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For Now

Festival, Review 2 Comments

Four young adults embark on a road trip from LA to San Francisco. there’s Kane (Kane Senes), an Australian filmmaker; his girlfriend Hannah (Hannah Barlow), an actress struggling for her big break; her brother Connor (Connor Barlow), a ballet dancer heading for an audition in San Francisco, and Katherine, a friend who has been crashing on Kane and Hannah’s couch and is starting to wear out her welcome. Kane plans to propose to Hannah when the moment is right, but underlying tensions and unresolved issues between the four might make that impossible.

A semi-autobiographical film shot on a shoe-string budget over the course of seven days, For Now is light on plot but functions well as a “hang-out” movie. It’s mumblecore through and through, adopting the improvisational, unscripted style of the Duplass brothers and Joe Swanberg, with everyone playing analogues of themselves and processing their real world anxieties and interpersonal conflicts for the camera. Whether that’s pretentious is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s worth remembering that these are members of a generation that have grown up in the panopticon of social media – performative behaviour arises naturally out of that environment.

It helps that they’re, by and large, fun to be around – there’s an easy amiability to the proceedings as the quartet cruise through some stunning NoCal landscapes, getting blissfully stoned and doing what millennials do. The comedy is incidental and banter-based, and the whole thing hangs together remarkably well, given that it’s a gestalt of single takes and on-the-fly moments.

It does drag a bit in places – the advantage of a script is that a scene can get to its actual point with economy, and there are times when we have to slog through the improv to reach the crux of the moment. Similarly, there are a couple of points when the drama is a bit beyond the actors’ capabilities in that exact moment, and perhaps an extra take or two would have nailed it. These are hardly deal-breakers, though.

A handcrafted film possessed of easy charm, For Now is definitely worth a look.

 

 
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Cheer Up (For Film’s Sake Festival)

Festival, Review Leave a Comment

The word cheerleader brings to mind images of curvy, bronzed girls from the south of the United States, overly-perky and grinning huge, white smiles as they shout encouraging affirmations to some primary-coloured football team. But Christy Garland’s Finnish documentary, Cheer Up, is anything but: taking us into the lives of a losing teenage cheerleading team in the Arctic Circle, we follow cheerleaders Patricia and Aino, and their coach Miia, whose lives kind of suck at the moment. But how can you be a peppy cheerleader when you can’t cheer yourself up?

Cheer Up’s biggest twist is that it’s barely even about cheerleading: instead, it is a quiet, meditative documentary, offering a deeply personal, sometimes heartbreaking look into the lives of three women struggling with tragic pasts and uncertain futures. Patricia is struggling to find her place in her changing family dynamic; Aino is straining to keep up with her rock-band friends; Miia is taking chances to find love and maintain her professional life, and as these three women fight for some control over their lives, their cheerleading family is their only constant. Garland takes you on an emotional rollercoaster as Aino, Patricia, Miia, and their whole team fail and come out on top, but through it all she reminds us that the people around us are not only also fighting their own battles, but understand our pain and are here to help.

Full of stunning arctic visuals and silent pauses full of meaning, Garland is a master of less is more, taking a story which could’ve easily offered loud, dance-filled distractions, but only uses them sparingly, choosing instead to focus on the women and their lives. Even the cheerleading routines that we do see are gorgeously symbolic: close-ups on elated faces, triumphant flips have been painstakingly practiced, reminding us of the journey that these girls have taken to get to this moment. Cheer Up is a poignant reminder of the twists that life can take, and a quiet encouragement that you can always get back to the top of the pyramid.