East End 2015: 'One Crazy Thing' review

★★★☆☆
Without even realizing there is a need for it, the cinematic palate needs to be cleansed of the loud, brash Hollywood blockbusters, thought-provoking dramas or even tawdry comedies. Sometimes, we need an honest-to-goodness bit of cinema that hearkens back to the classics; where all you need is a simple romance, a few good laughs and one or two amusing bumps in the road to keep the entertainment factor high. Amit Gupta's third feature length film, One Crazy Thing (2014), does precisely this. It's a nice slice of boilerplate rom-com that delivers on a simple plot and strong performances from its lead actors.
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East End 2015: Read our guide to this year's festival

The 2015 East End Film Festival opens this week with Amit Gupta'scharming One Crazy Thing before going on to inspire and impress London audiences from 1 - 12 July. Billing itself as a festival of discovery, EEFF prides itself on giving exposure to new voices in    film and will continue in that vein with this year's programme as well as providing opportunities to see exciting work due to be released in UK cinemas later in the 2015. The festival will draw to a close the latest feature from EEFF alum, Marc Silver, who follows 2013's Who is Dayani Cristal? with the deeply affecting 31⁄2 Minutes, Ten Bullets. Elsewhere, gala screenings such as Asif Kapadia's Amy will provide a highlight in what promises to be another impressive selection.
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Film Review: 'Terminator Genisys'

★★☆☆☆
It has been a problem that has plagued more than one studio in the past 24 years - how to continue The Terminator (1984) franchise after James Cameron's brace of sci-fi landmarks. So far, every attempt has, to some degree, been a failure - two films, Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) were rejected by critics and public alike, while TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' cult status could not save it from cancellation after two seasons. Memories of the past still linger, however, and original star Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in the first of an intended new trilogy, Terminator Genisys (2015).
Jai Courtney takes on the role of Kyle Reese, loyal soldier of John Connor (Jason Clarke) sent back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from the Terminator (Schwarzenegger). What he finds on arrival is a very different situation- a tougher Sarah Connor, raised by a Terminator sent back further in time to prepare her for a new, more powerful threat to the future. Director Alan Taylor seems well aware of the task ahead of him, and visually takes confident strides into this new territory. An elaborate action scene is never far away, with technology having caught up with the scale such a movie demands. But the film's true weaknesses lie in the story, not the special effects. Playing on our affection for the original films (certain scenes from The Terminator are recreated) only highlights the tangled mess the plot gets itself in, with numerous twists and rewriting of history making the film unnecessarily convoluted and soulless.

Commentary about society's reliance on mobile devices ring hollow, and even the main conceit of history being constantly rewritten begs the question: why should anyone care what happens if the slate will be wiped clean in the next instalment? The failings of the film may not entirely be their fault, however the cast do suffer by comparison to their predecessors, most of all Emilia Clarke. Neither the resourceful target of the first film or the haunted warrior of the second, her Sarah Connor is wrapped in sarcasm and tedious back-and-forth comedy with her 'pops'. Main attraction Schwarzenegger assures Courtney (sincere but befuddled in a benign lead role) that he is "old, not obsolete."

The plot continually undermines that statement, with the ageing actor downgraded to a supporting role - there to add a quip or to save his co-stars from disaster, but little more than 'muscle' for the good guys. Even a post-Oscar J.K. Simmons is underused as a character that has little effect on anything. Terminator Genisys' ambition overrides sense and depth in the pursuit of a new direction, and then unwittingly proves how little life there is left in this franchise. When the highest compliment that can be paid is that it doesn't plumb the same depths as Rise of The Machines, it's clear that this new mission has failed.

James Luxford | @JLFilm

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Film Review: 'Still the Water'

★★★★☆
A contender for last year's Palme d'Or - if not the most deserving, according to its modest director - Naomi Kawase's Still the Water (2014) is a fluid, dreamlike tone poem of mothers and fathers, death and continuance. Violent waves crash on the shore of the film's Japanese island, sweeping to land the tattooed corpse of an unknown man. This event will subtly impact on the lives of two young teenagers who live nearby. Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga) is a courageous young girl with a penchant for going swimming in her school uniform, even though the beaches are closed because of the discovery of the body. She, meanwhile, is gradually falling in love with the bashful, elusive Kaito (Nijiro Murakami).
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Film Review: 'The First Film'

★★★★☆
Gilbert Adair began the first chapter of Flickers (1995), his deeply personal and often eccentric odyssey into the history of the movies - written to mark the centenary of the Lumière brothers' public exhibition of short films shot and projected on their Cinematographe device in Paris's Grand Café Boulevard des Capucines in 1895 - with a grandiose "Let there be light!". It is a mark of cinema's uniqueness as an art form, that it can be so fittingly compared to such a momentous and mystical occasion as the Big Bang. Adair's wonderful book, mixing selected film stills (one for each year) and textual analysis, kicks off with a Lumière short, known as Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory.
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Film Review: 'Comet'

★★☆☆☆
"A dream of memories; conversations that we've had...they weaved in and out of each other like those M.C. Escher drawings." This is how insufferable protagonist Dell (Justin Long) describes a recent dream in Comet (2014) which, in keeping with the film's ardent reflexivity, also describes the film itself. He's speaking to his romantic foil, Kimberly (Emmy Rossum), who moments later - or years earlier thanks to the time-jumping nature of the narrative chronology - tells him that she's too tired for another of his "meta-arguments." She's not the only one. It's an ambitious debut from Sam Esmail but its exploration of a flawed relationship buckles beneath the weight of its own wry self-awareness.
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Film Review: 'Amy'

★★★★☆
Bafta-winning British director Asif Kapadia made his name with his brilliant 2012 biographic documentary Senna, which told the story of the young Brazilian race driver whose early death in a crash in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix made him into a tragic icon. With Amy (2015) - which premieried at Cannes and is released int he UK this week - we have a similarly tragic chronicle of a death foretold, but whereas Senna had that one moment of horrible impact, this latest tale is the story of one long car crash. Amy Winehouse grew up in London, a Jewish girl with the voice of an old fashioned jazz singer and an emerging style that bespoke a love of a former era.
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DVD Review: 'Story of My Death'

★★★★☆
The libertine rationalism of pre-revolutionary France is fed to the lions in Albert Serra's strange and transfixing Story of My Death (2013). A low-lit union of bloody thighs and throats, it plucks two infamous seducers from the annals of history and literature and uses them to metaphorically wander through a social dusk, taking one last look at the sun before it is consumed by the night. Typical of the Catalan filmmaker, this is dense and cryptic stuff, in which the air of a musty baroque mansion is a thick with ideas as it is dust. Winner of the top prize at Locarno, it now receives a DVD release in the UK through the tireless purveyors of under-appreciated world cinema, Second Run.
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DVD Review: 'Jupiter Ascending'

★★★★☆
Both of the following are true: Jupiter Ascending (2015) is a giddy, sweeping adventure filled with interesting characters and stunning visuals; Jupiter Ascending is a frustrating experience, filled with dead ends, vanishing subplots and too much exposition. Perhaps, coming from the perennially ambitious brother and sister duo Andy and Lana Wachowski, writer-directors of The Matrix (1999) and the divisive Cloud Atlas (2012) - co-written & directed with Tom Tykwer - this is to be expected. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is an undocumented Russian immigrant living in Chicago, cleaning houses with her mother and aunt.
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DVD Review: 'It Follows'

★★★★☆
Boiling terror down to essentials can be a winning formula for horror films: the phone call in Scream (1996), or the video tape in The Ring (1998). Perhaps, the best example is John Carpenter's 1982 remake The Thing, with its shape-shifting alien lurking amidst the blank spaces of Antarctica. With a similarly unspecific title, David Robert Mitchell's It Follows (2014) has the kind of barebones high concept that is beguiling in its simplicity and is realized in a rich and artful manner. Jay Height (Maika Monroe) is a young college student, living in Michigan, hanging out with her friends, drifting, a kind of sad thoughtful beauty.
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Interview: Ruben Östlund talks 'Force Majeure'

"Have you cried as an adult?" My question to Ruben Östlund, the director of ice-cold Swedish black comedy Force Majeure (2014), is not as impertinent as it might appear. It's a reference to a scene of his film in which patriarch Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), on holiday with his family at a luxury French ski resort, implodes when he comes to terms with cowardly fleeing from an avalanche without his wife and kids. "Yeah, of course" he replies, "but not in that horrible 'man-cry' way like in the film. If you don't cry in the right way, you get no sympathy at all. If it suddenly bursts out, tears, snot, it comes out in something that is not sympathetic at all." Those kind of caustic judgements are the catalyst for Force Majeure's glacial look into human relationships.
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DVD Review: 'Force Majeure'

★★★☆☆
What could have easily been a glib provocation turns out to be rigorous examination of masculinity in crisis in the hands of Swedish director Ruben Östlund. Force Majeure (2014) tests the limits (or troughs) of masculinity in the post-liberal age, charting the effects of decades of progression and asks: what is left of the hunter-gatherer in 2015? It's a fascinating inverse of the traditional narrative of the unreconstructed male ego that is so common in cinema - pictures like John Cassavetes' Husbands (1970) or Ted Kotcheff's Wake in Fright (1971) - but what ultimately fascinates is that both strands end up in the same place - cowardice.
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DVD Review: 'Beyond the Lights'

★★★★☆
Tales of impossible love and the trappings of fame and fortune have long been staples of Hollywood cinema. However, to accuse Gina Prince-Bythewood's Beyond the Lights (2014), a romantic melodrama about the human price of stardom, of being derivative would be to ignore the significance of its message. A rebuke to the misogyny of the music industry, Prince-Bythewood's latest is a quietly radical appropriation of mainstream narratives that aims to challenge the status quo. A brief Brixton-set prologue establishes the strained relationship between Noni (played in her youth by India Jean-Jacques) and her competitive mother, Macy Jane (Minnie Driver).
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Interview: Desiree Akhaven's 'Appropriate Behaviour'

"I love Curb Your Enthusiasm. I want to feel just as entitled as any rich, middle aged white man; that's how entitled I want my protagonist to be." Desiree Akhaven does not consider herself to be a political filmmaker. In her debut feature Appropriate Behaviour (2014), which she wrote and directed, she stars as Shirin, a bisexual Iranian-American, going through a break-up with her long- term girlfriend, Maxine. The film premiered at Sundance in 2014, followed by a successful festival run and a critical reception that signals a cult film in the making. Shirin is a typical hip twenty-something, roaming the gaping chasm between adolescence and maturity in Brooklyn's creative bubble, equally insecure, self-assured, self-absorbed, and dealing with heartbreak.
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DVD Review: 'Appropriate Behaviour'

★★★★☆
Joining the latest throng of female filmmakers baring their souls - and bettering their mainstream equivalents - through homegrown autobiographical independent films is the talented Desiree Akhavan, whose debut feature Appropriate Behaviour (2014) is something of a doyenne in the way it depicts an area of sexuality usually shied away from in cinema. Like Lena Dunham before her - whose HBO series Girls (2012-present) Akhavan recently appeared in - the Iranian-American writer, director, producer and actor takes total command of her maiden cinematic voyage, crafting something that is as insightful and raw as it is frequently hilarious.
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Edinburgh 2015: 'Iona' review

★★★☆☆
This year's Edinburgh International Film Festival drew to a close with Iona (2015), Scott Graham's follow-up to his much praised debut feature Shell (2012). Set against the beautiful, isolated terrain of the titular Scottish island, Iona retains much of the previous film's affinity for avocative cinematography and the hidden, often unarticulated troubles lurking within, even if its narrative doesn't prove to be quite as interesting. After a brutal crime, Iona (Ruth Negga) escapes Glasgow with her teenage son Bull (Ben Gallagher) and seeks refuge on her namesake island, where she finds safety with Daniel (Douglas Henshaw).
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Edinburgh 2015: 'Norfolk' review

★★★☆☆
In director Martin Radich's Norfolk (2015) - which premièred in the Hivos Tiger Awards strand at Rotterdam and now screens at EIFF - the rolling eastern countryside is presented as the site for a deadly serious vision of familial trauma and unmerciful violence that indicates a pessimistic future for its inhabitants. A boy lives with his mercenary father in a ramshackle farm house. His countryside wanderings are watched over by an elderly couple, whilst a girl he spends time with is mainly mute. Information comes via multiple television monitors, tuned to different channels simultaneously. Some nights the boy's father goes out very late and returns more brooding than usual.
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Edinburgh 2015: 'Life May Be' review

★★★★☆
Two Edinburgh regulars, Mark Cousins and Mania Akbari, have collaborated to produce an insightful film-essay exchange, their differing filmmaking styles bursting with ideas and inspiring new thought in each other in Life May Be (2014). The project was conceived when the distributor, Second Run asked Cousins to write something in response to Akbari's One. Two. One (2011) for their release last year. Rather than the usual essay, Cousins instead wrote a letter that begins, "Dear Mania Akbari, I'm sitting in a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's a cold May day..." and goes on to imagine a journey taken by the two filmmakers from Sweden to London, via Rome, Tehran, and Hungary.
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Edinburgh 2015: '45 Years' review

★★★★☆
Based on a short story by David Constantine, British director Andrew Haigh's poignant drama 45 Years (2015) is led by two terrific central performances from Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling. Kate and Geoff are preparing for their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. They have no children and live in a small rural village near the Norfolk Broads. They seem content with their lot and are happy together; they still talk about serious matters, laugh and attempt to have sex. Then Geoff receives a letter informing him that the body of his first girlfriend, Katya, missing for fifty years after a hiking accident, has been found frozen in the Swiss Alps.
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Edinburgh 2015: 'Scottish Mussel' review

★☆☆☆☆
Talulah Riley takes three tasks in this Scottish rom-com, acting as star, writer and director. Sadly, her feature debut Scottish Mussel (2015) is a vacuous as they come, without so much as a morsel of skill being put on display, and lacking any sign of either drama or humour. Ritchie (Martin Compston) is a chancer who spends his days hanging around at the pub with best mates Danny (Joe Thomas) and Fraser (Paul Brannigan). Disillusioned with the poor lifestyle, Ritchie sees money in mussel farming and volunteers at a wildlife centre in the Highlands. As he schemes to sell mussel pearls he meets Beth (Riley) and falls in love with Beth (Riley), a conservationist with a passion for all things protected.
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Edinburgh 2015: 'The Incident' review

★★☆☆☆
Bafta-winning filmmaker Jane Linfoot makes her feature debut with The Incident (2015), a well-shot yet clinical and emotionally stunted psychological drama that fails to develop into anything particularly gripping. Annabel (Ruta Gedmintas) and her husband Joe (Tom Hughes) relocate to a house sheltered in the woods. Their affluent, metropolitan life is interrupted by the arrival of Lily (Tasha Conner), a wayward teen who breaks into their house when Joe is away on business and instills fear into Annabel. Left terrified and emotionally unstable by the event, Annabel's psychological state cripples her mind, leaving her cold and distant towards Joe, who's also troubled by the occurrence in his own way.
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Film Review: 'The Third Man'

★★★★★
No cinematic genre can capture the inky morality of pernicious scavengers feeding on the carcass of post-war Europe like Film Noir. And no other Film Noir manages it with quite the pervasive world-weariness and melancholy of The Third Man (1949). Beautifully penned by Graham Greene for Carol Reed's direction, it is one of cinema's true masterpieces: a labyrinthine search through the rubble of a defeated and desiccated Vienna; the tale of a wide-eyed American, exposed for the first time to the harsh, cruel realities of carving a bitter existence in the husk of a bombed-out continent. All the while, Reed and his cinematographer, Robert Krasker, craft an expressionistic landscape unlike any other.
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Film Review: 'That Sugar Film'

★★★★☆
Damon Gameau's feature documentary about the detrimental effects of refined sugar and excess fructose on our health is both educative and entertaining. The central message of That Sugar Film (2015) is that the calories from sugar behave differently from other foods. Recalling Morgan Spurlock's McDonald's overdose in Super-Size Me (2004), Gameau set himself the task of eating the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for sixty days and filmed the experiment. However, he did not eat junk food and confectionary or drink fizzy drinks, but consumed only those foods and juices perceived as healthy. Gameau's body was a clean slate as he had not eaten refined sugar for three years.
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Film Review: 'Station to Station'

★★★☆☆
Doug Aitken's Station to Station (2014) immediately states its intent. This is to be "a journey through modern creativity", shot over 24 days, spanning 4000 miles from Atlantic to Pacific. It's not specified that this will be across the US, but it quickly becomes clear it couldn't have been anywhere else. Aitken's train and the troupe of artists he invites on it move from state to state like a travelling circus, deploying for ten carnival-like 'happenings'. Among the 50 artists featured are writers, architects, photographers and an array of musicians, old and new. Station to Station consists of 62 one minute films sown together by Aitken's editing, as he asks the artists to explore their creative processes.
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Film Review: 'Slow West'

★★★★☆
John Maclean's Slow West (2015) is prairie poetry. It might be set in the Wild West, where it's always high noon and desperados with big irons will drop a person cold between swigs of firewater, but in this conceptually smart and quirky take on the western, it's love and romance that can prove to be as deadly as a six-shooter. And those unfortunate souls under its impassioned spell are drawn to drastic measures: following a girl across the sea to North Amorica (to use a Joycean pun). Something very lyrical is at play in Slow West. There are times when its story resembles a ye olde folk ballad, sung down the ages as a timely warning against the perils of thinking purely with the heart.
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Film Review: 'She's Funny That Way'

★★★☆☆
Watching Peter Bogdanovich's She's Funny That Way (2014) is a somewhat bittersweet experience. It's terrific to see the great almost man return from TV movie purgatory with renewed focus to craft a lovely, quick-witted throwback with big stars on a broad canvass. But, on the other hand, one is acutely aware that the these kinds of classical Hollywood revivals by returning New Hollywood greats never make the impact they should. And the stinger is that it's not quite good enough a proposition to rally the strident auteurists to its defence like, for example, Polanski's Venus in Fur (2013) or Schrader's The Canyons (2013). It will likely be another false start for the director who has long deserved better.
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Film Review: 'The Overnight'

★★★★☆
In a whole other league to the regular slew of sex comedies usually churned out by the Hollywood machine - that are often simply raunchy for the sake of it - The Overnight (2015) - director Patrick Brice's follow-up to Creep - is an unexpected delight. Effortlessly warping dark comedy and drama, with a delicious sprinkling of kink, there's much awkwardly hilarious fun to be had as boundaries are pushed and secrets revealed. New to Los Angeles, young couple Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott) are invited to a night-time playdate with Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godreche) when their son makes friends with their boy at the park.
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Film Review: 'Minions'

★★★☆☆
It's hardly a stretch to say that when Despicable Me debuted to enormous success in 2010, many of the accolades were being fired in the direction of its heaving mass of supporting players. From Jerry to Dave, to Phil to Tim, the yellow pill-shaped little blighters provided oodles of slapstick hilarity to complement Gru's more traditional narrative arc. Having cashed in on their popularity through ubiquitous merchandising, serviceable sequel Despicable Me 2 (2013) probably leaned on them a little too much. Perhaps this might have invited questions as to whether they were capable of headlining their own movie. Fear not, because Minions (2015) is a riot.
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Film Review: 'Going Clear'

★★★★☆
Paul Haggis, director of the Oscar-winning Crash (2004), was a struggling young writer in a failing relationship when he first came across a man on a street corner offering self-help advice via a book called Dianetics. Written by pulp sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard, the book had been a massive bestseller and led to the formation of the Church of Scientology, which sought to formalise, institutionalise and proselytise Hubbard's teachings. Haggis was hooked, reacting to the direction and discipline it offered and defending it from criticism at every possible opportunity. It certainly didn't hurt to have a network of actors and agents who were also Scientologists.
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Film Review: 'Everyone's Going to Die'

★★☆☆☆
"I feel like I should say something important," says Ray, the melancholic career criminal in the midst of a midlife crisis. This essential emptiness plagues, Everyone's Going to Die, the visually shiny debut film from British collective 'Jones', which first premiered at Edinburgh in 2013 and is now in cinemas. Despite the dramatically apocalyptic promise of the title, not much happens in the kind of oddball day-in-the-life movie Hal Hartley made in the early nineties. The Unbelievable Truth in particular seems to have been an inspiration with its leftfield romance and monosyllabic hero. Melanie (Nora Tschirner) is a German girl who we first meet waking up on a floating mattress in a swimming pool with a Hitler moustache.
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Film Review: 'Concrete Clouds'

★★☆☆☆
Lee Chatametikool's debut feature, Concrete Clouds is something of a cautionary tale couched in a portrait of two brothers cast adrift during Thailand's economic crisis in 1997. Made in 2013, with the society on the brink of another collapse, it is easy to read the allegorical warning in this elliptical narrative that appears to predict history tragically repeating itself ad infintum. Lee has enjoyed a hugely successful career as an editor over the past thirteen years and this first directorial effort bears various hallmarks of those filmmakers that his collaborated with previously. In particular it outwardly resembles Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History (2009) while trailing a foot in more populist waters.
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Edinburgh 2015: 'The Messenger' review

★★☆☆☆
Bogged down by a directionless narrative and pedestrian execution, David Blair's The Messenger (2015) benefits slightly from a committed performance from rising British actor Robert Sheehan. But even that isn't enough to hold the audiences attention, meaning scope for this film is limited. Jack (Sheehan) is a troubled soul. Ever since he was a child, he's been haunted by voices of the dead. Unable to escape, no matter how much alcohol he drinks or pills he pops, Jack is stuck in a vicious cycle, targeted by those who died with unfinished business. The latest of which is Mark (Jack Fox), a murdered reporter who never got the chance to say goodbye to his wife (Tamzin Merchant).
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Edinburgh 2015: 'Chicken' review

★★★☆☆
The debut feature from Joe Stephenson, Chicken (2015) - premièring at the Edinburgh International Film Festival - is based on the stage play of the same name with an adapted screenplay co-written by original author Freddie Machin and Weekend (2011) actor Chris New. After a shaky start, this British drama set against the sweeping East Anglian backdrop picks up considerably before reaching a conclusion that packs quite the emotional punch. Richard (Scott Chambers) lives in a beaten-up caravan on someone else's land with his older brother, Polly (Morgan Watkins). He spends his days farming and caring for his pet chicken - and lifelong best friend - Fiona.
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