This month at HOME – Eliza Slawther

As well as being a full-time member of the Sonder writing team Eliza Slawther is an English Literature undergraduate. She was born in Warrington and is studying at the University of Manchester. This month at HOME is to become a regular segment for Sonder Film. Eliza will write monthly reviews, casting a critical eye over releases while supporting the independent arts in Manchester.

This month at HOME – September.

Image from Marshland.

Marshland (2014)

In writing, Marshland is a film which highly risked coming across as clichéd or pretentious. The setting of a 1980s Spanish town, gruesome murders of young girls to be investigated by two moustached detectives and less than subtle undertones of a political message about corruption and lies all set the film up to becoming more of a parody than anything else. However, this could not be further from the truth.

The cinematography is incredible, with the opening shots of the Spanish countryside viewed from directly above seeming at first glance as though they were ceramic art pieces, perfect and intricate – yet small movements such as the river flowing and flocks of birds flying proved otherwise. These beautiful landscape shots continued intermittently throughout the film, acting as a short intermission between events. Visually, Marshland is a stunning film. However, this may not come across as well on a television or computer screen, so I’d recommend watching it in an actual cinema.

The plausibly problematic language barrier, for those who don’t speak Spanish, is negligible when watching the film. Marshland doesn’t rely heavily on dialogue, and the brooding glare of Pedro (played by Raúl Arévalo) says more than the words that he speaks. The storyline isn’t complex, and there are many silent scenes. This being said, the simplicity of the plot actually enables the visual elements of the film, and the underlying messages about trust, friendship, corruption and politics to surface. Beautifully paced and scripted, huge holes and question marks litter the story but in many ways are part of the film, a true mystery.

Marshland is absorbing and intense, although this could easily be missed if watched only with the expectation of a thrilling, ‘plot-twist’ style mystery.

Mistress America (2015)

For me Mistress America was somewhat everything: somewhat funny, somewhat meaningful. The characters themselves were mostly loathsome, with the lead character, Brooke, being arrogant and deluded, and the narrator embodying the stereotypical misunderstood teen. The acting varied, sometimes bordering horribly stilted and amateur, sometimes fully believable and interesting.

Overall the film made for easy viewing, and funny enough to make it worth watching but not particularly fulfilling. Whilst there were moral messages, as with most films, there was no overwhelming emotional response invoked through watching it.

For me, Mistress America is a film of great mediocrity and although it was a fairly fun viewing experience, it felt as stereotypical and superficial as any other similar half-feel-good-half-moral-preaching film out there.

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