In Front Of Your Face (12A)


My major issue with the theatre is that there's something rather unseemly about being in the presence of acting.

The distancing provided by a screen, big or small, gives it some decency, but watching actors doing it right in front of you in the same room, ugh. I feel something similar with the films of Korea's Hong Sangsoo, whose method is so stripped down, so bare necessities, it strips away the protective veil of cinema.

It’s a pared-down aesthetic committed to the pursuit of pure truth, but a very cheap-looking truth.

Hong is an exponent of the walking and talking movie. The actors talk and walk, often simultaneously, and frequently play characters that are close to themselves. This ultra-low-budget Seoul-based filmmaker will often focus on a character who is an ultra-low-budget Seoul-based filmmaker. His films are shot quickly and cheaply on location with basic video cameras. The dialogue is improvised and played out in long scenes - generally captured by a static camera. Compared to him people like Rohmer and Leigh are meticulous Kubrickian fusspots.

Walking and talking in this one is Lee Hyeyeong as a former actress who has returned home after spending most of her adult life away in the States. Initially, she walks and talks around Seoul with her sister (Cho Yunhee) before heading off to an important lunch date, which will involve sitting and talking with a movie director.

The flat, home movie lighting of these films is brutal and unforgiving on the performers. You wouldn’t hire Hong to shoot your wedding video. Yet in Korea, big names work with him for no money, and Lee is enthralling in the main role as a woman trying to come to terms with her life up to this point and find the best way to deal with the rest of it.

Watching a person trying to truly live in the moment, accept the life that is right in front of her face, and not dwell on past regrets is profoundly moving. The film moves you gently towards its core. Form and substance are in perfect unison; the viewer gradually learns to appreciate the beauty in what is in front of them, even though it all looks a bit meagre.

Directed by Hong Sangsoo. Starring Lee Hyeyeong, Cho Yunhee, Hae-hyo Kwon, Shin Seokho and Kim Saebyeok. Subtitled. Running time: 85 mins.

Catherine, Called Birdy (12A)


Medieval England, 1290 to be precise, would seem to be quite an abrupt change of pace for Girls creator Dunham.

So, she’s gathered together several Game of Thrones cast members to help show her the period ropes: Dean-Charles Chapman, David Bradley, Paul Kaye, Ralph Ineson, and Ramsey as her title character, the rebellious daughter of Lord Rollo, (Scott.)

Though based on a children’s book, life here is barely less brutal than in GoT: everybody is chattel, and nobody marries for love. Discovering that his estate is close to bankruptcy, Rollo tries to marry off his 14-year-old daughter to any wealthy suitor, no matter how physically repellent, while Birdy attempts to thwart his plans. It's a mishmash Middle Ages with a multicultural cast, dialogue drifting between Chaucerian and contemporary, and a soundtrack featuring covers of songs by Elastica, Supergrass, Mazzy Star and Rod Stewart.

Such a freewheeling approach has great potential, but needs a strong vision to hold it together, and Birdy doesn’t have a striking visual sense and isn’t consistently funny. All of its abstractions should create an enticing irreverence, but ultimately they just place a barrier between the film and audience involvement.

Directed by Lena Dunham. Starring Bella Ramsey, Andrew Scott, Lesley Sharp, Billie Piper, Joe Alwyn and Sophie Okonedo. In cinemas now, streaming on Amazon Prime from October 7. Running time: 108 mins.

It Is In Us All (15)


JG Ballard relocates to rural Ireland in this moody piece in which a car crash creates a strange, unstable bond between the two survivors.

Hamish Considine (Jarvis) is a posh London type over to visit the house left to him by the aunt he never met. His rented BMW is involved in a head-on collision on a dark country road with a car driven by two local lads, one of whom dies. The other though, Evan (Mannion) is drawn toward the Englishman.

On the plus side, it looks fantastic. It’s taken a few visual cues from Under The Skin, and the cinematography captures the land’s barren beauty, the wide open spaces duelling with the heavy rain clouds that push down and cus the landscape to a narrow strip.

In the main role, Jarvis is mesmerisingly all over the place: capturing both his sense of entitlement and dismissive arrogance, and the confusion and vulnerability he feels after the crash. The problem is that having dimmed the lighting, and set the mood, the relationship goes nowhere. For much of the film, Hamish is lost and the audience shares his confusion.

Directed by Antonia Campbell-Hughes. Starring Cosmo Jarvis, Rhys Mannion, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Lalor Roddy and Claus Bang. Running time: 91 mins.

Go to for a look at the BFI’s 8-film Ingmar Bergman Vol 3 Blu-ray boxset.