Archive for the ‘Lenny Abrahamson’ Category

Escaping Captivity

Room

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Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, Cas Anvar

Brie Larson gives an Oscar-winning performance in director Lenny Abrahamson’s claustrophobic film Room about captivity, sexual slavery and the perceptions of children. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, director Abrahamson whose previous credit includes the bizarre Michael Fassbender film Frank, delves deep into the emotional and psychological trauma of those affected by a harrowing experience set in suburban Akron, Ohio.

This experience is the abduction of Joy Newsome, known as Ma who is sexually abused from the age of 17 and kept in a garden shed, which becomes the room of the title and stays there for seven years. During her incarceration she gives birth to a son Jack who becomes her world. Cleverly Room does not dwell on the horrors of captivity or sexual slavery, but fluidly follows the perceptions of this enclosed world formed by the 5 year old Jack wonderfully played by newcomer Jacob Tremblay, who really is the emotional centre of the film and certainly should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Joy Newsome known as Ma, is superbly played by relative newcomer Brie Larson (The Gambler, Don Jon) in a stunning performance which has scooped every Best Actress award in 2016 from the Golden Globes to the Bafta’s to The Oscars.

The exceptional depth of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s talent is displayed in the first half of Room, which is entirely occupied by Ma and Jack as they eventually hatch a plan to escape when Ma realizes that Old Nick, played by Canadian actor Sean Bridgers, cannot really afford to keep them locked up forever.

That escape and eventual discovery of Joy Newsome is thanks to the bravery of young Jack who must unwittingly go into a world he has never experienced and escape, find the police and alert them of their disappearance and capture. Brilliant shot, Abrahamson keeps the tension of the first half of the film and Brie Larson is extraordinary as she must know convince her young son, Jack that the world comprising Room is not the Real World and he must shift his expectation from fantasy to an altered reality of what the real world actually is.

Audiences expecting a neatly tied up dramatic end to Room will be thoroughly disappointed as the second half of the film after their release dwells more on the emotional and psychological consequences of the mother and son’s shared trauma than on any legal or criminal investigation into their prolonged captivity.

Joy’s estranged parents Nancy and Robert played by Joan Allen (The Contender, The Crucible) and William H. Macy (Fargo, The Sessions) are suitably good in a nuanced underplayed way, especially as Robert cannot bear to look at the product of sexual abuse, his grandson Jack.

Room is essentially a parable about a mother’s bond with her child in a cruel and vicious world where each of them are confined by their own perceptions of the world and the roles they are meant to occupy as parent and child.

Room is a thought-provoking and harrowing tale of survival which will keep audiences talking for years, held together by brilliant performances by Larson and Tremblay. Recommended viewing for those that enjoy an intelligent and emotional family drama.

 

2015 Toronto Film Festival

2015 Toronto International

Film Festival Winners

TIFF2015_poster

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: Demotion directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper

 

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People’s Choice Award: Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson starring Brie Larson, Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Jacob Tremblay

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Best Canadian Feature Film: Closet Monster directed by Stephen Dunn starring Connor Jessup, Isabella Rosselini, Joanne Kelly and Aaron Abrahams

Source: 2015 Toronto Film Festival

Bluff City, Kansas

Frank

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Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson. Scoot McNairy, Francois Civil, Tess Harper

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s quirky film Frank which premiered at the Durban International Film Festival examines the pressures of belonging to a rock band and the celebrity status attached to its lead singer. The fact that this lead singer Frank wears a giant false head for three quarters of the film is both alienating and annoying and serves its point about the underlying pressures of mounting celebrity facing a bands lead singer or frontman. Take Adam Levine of Maroon 5 or Harry Styles from One Direction for example. Except with these bands unlike Frank’s bands obscure name, at least the music is palatable, not to mention commercially viable.

Frank as a film was so bizarre and utterly random as the narrative follows Jon played by Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina, Dredd, True Grit), son of Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, an aspiring songwriter who becomes the keyboardist and journeys with the band from a remote Irish location to the hippie South by South West music concert in Austin Texas. The band members are all clearly deranged and part of some grand lunatic fringe reinforced by the irrepressible Clara, wonderfully played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (Hysteria) and by the lead singer Frank played by Fassbender, which clearly begs the question what was he thinking after being attached to such prestigious films as 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Jane Eyre.

Although parts of the film are hilarious and very funny, other parts are equally irritating and stupid which just goes to show how Youtube got such a massive following so quickly. Post any ridiculous video online as a social media experiment and there will always be a plethora of bored American teenagers waiting to watch it on Youtube. Then maybe that is the point of this film.

Only towards the films end are explanations given as to why the lead singer is wearing this massive false head as seen in the poster after Jon tracks him down to his parent’s home in Bluff City, Kansas and Frank’s mother played by indie star Tess Harper explains the singers childhood trauma which lead to some deviant form of mental obsession.

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Frank is well executed as a film about band members on the road, but too bizarre to be taken seriously and lacks the visual punch of Paolo Sorrento’s spectacularly weird road trip film This Must Be the Place. Viewers will differ in opinion regarding Frank, as there was much laughter coming from the cinema auditorium at a DIFF http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ screening.

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank will have a very limited appeal, not helped by the onscreen presence (or lack there of) of Gyllenhaal and Fassbender, whose chemistry together is pointlessly obliterated and nullified by a giant false head. Frank will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but will have comic appeal for those that appreciate deadpan humour and the effortless blending of banal social media.

 

Film Directors & Festivals
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