Writers Choice

WRITERS CHOICE: This months theme is ‘Travel’

‘Writers Choice’ is a monthly segment. Each month a theme will be chosen and the contributors asked to choose a film to mini-review based around said theme. This months theme is ‘travel’.

Dirty_girl_film_posterDIRTY GIRL (2010)

Dirty Girl is actually a very sweet film, despite the nature of its title. Juno Temple plays Danielle, a high school teen in 1987 Oklahoma with a bad reputation. Her rebellious behavior (most of it really being outspoken in sex-ed class) lands her in remedial classes, where she is paired with Clarke, an innocent closet-case, for a parenting project.  Clarke and Danielle become friends, and decide to travel together on a road trip to California. Danielle wants to find her whom she has never met and Clarke wants to escape being sent to military school by his homophobic dad. Of course, there’s mishaps and bumps in the road on the way. The scene when Danielle finally meets her dad is very moving, he has never heard of her existence and has a whole new family. When Danielle sees him playing with his young daughter she sees what could have been and what never will be. Juno Temple does an amazing acting job in the scene. At the end, Danielle gets an A on the project, reminiscing about her travels and what it means to be a family. I liked that Dirty Girl never vilifies Danielle for being sexually active at a young age, it’s a part of her character but not her whole being. Dirty Girl balances fun and silly with sweet and emotional moments, set to an 80s girl-pop soundtrack with a cross-country backdrop. Also, the parenting project that Clarke and Danielle work on has them use a bag of sugar as their baby. They draw a face on it, and throughout the movie the face changes depending on the reaction to the situations. It was such a cute and clever idea that really added a sweet spot to an already delightful film. –Caroline Madden

MPW-36188INTO THE WILD (2007)

Can you imagine abandoning your gadgets; money and family to go on a literal and spiritual journey into the unknown? As crazy as that sounds, Christopher McCandless, the protagonist of Into the Wild, leaves behind everything to travel into the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless must tackle anything that comes his way all by himself – and by anything, that means anything.

There can be many times where leaving everything behind to go on an emotional purge is extremely appealing, and this is where the film hits. This biographical drama may be more drastic than anything #AllLivesMatter may make you feel about leaving society all together, but this film really emphasises the quote: “it’s the journey, not the destination, which counts”. Few survival films can really touch anyone’s heart the way Into the Wild does. –Sharon Igbokwe

locke_ver3_xlgLOCKE (2013)

There are two types of car movies that I personally enjoy:

  • The grisly horror road trip that arrives at a deadly destination. These films remind us that our four doors do not keep us safe, it is simply a giant trick. For example, Jeepers Creepers, Wrong Turn, Hitchhiker.
  • The ecstasy of special effects and the showing off of expensive cars. The car gets you out of trouble, it’s a getaway and you’re much more superior for it. See Fast and Furious.

Locke is a combination of both. The family road trip is reduced to a man making his way on the motorway. A gruesome end may be true, depending on how deep you look at it. But the car is almost definitely assisting a getaway.

Lightly steering past the concept of gore and visually brilliant car manoeuvres, Locke follows a Welsh Tom Hardy on a solo nightly drive on the motorway. What I like most about it is that it lacks the gushing scenery that is perfectly aligned for your Tumblr dashboard. This prioritises the dialogue, which is cleverly governed by Tom. We only ever hear his voice clearly whilst he chats to the phone voices of his wife, children and employees. We do not need to see how expensive his car is or whether his route is beautiful – our only insight into the movie’s vibe, so to speak, is from these conversations naturally laid out in the inside of his car.

Locke helps out reviewers who want to over-analyse (me!) because he makes some references to the safety of his car. Is Locke then not all about the lack of responsibilities one man can get away from? A pregnant mistress, a stressful colleague, an upset wife. The car is a shield, it does not react in a typical movie way. If we are going by the good vs evil analogy, that is “your character is great, good things will happen to you” vs “your character sinned immensely, prepare to see the consequences of that!”, this movie is frustrating because Locke is almost escaping from his wrong-doings. There is no flat tyre stopping him from completing his relaxing getaway! After all, calling someone rather than talking to them face to face is always less intimidating.

The dialogue in Locke is great. It is insightful, watching his facial expressions and reactions whilst we have no clue how the other end of the phone is really coping. It almost ends unresolved, which for me is predictable for such an isolated movie. Tom Hardy excels, of course, his appeal grows with each role. I am shocked that I had no sympathy for him, even though his is the only face we see. His narrative worked well in investing our interest with picturing his life outside of the car. –Ameena

loreLORE (2012)

After watching lore you might need a few minutes to learn how to breathe again, or maybe a big glass of water and a lie down, such is its intensity and pace.  The film endeavours to show Germany as it was at the end of the Second World War. It does this through the eyes of the teenage-girl protagonist ‘Lore’. In some respects you are confronted with whether you want to feel any empathy for Lore because it is made very clear in the first scenes of the film that the reason why Lore lives in such a beautiful mansion is because her parents are high-ranking Nazis. Yet as the film progresses, the attachment between Lore and her parents seems to get less and less and you are able to form more of a connection with her. Lore becomes a character that after watching this film you find very difficult to shrug off. She is definitely incredibly complex and multifaceted. The film centres around the journey Lore takes with her 4 siblings (including a few young baby) over 900km from their parents (holiday?) home in the black forest to the their grandparents house near Hamburg. The fact that Lore takes on this journey shows that she is resourceful and intelligent, but along the way she has many lapses in judgment and makes some terrible mistakes, she is not just a simply ‘strong’ or heroic female character. On this journey Lore also seems to be going through many things that teenage girls do, today, Such as a gradual decline in trust of her parents, discovering her sexuality and sexual harassment, that makes her very relatable despite being in such an extreme situation.

This film seems hyper realistic and at times completely heart-breaking Lore is such a relatable well written character and if you want proof that teenage girls can be written really well this film is it.  Also I watched this film whilst I was completing my History A-level and studying Nazi Germany I would recommend watching it if you are doing the same as it gives a good insight into Germany after the war. –Sophie Squire

timthumbTHE SURE THING (1985)

The Sure Thing is pretty much the 1980s personified; as wild patterned shirts, boom boxes and, in the case of many – questionable haircuts are heavily featured. It is also one of my favourite road trip films. The plot is, to be honest, nothing special – boy gets told about a beautiful sexy woman at his friends college who is a ‘sure thing’, boy then travels across America, accidentally ending up travelling with the supposed ‘boring, stuffy girl” (a misogynistic stereotype – I know) and slowly falls for her after realising he doesn’t want a ‘sure thing’ after all. It’s the characters and the performances of John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga – who play the main characters Gib and Alison that make the film so great.

John Cusack is in his 80s prime here, making Gib a clumsy, likeable, slightly embarrassing protagonist who is pretty much clueless when it comes to life. He does have a mean party-trick though, in the form of chugging a whole can of beer out of a hole pierced in it with a pen. Zuniga’s Alison is his counterpart in every way, she’s driven, ambitious, independent and doesn’t take any shit from anyone – especially Gib. We follow the two characters as they hitchhike from New England to California, getting into a multitude of scrapes on the way, and watch them go from hating one another to slowly getting more and more enamoured with each other. The scene towards the end, when Alison is stuck playing chess with her boring as hell boyfriend who is obsessed with her ‘minding her manners’ – and pulls out the beer can trick as an act of defiance is my favourite, because to me it’s the moment she realises she needs to be free of him as she now knows she can do better. Something that she learnt through her trip with Gib. –Megan Gibb

darjeeling_limitedTHE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007)

Travel can be a form of escapism, and never has that been more true than in the case of Peter, Francis and Jack Whitman. In the Wes Anderson equivalent of a ‘road trip movie’ (substitute the crude humour with y’know, the relationship between death and grief), these three All-American brothers take a journey of spiritual self discovery across India. Of course, they’ll also discover all sorts of hidden truths and dark secrets about each other.

Travel is represented both in the titular Darjeeling Limited train, and the landscape of India itself. The train is an incredibly detailed and uncomfortably claustrophobic set piece, perfect for trapping three people who really don’t want to be on holiday together. It’s perfect for the unraveling farce that the film contains – mace in the face! Snake on the train! An illicit staff passenger affair! The representation of India is somewhat more thematic – everything is separated from its culture and context by these privileged, self absorbed but truly hurting white men. It makes for complicated interaction between appropriation and genuine appreciation, wanting to find solace and find themselves, even though they don’t really understand what they’re finding it in. Isn’t that what this type of self serving ‘travel’ is?

‘The Darjeeling Limited’ is not, by any means, one of Wes Anderson’s most critically adored films, but second to ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, it’s the one I have the most genuine human affection for and connection with. Anderson is obsessed with father-son (or something in resemblance to) relationships and I think this film is the one which deals with that particular theme the best. It’s also stunning in terms of its cinematography, owing a lot of that of course to India as a particularly beautiful setting. –Ashley Woodvine

sin_nombreSIN NOMBRE (2009)

Not a road trip movie, an adventurers’ tale or an offbeat comedy- instead Cary Fukunaga’s 2009 double Sundance winning Spanish language film Sin Nombre follows the path of immigrants travelling the dangerous train journey from the slums of Mexico to the ‘land of the free’. Fukunaga’s utilisation of migration as the backdrop of his feature début, allowed him to interweave characters from different extremes of the same social context. The relationship constructed between Sayra (a young woman travelling from Honduran through Mexico to the U.S.A in hope for a better life) and El Casper (a fleeing Mexican gang member) establishes not only an unlikely alliance but also allows for two very different stories to be told, stories routed in reality. And it is this that makes Sin Nombre such a visceral watch, its exploration of extreme violence within the gang system, especially its representation of children wrapped up within this world, portrays the gangs as a twisted Familia support network where members are indoctrinated at an early age only to be turned on in a split second such as El Capser. Although Sin Nombre translates into English as ‘without a name’- the film serves to humanise its characters- weaving a rich tapestry of personal stories that are not commonly explored within Western cinema. Thus Fukunaga really highlights some important issues of immigration, asking audiences to realise immigrants for what they are- human beings and not a faceless or nameless alien other as the media so often portrays them. Sin Nombre interlinks the concepts of dreams, escapism and travel like most, however ultimately decays these ideals suggesting that the characters are products of their social context and as such can never quite escape or travel away from the bounds that society has put them under. -Molly Bennett

wristcutters_a_love_storyWRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY (2006)

When I was trying to think of a film that revolved around traveling, I instantly thought of Wristcutters: A Love Story. It’s funny though, because I thought of a story that depicted people traveling to the intangible unknown versus a place that one could actively travel to on earth.

The film, directed by Goran Dukić, is seen through the perspective of Zia (Patrick Fugit), a young man who commits suicide at the very beginning. If you’re like me and like dark comedies, then you’ll definitely enjoy this film. Anytime someone commits suicide, they end up in this dull, barren land, almost like a type of purgatory in a sense. This is portrayed through dull colors and boring scenic views, which is the complete opposite expectation one would have whilst going on a road trip. Since the “wristcutters” are technically being punished in this weird in-between life, their lives are forced to fit the mundane feel of the place itself. They are incapable of smiling, they have boring jobs, and they have a hard time finding solutions to easy tasks. For example, the character Eugene (played by Shea Whigham and who is apparently based on Eugene Hutz from Gogol Bordello–to my excitement) has a car with broken headlights that cannot be fixed, no matter how many times he goes to a mechanic.

Eugene is only one of the characters Zia meets throughout his stay in this land for suicide victims. Instead of the everyday, polite questions “What do you do for a living?” or, “What things are you interested in?”, people in this world ask each other how they got there. Alternatively, they’ll try to guess. The guesses are typically followed by scenes of how the characters actually killed themselves, which is grim but captivating.

After Zia convinces Eugene to join him on his journey to find his girlfriend Desiree, who he believes is also roaming this afterlife limbo, they meet a hitchhiker named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon) along the way. Mikal wants to find the PIC (People in Charge) and let them know that her suicide was actually an accident. Throughout their journey, we are able to experience the dull nature of their new lives. Even though the environment is dull, you can’t help but feel intrigued by the interesting concept of ending up in a worse place after dying, when death should be liberating–potentially a commentary on how suicide is a long-term solution to a temporary problem. It makes me feel weird thinking that anyone would be “punished” for committing this act, but in the film, the afterlife limbo can sometimes provide miracles and happiness, i.e. the friendship between Eugene, Mikal, and Zia, as well as the potential romantic connection between Mikal and Zia. This film is unassuming and is filled with delightful surprises left and right, treating death as something to not be afraid of, and life as something that should not taken advantage of. –Cristina Vazquez de Mercado

TRACKS_1SHT_MASTER_AW_NEW.inddTRACKS (2013)

I’m completely enamoured with films about travel, the likes of The Beach and Into the Wild being some of my favourites that I’ve discussed and gushed about on many occasion. But, it’s rare to find travel films that centre on women. Much less, a true story of a woman crossing West Australia with nothing but her dog and 4 camels.

Robyn Davidson took her journey in 1977, trekking 1,700 miles across Australia. Before setting off on her journey she works on a ranch in return for two camels, who will carry her belongings. When she tries to find funding for her journey, she is contacted by the National Geographic who want to run a story on her. She agrees to be met to be photographed 3 times on her 9 month journey by photographer Rick Smolan, played by the ever adorable Adam Driver. The film follows her journey and these interactions with Rick until she reaches the Indian Ocean.

Not only is Tracks stunningly beautiful in terms of cinematography and scenery but it is carried single-handedly by the wonderful Mia Wasikowska, who goes through just about every emotion possible on her journey. It’s a journey of self-discovery, of loss and acceptance and intrigue and testing your limits and her interactions with Rick each time also portray this, their rocky friendship come brief romance, whilst a nice element never distracts from Robyn’s personal goals and ambition, which is very rare to find in a woman-led film, let alone one about travel. –Chloe Leeson

 

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