The Whale

Herman Mellivilles Moby Dick features Captain Ahab, a man whose life has been consumed in his hunt for the titular White Whale. This piece of historic literature features heavily at the centre of director Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, and that may seem odd at first. Why place a story about man’s hunt for the seemingly unattainable into a film about an obese man trying to reconcile with his daughter before he dies? The answer is in the question (his daughter’s love is the unattainable asset) , but it goes much deeper than that and applies to so much more of his life.

Charlie, the man in question, has not only grown exceptionally large since the death of his boyfriend Alan sometime before the events of the film but he has also become a recluse. Seemingly his only friend is Liz, who happens to be a nurse and takes as much care of him as he will allow. He finds purpose in the online literature class that he teaches over video calls, though he never uses his camera so as to keep his appearance from his students. As he nears the end of his life, he attempts to reconnect with his 17 year old daughter Ellie, who is deliberately flunking school despite being incredibly smart. Also in the mix is young door-to-door preacher Thomas, who hopes to aid Charlie, or rather to allow God to aid Charlie through him.

As Ahab hunts Moby Dick, so too does Charlie hunt his daughter’s approval. Having been absent for half her life, he is riddled with guilt, but also believes that she needs his guidance now more than ever. However, the story applies to himself too. His eating has become self destructive, and becomes more so as the film reaches its conclusion. Yes, the title of “The Whale” could refer to his weight but I don’t believe it to be as crass as that. The Whale in question is his own demise and Charlie is Ahab. No longer does he wish to live, a sentiment that becomes clearer as those around him, including his former wife, become frustrated with him. The inevitability of his death is all-encompassing and he has accepted that.

The film never shies away from this. Charlie ocassionally asks those around him if he disgusts them and his binge eating is frequent. It’s never glamourised and, at times, feels like a scene from a horror movie as he devours food the way that a zombie would desperately devour brains. It hauntingly mirrors the story of the death of his partner Alan, who had stopped eating entirely. It’s a stark reminder that eating disorders come in several different forms and they can all be as destructive as each other. If this film has any takeaways, and it has several, that’s the main one that feels like it will get lost in the mountain of meanings.

Don’t be the Ahab to your own great whale.

Remakes and Retribution

I feel like this also applies to sequels (although that would require further research). Just straight up TIRED today gang.


The concept of remaking films isn’t new, in fact it’s been around as long as the cinema industry itself. In the beginning, it led to repeated adaptations of literature, such as with Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of two Cities which received its first cinematic outing in 1911 only to be remade in 1917. This practice isn’t uncommon, especially with Charles Dickens’ works. A Christmas Carol has received the most remakes of all with 7 feature length films, not to mention the countless television and radio adaptations. Of course, original projects got their fair share of remakes too with 1923s The 10 Commandments having one in 1956.

A remake, if done well, can be a wonderful film in its own right and there are several reasons for their existance. Some are English-speaking remakes of foreign pictures. The Ring is considered by many to be one of the finest horror…

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Sunlight (GFF 2023)

Just because a story is comedic, doesn’t mean it can’t be impactful. Such is the case withIrish film Sunlight, from director Claire Dix, which held its world premiere at this year’s GFF. The story follows recovered drug-addict Leon as he spends a final day with his friend/mentor Ivor, who has decided to end his own life after a lengthy illness. The comedy is present in the banter between the two, as well as with Ivor’s nurse Maria and the friends they meet on their outing, but it never squashes the tragic event at the film’s core.

Leon isn’t willing to let go. He’s been caring for Ivor since the illness set in but has done so with the belief that he will eventually pull through. His foolhardy attempt to take Ivor to their local haunts feels desperate, and becomes more so as it becomes clear just how bad Ivors illness actually is. The beauty of this tale is in Ivor, who knows what Leon is trying to do and, though begrudgingly at first, allows him to do it. He is forcibly being gifted one last good day.

Author John Green wrote in his novel The Fault in Our Stars “There’s no way of knowing that your last good day is Your Last Good Day. At the time it is just another good day.” This is presumably true for Ivor until Leon provides him with One Last Good Day. Much of the story focuses on Leon and how this loss will affect him but there’s an extra plot thread asking a seemingly simple question. If you could knowingly choose to have a Last Good Day, would you? And would you do it for yourself or for those you leave behind? Leon tells Ivor that “folks will be glad they saw you…you know…after” and, though it’s a line that’s delivered casually, it hits hard. Everyone has that person they wish they’d seen one last time.

Sunlight is shot as beautifully as it’s told. Almost as if to live up to the title, it is filled with the warmest colours and brightest rays of sun that Ireland can provide. When films are described as heartwarming, it’s often in reference to the story, but the cinematography and colour palette here take this word to another level. Watching shots of the landscapes, streets, and pubs feels homely. It’s like returning to a place you love. The occasionally jaunty, often melancholic, score matches that too. There’s sadness but in a way that echoes contentment.Letting go is hard. Knowing that you’ll have to do so ahead of time makes it even more so. Sunlight doesn’t provide a definitive answer because there isn’t one. Everyone grieves differently. What it does is demonstrate that there is a way through, even if you want to fight it.


The Astronaut (GFF 2023)

Life is an adventure worth sharing. That’s the very human message at the heart of French film L’astronaute, which had its UK premiere at this year’s GFF. It’s also about following your dreams in the face of adversity and the risks taken in such an endeavor. Despite being a French picture, the themes are entirely universal, which made it an excellent nominee for the Audience Award.

The story follows aerospace engineer Jim in the weeks leading up to the launch of his homemade rocket. Having failed to land a job as an astronaut 8 years prior, he has spent his time siphoning supplies from work, in the hopes of becoming the first amateur spaceman. Though his intention is to go it alone, so he can state that he did it all himself, he slowly gathers a group to assist him in his mission which is something he initially struggles to reconcile with. The homemade rocket fuel (dubbed BX3) is provided by his friend Andre, he gets advice and training from former astronaut Alexandre, and finds a statistician in the form of brutally honest teen Izumi, on top of the initial support from his grandmother. Each new addition to the team is a point of frustration for Jim, especially Izumi, but they all refuse to back down despite knowing that launching a homemade rocket into space is illegal. They’re willing to risk it all for Jim’s safety and for his dream.

The threat of arrest looms over the group, with several outsiders seeming as if they might turn them over to the authorities. It could be Jim’s father, who disapproves of this unsafe venture, or Jims boss, from whom he has been stealing for 8 years. That’s what makes this small band of rebels so close in the end…they’re there for Jim. The division or conflict that arises is often as a result of relationships rather than the project itself, although there are a couple of minor setbacks.. When Izumi points out the statistical likelihood that they’ll succeed, Jim isn’t mad that she did, he’s mad because she did so in front of his worrisome grandmother without warning him. This group excels when they are transparent with each other and keep an honest/open line of communication. It’s important on a project like this, with a man’s life on the line, but it’s applicable to non-life-threatening group tasks too.

On top of this, The Astronaut is beautifully crafted.. The cinematography, score and visual effects elevate a great story to an emotional one that sticks with you. There’s a gorgeous running thread about Jim’s deceased grandfather, who himself was an avid space lover, who continues to fuel Jim’s passion. The ultimate payoff is sure to bring warmth into even the coldest of hearts. This film is an exceptional reminder of the wonders of home and an example of why we look to the stars.


Skin Deep (GFF 2023)

Gender and gender expression exist on a spectrum. This is often seen throughout history, particularly when looking at civilisations like the ancient Egyptians where everyone wore make-up, but many in Western society only began paying closer attention in the late 1900’s. Flamboyant musicians like Adam Ant and David Bowie pushed what it meant to be a successful man, without looking stereotypically masculine, while women like Annie Lenox refused to be defined by gender with their adrogynous style. German film Skin Deep seeks to examine what it means to be feminine or masculine and just how important the concept of gender really is.

Set on a small island resort where people can swap bodies with each other, the film follows romantic couple Tristan and Leyla. The former is content with his life, agreeing to come to the resort not knowing what it is because Leyla wanted to, while the latter is seeking a way to escape her crippling depression. Initially swapping with the same gender (Tristan with Mo and Leyla with Fabienne), Leyla later swaps with a man (Roman), which Tristan initially struggles with. There are notions of what you’d be willing to look past if you were in love with someone’s personality, including their gender, but the story is more focussed on Leyla and her trauma.

Once free of her own body, she seems  immediately cured. Her trauma seems only to exist in that body, even affecting poor Roman once he takes it over. She still has her memories and personality in this new body, so it’s not that the traumatic experiences no longer exist for her. Instead, the results of that experience (both physical and emotional) remain with the original body. It’s an interesting concept but it doesn’t feel right. It seems like the trauma should leave more than just a physical impression because part of trauma is the memory of it.

Skin Deep is less about the exploration of gender identity and more about analysing the relationships between people. This is something that the film excels at, particularly with Leyla and her best friend whose consciousness exists in her fathers body. There’s never any doubt that this elderly man is a young woman, or that Leyla isn’t herself when in another body. All the core actors (bar Leyals friend) play at least two roles and do it marvellously. Jonas Dassler is a particular stand-out as both the relatively reserved Tristan and later the arrogant manchild Mo in Tristan’s body.

As movies about the self go, this is a good start. It has the basis of an important discussion but instead chooses to explore connection with others. On this merit it’s wonderful and, at times, rather touching. Worth seeking out if you can.

Daniel (GFF 2023)

What does it mean to be queer in a religious town? That’s the question at the heart of Polish drama Daniel, originally titled All Our Fears, and one that is handled with the respect that such a topic deserves. A fictionalised account of gay catholic activist Daniel Rycharsti’s life, it follows him as he tries to organise the way of the cross for his recently deceased lesbian friend Jagoda. This ceremony honours the dead by paralleling Jesus’ final journey to Calvary, as loved ones carry a large wooden cross, however the town is unwilling to do this for her. This is both because she was a lesbian and because she took her own life…both of which are seen as sins.

This isn’t a quiet or subtle feeling held by the townsfolk either as several of them are openly hostile. They casually throw slurs around, force queer people to stand in a seperate group at the funeral, rev motorbikes at them and physically assault them. It’s actions like this that drove Jagoda to take her own life which, one could argue, makes the town culpable for her death. In a particularly moving scene, Daniel tells the local priest exactly this and further adds that nobody is free of sin. The priest reluctantly agrees before continuing to draw the line at suicide. Whilst deeply moving, this scene is also immensely infuriating as the priest jumps through as many hoops as possible to deny her a basic act of respect because of who she was and what she did.

This hatred is balanced by brief moments of levity, as life often is. Daniel has a boyfriend who he adores, even if they have to be secretive and the boyfriend runs back into the closet. Daniel’s mother, who he lives with because his mum is out of the picture and his dad ignores him, is wholeheartedly supportive. Many of the film’s most charming moments come in the relationship between these two, especially when she drives off a group of young adults on motorbikes hurling slurs. Daniel’s relationship with the museum curator is also very sweet as they can have drought moments but very clearly love each other. Moments like these don’t stop the pain of living a queer life when nobody wants you to, but they can at least numb it.The original title All Our Fears suits the film more than simply Daniel. This story presents openly and honestly the real fears that queer people must process, regardless of how religious their hometown is. Jagoda could be anyone in this community. All the attacks and the hatred spread fear, but the biggest fear is that lives can be lost because of them. The world needs films like this and people like Daniel.


The Ordinaries (GFF 2023)

Films are like jigsaws, with the picture being constructed from many different pieces. Framing, colour, sound and subtext all spring to mind but there are a host of other elements that shape the final product. Most movies will find one way to use each of these and stick with it but The Ordinaries plays with them like an inquisitive child figuring out a new toy. The result is a visually interesting, character-driven, heartwarming, metatextual commentary.

Set in a society where people are divided by character type, we follow Paula – a supporting character who aims to become a main character. Along the way she becomes embroiled in the struggles of background characters who have been confined to a lum and are aiming to make their voices heard. It’s practically dripping in social commentary with the Main Characters and Background Characters reflective of the Upper and Lower classes respectively. The former are either ignorant or unaware of how the latter are treated, with there being conflicting reports of ann event dubbed The Massacre by both groups. It appears to have been some kind of war that shaped their society into where it now stands but as Paula discovers more about herself she discovers the truth behind this tragedy. Who fought, who died, why it happened, and the consequences it had on all classes.

This is also a story of self-discovery and finding your place in the world. Paula wants eagerly to be a main character, to the extent that she is attending a main character school with her best friend Hannah, who comes from a family of Main characters. She does it largely to live up to her main character father (who died during the massacre) and to please her supporting character mother who could never live this life herself. The more she discovers about the treatment of background characters, the less certain she becomes about the world around her and her place in it. The desire to become a main character remains but her motives for doing so shift slightly. It’s no longer just about her and her mother, but about giving a voice to the voiceless, in a development that can only be described as revolutionary.

The way the story is told is just as interesting as the story itself. That aforementioned playfulness is constantly present in aspects like the score, which can be heard in-universe, and the character designs, which feature characters from deleted scenes who flicker in and out of existence. The editing is also impressive, with cuts being used to excellently dramatic effect on more than one occasion.

In both story and execution, The Ordinaries is thoroughly interesting. It has plenty to say about class struggle and individuality, which it does with an impressive amount of creativity. Nominated for the Audience Award for good reason.


Butcher’s Crossing (GFF23)

Some films don’t hit immediately. Some seem designed to make the audience unsure how they feel about it until they’ve spent a little time with their thoughts. Director Gabe Polsky’s adaptation of the 1960 John Williams novel Butcher’s Crossing is one such piece. Once it was over, there was a palpable feeling of loss from knowing that men like those portrayed really did nearly wipe out the entire buffalo population. This message itself is so impactful that analysing the film itself became a secondary concern, although that may be to its advantage.

Set over the course of a year in the early 1870s, it follows young, educated Will Andrews as he funds and joins a major hunt helmed by the erratic Miller. Nobody in the small town of Butcher’s Crossing believes that a herd as the one Miller claims to have seen could exist but, along with Andrews, hide skinner Fred and drunken, God-fearing Hodges they venture deep into Native American land to find them. The film was shot primarily on location at a Buffalo reserve, which is to be commended. If a story like this is to be told then it’s best to do it with as much respect as possible. Though the subject matter may be dark, this detail doesn’t go unnoticed and, coupled with the cinematography, really helps it to stand out from a crowd of westerns.

The film’s biggest issue is that it can often feel rushed. Miller’s arrival in town, infatuation with a local barmaid and the forming of the troop feels like it spans several days while the film’s ending feels just as abrupt. It’s the space in between, where the meat of the plot lies, that the story becomes well-paced and dives into the degenerating minds of the group. There are hasty edits in here too but they feel deliberate and designed to convey the deteriorating mental states of these men rather than to hurry the plot along. The performances do a great job at reflecting this too, with Cage bringing a more subdued and uneasy among of that well-renowned Cage-ness, although the stand-out is Fred Hechinger who always feels one buffalo kill away from self destruction.


Girl (GFF 2023)

Characters can make or break a story. If they aren’t in some way relatable or are too cruel then a good chunk of that vital emotional core is gone. Happily, this isn’t an issue faced by director Adura Onashile, whose debut feature Girl, opened this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. The film sees desperately protective mother Grace attempting to shield her 11 year old daughter Ama from what she perceives to be the hostile community around them. As Ama becomes a woman and makes her first real friend, she struggles with the concept of being away from Grace as well as the feeling that she is betraying her trust.

As the tale progresses and the two spend more time apart, they are finally given time to self-reflect instead of worrying about each other. This may be about a mother/daughter relationship but it’s also a study of codependency and how damaging it can be. The more that Grace feels Ama is slipping away, the more she begins to struggle emotionally as she recalls the life she used to live. These scenes can often be difficult to watch, although the choice of editing can feel a little made-for-TV. These attacks feature flashbacks to Grace at Ama’s age, delving deeper into why she so badly wants to keep her away from the world, helping to make her attachment more understandable. Even if she can treat Ama badly at times, her backstory helps it to come across as an act of desperation rather than fear.

The film is never too dark emotionally, in large part due to the friendship between Ama and her neighbour/classmate Fiona which provides a wholesome contrast. Like Ama, Fiona has no real friends and has a difficult life at home, which provides an unspeakable connection even if they don’t immediately take to each other. The abuse that they suffer is not exactly the same, but the result of loneliness and sadness absolutely is. They become each other’s light in times of darkness and to see it warms the heart.

Girl is a beautiful film about codependency, coming of age, generational trauma and the relationships that define us. It is wholly worthy of being this year’s opening act.


Superbowl Film Trailers 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

The final tale for these specific Guardians has a real “end of the road vibe” which, after a decade, is well earned. Set to a slightly mellower version of Rainbow’s Since You Been Gone, this trailer shows some more of the story featuring a large focus on Rocket and his backstory. It also gives a better look at the long awaited Adam Warlock and The High Evolutionary (whose lack of presence here hopefully doesn’t carry across to the film itself). The MCU has been recieving mixed reactions of late but, with James Gunn at the helm and the end of an era on the horizon, this one looks sure to tug at the heartstrings.

The Flash

It’s difficult to find a way to talk about this without discussing the moral ambiguity of getting excited for a film whose lead is a criminal, allegedly currently seeking pyschological help. However, that’s what’s happening because frankly it’s a massive subject acknowledged much better by people who aren’t me. That aside, this trailer primarily focuses on the cameos contained with in the Flashpoint-based plot. Micheal Keaton and Ben Affleck are back as Batman, Michael Shannon returns as General Zod, and Sasha Calle makes her debut as Supergirl (which is hopefully a role she gets to keep under the newly formed DC Films). Much like Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s trailers, it feels very much like it’s pandering to the fans but hopefully like Far From Home, that proves not to be the case.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

This short trailer provides a look at some of the faces we can expect to see, the general action-adventure vibe of the plot, and another look at some of the de-aging that will feature throughout the film (notably Harrison Ford and Mads Mikkelsen). Set to the iconic theme by composer John Williams (who has returned to provide some new music for this installment) it has an air of excitement but perhaps the most interesting thing to see will be how well the de-aging effects hold up on a large screen. Also a big fan of watching Indiana punching Nazis, which there’s sure to be a decent amount of.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Theives

Another short trailer that aims to get across the tone of the film, in this case a slightly campy adventure romp. It features a look at the primary theives as well as some of the creatures and the world that they exist in, with some fairly decent CGI. Looks set to be a lot of fun but, given the legacy of D&D, it’s likely that it won’t please everyone.

Transfromers: Rise of the Beasts

Another short one which focuses on the character Mirage who is able to emit solid hologram projections of himself, which is a really underrated ability. There are also some action shots, featuring one of Optimus Prime and another of Optimus Primal who is a Tranformer that looks like a monkey. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the most exciting and this dumb little film might be one of them. If it’s more Bumblebee that Dark Side of the Moon, it should be a blast.

Creed III

Essentially 40 seconds of training shots interspersed with a couple of shots of family and a voiceover that provides essential plot details. The film will see Adonis Creed (portrayed by Michael B Jordan) facing off against his childhood friend Damien Anderson (portrayed by Jonathan Majors) which will likely be exciting to fans of the franchise. However, for those who haven’t seen the other 8 Rocky films, there doesn’t seem to be much enticment other than the main actors.

Scream VI

There’s tension abound in this trailer which features our heroes attempting to escape a new, Ghotface-history-obsessed Ghostface. Intense cuts between characters, flickering footage and a brief glimpse of Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers really set the tone for a franchise that has provided some pretty solid satire thus far. It’s also the closest to being released (March 10th) so it makes sense that this trailer would have an air of intensity.


Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, this film is a comedic dramatisation of Nike and their iconic relationship with basketball player Michael Jordan. Starring lifelong friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, with the latter of the duo directing, it seems like it could be a lot of fun and may shine a light on something that non-basketball fans might not be aware of.


Featuring some very quick shots that don’t give away much of the plot this trailer focuses primarily on the setting and actor Adam Driver, ending with a shot of him facing down a T-Rex. Honestly, there might not be that much to give away because the plot seems to be Sci-Fi adventure where Adam Driver fights dinosaurs. If you’re not sold on that concept, this one might not be for you, but if you are then this is sure to be a riot.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

This fake trailer fro the Super Mario Bros. Plumbing Company is one of the neatest marketing ideas in a while. It’s a classic 90’s feeling ad complete with a rap to the Mario Bros theme tune and a deliberately not-great line read from the poor woman whose house has flooded. As if that wasn’t good enough, the website and phone number shown at the end of the ad actually exist. Visiting the first and clicking around will herald it’s own easter eggs but calling the number will provide a voice message from Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day). This shows promise.