Mad to be Normal: Glasgow Film Festival 2017, Closing Gala

Mad to be Normal: Glasgow Film Festival 2017, Closing Gala

It was the 9th of January.

A grey, crisp morning sat outside my front window. But I was not paying attention. My phone screen had my eyes glued to it. My father tried to make early morning chit-chat. He received none in return.

Refresh refresh refresh.

Sweat was forming on my forehead but there was no time to wipe it off. I barked orders at my father to join in my quest. On my iPad I kept constant contact with my friend as we were both in this together. If we both fail, it’s all over.

Then, the worst happened.

SOLD OUT.

My heart sunk to my stomach. I looked up at my ceiling with betrayal, curse words forming at my lips, my father trying to comfort me, but it wasn’t enough. I had failed.

Then, I got the message from my friend.

I GOT THE TICKETS!

And with that, we were on our way to see Mad to Be Normal – the closing gala of Glasgow Film Festival 2017 – on the 26th of February.


We were nearly late but we made it.

The red carpet was laid out in front of the GFT’s entrance. Giddy young girls flashed their phones and squealed as David Tennant took pictures with them. I saw the back of his head. It was enough to quench my inner fangirl. 

Once into the GFT (through the side entrance) we were given a free drink: a whiskey cocktail in a small plastic bottle. I had a sip but took the rest home with me. I wasn’t going to turn down something free.

Then, on each seat, there sat a bag of popcorn. After paying £15 per ticket, I was feeling a bit better about the price.

Sadly the only cinema we could get tickets for was Cinema 2. However the GFT had a camera in Cinema 1 (where all the stars of the movie sat along with various other VIPs) so live footage was relayed to us. We were successfully kept in the loop and I couldn’t fault the organisers for that.

However, don’t ask me to clap for ScotRail. Are you kidding?

After a few thank-yous, a short speech from director Robert Mullan, and a hyper speel from David Tennant that made me fall in love with him even more, the movie began.


Instantly I wasn’t impressed. The titles seemed tacky and unprofessional to me. It only got worse when text appeared on the screen to tell me, “the sixties.” I initially thought this was because the time period would constantly change during the film but no other titles appeared stating a time period change. Furthermore, why have a title telling the audience where a particular scene is set? Just show them! It’s in Glasgow? Show a Glasgow landmark. They’re now in New York? Show something constantly associated with New York! That’s the beauty of film; you don’t need to tell the audience anything – just show them.

Furthermore, I felt the editing and transitions between scenes was sticky. I believe it was to show the mental state of the characters involved but seeing the screen fade to black only to quickly jump to another scene made the film feel amateur. Yet I did like the merging of archive footage with the film. Usually I hate this creative choice but for this film it worked perfectly and I wish they had used it more.

Putting the editing aside, I don’t have much to complain about this film. I mean, who can fault David Tennant? My boyfriend pointed out that while his initial introduction to the character was highly believable, it seemed like his commitment to the character fizzled out very quickly. This was possibly because footage of R D Laing is limited and the footage that is easy to find is from interviews where he stutters and takes long breaths.


However, after doing some research on the famous psychiatrist, I found an article the BBC wrote from Dr Laing’s son’s point of view. Adrian Laing was not impressed with Mad to Be Normal and even goes as far to state that he “doesn’t recognise” his father. After looking into R D Laing for myself, I discovered that his love interest, Angie (Elisabeth Moss) and colleague/good friend, Paul (Adam Paul Harvey) in the movie actually do not exist. History paints quite a different picture which I find highly disappointing. I would rather be told of the truth – or, at most, a highly exaggerated version of the truth.

Yet, I fail to find someone who can nail emotional scenes like Tennant. No one can make me cringe less than him during scenes that could easily turn into a cliche or hard to watch. He can easily break my heart with one voice break. Even if that’s not how it really happened.

“I helped bring you into this world, I’ll help you out of it.” 

Tears. I felt the script was very believable. It had the right mix of drama and comedy to keep me interested. But, seriously, what is it with people laughing at swearing? Is it a millennial thing to not be phased by a f-bomb anymore? 
Overall, I don’t have much to say. I can’t say I adored the film, and I wasn’t blown away, but I also didn’t hate it and would watch it again. I was mostly intrigued. There is no doubting that Dr Laing is a fascinating man. The way that the film was pitched to me, I expected more detail to be told of his studies into LSD and the film would revolve around this. However, it mostly focused on Dr Laing himself and how he dealt with controversy, family and work. After finding out that this is apparently incorrect, it only makes me more intrigued.


Maybe this was the purpose of the film, maybe it was not. Overall, I believe if you have the power to portray someone’s life on screen you should do it as accurately as possible in order to honour them. For example: Hacksaw Ridge

Although the film itself was interesting and compelling to watch, I have to admit it lost a lot of respect from me when I realised characters I sympathised with were merely fictional. My main advice? Take this Ronnie Laing as a character and not as a historical figure. 

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Manchester By The Sea (2016)

Manchester By The Sea (2016)

After agreeing with my boyfriend that we would not buy each other Valentine’s Day presents, you can imagine my guilt when I open the boot of his car to find a bouquet of roses. So, a trip to the cinema was due.

I knew nothing of this film. I hadn’t seen a single trailer, read a single review or heard any of my classmates talk about it. I had no expectations (apart from award winning acting from Casey Affleck) so I was diving straight into the deep end completely blind.

From a filmmaking point of view – I’m impressed. I felt the overall story was realistic, written perfectly to convey this realism, and the characters held up this theme expertly. 

The theme of the film was grief and loss. Affleck’s character Lee is forced to return to his home town to take care of his nephew. This town holds many demons for him and the film revolves around exposing his past. Sometimes I feel the theme of a film can be debated but during Kenneth Lonergan’s script it seemed obvious. He handed the delicate subject with ease and not once did I cringe at forced and unrealistic dialogue.


I feel this is what I admired most about Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea. During the usual scenes you see in melodramas, the dialogue can get samey, cringey and ultimately boring – we see and hear it too much. “I’m sorry for your loss” – etc. However, what Lonergan does to get around this is mute the scene and replace it with dramatic music. The emotional plinks from the piano tell the audience everything they need to know without patronising them with simple dialogue. I personally found this extremely refreshing.

Yet, don’t get me wrong, the dialogue that we do hear is fantastically written too. The relationship between Lee and Lucas Hedges’ character Patrick is beautifully touching to watch. Their characters are so real and raw that I can’t help but soak up the acting and atmosphere. I am willing to make the claim that these are the best formed characters in cinema I have seen this year – and probably last year too. I’m so unbelievably happy that Affleck nicked the title of best actor from Ryan Gosling because he truly and utterly deserves it.


However, taking out all of the technical critiques, taking my filmmaking head off for a moment, I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with Manchester By The Sea. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for a drama and wanted more of an escapist film like action but I left the cinema wishing I had rather stayed in.

After sitting on this review for nearly a week now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the film was just too real for me. Although I can admire things and understand creative decisions, I’m only human and I want a happy ending. I understand why the film ended the way it did but it just wasn’t what I wanted to see. I wanted growth from the characters, a sense that things have changed, some closure that Lee was okay. But I was left feeling empty. I wanted something more.

Furthermore, I feel a film as instantly failed if you are aware of time passing when watching it. More than once I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable, bottom falling asleep, and wondering how long I had been stuck in the dark. Even my boyfriend admitted there was no need for it to be over 2 hours long.


Overall, I feel this is a film I would love to study in my uni class as I would have so much to say, but, inevitably, I would not watch it again for pure enjoyment. Sometimes life doesn’t have a happy ending but I would at least like to pretend.

So maybe next Valentine’s Day I’ll just make sure I get my boyfriend something. 

Double Review: Split vs Hacksaw Ridge

Double Review: Split vs Hacksaw Ridge


After a full day of university, all I wanted to do was go home for a cuddle with my boyfriend. However, he had other plans.

A double bill at the cinema.

And you may be wondering what connects these two films. It could be their use of hand held footage, point of view shots, or good acting, but truth be told, the only connection was the fact myself and my boyfriend couldn’t decide what film we would prefer to see. So we watched both.

Let’s begin with Split.


I’m glad we saw this film first. It seemed to be a child’s film compared to Hacksaw Ridge and if we had seen that first I think it would have been a long night. 

When the trailer for Split first dropped, I knew I didn’t want to see it. I knew straight away I wouldn’t be impressed and I would leave knowing I could have wrote a much better script. And, yes, I did leave feeling that way but I was tricked by the many critics on Twitter. “That ending! The twist!” they would write. I felt I may have been too harsh in my initial thoughts, so finally gave into the pressure and witnessed Split for myself.

The acting was impressive by most individuals. Anya Taylor-Joy is an ever growing talent and good things are only going to come from her. Haley Lu Richardson also impressed me with her realist character, however Jessica Sula let the girls down. To be fair, she has much less acting experience than her peers but her character was entirely unbelievable. Much like, in my opinion, James McAvoy. I knew from the trailer that this film would have agents fighting over the main character as it could easily show the full potential of their client – and truth be told, McAvoy was impressive. However, I just wish that the different personalities that he was given were more interesting. The three main personalities the audience meet are Dennis (who is utterly boring), Patricia (who is equally poor) and Hedwig (who is just uncomfortable to watch). These parts are incredibly different to anything McAvoy has performed before but I’m not certain if this is for the better.

Warning, spoilers in the next paragraph!


I’ve heard many people complaining about this film. It puts mental illness in a bad light, it isn’t realistic and it makes these disorders seem like superpowers. And, on some level, I do agree. I’m not entirely sure if I understood the end of the film, but in my opinion, it seemed to say that self harm and abuse makes a person beautiful. The main female lead was “broken” and “pure”. I felt I was being told that you are only worth something if you have something tragic in your past or have suffered. This, in my opinion, is such a strange justification for characters’ motives and drive. Also, what if Casey didn’t have any marks on her body to prove that she was abused and “broken”? She still has a tragic past but she has no proof of it. Is she any less broken if she has no physical proof? 

Furthermore, I felt cheated. The end of this film makes no sense if you have not seen Unbreakable (2000). It was like M. Night Shyamalan had tricked us all to watch a new and exciting movie when, in reality, he was just setting up for another film. It felt like a spin-off villan’s backstory that failed to make any real impression on the audience. 

To put it simply: I’m glad my boyfriend payed for it so I didn’t have to.

Now onto Hacksaw Ridge.


The opening to this film completely let it down. I failed to see the importance of seeing Desmond Doss’ childhood with his brother. There was no need for it as the reason for Doss not touching a gun or being violent was revealed later in the film. Furthermore, starting with the battlefield, then to cut back 18 years or so, then to only flash forward 16 years again, it was completely unnecessary and ruined the flow of the film.

However, this is possibly the only problem I have with the film. Mel Gibson did a fantastic job creating Doss’ story. After the opening blunder, I was lured into a false sense of security. There was Doss, an adorably awkward young man, who is painfully smitten by his true love, Dorothy. It started as if it was a love story – Doss leaving for the army and promising to come back safe. It was ticking all the boxes for a hormonal teenage girl. 

Then, Doss arrives at the army training camp. Vince Vaughn does a fantastic job at being the strict yet hilarious Sergeant Howell. I found myself giggling, smiling and slowly being drawn in by the film’s charm.

And then, BOOM.


Literally, boom. I felt how the young men must have felt. Being told of the war through rose tinted glasses, being made to feel immortal in their uniforms, having a laugh at camp then, boom. The battlefield. Much like Saving Private Ryan (1998), Gibson doesn’t hold back. Within the first few beats of the battlefield scene I had already witnessed people loose legs, intestines and brains. I was physically repulsed by the action and I think this is what the film achieves the most. It truly shows the horror and makes you feel the emotions which is amplified for Doss as he has no weapon to defend himself with.

Yet, I felt the film was trying to make me feel angry towards the Japanese. When they surrendered (which shouldn’t be a spoiler, cause like, history) I didn’t feel a sense of victory. The war was so utterly brutal, with both sides loosing hundreds of men, being slaughtered as if they were nothing but numbers. I merely felt relieved when the Japanese surrendered because it meant I could finally stop holding in my tears and relax.

Obviously this film is based on true story and is never 100% accurate (I mean, Doss was a cool guy but no one kicks a grenade though), but what touched me the most was to see footage of the real Desmond Doss at the end of the film. To finally see the man himself was a beautiful end to such a full on, heavy film. Hearing him describe some of the events in the movie was also a fantastic element. Overall, there couldn’t have been a better ending.


You may have guessed that Hacksaw Ridge was my favourite out of the two films. Hacksaw Ridge started with an advantage though as it is a true story and absolutely anyone can be inspired by Desmond Doss. As a Christian, I found myself in awe of this man who has so much faith in God – so much so that he went into battle without a gun to protect himself. That is something I know not every believer would do.

But it’s not just Christians this film inspires. My boyfriend who has no relationship with the church or God was left stunned with Doss’ bravery. The unbelievable faith that one individual can have in an invisible force is mind blowing and I believe everyone is left speechless after this film.

So, in conclusion, if you are faced with a similar decision as myself and my boyfriend, don’t spend all your money – just go for Hacksaw Ridge instead.

T2: Trainspotting 

I’ve put off writing this review for a week now. And, to be honest, I still don’t want to write it.


Let me start this off by saying: I finally understand. All those people who groan every time another Disney or Pixar sequel comes out – I get it, I finally get it. What is the need for a sequel if it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger? If it doesn’t have any unanswered questions? If the audience is incredibly satisfied with the original film?

Well, money would be the answer, but I’m here to critique the movie, not the motives behind it.

So Trainspotting 2. T2. Danny Boyle is back with his iconic hit – along with all of the original cast which I found fantastic. It wouldn’t be Trainspotting without them so I’m glad they all returned to the story.

All the parts were there in order to make a beautiful film. However, I was left disappointed. When I came home, over a week ago now, my mother asked me, “So how was it?” sounding about as sceptical as I had felt. And I replied, “Very okay.”

I wish I felt the same as many of my peers because, the truth is, the majority of the audience enjoyed it. However, “not as much as the first one” they’re all quick to add.

And maybe that’s my problem. The first film is held on such a high pedestal that anything compared is utter nonsense. My friend told me that she loved T2 because it gave an update on the characters. It’s aim wasn’t to be better than the original – it was simply to show what happened. 

However, I feel it could’ve been done much better.


Trainspotting 2 felt like a tribute. Danny Boyle reused shots, editing techniques and threw in so many Easter eggs. It felt incredibly overdone. I mean, although the newly updated “Choose Life” speech was impressive and beautifully performed by McGregor, the way it was set up seemed forced and false. It was as if Boyle and John Hodge (screenwriter) had a checklist and were simply ticking off everything they needed to include. It stopped feeling like a film and simply became a tribute act.

I understand the film was about nostalgia. The use of old home footage made that obvious. I understand it was about old versus new. The use of mobile phone footage and CCTV cameras made that extremely apparent. I understand those who saw the original movie in the cinemas way back in 1996 will be taken back to their youth. My mother read the book and still remembers when it first came out. I understand how fantastic it must have felt to finally include the scene where it explains the film’s title. But to me it didn’t matter. If you’re going to make a sequel to Trainspotting you need to make it it’s own movie. Seeing the characters wasn’t nearly enough. 

Furthermore, I felt the acting from a few individuals dipped. At some points, I felt Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy) slipping into his usual character of Sherlock Holmes. I felt Spud’s (Ewen Bremner) expressions were completely exaggerated for the majority of the film, and although humorous, it was not needed. However, Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor will never fail to impress me.


But, side note, did anyone else find it unnerving when characters were referred to by their Sunday name? 

As my boyfriend pointed out, T2 offered no hope. In the first one, Renton’s character ended the film with the statement, “The truth is that I’m a bad person. But, that’s gonna change – I’m going to change.” However, Renton didn’t change. He still is a bad person. Although this may be an accurate representation of human nature, I felt deflated at the closing credits. Like my friend said earlier, she wanted an update on the characters but, when the update is disappointing, I would rather not have it at all.

However, don’t get me wrong. I found myself getting caught up in the action and enjoying myself around half an hour in. I found moments in the story to be endearing, certain scenes were incredibly hilarious and, I have to admit, it was nice to have the gang back together. I just believe it could have been much more iconic.

But maybe I’m just picky. I will still choose the original Trainspotting