Posts Tagged ‘film review’

Excusing the fact that we’re a quarter of the way into the following year: 2018 in Cinema!

Best: Love, Simon

Don’t get me wrong: Love, Simon isn’t a “great” movie. It is, in fact, a pretty standard teen rom-com, in the vein of every other teen rom-com I grew up with, except in one regard: the lead character in this one is gay. More pertinently, it’s the first ever movie released by a major Hollywood studio to focus on a gay teen romance; a fact that’s easy to overlook unless you’re in the minority of people who rarely, if ever, got to see themselves represented in popular media.

It probably goes without saying that growing up gay in Scotland during the ’90s and early 2000s was a less than stellar experience. When the word has been hurled at you as an insult for years before you’ve even recognised that part of yourself, it can be damaging in ways that don’t become apparent until much later. Absurd as it seems now, by my early teens I’d internalised so much hatred that I genuinely believed only terrible, hideous people could be gay; and it wasn’t until I caught an episode of (of all things) Dawson’s Creek in a hotel room in Florida that I realised this didn’t have to be the case. Seeing Kerr Smith play handsome, regular, gay teenager Jack (and excusing the fact that the actor was on the cusp of turning 30) was revelatory; and highlighted what I now know, as an adult, to be the power of representation. Done poorly, it smacks of tokenism and checking a box to fulfil a diversity requirement. (Done terribly, it’s JK Rowling claiming to have created a gay character in Dumbledore without ever acknowledging it in her published work but still expecting the accolades for her retroactive inclusivity.) But done well, it’s the difference between feeling isolated in a world that seems violently antagonistic to your existence, and realising that there’s a future out there in which you can find happiness with someone who loves like you. (Not for nothing: Dawson’s Creek also featured the first passionate kiss between two men to ever be shown on prime time television.)

You only have to look at the toxic political debate surrounding LGBTQ+ rights being taught in UK schools right now to see that we haven’t come nearly as far as we should have in the last two decades. (Though, as a matter of national pride, it’s worth noting that Scotland recently became the first country in the world to embed it in the school curriculum). With queer youth still at a disproportionate risk of suicide, homelessness and mental illness, the importance of positive representation in media can’t be overstated; especially when our own movies would seem to indicate that happy endings are few and far between (see: the all too-prevalent “Bury Your Gays” trope). Truth be told, I’d fully braced myself for Love, Simon to follow suit. At the end of the movie, the titular Simon sits alone on a ferris wheel, having openly declared his desire to meet his anonymous online romance “Blue” but knowing that the latter might not be ready to reveal himself. “I deserve a great love story,” writes Simon, but the weight of gay cinema – from Brokeback Mountain to Weekend – tells us otherwise. Indeed, for one brief moment, it really feels like Simon is destined to be yet another victim in the cinematic annuls of queer heartbreak. Only (spoiler alert), he’s not! United at last, the two high-school boys rise to the peak of the ferris wheel and share their first kiss, and it made me cry every single time I saw it in the cinema: with happiness, with relief, and maybe with something approaching sadness for the high school experience I was never allowed to have but which I truly hope will be the norm for generations that follow.

It’s not going to change the hearts and minds of every viewer (our initial viewing was part of an advanced screening where audiences see a movie ahead of its general release but aren’t told which film it’ll be beforehand. There were at least 10 walkouts within the first 5 minutes of Love, Simon). But it’s the movie I wish could have existed for me as a teenager and which I’m so grateful exists for teenagers right now: the one that tells that terrified little gay boy I used to be that his love story can have a happy ending.

Runner-Up: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Like a comic book come to life: totally unique visual language; loving homage to the character in all its incarnations; honestly the best Spider-Man movie in years and easily the best superhero movie of 2018.

Worst: Life of the Party

Delivering on neither of the nouns in its title, this painfully anodyne “comedy” – penned by Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone – stumbles from one scene to another with seemingly no direction or momentum, and has the dubious honour of producing not one character who feels like a believably rendered human being. The sole highlight was a hazing scene midway through when John – sensing my mounting exasperation at the movie as a whole – was trying desperately to contain his mirth before exploding into such uncontrollable laughter that the entire row was shaking for about five minutes after it was already over.

Runner-Up: Peter Rabbit

You know it’s grim when filmmakers have made an animated rabbit so detestable that you’re wishing for a sequel to Watership Down.

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(Spoiler warning for the film’s ending)

I’ve found, as I get older, that it takes increasingly less to make me cry at movies – my theory being that the accumulation of real life experience correlates to an empathy for fictionalised narratives to which we couldn’t previously relate. Having said that, there are still only a handful of films I’d describe as truly devastating, and those that fit the description generally share one of two themes. The first is animals – my love thereof being no great secret. (A friend once asked if I wanted to rent Hachi, and I responded by saying that I wasn’t in the mood: the truth being that a) films where the animal protagonists don’t survive past the end credits utterly destroy me and b) I’d teared up just watching the trailer two days earlier.) The second – more human – theme is that of mothers.

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