Film of the Week #3

Michael Prescott
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The third Film of the Week doesn’t give us quite as much to work with as the last two lineups of films-on-television, but that’s why we’ve got a number of writers to scour the listings and find the oft-unchampioned treasures amongst the rubble.

For your pleasure this week, we’ve got a film from the back-catalogue of Woody Allen, plus a teenage female fighter and a British historical crime flick.

They are, in order of TV appearance…

Hanna (2011)

Monday night (24th March) / Saturday night (29th March): 9.00 – 11.10pm (Film4)
by Michael Prescott

Joe Wright takes a break from adapting period dramas (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina) to take a shot at the emerging sub-genre of female teenage ‘revenge’ films in the form of Hanna.

Despite the rise in female protagonists in animation (Frozen), high-school coming-of-age films (Easy A), comedy-romance ensembles (Mean Girls, Bridesmaids) and musicals (Pitch Perfect, The Sapphires), this type of film typifies the lead girl as strong, fierce and uncompromising in what is a traditionally male role/genre.

Having taken influence from 1994’s Leon in which it was Natalie Portman who did the killing – with the likes of Hard Candy, Haywire and The Hunger Games each doing a similar variation in more recent times – it’s another H in the form of the eponymous Hanna that freshens the narrative.

Wright captures a stylish sensibility with the cinematography and the striking score – partly composed by The Chemical Brothers – forming this enviable evocation. Hanna (Saoirse Ronan in one of her strongest roles to date) is on the run from Cate Blanchett and uses the skills and advice of her father and leader (Eric Bana) in order to survive.

Though it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does allow for a detailed, beautifully-crafted version of this female hunter character to thrive in a developed storybook world.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Wednesday night (26th March): 00.00 – 1.45am (Channel 4)
by Jay Gallagher

It might not be Allen’s best (generic a choice though it is, I still think Annie Hall takes that title) but Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a quintessential part of the man’s noughties output in that it marks a significant shift in style.

The film plays out like a classic Allen rom-com, yet there is a tragic element to the piece that makes it all the more engaging. When the credits roll and the humour is over, you’re left with feeling a tad depressed, much like you are in Allen’s most recent gem Blue Jasmine.

Like the later Midnight in Paris, this is a film that demonstrates Allen’s considerable talents as a director, rather than just a writer. The use of sumptuous Spanish locales sucks the audience into the drama and grants the film an almost ethereal quality, which makes it easy to get lost in the story.

On a similar note, who knew Allen could make a film so… well, so sexy? Seriously,Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a sexy film. The romances are electric and, whether you’re a fan of the man’s work or not, it’s worth seeing just to see how Allen handles this type of material.

With a warm, humorous script, some solid direction and an impeccable performance from Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is one of Allen’s better post-millennium films. It might not be as tight as some of his earlier efforts but, other than some dodgy exposition, it works rather well and is genuinely funny.

Let Him Have It (1991)

Friday night (28th March): 5.00 – 7.00pm (True Entertainment)
by Raks Patel

I have chosen Let Him Have It because it is a very powerful and moving British film, based on the true story of Derek Bentley, highlighting a real miscarriage of justice.

The film is set during the 1950s and gives a real sense of what it was like to live in Britain at that time. Rationing is in place, money is tight, and life is hard. But families and communities are close-knit.

Let Him Have It tells Derek Bentley’s story, seen through his eyes. Derek is played by Christopher Eccleston in what would be a breakthrough role.

Derek is a kindly soul, but has learning difficulties, and this makes him vulnerable. Written off as “subnormal”, often mocked and rejected, Derek wants to have friends and to fit in. He is befriended by Christopher Craig and is pleased to be included in Chris’s “gang”. Derek wants to impress and prove himself.

But Derek’s new found friendships prove his undoing. He gets mixed up in a burglary, where Chris kills a police officer by shooting him. Derek is an accomplice and the prosecution argues that Derek’s words – “Let him have it” – incited Chris to kill the police officer. Yet Derek may simply have been asking Chris to hand over the gun.

The final section of the film focuses on Derek’s trial and the verdict, and his family’s increasingly desperate fight to overturn Derek’s death penalty. The film really draws you in so that you feel the intense pain and suffering of Derek and his family, and you grieve for them and with them.

Let Him Have It highlights real injustice within the British criminal justice system and is a powerful testament against the death penalty. Highly recommended.

About Michael Prescott

24-year-old Welsh writer on all things film. Background in Philosophy. Accidentally in Sheffield for 6 years and counting. Addicted to Kevin Spacey. Tweetable: @M_S_Prescott

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