Thoughts on Clique, episode one

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Since going online only BBC3 has clearly strengthened its brand identity. Before, seen as a channel which produced throw away reality programmes aimed at teenagers, it is fast becoming a platform for new and emerging talent. Perhaps it is because of this online move that the channel seems able to offer new writers the opportunity to hone their skill. Following on from last year’s well-received Thirteen, which focused on a female victim of kidnapping and her subsequent re-emergence into society, Clique looks set to continue the welcome trend of female-centric drama.

Billed as a psychological thriller, it focuses on Holly (Synnove Karsen) and Georgina (Aisling Franciosi, two childhood friends who find that university life and a mysterious internship begins to drive a wedge between them.

Written by Jess Brittain, best known for her work on the later series of Skins, Clique focuses on university life, depicting the various entanglements of university with a darker edge. Having only watched the first episode thus far, it seems apparent that Clique isn’t entirely sure what kind of show it wants to be, but it perhaps all the better for it, allowing Brittain to experiment with form and generic conventions. There are certainly strains of Skins apparent, with the improbably glossy-haired, impeccably turned out university students adding to a sense of hyperreality.

Brittain has created a strange dichotomy in Clique focusing on both the reality and recognisable moments of university life. She references the entanglements of Fresher’s week and the time spent in the library, as well as alluding to this hyperbolic lifestyle that the proposed internship affords. Georgina, making friends with the current batch of interns who have been billed as the brightest and the best, admires the hedonistic lifestyle that it enables, and desires to become an intern herself. Holly, choosing to largely observe, notes that the internship seems to be more than simple photocopying and making cups of tea. To her, it is clear that this internship is potentially questionable and in turn dangerous. It’s not yet clear just what this internship entails, and presumably it is this that will form much of the narrative of the remaining five episodes.

Thus far, Clique has shown itself to be well-paced, with a talented cast. Despite or perhaps because of its tendency towards melodrama, the first episode at least, is engaging and relatively immersive.

 

In praise of Love

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To the undiscerning, Netflix’s Love may appear, at first glance, to be nothing more than a lazy, clichéd romantic comedy in which the geeky male protagonist improbably forms a relationship with the attractive female protagonist. Starring Gillian Jacobs as Mickey, and Paul Rust as Gus, the series focuses on the pair’s developing relationship, from initial meet-cute, in which Mickey asks Gus to pay for her cigarettes, to their eventual and inevitable hook-up.

Certainly its detractors have pointed out the unlikeliness of the relationship between Gus and Mickey  yet to highlight the disparity between the two involves only taking the characters at face value. One dimensionally, Mickey is far more attractive than Gus. She is largely successful in her career, whereas Gus, desperate to write his own screenplay, struggles with his role as an onset tutor (and often does a terrible job). Yet both characters have their unlikeable and difficult qualities which help to both develop and deepen their characterisation.

Mickey is, in part due to her various addictions (love, sex, alcohol, drugs), often selfish and thoughtless. In forming a relationship with her housemate Bertie, she relies on her for emotional support yet, at least initially, offers little in return. Mickey knows that she is often controlled by her addictions, but in turn, recognises that Gus, despite his perceived affable nature, is just as damaged and selfish as her. It is here, in this characterisation of Gus as the supposed nice guy, which helps to elevate Love beyond the standard rom-com and enables it to be both a thoughtful rendering of a burgeoning relationship and an effective depiction of individual damaged characters.

Gus, despite his apparent niceness and largely positive interactions (he has a plethora of quirky friends) is, in actuality, pseudo-nice. What makes his ‘niceness’ all the more damaging is the fact that he believes it in so earnestly. He truly believes that he is a good guy, who deserves to be recognised for his niceness. He doesn’t understand why his first girlfriend found his thoughtfulness and sincerity so suffocating. For Mickey, his congeniality is, at least initially, refreshing when compared to her past relationships, but she quickly realises that Gus’ presentation of himself belies his true nature.

Much of Gus’ life feels set up and constructed, down to his comical interactions with his students, to his ritual of writing movie theme songs with his friends for songs that don’t have theme songs (Carlito’s Way for example). This concentrated construction stops Gus from confronting his true desires, and when approached by an attractive co-worker, he finds that he is unable to resist the opportunity at playing another role. It is this that makes Gus and Mickey so ideal for one another. They bring out the truth and reality in one another, and only then can they begin to accept who they are. This is not to suggest that Mickey and Gus are reliant on one another in the manner of a co-dependent relationship, but rather, that their relationship with each other affords both the opportunity to try out different roles for themselves without the fear of being judged or treated differently.

In fact, despite Gus and Mickey’s attraction to one another, they spend much of the series apart. Indeed in one episode, Gus and Mickey make plans to see one another, but due to work commitments and social interests, the pair fail to see one another, showing that their characters can and do exist independently from one another. Gus and Mickey don’t need one another, they want one another, and this is an important distinction to make. It is this assertion that helps set Love apart. It features two protagonists who are fully realised, and developed in their own right. Each leads interesting and entertaining lives, and while many of these events mirror each other (with both struggling with issues at work for example) they are separate.

Season two of Love is released on the 10th March 2017.

Dunkirk – trailer

I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan. The Prestige in particular, is one of my favourite films. For some, his action sequences are poorly shot, and the emotional core of his films can seem hackneyed. Personally, these criticisms have never landed with me. While Nolan’s direction doesn’t always work, his attempts to create intelligent, multifaceted films should always be praised.

His latest effort, Dunkirk, due next summer, looks suitably impressive in scope. Starring Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, the film features muted cinematography coupled with huge scale action sequences. Given that Nolan has written the script, I will be interested to see the nature and direction of the narrative. It looks, from the trailer at least, that the film will largely feature an ensemble cast. Given the continued focus of the event, featuring in countless film narratives, I am looking forward to seeing how Nolan attempts to offer a new take on the event.

The Girl on the Train – Review

Psychological thrillers are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, both in fiction and film. It is hardly surprising then, that after the literary success of The Girl on the Train, that a film adaptation quickly made its way to screen.

Emily Blunt stars as Rachel, an alcoholic whose dependency has resulted in increasing isolation. Travelling into the city each day under the pretence of attending work, she finds herself entranced by a young couple and their romantic interactions. For Rachel, this couple represents everything that she and her ex-husband could have been before the pain of infertility and his indulgence in extramarital affairs became too much. The proximity of this couple to her previous home, which is now inhabited by her ex-husband and his previous mistress, makes this illusion even more difficult and tangible.

The book, using names as chapter headings, is told from the first person perspective of three women. Rachel, Megan (part of the young couple who Rachel fantasises about) and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s current wife. The film takes a similar, and rather lazy approach, using title cards to show which character we are currently viewing. Rather than relying on film visuals, the film chooses to heavily invest in character voice over, meaning that often, the film feels rather more like an audio book.

Thus, along with Rachel, we are privy to the inner thoughts of Megan, who is battling with a past incident and struggling with her current relationship. The contrast of Rachel’s fairy-tale version of Megan’s relationship, as viewed from the train, with the reality as told by Megan, is a nice touch, dispelling with the mythology that so often surround relationships. Yet, even when supposedly becoming intimately acquainted with Megan, hearing her express her fears and desires, we never get to truly know her as a character in her own right.

Megan becomes a fantasy figure, projected by both Rachel and Megan herself. Megan, in struggling with her own identity, constantly conjures a hypersexualised version of herself, yet this image is never really brought into relief. As a result, we never truly care about her character. This means that her disappearance, an event that apparently provides Rachel with a new purpose and obsession, feels inconsequential. Similarly, Anna’s story, which largely charts her domestic drudgery, is far from involving.

The film is hugely flawed, both in terms of its adaptive process, and its characterisation. The speed of the adaptation and subsequent production is telling, and immediately mars the transition from page to screen. The overreliance on voiceover merely demonstrates the inability to take risks by deviating from the source text in any form. It is understandable, if questionable, that an adaptation for a hugely successful book would attempt to directly render it onscreen, but in doing so, the adaptation becomes superfluous.

It would have been far more interesting to see the motivations of the characters depicted through visual means, rather than being explicitly told. Such an approach highlights a perceived lack of intelligence on the part of the audience, as if without being directly told how a character feels, we would not be able to understand.

The depiction of women too, is rather problematic. While it is certainly refreshing to see a film feature three lead women, it is only worthy of praise when these women are complex and fully formed characters. Each female character, despite their apparent individuality, are all motivated by similar aims and obsessions. Furthermore, each female character seem to hate other women. Rachel, rather than feeling anger towards her ex-husband for his affair, projects her rage towards Anna. Megan, in declining to start a family with her husband, is depicted as unfeeling and unempathetic. Her sexuality, rather than feeling empowering, is shown to be manipulative and dangerous.

The pacing is off, meaning that any tension that existed in the novel is lacking in its visual counterpart. As a result the film, in failing to involve and engage through its characters, as well as requiring some major editing to its overlong two hour running time, is simply dull. The tone is strangely pitched; taking itself far too seriously. Certainly the cast do their best, but the end result is a B-movie without any schlocky enjoyment.

2/5