After Nicholas Winding Refn’s last critic-dividing offering Drive, we approach his newest offering Only God Forgives with a kind of hesitant excitement. Being a Drive fan, this film has been on my mental ‘must-watch list’ for a while.
While Only God Forgives is certainly more unashamedly arthouse than Drive it maintains the same bare dialogue and attention to detail that marked Drive out as something out of the ordinary. So the dialogue is sparse (and that is perhaps a tentative way to phrase it); Ryan Gosling as Julian (the films poster boy) has only 17 lines . . . in the entire film!! While the other actors fare better in the line tally, the film plays heavily on the strength of Cliff Martinez’s soaring score which pulls the films along it’s increasingly dark and violent course. The score plays unrelentingly over the silent screams of many a victim of the films vengeful plot, creating a brilliantly detached feel as the characters shout in Tai with their pleas unheard by the audience or the unrelenting vigilante cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower dir. Stephen Chbosky
Do not judge this film by it’s hype, or for that matter by it’s first 20 minutes. What starts out as an almost sickeningly ‘indie’ American movie turns out to be a genuinely affecting and dark coming of age story.
Emma Watson is of course one of the main reason this film is being talked about so much, and she pulls off the transformation from lucky kid to serious actor. Most definitely shrugging away the last of Hermione Granger, she gives a emotive, grown up and moving performance as Sam, alternative Senior who takes Charlie, Logan Lerman, under her wing.
The plot in its most basic form is formulaic – quiet, wallflower, freshman takes up with older kids who show him the world. There is a strong ‘indie’ quality to the film, it feels almost like a small budget picture that got lucky. However the point is laboured somewhat – the relentlessly British soundtrack and the now ubiquitously line in ‘alternative’ American films “You like The Smiths?!” But you can forgive the conceit; the characters lives are truly engaging and just beneath the veneer of youthful exuberance is the constant thread of Charlie’s troubled past.
On the surface this film appears to be your run of the mill coming of age story, but in reality the film goes much deeper than that touching on the darker side of human emotions – guilt, abuse, mental illness.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is pleasantly surprising; it’s not a chick flick, or a teen movie as some of the advertising would have you think. In actual fact its much more interesting than that, it’s an intelligent film that slowly builds towards a totally unexpected end.