Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Stranger Things

This ultra-slight, minimalist and arty affair brims over with indie ennui.

April 4, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1374748-Stranger-Things.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Oona (Bridget Collins), in the process of dealing with her dead mother’s house and effects, encounters a homeless Middle Eastern man, Mani (Adeel Akhtar), on the premises. At first she’s hostile to him, but a journal he leaves behind after she kicks him off the property intrigues her with his evocative drawings. She tracks him down to return it, and slowly these two loners form a delicate friendship.

Plot-wise, that’s about it, and throughout Stranger Things I kept being haunted by Rita Tushingham movies from the early 1960s, especially Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, in which Tushingham, the ultimate downscale waif, formed an unlikely liaison with a black homosexual. Oona recalls so many of Tushingham’s misfit characters, but the script by co-directors Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal has nothing of the richness of Delaney’s dialogue and character observation and is thin to the point of malnutrition. Neither sad Oona nor the even sadder Mani is especially communicative, so there are a lot of pregnant silences and meaningful looks going on in this basically two-handed chamber piece which requires a surfeit of audience patience.

Burke’s lovely cinematography is a definite boon; despite the usual heavy reliance on extreme close-ups and handheld shakiness, her capture of the sleepy seaside town where the characters live at least gives us something to look at while waiting for them to say something. Overall, the conception is flimsy and wispy, with certain “plea for understanding” p.c. overtones due to Mani’s ethnicity that may have fragile appeal for some particularly disaffected moviegoers.

Stranger Things was actually shot in sequence, and the actors were never given full scripts, only segmented scenes to perform. (You rather imagine them eagerly awaiting their lines, only to finally get them and scratch their heads, muttering “This is it?”) This self-conscious auteurial approach results in a tentative, shakily improvisatory quality which one supposes is exactly what the filmmakers were aiming for, but which I found irritating. Collins and Akhtar do their best under the circumstances, but the most interesting character is actually Oona’s unseen mother, who has left behind tape recordings that reveal a far fuller, richer personality than either of the protagonists.


Film Review: Stranger Things

This ultra-slight, minimalist and arty affair brims over with indie ennui.

April 4, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1374748-Stranger-Things.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Oona (Bridget Collins), in the process of dealing with her dead mother’s house and effects, encounters a homeless Middle Eastern man, Mani (Adeel Akhtar), on the premises. At first she’s hostile to him, but a journal he leaves behind after she kicks him off the property intrigues her with his evocative drawings. She tracks him down to return it, and slowly these two loners form a delicate friendship.

Plot-wise, that’s about it, and throughout Stranger Things I kept being haunted by Rita Tushingham movies from the early 1960s, especially Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, in which Tushingham, the ultimate downscale waif, formed an unlikely liaison with a black homosexual. Oona recalls so many of Tushingham’s misfit characters, but the script by co-directors Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal has nothing of the richness of Delaney’s dialogue and character observation and is thin to the point of malnutrition. Neither sad Oona nor the even sadder Mani is especially communicative, so there are a lot of pregnant silences and meaningful looks going on in this basically two-handed chamber piece which requires a surfeit of audience patience.

Burke’s lovely cinematography is a definite boon; despite the usual heavy reliance on extreme close-ups and handheld shakiness, her capture of the sleepy seaside town where the characters live at least gives us something to look at while waiting for them to say something. Overall, the conception is flimsy and wispy, with certain “plea for understanding” p.c. overtones due to Mani’s ethnicity that may have fragile appeal for some particularly disaffected moviegoers.

Stranger Things was actually shot in sequence, and the actors were never given full scripts, only segmented scenes to perform. (You rather imagine them eagerly awaiting their lines, only to finally get them and scratch their heads, muttering “This is it?”) This self-conscious auteurial approach results in a tentative, shakily improvisatory quality which one supposes is exactly what the filmmakers were aiming for, but which I found irritating. Collins and Akhtar do their best under the circumstances, but the most interesting character is actually Oona’s unseen mother, who has left behind tape recordings that reveal a far fuller, richer personality than either of the protagonists.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Tracks
Film Review: Tracks

Ably supported by Adam Driver, Mia Wasikowska commands the screen in John Curran’s superbly photographed drama based on a true story. More »

Hollidaysburg
Film Review: Hollidaysburg

Well-observed, empathetic look at friends reuniting over their first college break. More »

The Zero Theorem
Film Review: The Zero Theorem

A noisy, hyperkinetic, visually gorgeous spectacle that tackles the mother of all big questions–the meaning of life—Terry Gilliam's latest is sometimes frustrating and occasionally outright goofy, but it's never dull. More »

Art and Craft
Film Review: Art and Craft

Documentary portrait of the artist as a disturbed man, but one who is overwhelmingly endearing, functioning and talented—and whose métier happens to be art forgery. This smartly produced and constructed art-themed art-house entry delivers a canvas of caper, comedy and delightful curiosities that engage and provoke some serious thought. Like the hero’s forgeries, it deserves a close look. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Maze Runner
Film Review: The Maze Runner

Youths try to break out of a deadly maze in the latest young-adult doomsday thriller. More »

This is Where I Leave You
Film Review: This Is Where I Leave You

Siblings bond, fight and face new problems after the death of their father in an ensemble dramedy based on the best-selling novel. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here