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

PK
Film Review: PK

An alien trying to return home tangles with religious authorities in a low-key Bollywood message drama. More »

A Small Section
Film Review: A Small Section of the World

Worthy but uninvolving documentary about the coffee-producing women of Costa Rica. More »

Sagrada
Film Review: Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

The fabulous 130-year work-in-progress that is Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral, as well as its crazy-brilliant originator, Antonio Gaudi, is the focus of this vividly informative documentary. More »

Inside the Mind of Leonardo
Film Review: Inside the Mind of Leonardo in 3D

Documentary-feature hybrid that offers unexpected insight into the world of Leonardo da Vinci, but nonetheless suffers from a heavy hand and pretentious sensibility. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. 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