Movie Reviews: Nowhere Special is a sentimental journey that luckily never turns into melodrama

Nowhere special

our stars

Now in select cinemas, Cert 12A

Death is the only natural absolute of life. It is a certainty shrouded in mystery, which both fascinates and horrifies us. It’s no wonder then that death is such a strong theme in all art forms – and especially in film.

You might think that all possible death-related scenarios have already been played out onscreen – but Uberto Pasolini’s Nowhere special is a very original interpretation of an end-of-life story.

In 2017, producer / director Pasolini read an article about a single father of a four-year-old boy. The father was diagnosed with an aggressive and deadly form of cancer, and with the boy’s mother away, the father spent his final months searching for a new family for his child.

The article featured photos of the father and son – and it was these in particular that spoke to Pasolini. He began to write a fictionalized version of the story and focused on two main themes.

The first one asked what life would a parent want to give their child – what kind of people, what kind of home would be best for their little one? And is it even possible to know?

The second part was how a parent might explain their own impending death to a small child. The process raised many different issues, thoughts and feelings for Pasolini, whose three daughters are adults. There were questions about fatherhood and bonding, family, memory, inheritance and death. All of these questions, and a few answers, shape his film.

Transposed to an undetermined town in Northern Ireland, Nowhere special is about a window cleaner named John (James Norton) who lives with his four year old son Michael (Daniel Lamont).

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From the first scenes, it is clear that John is a loving father whose devotion is reciprocated by the little boy. Their connection is so deep that it requires few words.

John wants to choose the family that his child will live with after his death. In the company of a young social worker (Valene Kane), the father and son visit various families approved to adopt.

Although very young, Michael knows that something is going on, but his father just doesn’t know how to explain it. We are not told that John is sick, but it becomes obvious. And we see the boy troubled by a strangeness he can feel but not understand.

John’s role is unusual for Norton, who was born in London and raised in Yorkshire. He has played very different characters so far, including villainous Tommy Lee Royce in the TV series. Happy valley and a vicar in charge of solving crimes in Grantchester.

He is wonderful in Nowhere special – soft and reserved, but full of unspoken. And what he says is said with a remarkably precise Belfast accent.

The death of a parent is an event that defines life so much that it is, inevitably, a strong theme in art. Think Hamlet. The loss of a parent was also a strong theme in fairy tales and fables. There wouldn’t have been a mean mother-in-law for Cinderella, Snow White, or Hansel and Gretel, if their mothers hadn’t died and their fathers hadn’t been so unwilling to stand up for them.

In the cinema, too, many famous people have been forged by the loss of a parent. We see it in Harry Potter, Bambi and The Lion King. However, the concept of preparing children for the imminent death of a parent is relatively unusual.

Movies like Mother-in-law, terms of affection and recently Our friend have all focused on the time before a mother dies, but all take place in families where the children will stay. These films were also star-studded vehicles that didn’t shy away from tears.

Nowhere special avoid melodrama at all costs. Neither Pasolini nor the actors milk emotion, so the film puts you in the skin without tearing your heart. “Death” is never mentioned, details of John’s illness are mostly avoided, although there is clearly something wrong.

It gives a powerful sense of the looming threat that Michael feels as a small child.

The film carefully pricks the fairytale trope of the indifferent father and attacks the cliché that mothers are more important parents than fathers. There’s a lot going on in the sparse dialogue and the short runtime (1 hr 36 mins).

Despite his inherent grief, there is something peaceful, even uplifting, about Nowhere special, and the feeling persists after the credits rolled.

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Guy and Eep reunite in “The Croods 2”

Guy and Eep reunite in “The Croods 2”

Four stars
In theaters now, Cert G

In 2013, Dreamworks Animation delivered a new prehistoric family: The Croods. They were the Flintstones for a new era, with a starry voice cast. The long-awaited sequel has finally arrived – and with the same star-studded cast and non-stop jokes, it’s proverbial fun for the whole family.

The film begins with a brief recap of how Guy (Ryan Reynolds) lost his family and was taken in by the Crood family, a cave dwelling. Now Guy and Eep Crood (Emma Stone) are thinking about a future together, much to the dismay of Crood Grug’s father (Nicolas Cage).

Such worries are diverted when the Croods stumble upon the glorious and comfortable world of the Bettermans (Leslie Mann, Peter Dinklage). They all find themselves in a banana-related battle with punchmonkeys and a terrifying monster. Gran (Cloris Leachman) must deploy her wig, the Thunder Sisters save the day, and so on.

It’s, in short, a loaded movie, full of invented stuff like kangarillos and chicken seals, lots of physical humor and catchy jokes. The story is thin, the moral on the feeling of superiority is nice, and there are big themes of female power. Small kids may find the monster a little scary, but the Croods should really keep all ages entertained.


The action franchise reached fifth place with

Action Franchise Reaches Fifth Place With “The Forever Purge”

Action Franchise Reaches Fifth Place With “The Forever Purge”

The purge forever
Three stars
In theaters now, Cert 12A

Eight years after the start of the franchise, the fifth and final installment of The purge the series hits theaters.

The first film had political overtones and depicted events that seemed to (suddenly) happen in reality. Writer James DeMonaco’s final chapter is overtly political and frightening, as what it describes seems increasingly possible in the United States.

The concept of the Purge films is that once a year, for 12 hours, there is a mass melee on crime. Some people lock themselves up, others riot all night.

The final plot is a logical expansion, where those who like to purge no longer see why they should be limited to 12 hours. They have a manifesto, to cleanse America of all non-Americans. Their lack of knowledge or self-awareness is frightening, but their ability to justify their beliefs and actions is absolutely terrifying.

The action takes place in Texas where the need to fight the Purgers forges an alliance between a wealthy racist rancher (Josh Lucas) and two Mexican illegal immigrants (Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta). More action film than horror – even if it is bloody – the plot thunders up to a Mad Max-style finale.

Space Jam: a new legacy
Two stars
Now in the cinema PG certificate

At the start of this film, its star, basketball player LeBron James, says that the concept of athletes in movies can never work. It’s conceived of as irony, it’s a prophecy. To be fair, James isn’t the problem with this Space Jam reboot. He’s not bad and his co-star Don Cheadle is fantastic, but Lord this movie is weird.

It’s been 25 years since Looney Tunes Space Jam’s original crossover, which starred basketball legend Michael Jordan. This time, James is the star, playing a successful basketball player who is so focused on mentoring his sons in hoops that he neglects their true passions.

When his youngest son Dom (Cedric Joe) is seduced into a virtual world by a rogue algorithm, Al G Rhythm (Cheadle), LeBron teams up with the characters of Looney Tunes to save the day.

In a quarter of a century since the original, technology has advanced tremendously and the Galaxy of Warner Brothers properties has grown. So many of these properties show up, from Bugs Bunny to Game of Thrones, that it looks like a giant corporate video.

It’s hard to know who it’s for or who will enjoy it, do kids even know who Bugs Bunny is? I really didn’t like it.

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