Edinburgh Film Festival: Balance, Not Symmetry

I really wanted to love this film. The director seems like quite the sweetheart, and it was clearly a deeply personal journey for him. The cast includes some incredible people I adore to see on screen. Biffy Clyro make sick music and of course I’m delighted to hear more of it. Unfortunately, so much of this movie had me rolling my eyes.

Image of Jamie Adams and some cast introducing the film at the Festival theatre

I enjoyed parts of Balance, not symmetry – honestly I really did. There were bits of it that were nice, and it did have touching and real moments. I thought many of the actors were pretty excellent – Freya Mavor was wasted though. Despite being perfectly nice, this movie isn’t one I would ever fully enjoy. The message of the movie is so outrageously pretentious it made me want to bang my head against a wall. The film really is deeply personal to Jamie Adams, but it’s so personal that I don’t think he was able to view it objectively at all. 

By the close of the film my take on the messaging was that art exists as a cathartic process for artists, and nothing more. The movie is simply trying to justify its own existence throughout. This isn’t entirely untrue, but it sure demeans the power of art. I can’t help but feel like the Director knew it was going to be a poor film, so wanted to make it clear that he doesn’t care because it’s just him processing his emotions.

image of movie ticket gin and tonic and salted caramel ice cream

Art is in part for the artist, I will accept that. It is an incredibly productive tool for addressing the experiences, emotions, and journey of an artist. However, part of that power is how the human experience will resonate with the audience. The audience is important, and connecting with an audience through your work is important, as much as this film doesn’t want it to be. The story Jamie Adams wants to share is just too close to him to make it something the audience can share in.

This a perfectly nice movie with nice moments. The music is good, though an awkward fit at times (especially given it was written for the project). The cast is lovely, though their skills don’t always rise to the improvisation challenge. It’s an interesting exploration of the art world but one which ultimately rests at a boring conclusion. There are just too many ‘buts’. Unfortunately this movie is ultimately forgettable.

Edinburgh Film Festival: Boyz in the Wood

I was left a little flat after the Edinburgh Film Festival Opening Gala last year, so I wasn’t entirely optimistic for this year. I was excited by the Scottish-ness of the film, and intrigued by the comedy horror premise, but totally unprepared for what a brilliant time I was going to have watching it.

The obvious influences in the film are Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi: two of my favourites certainly, but also adored globally. The humour, particularly the more gory moments, blatantly echoed the cornetto trilogy. The story and certain characters felt quite directly inspired by Hunt for the Wilderpeople – though one incident of foreshadowing in the story felt so Edgar Wright that I knew exactly what was happening in that moment and proceeded to look out for what it had been hinting at.

Despite the heavy influences Boyz in the Wood took on a whole life of its own. It didn’t feel the need to recycle any jokes, it creates all its own absolutely wild humour out of the situations it threw its characters in too. Despite the complete absurdity of the film, all the characters felt somehow believable. The four core characters are no doubt pretty close to some actual Scottish schoolboys out there.

Boyz in the Wood does not shy away from social commentary. In fact, the bizarre nature of the film perhaps let it get away with being even more brash with some of this than another kind of movie would be able to get away with. The metaphor was not far beneath the surface, and many of the best jokes were deeply unsubtle. There was one moment towards the end where I shifted uncomfortably in my seat a little, thinking the point was being driven home a little too hard, but what followed quickly broke that discomfort.

I would be interested to know a bit more about Ninian Doff’s decision making behind the Scottishness of it all as well. Going up against the tweed-clad villains who were not so Scottish couldn’t help but stir a little Scottish patriotism in me.

The entire audience could not stop laughing throughout – I don’t think I have ever been part of an audience that has so clearly enjoyed a film together. It might not be the kind of humour that would appeal to everyone, but there was such a range of people in that audience, and I didn’t see one person who looked anything less than delighted afterward.

This Must Be The Place…

The completely honest reason this book ended up in my possession was that Amazon had a 3 for 2 sale and I liked the cover.  When it arrived in the mail (with Everything Everything and How to be Parisian) I was struck by fear reading the blurb on the back. It sounded … kind of trashy. Not at all the kind of thing I’d usually pick up. But I had it now, and I really did like the cover, so I persevered.

Thank goodness I did because it was while reading this book, in Lovecrumbs cafe, that the spark of starting this blog went off in my brain. And so I suppose this is the very first proper reading books in cafes blog post.

 

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Rose & Pistachio Cake at LoveCrumbs Edinburgh

 

Even a little bit into This must be the place I still wasn’t feeling quite sure about it, but I was quickly becoming terribly invested in the story without even thinking. By the end of it, I had laughed and cried and made a ton of weird reaction faces that made everyone who saw me reading rather concerned. This is, of course, the downside of reading in cafes, people do think you’re a weirdo when you burst out laughing sitting by yourself.

I came to care about the characters more than I ever dreamed was possible when I began the story. Even the ones that were kinda a little bit scumbaggy had my attention. One of the things that pained me the most was how, as I closed the book, I still wanted to know so much more about each and every single one of them. You do get a few different perspectives throughout the book, but there were some characters who I would have quite happily read 20 more chapters about.

Normally when a novel is jumping from character to character, and across time periods, I can get a little frustrated. But for the most part, O’Farrell did it rather beautifully. Towards the end, I will admit I felt it fell apart a bit. There was a weird jump, with bits that were glossed over, which took me out of the story I had been so wrapped up in. She saved it, however, and brought me right back. There is something about the way the author looks at so many relationships, in such a unique story, that is a bit magical. It’s the sort of set-up, the sort of tale that could never really happen quite the way it does. But Maggie O’Farrell sells it to you, and it becomes quite jolting every time you have to yank your nose out from amongst the pages.

I ended up falling totally in love with the story. I can absolutely see how it wouldn’t be for everyone. Hell, I didn’t even think it was for me for quite some time. Now, however, I am so glad to have read it, and I think it sparked something in me I hadn’t felt about books for a while. I think I shall be looking into more of Maggie’s work.

 

Allie