Monday, 6 April 2009

LLGFF 11 & 12: Those pesky kids

Family issues are a main theme at this year's LLGFF, with lots of movies about children and parents that have sexuality woven naturally through them. This ties in with a change in the law here in Britain this week that allows, for the first time, same-sex parents to be listed on an adopted child's birth certificate. Here are just a few of the festival films from the past few days looking at youth from various angles...

Tru Loved ****

From the maker of the charming Coffee Date, this enjoyable high school comedy deals with some serious themes as it progresses to a very cute and corny finale. Tru (Najarra Townsend, pictured left) is a new girl in school whose open-minded background (she has four parents - a gay couple and a lesbian couple) gets her into the middle of the coming out crisis for a football star who thinks his whole life will end if anyone finds out that he's gay - so he asks her to play his girlfriend. The plot wrinkles are pretty predictable, but it's played with warmth and honesty. And there are some terrific small roles for the fabulous Jane Lynch, Marcia Wallace and even Bruce Vilanch.

Chef's Special ***
From Spain, this extremely cute comedy stars Javier Camara (Talk to Her) as a restaurant owner who obsesses about everything, especially the fact that a Michelin Guide writer is coming to review his restaurant. So it's not helping that he has to take care of his two kids while falling for a neighbour and dealing with a bickering staff. The film is full of vivid colours and huge personalities, with snappy dialog and a continuous stream of hilariously farcical situations. It's a little over-long and chaotic, but there's a real sense of character development underneath the madness. And the film touches on real issues - parenthood, meddling, reputations - along the way.

Japan Japan ***
This experimental movie from Israeli filmmaker Lior Shamriz centres on a 19-year-old who moves to Tel Aviv and shares a flat with a rather crazy young woman while he goes out looking for boys and tries to figure out what to do with his life. He has a dream of moving to Japan, but is distracted by his best friend's video-blogs from her New York holiday as well as the Palestine-Israel conflict. The film is a witty, intriguing exploration of identity, shot with split-screens and some pretty outrageous imagery. There's no real plot, but the film catches a terrific autobiographical tone along the way, and vividly shows that sometimes there are bigger issues beyond us that put our own lives into perspective.

OMG/HaHaHa ***
Subtitled "another piece of homo-propaganda", this fake doc indeed gets rather preachy as it goes along, pretending to be a video-blog by an emo 18-year-old talking about his dying mother, teen pregnancy, relationships and generation-gap issues. Even if it doesn't ring fully true, it feels extremely improvisational, with revealingly open conversations. It has an airy, light-filled photographic style that's reminiscent of free-form Gus Van Sant, plus laidback music and a genuine attempt to catch that whole MySpace thing. On the other hand, the on-screen captions get rather annoying with their text-spellings and emoticons. And when the big themes start to come together in the end, it feels a bit forced and gimmicky.

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