Thursday, 9 April 2009

LLGFF 13 & 14: Happy endings

The LLGFF closed Wednesday night with a gala screening of the French comedy-drama Baby Love (pictured), followed by an extremely lively party at Floridita, at which festival programmers, filmmakers, actors, journalists and loads of hangers-on partied late into Thursday morning. I'm still recovering. The closing movie was an appropriate choice for this year's festival, which had such a strong family theme. Key films from the festival will be travelling around the UK over the next several months, while programmers at the BFI in London begin scouring the world for next year's offerings. Screened on the last couple of days...

Baby Love ***
Lambert Wilson stars as Manu, a paediatrician who wants to have a baby, but his boyfriend (Pascal Elbe) certainly doesn't. They split up as a result, and Manu befriends an Argentine woman (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) who's in Paris with visa problems - a marriage of convenience combined with surrogate motherhood is the logical solution. But there are many wrinkles on the road to happiness. The film is bright and busy, with snappy dialog and surprisingly sharp performances. The characters aren't always likeable (indeed, the women are pretty thinly written), but it's cute and easy to watch, and as it goes along it touches on some very serious issues as well.

Burn the Bridges ***
There's a dark undertone to this otherwise bright and slightly goofy Mexican movie about a brother and sister caring for their dying mother, a former pop star. Helena is a bit too in love with her baby brother Sebastian, who is coming to the realisation that he would rather have a boyfriend than a girlfriend. And their impending grief nearly gets the better of both of them, as they descend into depression and obsession, eventually discovering that they really must make some difficult decisions about moving forward in life (the original title is actually Burn the Ships, referring to the Spanish conquistadores who decided they had to cut off ties with their homeland and make the most of their new life in the New World). The film gets a bit mopey and melodramatic, but it's also funny, emotional and enjoyably twisted.

Dream Boy ***
With a strikingly realistic sense of life in the South, filmmaker James Bolton (Eban and Charley) tackles deep-seated prejudice with this evocative drama about a new kid in high school (Stephan Bender) who struggles against his strongly religious family and community as he comes to grips with his sexuality. He also develops a quiet relationship with the brooding boy next door (Max Roeg, son of Nicolas). The film builds an almost unbearably tense atmosphere as it progresses; we know this is not going to end well. And the filmmakers keep things grounded and realistic, even though in the end it feels somewhat overwrought and oddly simplistic. But it looks amazing, and the cast is terrific.

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