Tuesday, 21 December 2010
This Can Motion Pictures Review Special...
In an industry fuelled by Superhero movies, sequels and countless reboots it’s genuinely hard for the independents. With the demise of UK Film Council still ringing in their ears, it’s hard to see a way through. Matthew Daniels and This Can Productions came up with a way to get two passion projects off the ground and filmed.
This is the first of my two features about them and the work they are doing; we start with a review of the two features in question; Powerless and Finding Their Feet. Both of which have underlining themes of hope in the face of adversity, much like the films themselves which Mr Daniels had help funding using ebay. The decision to sell credits on ebay is an inspired idea, people get a piece of your film and a named credit at the end depending on the amount of money they are willing to part with.
We start with Powerless, a great debut in anyone’s book, its rough around the edges but it sure as hell looks the business. We follow a young family after a tragedy when they lost their dad, it tore them apart. Their mother has relocated them out of the big bad city in an attempt to try and hold them together. After a terror attack during new years celebrations in London brings the country to a halt, this damaged family must pull together to survive.
It’s a good premise that has promise of a very personal view on what is a very real threat to people these days. Unfortunately this is not really explored, blame it on budget or time constraints but you really only get a vague feeling of the panic spreading the country. When it does show up, it shows up really well and tantalises the viewer with glimpses of real threat that it never really delivers on. From radio sound bytes, TV’s going off and a driver screaming “it’s everyone for themselves now!” you really get a feel for impending doom and it never really happens.
Of course there is something here despite the events outside; a dysfunctional family must deal with lack of food, parenting and each other. As family secrets begin to spin out of control so do family matters. It works well as something in the foreground to this terror attack but does seem to strangle any other theme out of the movie. The acting is coming of age, as the family on screen are also a family off screen. Every member working on real life relationships with a bit of added scandal, it works well and adds to the reality.
The Direction is really the key though; an Amateur does not have this kind of control over his shots proving that Matthew P.D Daniels is a talent to keep your eye on. Building tension well with variation of shots that include artsy with mundane close ups, cutting them together with assuredness in the material that only helps to bring up the credibility to what is a very low budget production.
Finding their Feet is a harder sell than Powerless, it’s a feel good coming of age piece that feature ballet. However this isn’t Billy Elliot we’re talking about here, our main characters have some big flaws, one speaks his mind, and the other doesn’t speak at all! Danny is the cheeky chap who speaks his mind, played confidently and likeable. Kate is our mute, after losing her voice in an accident she’s forced to convey her feelings in other ways. It’s a challenge for the actress sure enough, but handled confidently and positively adorable.
What makes “Finding their Feet” a hard sell is there isn’t as much original material in the story; the characters and their arcs are predictable. You also get the feeling your watching something that had a so much more potential to be funnier than it is. Its biggest fault however is some of the acting from the smaller players, a “loan shark” type character with little or no threat in its performance, a wizened dance teacher more forgetful that insightful and other very minor players showing their amateur routes.
Saying this, the writing has matured since Powerless and after watching the making of a bit of freedom given to the actors for improvisation. It adds to the independent nature of the production make it all the more likeable. The direction once again is handled with a command of someone with more experience, this time more emphasise on more arty shots that help with the ballet and dance theme. A surprise ending top it off and only help to seal the deal for Mr Daniels and his future endeavours.
Coming up, an interview with the man himself about the two projects and the themes behind them, what’s next and above all; beating the Movie business to get his films made.