Film Review: ‘Nowhere Special’

I’ll warn you right now that if you are in possession of a heart, this will be a difficult film to watch! If you’re a parent you’ll be in trouble too. And then you find out that it’s based on real events! ‘Nowhere Special’ is easily one of the saddest films that I’ve ever watched, but it is nothing short of a masterpiece too and I would implore you to watch it, safe in the knowledge it’s likely to stay with you for a while.

John and Michael live in Belfast. John is a single parent, bringing up son Michael after his wife just upped sticks and walked out on them shortly after Michael was born. We’re never given a real reason as to why. Michael though, is perhaps the cutest kid you’ll see all year and he clearly loves his daddy, which given the set up of the film, makes it all the more difficult to cope with. The love they have for each other is very clear right from the start, but as we’re drip fed more information, it becomes apparent that all is not well. Prepare yourselves for tears and what is very much an unhappy and uncertain outcome!

James Norton plays John, a single father and a window cleaner, who struggles every day to protect his young son Michael from the harsh realities that the both of them are faced with. As the film moves on we are slowly allowed into John and Michael’s world as the truth about John’s future becomes clear. It’s obvious from fairly early on that something is wrong, but we’re left guessing as to what exactly that is. Whatever it is, Michael is at the heart of John’s thinking in the matter simply because he isn’t going to be able to be there to protect Michael’s future.

‘Nowhere Special’ is a beautifully crafted film. We focus on the love between a father and son while becoming ever more conscious of the distance that will be cruelly put between them. Because of this, as an audience we almost can’t fail to be affected and wholly invested in the characters. It could be argued that you’ll want to protect Michael just as much as his father does, but ultimately it’s something that none of us will be able to successfully achieve, such is the sadness and inevitability of the situation.

The film deals with a truly horrible and emotive subject matter with a particularly light touch, so that while ‘Nowhere Special’ is a tear jerker, there are never the in-you-face moments designed to elicit tears. The camera may linger on a facial expression or the dialogue may hint at what is going to happen to both John and Michael, but there’s never any outlandish attempt to shock or sadden the viewer. The actual identity of John’s problem is never fully revealed and Michael’s fate is drip fed to us by a series of scenes where he, John and a social worker spend time with unfamiliar characters, who it turns out, are all strangers to John and his son.

I’d thoroughly recommend watching ‘Nowhere Special’ but with the proviso that you prepare yourself for the sadness that ensues. A heart-breaking story, but a simply brilliant film. I’d give ‘Nowhere Special’

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Film Review: Good Boys

Sixth Grade is a tough time for any kid. Hormones are starting to fly around, you’re finding your way in life a little more and seeking independence from your parents, while at the same time still seeking solace under their protective ‘wings’. And all the while, you’re forming friendships that are likely to last at least up until adulthood, if not for the rest of your life. Sixth grade might just be the making of a person.

Such is the situation for Max, Lucas and Thor (The self titled Bean Bag Boys and the heroes of Good Boys), three 6th grade friends living in a smart suburb of an unnamed American city as they prepare for their first ‘kissing party’. Sadly though, their preparation doesn’t go smoothly, leading to a series of misadventures that although often bordering on the ridiculous, are highly entertaining.

‘Good Boys’ is a coming of age adventure with a healthy slice of slapstick thrown in for good measure. Having been invited to their first ever ‘kissing party’ by the school cool kid, Soren, the boys set out to do some research. After all, if you’re heading for a kissing party, you’d better know just how to kiss, right? And Max is smitten with classmate Brixlee and desperate to grab a smooch with her.

So, in the name of research and with no thought whatsoever for privacy, the boys borrow an expensive drone from Max’s dad and set out to film a neighbour kissing her boyfriend. So far, so good…nothing to see here! Surely, nothing can go wrong? But the Bean Bag Boys’ drone experiment in fact goes badly – and oh so predictably – wrong and as a result they inadvertently make enemies of their neighbour Hannah (she of the kissing with the boyfriend) and her friend, Lily. Even though the boys eventually get to their kissing party, they are forced to learn some harsh lessons from their mistakes in the days afterwards. This is often to hilarious effect and although at times the humour is near the knuckle and perhaps a bit silly, I found myself laughing along all the way through.

Writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, known for their work on The Office, deserve great credit for the words that they put in the mouths of babes here, as it’s often brilliantly incongruous and hilariously – and deliberately – inaccurate. Seth Rogen, one of the producers of the film, has clearly had a chunk of input here too. The boys’ take on various aspects of sex and drugs is a hilarious mix of total myth, complete rubbish and dangerous stereotypes which is guaranteed to raise more than the odd chuckle.

In their quest to replace the expensive drone – which is inevitably destroyed – and avoid their now mortal enemies, Hannah and Lily, the Bean Bag Boys find themselves thrust into several dangerous adventures that are navigated with typical pre-teen innocence so that they can reach an out of town mall. But it’s not just these trials and tribulations that make up the coming of age story and as a result of the kissing party the boys learn some things about friendship and each other that they would have never suspected in their previous lives sitting in their ban bag den playing games.

Good Boys is a great, feel-good film. The comedy here is sharp, the characters well written and if at times the twists and turns of the narrative are nothing short of ridiculously unbelievable, it doesn’t matter. Good Boys is one of those films where you’ll need to suspend your sense of reality and just enjoy the action, however daft it might get. Ultimately you’ll want the boys to get the drone, stay friends and keep the feel-good factor…but once all of their escapades are over, will there be a happy ending for Max, Lucas and Thor?

I’d give Good Boys

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Film Review: Overlord

OVERLORD | British Board of Film Classification

If you’ve ever wondered what the world would have looked like if Germany had triumphed in World War II, you may well have come up with some or all of the following answers.

  • Lots and lots of blonde, blue eyed people, like an incredibly efficient version of Baywatch. (Ironically, given his dark hair, David Hasselhoff would still have had a place because of the affection that he’s held in in Germany. He did, after all, single-handedly bring down the Berlin Wall).
  • Trains that ran on time. All of the time.
  • The obligatory picture of the family in ledherhosen on every mantelpiece.
  • Lots and lots of mullets.
  • Everybody can take a penalty, whatever the pressure. (This is a football gag…soccer, if you’re not familiar with what football actually is).
  • Of course I jest. The world wouldn’t look anything like this generalised tuetonic view…

What you probably wouldn’t have imagined though, would have been any supercharged zombies. But then, you probably haven’t watched ‘Overlord’.

Directed by Julius Avery and starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell and Mathilde Olivier, Overlord tells the tale of an American army units’ seemingly doomed mission to take out a vital communications tower prior to the D Day landings. We find our heroes in a plane, heading for Northern France and a remote village where the Nazis have set up some kind of communications hub in an old church. As you do. If the allied troops are to succeed on the beaches of Normandy this tower needs to be taken out. If it’s not, then the Nazis will be able to intercept allied radio communication and will inevitably be slaughtered. Over to you, American heroes.

However, when their plane comes under heavy artillery fire and ends up in flames you realise that this is going to be in no way a straightforward tale of big ol’ Uncle Sam saving the day. A bit like WWII, really. But, some of our parachuting heroes survive – I mean, it’d have been a short film otherwise – and head towards the target village in order to complete their mission. Game on!

If you, rightly, thought that Hitler’s plans for the Aryan race were unpalatable, then you’d be truly horrified by what our heroes find in the village and subsequently the church.

Overlord marries a dystopian vision with some of the most warped elements of horror to give us a quite absurd, yet compelling twist on the classic war film. You’ll find tons of clichés, heroes, villains, a little bit of glamour in the form of French villager Chloe played by Mathilde Olivier, but you’ll also find jump scares aplenty and a horrifically warped version of what the Reich were cooking up – literally – via their crazed scientists. Is it believable? Well, no. Is it watchable? Hell, yes!

Overlord is no emotional roller coaster. There are no life-changing performances here. However, it’s sure to keep you gripped and brighten up a dull day with its sometimes utterly fantastical plot.

If you’re not too bothered about realism, if you enjoy a bit of gore and if you fancy a war film with a twist, then Overlord is very definitely worth a couple of hours of your time.

I give Overlord

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