Film Review: FINDING YOUR FEET (UK 2017) ***

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Finding Your Feet Poster

On the eve of retirement a middle class, judgmental snob discovers her husband has been having an affair with her best friend and is forced into exile with her bohemian sister who lives on an impoverished inner-city council estate.


(Warning: This review contains a spoiler which is highlighted in bold italics at the end.  Skip it if you intend to watch the film.)

As the title of the film implies FINDING YOU FEET refers to finding ones footing in life with dancing helping along the way.

When the film opens Sandra Abbott (Imelda Staunton) is about to become a Lady, thanks to the success and fame of her husband, Mike (John Sessions).  They have enjoyed a good long marriage together till this party, where she catches him red handed kissing her friend in the dark.  She abandons him, distraught and shows up at the council flat of her bohemian sister.  No need to guess that she is then taught how to behave like a less haughty human being as well as to enjoy the simplicities of life, which includes attending the sister’s dancing class.  She also gives love a second chance, in the form of Charlie(Timothy Spall), who’s wife Lily (Sian Thomas) is suffering an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s at a nursing home.

Three great performances to be entertained here by Oscar Nominee Imelda Staunton (Mike Leigh’s VERA DRAKE), Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie .  These performances distract from the facts that the film is not really funny nor are there many funny parts, nor is the script particularly bright. But the charm of the actors come across quite effectively for the audience not to notice the film’s shortcomings.  Absolutely Fabulous’s Patsy (Joanna Lumley) lends her hand in the role of a five time divorcee offering advice for Sandra.  Lumley is the only real comedienne in the cast.  Staunton and Spall are known more for their serious comedies.  Director Loncraine has made comedies in the past as in Michael Pailin in THE MISSIONARY but also more serious films as RICHARD III and in one of my favourite films, BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE with a young Sting making his acting debut.

The dance performance supposedly shot at Piccadilly Circus is sufficient spirited.  London is shown in her Christmas splendour as Sandra ad Charlie take on the London lights during a romantic fling.  The two make a believable couple coming to terms with their own personal troubles.  It is this human feature of the script that makes the film work despite the script’s flaws.  The film obviously leads towards the typical happy Hollywood ending which is a real shame, since it is so manipulative and obvious as to what is going to happen.  (Spoiler alert:  But the last straw, almost unforgivable is the literal leap of faith Sandra takes to be with Charlie.)

The dance metaphor which reflects Sandra getting on back to her feet after her matrimonial disaster works quite well, though it can hardly not be noticeable.  Sandra gets back into the dance groove, together with her old cronies with a few solid but simple choreographed numbers to old tunes like Rockin’ Robin and newer numbers like La Freak.

FINDING YOUR FEET is an old folks Harlequin romance that goes through all the usual obstacles and predictability of finding true love lifted slightly by the presence of both Imelda Staunton and Timothy Spall.


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Film Review: THE PARTY (UK 2017) ***1/2

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The Party Poster

Janet hosts a party to celebrate her new promotion, but once the guests arrive it becomes clear that not everything is going to go down as smoothly as the red wine.


Sally Potter


Sally PotterWalter Donohue (story editor)


Writer/director Sally Potter stunned audiences with her debut feature ORLANDO, a hit with art-house audiences.  THE PARTY can be described as less art-house but Potter’s mark is still clearly noticeable.

Her characters in this farce all have strong political leaning, engage in same or opposite sex relationships and have deep personal conflicts.

The film opens with a door opening and Janet holding a gun nervously pointed at the visitor.  It is a black and white scene and the film returns to this scene at the end of the film.  This creates some anticipation for the audience.  The audience would se how Janet came to obtain the gun and also the reason she is pointing it at a guest.

The film shifts to the present where each character is introduced.  The lead character is Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), a politician for the opposition party, who has just been appointed a minister.  She is having a small celebration party at her house for her hard work done, supported by her husband, Bill (Timothy Spall). Invited are her friends April (Patricia Clarkson), with her estranged German partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a life coach and self-proclaimed spiritual healer, Women’s studies professor Martha (Cherry Jones), with her partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer), a cook, and Janet’s colleague and subordinate Marianne with husband Tom (Cillian Murphy), a banker.

As the guests arrive, Janet’s husband Bill sits in his chair, listening to music, staring vacantly, and drinking wine.  All invited guests arrive one by one except Marianne, who Tom says will arrive later. (The audience can guess that the guess the gun pointed to at the start of the film is Marianne.)

Janet has thrown a soiree from hell.  Bile and bitterness have never been portrayed in a film to be so endearing.  Instead of celebrating her success, she ends up as a magnet opening skeletons in the closet.  Director Potter keeps the black humour coming in terms of both dialogue and action set pieces (Tom running up a cold sweat ding cocaine; Bill being punched up a couple of times.)

Potter writes sharp and occasionally witty dialogue (Martha described for example by her daughter as a first class lesbian and a second class mother)  though some of the lines, particularly those on politics and feminism sound pretentious.  Example:  Janet described as “looking like a girl, thinking like a man… ministerial, in a 21st-century postmodern, post feminist sort of way”. Potter has assembled an excellent cast, the best performance coming from German actor Bruno Ganz matched by Patricia Clarkson playing his girlfriend who constantly puts him down.  Spall plays the serious role while Scott anchors down the story.  It is the performances that make the movie.

THE PARTY suffers from not bringing the proceedings to a closure.  But for an art-house audience open ended stories with no conclusions are accepted.  THE PARTY also moves at a hectic pace so that it all comes to an end too quickly.  This is a party the characters want to end quickly but the audience wishes to stretch on.


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Film Review: THE JOURNEY (UK 2016) ***

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THE JOURNEY.jpgA fictional account of the extraordinary story of two implacable enemies in Northern Ireland.

Director: Nick Hamm
Writer: Colin Bateman
Stars: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt

Review by Gilbert Seah
Who would think that former enemies Rev. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness nicknamed ‘The Chuckling Brothers’ would remain friends for life after their meeting that finally resulted in the long awaited peace in Northern Ireland. No more bombings! No more bullets! Director Hamm underlines the violence as the film starts.

Nick Hamm’s THE JOURNEY is a dramatization about how these two two political opposites came together to change the course of history – an event that resulted in the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin (the political party of the Irish Republican Army) signing a 2006 agreement, bringing peace to Northern Ireland after nearly 40 years of violence.

Hamm’s journey is basically a two-handler, performed by two actors, one known for his humour the Irish Colm Meaney (THE SNAPPER) and the other for his dead seriousness, Timothy Spall (the Mike Leigh films). Most of the scenes involve banter between both of them. The film imagines a trip in a minivan where the two sort out their differences, come to an agreement and finally bring peace to the different groups. It is a real event though that minivan trip was imagined, as written in the script by Colin Bateman. The real trip took pace in an airplane. But the facts remain true. The reason the film changed the venue is not given but the change offers a visual treat, with lush greenery and rocky shores seen through rain-splattered windows. The drive was to the airport in Glasgow, Scotland.

Spall and Meaney are a pleasure to watch. Other British actors in the film include the late John Hurt (THE ELEPHANT MAN) as M15 boss Harry Patterson and Toby Stephens as Prime Minister Toby Stephens. Freddie Highmore has a small but mischievous role as the chauffeur, a British agent in disguise.

Director Hamm takes his time to set up the stage for the action when the two are finally the car and talking. The chauffeur, through his head set, is prompted to instigate the conversation. It is comical to see two grown men behaving just like children, fighting and wanting their own way. The conversation starts when McGuinness’s mobile is unable to get a signal but Paisley refuses to lend his. Bateman’s script, which imagines the actual conversation involves lots of funnily one-liners and rebuttals. The script is also believable in the way the ice is broken and the two eventually get talking. At the same time, hatred, humour and hard-nosed stubbornness are on full display.

They is a little film that documents a real life-changing event through imagined conversation. It is an entertaining exercise that also reflects strength overcoming the weaknesses of the human character in the strife for the good of mankind. But at the time of writing this review, problems are beginning to resurface again as observed in the recent news.


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