jonathan pearlman

jonathan pearlman

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Thank you Netflix! For just a small outlay every month I have been treated to the most extraordinary films I'd not heard of. Here is my new listicle: a selection of films I believe to be worthy enough to recommend without any hesitation. 

I'm not a film critic, but I can wax or shred lyrically if time or energy permits. Sadly for you (dear listener), I have decided that my musings need to be truncated and so I have tried to commit myself to fewer than 50 words to each film. I doubt I have managed to convey very much at all with respect to plot and story; worse, the descriptions might be pithy and vacant to those who are unfamiliar to any of the following films. 

Trust me when I say that each of the films in the list below are worthy of your attention. Almost all were released between 2006 and 2012 and most can be allocated to the catalogue of 'Indie' films.


INTOUCHABLES: touching and uplifting. Based on a true story: a billionaire quadriplegic takes on a street-wise con artist as his personal assistant. France. 5 stars.

LORE:  Gloomy and oppressive - a tale from the ‘other’ side. Her parents, high-ranking Nazis, having been captured by the Allies, Lore leads her siblings across Germany seeking refuge. I was looking for revenge and found only sympathy. Germany. 5 stars.

MONSIEUR LAZHAR: To Sir With Love! Lazhar, an Algerian refugee accepts a temporary teaching post in Montreal and finds himself helping his charges come to terms with the trauma of their former teacher who had hung herself in their classroom. Not as depressing as it sounds! Canada. 5 stars

LONDON: THE MODERN BABYLON: Tour de Force. Contemporary documentary which take us on a tour of London’s most recent history. UK. 5 stars

AFTER THE WEDDING: Some people give the oddest gifts!  Wealthy businessman offers millions to save Jacob’s orphanage in India but with strings attached. Watch it and weep for all the children - the true stars! Denmark. 4 stars

END OF WATCH: Gut wrenching with a denouement you wouldn't hope for. Understated and dismal. The extraordinary tale of an LA PD patrol car and its two occupants during various shifts. USA. 4 stars.

EUROPA REPORT: A bat out of hell! Remarkably overlooked sci-fi thriller; gloriously confined within a large space-pod, a team of astronauts voyage to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Footage of the ensuing maelstrom courtesy of the on-board cams ensures a claustrophobic adventure for the viewer. The ending is decidedly daft. USA. 4 stars.

KING OF DEVIL’S ISLAND: Try unclenching your fists! Based on a true story. the film tells of the events leading to the eventual closure of the notorious Basto Boys Correctional facility in Norway. Brutalised, the older boys revolt which leads them, ultimately, to confrontation with the Norwegian army. Norway. 5 stars.

UPSTREAM COLOUR: All but impossible to summarise without giggling, but here goes: a couple try to re-build their lives after being abducted and having their heads messed with a chemical extracted from a wild-flower! I kid you not. Bizarre and confusing; time retreats and accelerates; you’ll never want to eat bacon again. Bonkers. USA. 4 stars.

BERNIE: C’est la mort. Inspired by true events, Jack Black’s Bernie is ingratiatingly, cloyingly loveable. He’s too good to be true, isn’t he? A tale of love, dependency and murder. Shirley Maclaine, as Bernie’s wealthy, widowed benefactor, is magnificent. USA. 4 stars.

ELECTRICK CHILDREN: Decidedly off-beat. A quirky but mostly satisfying indie film tracing a young Mormon girl’s quest for her holy grail in Las Vegas (of all places!). The denouement, whilst also not exactly original,  was a tad grating for my liking. USA. 4 stars

A BAND CALLED DEATH: Well before Rotten and Vicious there was a band called ‘Death.’ Proto-punk, if you will, borne out of Detroit in the early 1970s who rose to prominence through a series of  small episodes of serendipity in 2008. A well researched, beautifully presented doco. Buy the album!! USA 5 stars.

THE IMPOSTER: You can’t fool all the people most of the time, can you? Words should fail you after watching this. They certainly failed me! The narrative of imposter Frederik Bourdin as told through this immensely unsettling doco. A con-artist, Bourdin bluffs himself out of prison in Spain by claiming to be an american abductee. Almost everyone, including the abducted boy’s family, believes (or wants to believe) the boy has returned, after many years, from his abduction. USA. 4 stars. 

BOY: Beautifully filmed in New Zealand with an amazing cast of children. A boy’s father returns to the family home after years of absence; his presence slowly dissolves innocent fantasy embroiling Boy and his younger brother into unsavoury adult pretensions. A film about shattered dreams and digging holes. NZ. 4 stars.

STARLET: I believe it was the accompanying film poster that drew me to this film. Well, we all have our peccadilloes, don’t we? Dee Hemingway portrays an alluring, kooky, aspiring young actress in LA. She befriends Sadie, a decidedly not nice 85 year old widow. Starlet steals the show whilst Sadie’s battle with friendship and a lost dog is a marvel of modern cinema. USA. 4 stars.

BLAME IT ON FIDEL! Paris in the 70s: a childs view of extreme left-wing politics. A precocious and annoyingly intelligent young girl beautifully portrayed by Nina Kervel-Bey and starring Julie Depardieu as her mother, questions her parents’ radical political lifestyle. She’s a counter-revolutionary, and knows it! France. 4 stars.

GOMORRAH: Good god, what did you expect? The title should be a warning to you: this is not a pleasant film in any sense. A film about the mafiosa in and around modern-day Naples; intertwining stories make for an uneasy viewing experience. Watch it through gritted teeth. Italy. 5 stars.

THE DOUBLE HOUR: I won’t spoil this intriguing film for you. Suffice to say: Sonia is shot in the head during a bungled art robbery. Her recovery leads her to suffer from strange visions of the dead and flashbacks to incidents that may, or may not, have played out in her life. Italy. 4 stars.

THE RETURN: revisiting the now familiar story of a father’s return to the fold, this dark and wholly unsettling film places the children front and centre in almost every scene. The resultant emotional and physical pain the brooding, angry father inflicts on his two boys is barely suffused through his eventual fate. Extraordinary and breathtaking cinematography. Russia. 5 stars.

FISH TANK:  Katie Jarvis plays a not-so-sweet 16 year old; attitude with a mouth to match. This is a wonderfully subjective film that portrays life in modern working class England and the young people who must suffer it. Short of optimism and big on escape plans, anything can be possible if you play your cards right. Who better to show you how to play the cards when you’re a girl just turned 16? Michael Fassbender on hand, so to speak. UK. 4 stars.

THE HOUSE I LIVE IN: This is an important documentary and should be compulsory viewing for everyone over the age of 13. Modern-day America as seen through the eyes of those caught up in the cross-fire of the never-ending war on drugs. USA. 5 stars.

LONDON RIVER: “Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew - Wanted to know what the River knew, Twenty Bridges or twenty-two, For they were young, and the Thames was old And this is the tale that River told:” In the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings two parents each search for their missing children. Fate, or luck, brings them together. This is their story. UK. 5 stars.

OMAGH: Not an easy film to watch; I sped through the bomb blast. Based on true events, the film chronicles some of the the victims’ families as they tried to come to terms with what had happened and to seek justice for their loved ones. They discover how the investigation was botched by the Police and how the threat to bomb Omagh was known by the Secret Service well beforehand. Justice denied the truth. UK. 5 stars.

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