Review: Still (2014)

One thing I will always aim to do is examine the film in and of itself and try as much as I can to avoid the cinematic pre-life (the interaction, impressions, and ideas I may have had with and about the film before seeing it) having any influence on my writing on it. However, that is not always possible. One way in which that’s true is when you’re watching an actor who has become very well known for a role, particularly one on television. In this case I refer to Aiden Gillen, best known to most as Petyr Baelish a.k.a. Littlefinger on Game of Thrones.

Specifically to the large cast on Game of Thrones I’ve noticed a few interesting things: first, you can almost forget how deep and talented the cast is because you see them on a weekly basis, usually in small but strong snippets. Then when you see the same actor in a film, where they get to dominate a lot more screentime you are almost taken aback. This has proven true with Isaac Hempstead-Wright in The Awakening, Art Parkinson in Dracula Untold, but this extends past house Stark too one example being Nicolaj Coster-Waldau in Headhunters. Another interesting thing is that it can affect your view of the title some: Lena Headey was in 300 before Game of Thrones, then returned for the sequel. That sequel had a lot more issues than the original and the lack of her involvement, because I know knew her better, was one of them.

However, one thing I don’t expect these actors to do is to be static or settle into a type. I relish seeing them stretch and test their mettle, which is usually why actors are drawn to indies in the first place. It’s also a testament to my blank slate theory as I had forgotten the synopsis by the time I went to check this film out.

If you’re interested here it is:

A gritty and atmospheric thriller about the traumatic disintegration of a man and father, STILL is the haunting, deeply moving story about a journey every parent hopes they will never have to make. Tom Carver (Aidan Gillen, Game of Thrones and The Wire) is a man stumbling blindly towards a crossroads in his life, recently thrown out of focus following the unexpected, tragic death of his teenage son in a car crash. After a seemingly harmless encounter with a neighborhood kid, he finds himself involved in a feud with a teenage gang that quickly intensifies to more disturbing and horrifying heights. With Tom’s personal life unraveling before his eyes, and the threat of gang violence escalating out of control, the world he is so desperately trying to rebuild may disintegrate all together.

What that set-up moves puts in play is a scenario wherein the stakes are ever-rising and the spiral is potentially ever-downward, and allows for an arc of such power that its positively captivating. That’s not to say this film is merely an actors’ showcase. That would be incorrect and unfair for this is a great film that is compelling because of the characters it builds. One you get to know very well and see how he responds to getting pushed. Some you assume you know and get to know better as the film progresses.

Nor is Gillen alone in his strong showing here. Joining him as being of note are Elodie Young, who as a pained but distanced ex-wife, and Sonny Green, who plays his one-note expertly and surprisingly adds quite a few towards the end.

This film is one that starts small and slowly but mushrooms and truly earns its tragic arc that makes it worth investing time in. It’s simple in conception but not easy to execute by any means.

Still is hypnotic and most effective because of how it manages to reverse fortune in its closing act, as well as have you dole out your empathy to many of the concerned parties, leaving your jaw agape at its conclusion. This is a film I’d recommend to anyone looking for a drama with a tragic arc, and serious real world stakes.

9/10

Still will be available on DVD on June 30th.

Advertisements

Hero Whipped 4: A Question of Form

The Walking Dead (Image Comics/Robert Kirkman)

It’s been a while since I posted one of these and much of the reason is because I usually touch upon a number of properties and I am left to ponder a while as I amass enough new-formed opinion to justify a new entry. However, three very specific things have occurred to me since I last discussed comics and the movies.

First, being a question of form in which the adaptation is made. In my return to reading comics, now more avidly than ever, there is nothing I have read more of than The Walking Dead. It really does play out like a post-apocalyptic soap opera with murder and zombies in the mix. So much so that reading Compendium One or the trades is preferable to monthly for that particular series. Having said that I admit having only seen the pilot of the show but two things I do know are it was meant to be a television show and I applaud Robert Kirkman for giving the show a different direction than the comic based on what I know. It’d be next to impossible to make a motion picture of The Walking Dead as satisfying as the book. The task would be rather herculean especially considering that the comic is still ongoing. Similarly, I have not read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice books, which is an itch I may soon need to scratch, however, one only needs to watch the first season of Game of Thrones to see it was meant for television, more specifically a drama on a cable network where the story will not be censored or interrupted by commercials. In certain ways, the serial treatment makes it more immersible once you get into the extras on the Blu-Ray it has you.

Maisie Williams and Sean Bean in Game of Thrones (HBO)

The moral of the examples above is that again the supremacy of the motion picture as the most desirable vehicle for adaptation is quickly being shown to be a fallacy. Some stories are more conducive to other storytelling modes and fans should take note and think about how, if at all, they want to see their favorite works reinterpreted.

And this kind of leads directly to my next point: one of the most anticipated films of the year is The Avengers. Part of the reason why is that Marvel has had a string of hit films which have featured a member of the superteam and thus though The Avengers may be in theory a new property there is a built-in fanbase. Conversely, not that this is an original notion, but DC is also planning a Justice League film. The main difference being there may be casting incongruities and all the major members of the League haven’t had their own film, or a hit, etc. So how can the Justice League film possibly come close to the The Avengers?

Marvel 1985 (Marvel)

Well, they can’t turn back time and make a Flash movie starring [Insert guaranteed box-office draw] here that makes infinitely more money than The Green Lantern but what they can do is akin to industrial espionage. Allow me to explain, when I was in Orlando recently as I was in Universal Studio’s Comictown I stopped in the Marvel store and found a trade paperback of Marvel 1985, a mini-series that came out just before I returned to comics. I really enjoyed it as a whole but what I really liked about it, and what I noted, was it could serve as a great introduction to the Marvel Universe to someone who knows zero about it based on the story it tells. Now clearly, the story of 1985 makes it such that it can be an introduction but it made me realize that if there is a character, or other device in The Justice League film that acts as a liaison between the film and the neophyte audience member it might just work better than expected.

The Justice League (DC Comics)

In conclusion, the method of adaptation usually can be said to tap in to the spirit of the work being adapted, or it should ideally. For example, after seeing Tintin I felt that motion capture would be a great treatment for other animated properties, especially those given lackluster live action treatments like Asterix, which I was glad to discover has been most recently adapted in a hand-drawn feature called Asterix and the Vikings.

Asterix and the Vikings (M6 Films)