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Review

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LOVE AND MERCY - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: Paul Dano - Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel Roadside Attractions Release.

The latest film by the accomplished producer Bill Pohlad (Into The Wild, Brokeback Mountain) is certainly more than just a great biopic about the life of Brian Wilson, the leader and founding member of The Beach Boys, and his struggle with mental illness in two stages of his life. It is also a noble attempt at creating a psychological drama similar to Alfred’s Hitchcock’s Spellbound.

In Love & Mercy, rather than witnessing a musician’s rise to stardom and his eventual decline, we are faced with the neurotic ups and downs of a damaged soul. On one side of Brian’s life we find Paul Giamatti, who plays the infamous Dr. Eugene Landy with his rather controversial method of psychotherapy, and on the other side we have Melinda, the second wife and saviour of Brian, played excellently by Elizabeth Banks. Paul Dano, playing the young Brian during the 60s is as captivating as always, and John Cusack as the older Brian is even more so. In Love & Mercy, Cusack turns the years back to the 80s and reminds us of the iconic scene from Say Anything (Cameron Crowe) when he held that jukebox over his head.

It is interesting to mention that in both Amy (the recent biopic about Amy Winehouse) and Love & Mercy, two films dealing with musicians, the father figures are portrayed both as protectors and as controlling influences on their children’s lives. In the end, it must be said that Love & Mercy is certainly one of the best biopics of the last few years.

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Photo: Sundance

Slow West, the directorial debut of John Maclean, is a western/arthouse film starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn. It tells the story of a young Scottish nobleman who, in pursuit of his love Rose, finds himself in the cruel and beautiful world of the American West.

Early on in the story, our young hero Jay Cavendish teams up with a bounty hunter named Silas (played by Michael Fassbender). The difference between Jay and Silas is that Jay knows how to live, whereas Silas knows how to survive, and in a strange sense the two complete each other. Silas is a tough bounty hunter, but Jay’s naivety seems to bring out a sense of paternal love in him – although we soon find out that paternal love is not the only reason Silas decides to escort Jay to his love.

Rose and her father are in fact wanted fugitives; there is a bounty on their head, and Jay is the only person in the West who is oblivious to this. He is being followed by a group of bounty hunters who are also looking for Rose, for less romantic reasons. However despite this, you cannot feel much animosity towards these bounty hunters. As much as you probably won’t be too bothered if Jay never gets to Rose, that does not mean the storyline is not gripping. Just like the beautiful landscape that Slow West is shot in, you accept Jay, Silas, the bounty hunters and all the other random characters Jay gets to meet during his journey, as part of life in the West, for better or worse.

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Watching What We Did On Our Holiday, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon an episode of Outnumbered with a slightly different cast. It starts out much the same – a stereotypical middle class family with three young children, struggle to get everyone packed and ready to leave their house in suburban London. Instead of the school run however, they are embarking on an epic car journey to the Highlands of Scotland.
The parents, Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike), are living apart, but trying to keep up appearances for the sake of Doug’s terminally ill father Gordie (Billy Connolly). They decide to visit him together for his birthday, aware that he may not have many left. Their children are instructed to keep their parents’ separation secret, and are not entirely happy with being asked to lie.
While it has much in common with Outnumbered, having the same writer-directors (Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin), What We Did On Our Holiday is in fact a brilliant and moving film in its own right. Despite having a similar concept to the TV series, it has transitioned well to the big screen with an excellent cast and script. People were laughing and crying in the audience, and while I won’t give away the central joke of the film, it’s enough to say that it is both hilarious and sad in equal measures.

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Last night Frontline club’s debate was rather an unusual one in a sense that all the panelists more or less agreed with each other, and even during the Q&A session there was no eruption of dissent or any outlandish views on situation regarding Iran from the audience or the panelists. The title of the discussion was: Iran, a new chapter? In  the end we were left with the same question, the consensus was that a very restraint optimism might be the right reaction to the latest developments on Iran nuclear negotiations. The situation in Iran in comparison to Ahmadinejad era certainly does not look worse but from what we heard from the panel it is not necessary all that better in any way either, be it  human rights issues or economical struggles of  the average citizen. The restraint optimism can only be exercised in regard to the nuclear negotiation and as a result toward economic situation of Iran. As far as the human right situation, political prisoners and public hanging are still very much in existence.

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