroke of insanity that requires a great deal of imagination to accept. And yet, as a truly bizarre take on a remarkable woman’s life, Mary Shelley is worth a look for the amusingly abstract tale that will cause a reaction one way or another – even if it is wide-eyed bewilderment.

Mary Shelley is available in Australian cinemas from 6th July

Image courtesy of Transmission films

Movie Review – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story is great fun, but one must ask the question: why was it ever made?

⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Han Solo, the hero of Solo: A Star Wars Story, has been a mythic figure since 1977. He’s a charming, roguish hunk who plays by his own rules, scoffs at authority and occasionally obeys the commands of his heart. He’s also a character many students of Star Wars love dearly. But I suspect, after watching this new Star Wars adventure, many of those students will want to protest.

This is first and foremost a movie designed for fans of the beloved franchise. It doesn’t have the parts to satisfy the indifferent, except of course in scenes where spaceships swoop around maelstroms and blasters are fired left, right and centre. It’s a story that’s rooted in the history of the galaxy far, far away, and so every little detail matters. Or at least it should.

Solo tells the story of Han (Alden Ehrenreich), from his tortured existence on a tyrannical planet and blossoming courtship with fellow slave Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), to his early success as a professional smuggler and ace pilot of the Millennium Falcon. It also answers such questions as the birth of his name, how he founded his eternal bromance with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and how he completed the famed ‘Kessel Run’ in 12 parsecs. I don’t recall ever asking these questions, or indeed wanting them shown to me in such unimaginative plainness, but there you have it. The myth has been stripped away from the man.

Doesn’t matter. Solo: A Star Wars Story is decent, honest fun. It doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, which is what any successful Star Wars movie should strive for. The plot is more basic than a vanilla sponge cake. The characters are scribbled in from bits and pieces of characters past. Its humour is nothing but second-hand gags. There is not a moment when you fear for anyone’s safety. There are weird planets, obligatory lounge acts and endless battles. It’s a movie programmed to keep you smiling from start to finish.

The battles, of course, are very well filmed and seem to occupy much of the movie’s runtime. Han, desperate to pilot a ship that will allow him to rescue his beloved from the clutches of bondage, teams up with a thief called Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), who himself is working for criminal mastermind Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).

Their quest leads them to Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), an expert smuggler whose co-pilot is L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a radical droid that walks and talks with the sass for change. She crusades for droid equality, an idea that makes sense today but otherwise rubbed me the wrong way completely. No-one goes to a Star Wars movie for lessons in social politics. At least I don’t.

But perhaps I’m speaking too much like a Star Wars fanatic and not giving enough weight to the positives? Possibly. However, I see no other way to discuss a Star Wars movie, since I’ve spent most of my life with them. They feed into each other and can no longer be judged independently.

This one doesn’t measure up to its predecessors in terms of stakes and depth – and it might upset diehard Han Solo followers who feel they’ve been duped by midichlorians again – but in the hands of Ron Howard it just scrapes through. Am I itching to see it again? I’m afraid not. Not even a little.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is available in Australian cinemas from May 24

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Movie Review – Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 is back and bigger than ever with his very own sequel. But this time, the stakes are greater, as is the body count and the number of gags about how much the X-Men suck.

⭐ ⭐  ½
Josip Knezevic

Coming off a high from the original, Deadpool 2 unfortunately misses the mark in terms of comedy. Poorly made on a technical front (a gripe that carries over the first movie), blighted by horrendous direction and with just enough story to elevate it above complete failure, the brightest crayon in Deadpool 2’s box is that of some interesting new characters.

By far the most disappointing aspect of Deadpool 2 is how desperately unfunny it is. With only a handful of moments that elicit more than a smile, most of the gags that populate its 119-minute runtime are safe and boring, with little of the wit or meta-like charm of the original carrying over from the original. Strangely, the writing talent is the same, with the only additional writer being the star of the show himself, Ryan Reynolds.

The direction, this time in the hands of David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), is nothing to write home about; a collection of close-ups and shot-reverse-shots that lack variety and smack of inattention. In a series that is all about defying convention, why not show us something inventive or dynamic? Alas, very little of these two qualities can be found in Deadpool 2. The action scenes aren’t much better, with jumbled editing and harried cuts softening the impact of the fisticuffs.

That’s not to say Deadpool 2 is without redeeming qualities; the introduction of Domino (Zazie Beetz), a hero in possession of boundless amount of luck, is executed with aplomb and makes for some of the film’s more entertaining action beats.

Though it doesn’t boast great dialogue, the plot does at least wriggle around and twist itself into something unexpected. The villain isn’t who you would expect and is cast against type, which adds an element of originality to proceedings. That said, that’s all she wrote. Deadpool 2 wasn’t the fulfillment of the film it needed to be and sadly doesn’t live up to the high bar set by its predecessor. Reynolds is great, and as always has impeccable comedic timing, but a mere one or two breakout performances don’t make for a particularly great ensemble action film. Temper those expectations and maybe you’ll garner something greater from this mess than I did.

Deadpool 2 is available in Australian cinemas from May 17 

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movie Review – Cargo

In a post-apocalyptic Australia, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man roaming the outback desperate to find sanctuary for his daughter before he turns into a zombie. Along the way, he encounters Thoomi a young girl who agrees to help Andy if for nothing more than the company in a vastly decreasing population of unaffected people.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

Cargo, from first time filmmakers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, follows the story of Andy as he desperately tries to make his way across the outback in a post-apocalyptic Australia to try and get his one-year-old daughter to safety before he succumbs to a zombie virus. Along the way, he meets Thoomi, a young girl who is to protect her zombified father from being killed and who may just be able to help lead him and his daughter to safety.

Zombie films are hard sells nowadays, and a zombie film in the outback an even harder one. With the ever growing list of zombie franchises such as the popular TV series The Walking Dead, iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet, and the endless Resident Evil films, not to mention the standalone films Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and World War Z (just to name a few), there are few angles left to take.

Surprisingly, Cargo manages to carefully straddle the line between formulaic and unique to present a film that is recognisable enough in its themes and plot for audiences to understand they’re watching a zombie film, but its careful characterisation and location choice ultimately present a different take on the whole zombie epidemic.

Martin Freeman is brilliant as the helpless Andy who’s just trying to keep his family safe. His paternal protectiveness of his young daughter Rosie is his drive throughout the entire film, and is played to such precision that it gives the whole film purpose, that is often missing from traditional zombie films. Newcomer Simone Landers is wonderfully strong and insightful as Thoomi. Her powerful belief in her culture’s traditional rituals is never portrayed as naïve but instead is a sliver of hope in a largely doomed world.

Ultimately this film isn’t about a zombie-virus invasion or white vs. Indigenous culture; it is simply a story of survival, where the outback is no longer a dangerous environment but actually a sanctuary, and where the people remaining are trying to survive in any way they know how. Whilst the film contains the necessary drone shots of the Australian outback for the international viewers, it portrays the outback in a completely different way as well, almost as Australians see it rather than something to be feared.

I’d definitely recommend giving this film a watch, if not for a different take on Australian culture in cinema or a unique offering to the zombie genre, then at least for Martin Freeman owning this role like a boss.

Cargo is available in Australian cinemas from May 17 

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment

Movie Review – Secret Scripture

Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara deliver two very strong performances of one woman at two very different times in her life, and the horrific events that were designed to break her.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

The Secret Scripture, based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry, focuses on the story of Rose McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara), a woman who has been institutionalised for over fifty years. When the institution she’s at has to relocate her, Dr Stephen Grene (Eric Bana) is requested to go and conduct a psych evaluation of her. As he proceeds to evaluate her, Dr Grene is drawn to her story and begins to realise she may not be the mentally deranged old lady that everyone makes her out to be.

The Secret Scripture is a beautifully shot film with a theme that seems highly relevant to the going-on’s of today. Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman captures the beauty and severity of the Irish landscape with the same perceptive lens as he did in the 2014 Russian drama Leviathan. The wide shots of the Irish landscape are both beautiful but harsh, with a dangerous undertone, not unlike the town Sligo, where the film is set.

The situation Rose finds herself in is not too dissimilar to what a lot of females are currently speaking out against, making this film both extremely relevant, and, I fear, just as likely to be excluded from the awards season due to the current controversy plaguing Hollywood.

Redgrave plays the elderly Rose very well, convincing you at the beginning that she is genuinely mad, but its her gradual insistence about telling her story to Dr Grene that shows the strong resilience Rose has to just give up and give in to the situation she’s been put in. Mara plays the younger Rose, and is ethereal as always, with the younger Rose wearing her resilience and quick-wit as a shield to the unwanted attention she receives from the small, gossipy Irish village people. Her fall from a headstrong, confident young woman into the emotionally battered shell that she ends up becoming is heart breaking to watch, particularly as she doesn’t give up easily.

Another standout was Theo James, who has come a long way since his Divergent days, giving a convincing performance as Father Gaunt. He manages to charm the audience before revealing his darker intentions later in the piece. Bana also gets a honourable mention for playing Dr Grene with a certain delicacy, but his character’s story was really secondary to Rose’s so he didn’t get enough screen time to really make an impact.

The only let down in this whole film for me was the ending. The film moved at a pace which was steady, carefully breaking down and detailing the events that lead to Rose being committed. However, it then proceeded to wrap up the entire film in 15 minutes, which just wasn’t enough time to properly analyse the crucial points which led to the big reveal at the end. The clunky ending gave the feeling that director Jim Sheridan was cautious of time, but I would have much preferred for the film to go on that little bit longer so the pace was maintained and the ending felt much more rounded and complete.

Overall Sheridan has done another great job at exploring a character that is positioned on the fringe of society, and the destructive nature in which human beings deal with those who are slightly different or unwilling to conform. There are some stellar performances from the cast, and the story is one that gives hope, even if it means simply waiting for the right time.

Secret Scripture is available in Australian Cinemas December 7

Image courtesy of Transmission Films.