Monday, 16 November 2009

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: West of Pluto



This was one of those stand out teen angst films with well-drafted, interesting and complex characters that was infinitely watchable: you just want it to go on and on and on!

At first it comes across as a docu-drama style film, where teens directly address the camera and speak about the big issues that are affecting them. But then a narrative develops, and the plot then becomes about a house party that gets gatecrashed by ‘the popular crowd’ and then the drunken, messy antics of the night that follow it.

The two characters with the most appeal were the two outsiders: there’s Emile who is uncomfortably picked on by the cooler girls at the party, hassled by her older brother and still grieving over the loss of her father. She is easy to relate to and sympathise with, and the actress wrestles some real emotion out of her trauma. And then there’s Jerome, who is deeply in love with one of his classmates but is too shy to tell her – and then he watches as she goes off with another boy at the party (GRRRR!). Despite all of this, at the end of the film he still presents her with a dinosaur tooth he spent all of his money on, telling her it is “eternal” – like his love for her. He is completely impossible not to like - I love the scene where he’s so angry she has gone off with the other guy that he gets a microphone and stands in the middle of the ice rink they’ve appropriated and yells out the poem he has written for her in front of all of their classmates. Superb!

I also really liked Pierre’s step-dad who doesn’t have a clue about parenting, but is trying his best just to clumsily get along with the best of intentions (“have you been bullied? I saw something about that on TV – they take your hat and your shoes.”). The unlikely alliance he strikes up with Pierre’s friend after he finds him beaten up on the side of the road and then takes him to A&E portrays one of those pivotal moments in someone’s life that will change who they are as a person – unconsciously – forever. It’s a really nice inclusion into a film that has so much to contribute on many levels.

The one thing that was slightly odd and unnecessary about the film was the attempt to make a link between the lives of the teenagers and the space shuttle mission to Pluto, the smallest planet in the solar system that has now been downgraded to a star. I wasn’t sure what they were trying to get at with the comparison, as it never seemed relevant to anything that was happening on the screen. Still, it didn’t harm it in any way so I won’t pick at it too much!

Oh, and I LOVE Quebec – it remains one of my favourite places in the world, and it's really lovely to see such great cinema coming from it.




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