Tag Archives: Film Reviews

Tenement TV launch The People’s Film Collective at St Luke’s, Glasgow – 23rd February 2016


St Luke’s is a music and arts venue based in a converted church in Glasgow’s east end. This beautifully restored Grade B listed building retains the church’s original features and includes stained glass windows and a pipe organ which dates back to the early 1800’s. Also within the venue is The Winged Ox bar & kitchen.

The venue was the perfect place to host the launch of Tenement TV’s – The People’s Film Collective – an event where music and movies come together, in unusual places.

Music came from Barrie-James O’Neill (Nightmare Boy) and The Bar Dogs. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its release (is it really that long?!) we were treated to a screening of Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo & Juliet. And when the film reached its tragic conclusion (no spoiler alert – everyone knows how the story ends! ) with Romeo & Juliet dying on a church altar surrounded by candle light – it was fitting that we found ourselves watching the sad scene unfold in St Luke’s. Here’s a selection of photos from the night.


For more information on St Luke’s – see St Luke’s Glasgow Website

For more information on Tenement TV – see Tenement TV Website


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Filed under Events, Films, Gig Reviews, Glasgow, Live Music Reviews, Music, Photography, Scotland, St Luke's Glasgow

Film Review – Hector, and a spotlight on homelessness

Hector Movie Poster

Quicker than a swirl of a lightsaber, the country has embraced the Dark Side. The hotly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has opened with gross earnings estimated to reach £1.3 billion. So on the weekend of the film’s release, I duly went out to the cinema – but not to see the fate of Han Solo – I went to see the heart-warming Hector, a film about a Glaswegian homeless man.

Hector is the directorial debut of Jake Gavin, known more for his photography skills. But on this showing, a bright film career beckons.

The film has already been hailed by some as the best Christmas movie this season. And this is a film that makes you count your blessings and instills a will to help those less fortunate than yourself. It’s not a shiny, sugary sweet fairytale but a story with a sharp gritty realism and grim settings.


We follow Hector’s journey, and he’s sensitively and expertly played by Peter Mullan. The Glaswegian actor is known for playing some down-right nasty characters. I only saw him in Sunset Song, just a few nights previous – where he was Chris Guthrie’s brutal father, a heinous hateful man with a heart full of demons. But here as Hector, Mullan shows an understanding and a softer touch. With a worn face, grey beard and with sometimes twinkly blue eyes, I would actually like to see him play a modern day Father Christmas in some kind of alternative festive story. But as Hector, he’s a man who’s been dealt a hard hand from life, and his back story unravels during his journey from Glasgow to a London homeless shelter to attend an annual Christmas dinner.

Hector Movie

The film is a stark reminder that for some people life cruelly snatches away those things we hold dear, and the phrase “there but for the grace of god, go I” springs to mind.

Hector and two of his homeless friends, joined by a dog called Braveheart, are sleeping where they can, in doorways, in toilets and under cardboard. There’s the everyday practicalities of being homeless, trying to keep clean, keep charge of your worldly possessions (thugs mug Hector and try to steal from him), and get access to medical help.

Then we join Hector on his journey. He’s suffering from ill-health, limping and using medication to keep pain at bay. There’s lots of motorway shots, as he hitches lifts, and we see the kindness of strangers. The high-vis jackets that “fall off the back of a lorry” and into the hands of the homeless, the church who gives him shelter and the cafes who feed him.

There’s the down points, as Hector tries to reconcile with his estranged family, after he “gave up on life” and disappeared for 15 years, and there’s also the fate and desperation of his homeless friends, Dougie played by Laurie Ventry and the young 18-year-old Hazel, played by Natalie Gavin.


When he gets to the London shelter we meet Sara, who works there, played by Sarah Solemani. She appears like an angel, a wonderfully kind, non-judgemental and humane character.


At the shelter we see various sides of homelessness, from the young boy, to a drop-out priest and an injured soldier, to the chancer-like Jimbo – played by Keith Allen – who turns in a good job in this role.

We don’t know their back story, but we still wonder what led them to where they are, and what their fate will be.

The men are treated with care and respect and receive the things we take for granted. Hot water, clean clothes, a bed and a hot meal. And I defy the hardest heart not to break down when a male choir sings a rendition of Abide with Me, to the men who sit quietly with their own thoughts.

This is a sensitively put together film which puts the plight of homelessness to the fore and challenges some perhaps pre-conceived perceptions.

It will also make you want to help others and I hope it leads to some charities receiving more help. There’s lots of great organisations around the country.

The Christmas appeal from  Glasgow City Mission has the tagline “Love Changes Everything” and you can donate £7 to give a homeless person a Christmas meal, while £22 will feed and support a homeless person for a month.

Social Bite is a great social enterprise café who help homeless people. Read more about them here –  Social Bite

and there’s still time to buy into the Social Bite Itison deal, it runs until 22nd December. Donate £5 to help feed a homeless person at Christmas and also help refugees in Europe.


I also love the good work of the Rucksack Project, where the Glasgow arm of this is organised by Lorna McLean. Thousands of rucksacks have been donated and delivered to help those in need.

See more at The Rucksack Project Glasgow who help many charities around the city and surrounding areas including the Simon Community Scotland

If only we could brandish a lightsaber and solve the world’s problems, in this universe and in any universe, no-one should be sleeping on the streets.

Peter Mullan interviewed by The Independent had this to say:

Your new film ‘Hector’ was out last week; ‘Star Wars’ was out this Thursday. That’s big competition. Why should we see ‘Hector’?

When it started off, Star Wars was about the little people taking on the Death Star and now it is the Death Star. So go and see little independent movies in protest against the Death Star. If you really want to help Luke Skywalker, go see Hector.

Read the full interview here: Peter Mullan interview – The Independent


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Filed under Charities, Charity, Film Reviews, Films, Glasgow Film Theatre, Scotland, The Rucksack Project

Magners Live, From Scotland With Love, Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow – August 2015

Magners Summer Nights

In a disappointing summer, a surprisingly almost balmy evening  greeted the Magners Summer Nights sessions.  It was a perfect landscape for this sepia-tinged nostalgic evening. There was a viewing of the film From Scotland With Love with a musical backdrop performed live by King Creosote. The film is a cinematic patchwork quilt of old black and white film showing Scotland and its people throughout the decades. We see people at work and play. We are reminded of many of our now defunct industries, the lifeblood of which ran through the country’s veins. It was a time where work was hard, physical graft, but as people worked hard, they played hard too. Often they were saving all their time and money for those precious days away on Scotland’s packed coastlines. And it’s where we see the beauty pageants, the men and women dressed up smartly in their best clothes, queuing for ice creams, building sandcastles, swimming and frolicking on sandy shores.

From Scotland With Love Poster

From Scotland With Love Poster

The team behind the film includes director Virginia Heath, producer Grant Keir, editor Colin Monie, while Fife’s King Creosote (Kenny Anderson) composed a gorgeous soundtrack which gives a voice to the footage.

There’s songs like Pauper’s Dough which accompanies scenes of manual labour, protests and riots, and the words “You’ve got to rise above the gutter you are inside”.

One Night Only is a rollicking romp through people at play and although it’s all light-hearted fun, as with most King Creosote lyrics, there is a dark edge, and an air of added mystery as we search for the character in the line  “Wayne is appearing for one night only”. And he could be anyone lurking in the shadows, standing observing from afar or mingling among the crowds.

From Scotland With Love Album by King Creosote

From Scotland With Love Album by King Creosote

Director Virginia Heath was commissioned to create this documentary film to coincide with the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It’s an excellent piece of work backed by a sensitive soundtrack. Both are available to buy and come highly recommended.

See links below for more information:

BBC Link – The Making of From Scotland with Love

BBC Link – A Century in Film – From Scotland With Love

From Scotland With Love Website

From Scotland With Love DVD

From Scotland With Love DVD

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Film Review – Whiplash


At this year’s Oscars, the award for the Best Picture looks like being hotly contested between Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Birdman starring Michael Keaton, but could a film about jazz drumming sneak in and win the coveted award?

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is a thrilling tour de force. The film has already seen actor JKSimmons win a Golden Globe and a Bafta for his portrayal of bullying music teacher Fletcher. He is also tipped to win one of the five Oscars for which the film is nominated.

It’s a film that had trouble getting out of the starting blocks as director Chazelle struggled to get support for a film about jazz drumming. Initially the film was made in a short version. The main focus being the relationship of the two characters, teacher Fletcher and student, Andrew, played with aplomb by Miles Teller. There’s a quick fire intensity and interplay between the two, and the film becomes a gladiatorial battle, as the camera switches like a tennis match between the two main protagonists. A former musician, Chazelle says his film is based on a teacher he had when he was a drummer.
Some scenes are simple but highly effective. It’s the close attention to detail. The camera focuses on Fletcher’s perfect shiny black brogues as they approach the classroom. The sound of his rhythmic footsteps ricochets down the long corridor. You shrink in you chair and feel the impending doom.
A surprising subject for an Oscar winner perhaps but a film that’s excellently crafted and well worthy of accolade. It may just sneak in on the grand finale with a jubilant drum roll.

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Film Review -Testament of Youth

 Testament of Youth movie poster

It seems the actress to watch this year is Alicia Vikander. From appearing as a robot in Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina, to starring alongside Ewan McGregor in the gritty Son Of A Gun – you can’t escape her. And with a list of roles so diverse, she’s not likely to be easily typecast.

Her first film reeled out this year saw the 26-year-old Swedish star put in a stunning performance as Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth.

Testament of Youth - Alicia Vikander

Director James Kent cast her after seeing her in the excellent Danish film A Royal Affair. He was struck by her luminosity on screen, which is very apparent in Testament of Youth. Kent has a background in documentary film-making and perhaps that informs the amount of facial close ups and attention to details. Faces are studied for every nuance of emotion. Vikander lights up the screen and conveys a breadth of emotion through her eyes. From tender and attentive in her romance with Roland Leighton played by Kit Harington to the fiercely impassioned campaigner when giving a rallying speech against the futility of war, to the fiery defiance in her exchanges with her father (Dominic West). She displays a vulnerability matched with a steely determination.

Kit Harington and Alicia Vikander in Testament of Youth

Kit Harington and Alicia Vikander in Testament of Youth

Vera Brittain’s daughter is Baroness Shirley Williams, and she apparently took a lot of persuasion to agree to her mother’s book of the same name, being interpreted for the big screen. Vikander was understandably nervous when she met Williams but at a live satellite Q&A broadcast from the BFI Southbank, Williams professed to be more than happy with the young Swede’s protrayal and could see no-one else taking on that role.

At the Q&A Vikander said she felt an affinity with Brittain and admired her drive as a young intelligent woman trying to make her way in a world where even having dreams of a university education was frowned upon and discouraged.

Williams worried a movie of her mother’s book would be reduced to a tragic love story, with the focus on Brittain’s romance with Roland. Testament of Youth is about so much more. It’s about the three men in Brittain’s life, Roland Leighton, (Kit Harington) best friend Victor Richardson (Colin Morgan) and her brother Edward (Taron Egerton). As well as being a testament to them, it’s also a testament to the era and to all the men and families who suffered during and after the first world war.

Testament of Youth

Actors – Kit Harington, Colin Morgan and Taron Egerton in Testament of Youth

This is one woman’s experience of war, an historical account seen through her eyes. Initially her fight is to get to Oxford and sit exams, which was a battle for women at the time. Fresh from class, she picks up a newspaper and looks through the countless pages, lists of names of those who have fallen on the battlefield. Suddenly her idealistic ambitions of education pale into significance. She volunteers as a nurse and tries to piece together the wounded and nurse the dying.

Testament of Youth

Throughout the film we see Brittain’s transformation. The young optimistic girl who went to Oxford with dreams of becoming a writer found herself walking through a sea of dead and broken bodies cruelly cast aside from the battlefields. The hospital huts are full and in one arresting scene we watch an aerial camera shot as Brittain picks her way outside the hospital hits. The rain is heavy, the ground muddy and soldiers are sprawled everywhere.

There’s a pivotal scene where Brittain, initially surprised to be tending to injured German solders, finds herself comforting one of them as he dies. There’s a realisation that we are all the same. A uniform doesn’t distinguish the dying wish of a man who cries out for a loved one with his last breath. The absurdness of war strikes her as she writes to her brother Edward – here I am Edward trying to keep alive the very men you are risking your life to kill – it makes you think. it really makes you think.

There’s the contrast of Brittain’s early life. The carefree closeness of friends growing up, swimming in lakes and wandering through lush English countryside.

Testament of Youth

Picture credit: BBC Films

With war, the colours become dark, muted and the space of the film is very claustrophobic.

Testament of Youth

D Day arrives to much rejoicing and celebration, the war has been won, but Brittain has lost everything. We get a glimpse of the pacifist that Vera Brittain became as she steps up to give an impassioned speech about the futility of war. She returns to Oxford to resume her studies but nothing can ever be the same again.

Testament of Youth - a book by Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth – a book by Vera Brittain



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Film Review – The Lunchbox


The Lunchbox movie poster

The Lunchbox movie poster

The Lunchbox is a surprising little Indian film that doesn’t have the glamour, colour, dancing and music of Bollywood. Instead it’s quiet, understated and harks back to a tried and tested romantic format. It evokes such films as The Shop Around The Corner, You’ve Got Mail and at times, Lost In Translation.

It’s also a fascinating insight into the 5,000 or so dabbawallahs of Mumbai. These are lunchbox delivery men who for more than 125 years have operated an efficient business supplying lunchboxes, called tiffin boxes, to the city’s office workers and back every day. Without a computerized system and often illiterate it’s claimed that only one in a million deliveries go astray. A fact which was a finding of a six month Harvard Business School study into the service.

Debutant writer/director Ritesh Batra serves up a film that focuses on the story of the one lunchbox that goes to the wrong person.

We are introduced to Ila, (Nimrat Kaur) firmly believing that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, as she lovingly puts all her soul into creating wonderful little dishes for her husband’s (Nakul Vaid) lunch. He is unappreciative, more interested in his mobile phone, and it soon becomes apparent that her lunchboxes are being appreciated elsewhere.

The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox
Nimrat Kaur

They are in fact landing on the desk of sombre widower Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire), who is just short of retirement after 35 years working for an insurance company. The wonderful feast in front of him compels him to write a letter of thanks which he returns with the lunchbox … and she writes back.

The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox
Irrfan Khan

Bit by bit, we get a glimpse into each of their lives through their correspondence. It’s touching and nostalgic. It reminds of the romance of a simple letter. In a digital age – who writes letters anymore?

The characters surrounding the main two lost souls complement them. Saajan has a protégé (Shaikh, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui), ready to take over once he retires. Shaikh is an exuberant puppy often rebuffed by Saajan’s chagrin. But through time we learn that for all Shaikh’s eternally optimistic demeanor he has his own form of loneliness and he becomes a loyal friend to Saajan.

Meanwhile Ila’s support comes in the form of a character who we don’t even see, as her only company on most days is someone called “Auntie” (Bharati Achrekar) who lives up upstairs. They converse by shouting to one another and passing food up and down in baskets from one floor to the other. The “Auntie” is caring for a sick husband and can’t leave her home. It confirms the feelings of loneliness running through the film.

But for all the messages of loneliness and fractured relationships there is hope for a different path to a new and better life.

And in the words of Shaikh “My mother used to always say sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station”.

Quote from Saajan Fernandes, who has spent his working life standing in crammed public transport travelling to and from work every day …

Saajan Fernandes: “When my wife died, she got a horizontal burial cot … I tried to buy a burial cot for myself the other day, and what they offered me was a vertical one … I’ve spent my whole life standing in trains and buses …now I’ll even have to stand when I’m dead!”

One day while traveling on public transport a younger man stands up and offers Saajan his seat. Saajan for once sits down. It’s a simple gesture which affects him greatly as Saajan sees it as confirmation of his advancing years and fast approaching retirement.


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Film Review – In The House

François Ozon’s latest movie is a psychological drama that takes its viewers on an emotional ride with more twists and turns than a basket full of snakes.

Kirstin Scott Thomas and Fabrice Luchini from In The House

Kirstin Scott Thomas and Fabrice Luchini from In The House

Following on from 8 Femmes and Swimming Pool, Ozon’s In The House stars Fabrice Luchini (The Women On The 6th Floor) as Germain, a disillusioned high-school teacher of French literature who finds a renewed inspiration in the writings of one of his students, 16-year-old Claude (Ernst Umhauer).  Claude has become maths mentor to another pupil and the two boys strike up an unlikely friendship, but it seems Claude has other motives. He has a desire to be accepted into his classmate’s family home and becomes obsessed with his friend’s mother, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner).

In The House: Fabrice Luchini, Emmanuelle Seigner and Ernst Umhauer

In The House: Fabrice Luchini, Emmanuelle Seigner and Ernst Umhauer

His confessional-style writings portray that of a creepy voyeur who has infiltrated another person’s life and is dishing all the intimate details. His observations always end with a “to be continued …”. Germain’s fervour increases with each instalment and he feels a compelling urge to keep the story going. He takes Claude’s writings home, and in reading them to his art gallery owner wife Jeanne (Kirstin Scott Thomas), also embroils her in the game.

It seems the boy is orchestrating events as deftly as a Stradivarius maestro. He’s manipulative and decidedly creepy, and you fear an inevitable tragic ending.

Ozon then throws in a few dramatic twists. There’s a blurring between reality and fantasy leading to confusion about the schoolboy’s relationship with the mother.

All during the film Claude remains a mystery. There is a brief snapshot into his dismal and bleak life, where we feel a surprising turn of sympathy, leading to a renewed confusion over the motives behind his actions.

In the House: Ernst Umhauer

In the House: Ernst Umhauer

And by the time the movie reaches its surprising conclusion, all you are left with are questions and your own interpretations, together with mixed feelings for Claude, suspicion or sympathy?

If you like your films all nicely tied up, you are likely to be left confused and frustrated.

But there is enough intrigue to keep the audience engaged until the final scene. There’s also a brilliant performance by young Ernst Umhauer, and future stardom surely beckons.

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