Love & Mercy, 2014 – ★★★★

If you asked me if I’d like to see a film about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, I’d have said ‘not likely’. Then I saw the trailer and it intrigued me. I like Paul Dano. I like Elizabeth Banks. And I was keen to see what has become of John Cusack. Just before arriving at the cinema, I almost changed my mind and went to see something else. I’m so glad I didn’t.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of the Beach Boys. The band, and their popularity and success, are kept largely in the background. If you’re a fan of music, of any kind, I’d encourage you to see this.

There’s a stand-out performance in each of the two threads of the story. In the early years it’s Dano – outwardly measured and inwardly chaotic. In the later years it’s Banks – whose facial expressions and body language convey such a range of emotions.

The film is as much about music and the process of making it as it is about the highs and lows in the life of Brian Wilson. It’s about creativity. And perhaps what’s best is it almost doesn’t feel like a biopic.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg

The Connection, 2014 – ★★★½

I didn’t know much about the film before going in to the cinema. Around half an hour in I thought it was shaping up to be a pretty standard police procedural.

As the plot develops and begins to twist and turn the hook is there – what is the price of justice?

Pierre Michel has an addictive personality. He’s beaten gambling, now he’s stuck on putting Gaëtan Zampa behind bars. But at what cost?

If you view this simply as a crime drama you’re going to be disappointed. Instead look at it as a character study, focusing on one man’s battle with himself. With a healthy dose of corruption and justice thrown in for good measure.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg

Love is Strange, 2014 – ★★★★★

Every aspect of this film is on point. The overall effect being that you may be unsure whether you’re even watching a film – this is life unfolding before you.

The emotion feels real and raw. The relationships (all of them) are both simple and complex. At the centre, the characters of George and Ben are wonderfully written and masterfully brought to life by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow.

What’s been stuck in my head since seeing it is this: love isn’t strange, love is beautiful.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg

Whiplash, 2014 – ★★★★

Tense. Unpredictable. Everything I expected it to be from the early reviews and success at Sundance.

With the narrative structure of a sports film, I was on tenterhooks throughout the build up to Andrew’s big final performance. With highs and lows along the way, what we’re all wondering is what the end result will be. Win or lose?

It doesn’t matter that Andrew is an unsympathetic character (and gets more so as we get to know him), I was invested in his future.

And then what to say about Fletcher. He’s a tyrant. Has no redeeming features. And he’s brilliant. Brilliantly detestable.

The message of the film for me is whether the fostering of artistic greatness is worth any cost. Is it acceptable for Fletcher to break the wills of so many of his students in the hope there will be one among them who succeeds? Does our view of this change if we know that there will be a positive outcome? I still don’t know. That’s what makes this film great in my eyes – I’m left with a moral dilemma to chew over.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg