When JUDY met JOKER: Mental health in Hollywood

I was recently invited to discuss the portrayal of mental health in movies by the lovely people of the No Really, I’m Fine Podcast, and thought I’d share my notes with you.

It begins with recent films Joker and Judy, and ends with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, taking in Changeling and Airplane! along the way. I hope you enjoy and/or find this useful.

WARNING: contains spoilers

You can listen to the podcast here and give them a follow @ImFinePodcast_

Joker and Judy are two recent and very different films in which the eponymous characters suffer mental illness in very differing ways, and in doing so the pair conform to a long established pattern of gender division in the portrayal of mental illness in the movies.

Joker

Phoenix on fire

Joker is a savage and disturbing thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix an aspiring stand-up comic and part time clown who suffers from a disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times, he’s also generally nervous, lacks confidence and is not good socially.

When his medication and therapy is withdrawn because of funding cuts, he slowly becomes an insane and violent criminal, inspiring riots in the streets.

Judy

Zellweger on song

Judy is a biopic of Hollywood legend Judy Garland, who we see towards the end of her flagging career on stage in London, Renee Zellweger stars in a sympathetic portrait and sees Garland battles with long-standing nerves and addictions, leading to problems in her personal life including fighting a custody battle for her two younger kids, and a difficult fifth marriage.

Joker is a great example of when men in movies suffer mental illness, they typically externalise their problems and make them epic. Men seek to blame and punish others, become violent and their battles take place in a public arena. Male experiences of mental illness are closer to fantasy and framed as heroic, somehow successful, to a degree redemptive, or as in the case of Joker, they become powerful or somehow inspirational.

But when Judy and women suffer mental illness they typically internalise their problems and make them intimate. Women blame and punish themselves emotionally and physically, and their battles take place in the domestic arena. Female experiences are grounded in reality and framed as tragedy.

Plus women’s experiences of mental illness are defined by a perception of promiscuity, and of being a ‘bad’ i.e. neglectful mother, even when that ‘neglect’ is caused by the need to work in order to provide for their children.

It’s notable and typical Joker survives beyond the films end, and Judy doesn’t.

These gender defined portrayals and outcomes are consistent across all forms of mental illness when portrayed in movies, it doesn’t matter what form the mental illness of a character takes. Let’s look at a couple of examples, beginning with an absurdly extreme example to illustrate the point.

Dementia

Still Alice from 2014, is a small intimate, domestic drama which stars Julianne Moore as a middle aged woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes from 2011, is an epic action sci-fi adventure with John Lithgow suffering Alzheimer’s. His scientist son is trying to find a for cure Alzheimer’s, and along the way unleashes the monkey apocalypse.

Snow Cake

Weaver

Autism

Snow Cake is a 2006 indie romantic comedy drama starring Sigourney Weaver as a small town single woman with Autism, coming to terms with the death of her daughter.

Rain Man is a 1988 Las Vegas road trip comedy-drama starring Dustin Hoffman and is about the reconciliation of two wealthy brothers.

Rain Man

Hoffman

The next example is of deliberately inflicted mental damage, and the one after is a symptom of of mental illness, not a cause. However the gender division remains.

Enforced loss of memory; brainwashing.

Gaslight is a 1944 American psychological thriller starring Ingrid Bergman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane.

The Bourne Identity is a 2002 action thriller starring Matt Damon who demonstrates advanced combat skills and fluency in several languages as he fights his way across Europe.

Eating disorders

Heathers is a 1988 satirical High school comedy starring Winona Ryder, which as well as touching upon bulimia, shows high school girls struggling with bullying, fat shaming, teenage suicide and violent, toxic boyfriends.

The Machinist is a 2004 dark thriller starring Christian Bale about a troubled factory worker who loses weight due to insomnia caused by a trauma, and eventually achieves salvation and peace.

So in all these examples we see the gender divide of external/internal, public/domestic, epic/intimate and heroic/tragic. Let’s have an example which provides another typical division, sexuality and a violent response.

Multiple Personality Disorder

Split is a 2016 psychological horror thriller starring James McAvoy as a man with 24 different personalities who kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls. And similar to Joker, he is a super-villain

The Three Faces of Eve is a 1957 mystery drama starring Joanne Woodward as a married but childless woman suffering from a duel personality. Eve ‘White’ is a submissive housewife, while Eve ‘Black’, her ‘other’ personality is outspoken, promiscuous and considered a danger to other people’s children.

Filmmakers couldn’t show Eve having sex in 1957, so her promiscuity is presented in coded form, as dancing with a man other than her husband, who responds by slapping Eve.

This is important as it links madness in woman with promiscuity, and makes clear violence is an acceptable ‘cure’, or at least, a treatment.

Mental illness in men is super-villainy, mental illness in women is promiscuity and mistreating children. Sanity for men is being a superhero, and sanity for women is being married,  maternal, monogamous and submissive. And violence is the treatment. Which brings us to hysteria, and hysterical women in the movies.

HYSTERIA

Lets look at the most common mental affliction for women in the movies: Hysteria.

This can either be having a chronic attack of ‘nerves’, intense anxiety, or standing about screaming. It’s very loosely defined, if at all.

Airplane

Surely you can’t be serious?

Airplane! is a 1980 disaster comedy, the funniest film ever made but not without it’s problems. There’s a joke about a hysterical woman being slapped into submission. First a doctor, shakes her, shouts at her and then slaps her. She continues screaming, and so a fellow passenger steps up to shout, and shake and slap, and behind him is a queue of passengers, and they are armed with boxing gloves, guns and baseball bats.

This joke works because the filmmakers know the cinema audience is totally accustomed to seeing men slapping women when they’re acting hysterically.

I was 11 or 12 years old when I first saw Airplane! and even then I’d seen enough movies to understand the joke.

Hollywood allows, encourages and expects men to inflict violence on women who are mentally ill. Violent ‘treatment’ is justified, accepted, and normal.

The word hysteria comes from the Greek word for uterus, hystera, and the Greeks believed that the uterus moved up through a woman’s body, strangling her, and causing madness.

This suggests an entirely physical cause for the symptoms but, by linking them to the uterus, it means hysteria only affects women. So madness is framed around your gender. And this thinking continued well into the twentieth Century.

Men who don’t have a uterus are inherently sane, women who do, are inherently prone to madness. For women sanity is equated with being passive, submissive, and governable.

Hysteria is a catch-all condition which because it’s definition is so broad, it makes it very easy for doctor’s to identify and treat – usually but not always with violence.

 

Hysteria

Now this won’t hurt a bit

Hysteria is 2011 period drama set in 1880, and starring Hugh Dancy as the real life
Dr. Granville, who treats hysteria.

Because the medical profession thought anxiety originated in the uterus, common practice at the time was to manage the symptoms of hysteria by massaging a woman’s genital area.

Treating so many women results in his hand getting tired. So he adapts an electrical feather duster to use as an electric massager. And invents what we know today as a vibrator.

But the point to this, and remember this is a true story is this is a case of a doctor sexual abusing a mentally ill woman.

During Hysteria a character called Charlotte is arrested and during her trial, the prosecutor recommends Charlotte is sent to a sanatorium and be forced to undergo a hysterectomy, as that would ‘cure’ her.

The important thing to takeaway from Hysteria, the film and the condition, is the link between men diagnosing women as mentally ill, and then using violence and invasive force to subdue them. And here we have another common thread in cinema. A choice between prison or an asylum. We’ll come back to that in Cuckoo’s Nest.

So as well as the public/domestic, epic/intimate, gender division, women are identified as mentally ill for not conforming to men’s ideas of submissive, domestic and maternal womanhood. Also the women are typically punished for their behaviour beyond the expected ‘treatments’, often with death. Here’s a couple of examples, again using different types of mental health for comparison.

 

Falling Down

On the streets

Revolutionary Road

In the house

Depression

Falling Down is a 1993 thriller starring Michael Douglas who walks across Los Angeles using a bat, a gun and a rocket launcher on those who annoy him.

 

Revolutionary Road is a 2008 domestic drama starring Kate Winslet as a childless housewife who has extra-marital sex, then an abortion and then dies.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

As Good As It Gets is a 1997 romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson as a misanthropic and obsessive-compulsive novelist whose reward for redeeming his previous bad behaviour is sex with the gorgeous Helen hunt.

Mommie Dearest is a 1981 docudrama starring Faye Dunaway as real life Hollywood star Joan Crawford, who’s depicted as an abusive mother who adopted her children to benefit her career, she is eventually publicly humiliated and dies of cancer.

PTSD

First Blood is a 1982 action film starring Sylvester Stallone as Vietnam War veteran John Rambos suffering PTSD, who destroys a small town in a one-man rampage.

In Our Name is a 2010 British drama starring Joanne Froggatt as a female soldier suffering PTSD, who sexually rejects her husband and struggles to care for her daughter on her return home from a tour of duty.

Schizophrenia

The Soloist is a 2009 drama starring Jamie Foxx as the real life Nathaniel Ayers, a talented but homeless musician who finds some measure of stability.

Through a Glass Darkly is a 1961 Swedish family drama starring Harriet Andersson who childless and sexually aberrant, sexually rejects her husband but has incestuous sex with her brother.

Suicide

It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 feel-good sentimental fantasy drama starring James Stewart as George Bailey who attempts suicide on Christmas Eve

The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 drama starring Kirsten Dunst, and sees five suburban teenage sisters suffer depression and make a suicide pact. They are all childless and unmarried, and one is promiscuous.

 

Dirty Harry

Men get guns

Criminality

So the gender division leads to women identified as mentally ill for not conforming to men’s ideas of submissive, domestic and maternal womanhood, and are punished for their behaviour beyond the expected ‘treatments’, often with death. Now we’ll see how these signifiers for women’s mental illness are also aligned to criminality.

Dirty Harry is a 1971 neo-noir action thriller which sees a serial killer called Scorpio shooting strangers on the streets of San Francisco, chased by a cop, Clint Eastwood.

Seven is a 1995 crime thriller with Kevin Spacey playing a serial killer, torturing strangers and being chased by a cop, Brad Pitt

Single White Female is a 1992 psychological erotic thriller which stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as a childless and promiscuous singleton who is obsessed with her roommate.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle is a 1992 psychological thriller starring Rebecca De Mornay as a childless widow out to destroy a woman and steal her family.

 

Fatal Attraction

Insane, moi?

Fatal Attraction is a 1987 psychological thriller starring Glenn Close as childless, promiscuous singleton who becomes obsessed with a married man with whom she had an affair.

In all of these films the criminal, man or woman, is killed, reinforcing the idea violence against the mentally ill is acceptable.

But cinema simultaneously aligns female criminality with madness, violent behaviour, promiscuity, childlessness and unmarried.

In all cases cinema is reinforcing a definition of sanity for women, which is to be married, maternal, monogamous and submissive.

And if as a woman you step outside this male definition of female sanity, then expect to be labelled as mentally ill and men are justified in using violence against you, and you may end up dead.Which brings us to Angelina Jolie.

Film Title: Changeling

Check out the bars and that noose.

Changeling is a 2008 crime drama based on real-life events from California in 1928, and stars Angelina Jolie as a single woman called Christine, whose son Walter goes missing. But when she’s reunited with him,  she realises the boy the authorities insist is her son, is a different boy entirely.

She is naturally angry and upset, which as a woman is not the correct mental state to be challenging the State’s authority, as being ’emotional’ allows the police and local government to define her behaviour as irrational, i.e. a sign of mentally illness, and she is vilified as delusional, labeled as an unfit mother, and confined to a psychiatric ward

A doctor diagnoses Christine as delusional and forces her to take mood-regulating pills. Steele says he will release Christine if she admits she was mistaken about “Walter” she refuses. And the film doesn’t end well for anyone.

So cinema shows women being labelled as irrational is an excuse for any manner of abuse by the state and/or medical profession.

And under the guise of ‘treatment’ a woman may suffer incarceration, drug regimes, invasive surgery and/or lobotomy, as well as losing possession of her kids. And the criteria for judging the success of any treatment is how submissive and quiet the female patient is afterwards.

Another criteria for madness is not being maternal, not liking children, women are forced into domesticity and punished when they fail. being labelled a bad mother makes it very easy for the authorities to teak your kids away from you.

There is no happy ending to this film. But it does show some of the nasty ways the mentally ill are treated in asylums.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

I love this film, made in 1975, and was the 2nd of only 3 films have won all four top Oscars, best actor, actress, film, and director.

It was filmed film in a real mental hospital, in the Oregon State Hospital, and consequently is very good on visualising the mechanics of mental health treatment, the bars on the windows, the forced drugs, the physical restrictions such as strait jackets, and the barbaric use of electro-shock treatment.

Cuckoo McMurphy

Nice hat, Chesaroo

Remember how in Hysteria a character faced being sentenced to either prison or an asylum?

Cuckoos Nest starred Jack Nicholson as convicted sex offender Randall McMurphy, who chooses asylum over prison because he wants to avoid a regime of hard labour to which he’s been sentenced. McMurphy thinks the asylum offers an easier existence, and he is of course, very wrong.

 

The central conflict in the film is between McMurphy and Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched, who runs the hospital ward to which he is restricted.

Cuckoo Ratched

The doctor won’t see you now

Presenting a sex offender as a hero was problematic, even for the 1970’s, and so the filmmakers down play the reason McMurphy is in the hospital, with his criminal behaviour rarely referred to beyond the opening scene.

And in the way Airplane! uses the audiences knowledge of cinema conventions to make a joke about hysteria, the filmmakers use the audiences knowledge of cinematic sanity to portray McMurphy as heroic, and to demonise Ratched.

McMurphy’s sanity is emphasised by showing him indulge with cinema’s male signifiers of sane male behaviour, such as playing cards and basketball, drinking, and having sex with a woman.

And it demonises the film’s authority figure Nurse Ratched by aligning her with cinemas traits of female insanity and criminality, such as being non-maternal, non-sexual, and non-submissive.

We’re asked to sympathise with and support an unpenitent rapist, a drunk, a brawler and gambler, and one who isn’t ill but wanting to avoid hard labour. Whereas the person we should be rooting for is the hard working and dignified professional, Nurse Ratched who’s been lumbered with the disruptive McMurphy.

In mental health in the movies, when woman succeed they remain defeated, and when men fail, they still win. It’s well, La La land.

ENDS.

 

Further reading:

https://hekint.org/2017/01/23/portrayal-of-schizophrenia-in-movies/

https://www.autism.org/movies-featuring-asd/

The below is from the World Health Organisation website:

There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.

Mental disorders include: depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders including autism.

Dementia is caused by a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke.

https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Cert 15 117mins Stars 5

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982, 2007) 

Ridley ScottBlade Runner: The Final Cut is the definitive version of director Ridley Scott‘s 1982’s sci-fi noir masterpiece.

Uniquely it stands on a pedestal with 1927’s Metropolis, and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in the sci-fi canon, and alongside 1944’s Double Indemnity as a doom laden noir.

AndroidsDreamBased on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner is a combination of extraordinary visuals, superlative sound, Blade Runner’s superb cast includes Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh and Daryl Hannah.

With various cuts of the film existing and offering very different endings, Scott trims The Final Cut to its noir roots and in doing so unequivocally resolves a long running debate concerning the nature of the central character, the ‘Blade Runner’, Rick Deckard.

Digitally remastered in 2007 for the 25th anniversary of the original 1982 release, Scott removed Deckard’s voice-over and a happy ending which the studio imposed on the original theatrical release, as well as reinserting a unicorn dream sequence.

Blade Runner scroll

The film takes place in Los Angeles of the year 2019. Six genetically engineered humans called replicants have escaped from an off-world colony and made their way to Earth, where their presence is outlawed.

BR fordIn Los Angeles two replicants are killed after trying to break into the headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation. This prompts M. Emmet Walsh‘s seedy police captain to strong-arm Harrison Ford‘s reluctant former detective, Rick Deckard, back into harness.

Though insisting he is twice as quit as when he walked in, Deckard accepts the order to find the remaining four replicants and destroy them, and an origami-modelling cop called Gaff is assigned to monitor Deckard’s progress.

While on the case Deckard first interviews then starts an affair with Sean Young‘s Rachael. She’s the glamorous niece of the head of the Tyrell Corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the chess-playing creator of the replicants.

DeckardThe euphemistic use of the word ‘retire’, reminds us Dick’s paranoid fear of the inevitable decay of our mortal bodies, reinforced by Scott scattering his sets with mannequin parts.

The screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples is a loose adaption of the source novel but is faithful to Dick’s obsessions of decay, transformation, paranoia and identity, and in The Final Cut at least, is respectful of noir’s hard-boiled cynicism.

It can also be read as a twisted riff on John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, with the replicants representing fallen angels rejecting their godlike creator.

Incorporating tolling bells, the magnificent score by Greek composer Vangelis, announces key themes as the film opens and veers between the apocalyptic and the heavenly.

The Tyrell Corporation’s HQ is a pyramidal mausoleum, a suitable resting place for a god before an ascension to a higher level of existence. The replicants can be interpreted as angels or demons who have descended to Earth from the chaotic off-world to challenge the Earth’s divine order, and possibly raise humanity to a higher plane of existence.

Br sebastian

The subjugated and animal nature of Earthbound humanity is explored through the use of rats, those harbingers of disease, decay and death. Tyrell talks of deserting rats when discussing the altering of the replicant’s DNA. There are pet rats among J.F. Sebastian’s engineered toys. Deckard is herded like a lab rat through the decaying prison of a mansion block.

Filmed in the ironwork interior of LA’s Bradbury building, the dreamlike apartment of genetic engineer J.F. Sebastian is a repository of childhood toys which Deckard must escape before he can be enlightened as to his real identity.

Br BattyThe relationship between the replicants provides the emotional core of the film. Daryl Hannah wraps herself affectionately around Rutger Hauer, who plays her partner and the replicant’s leader, Roy Batty.

And though the a homicidal Batty is set up as the villain, Hauer’s poetic and physical performance aches with life, love and loss. His powerful closing monologue which always bring s me to tears is all the more astonishing for being self-penned.

BRrachaelFor those who think Scott is a stylist indifferent to his actors labours, they should consider the performance he elicits from Sean Young, who is perfectly in tune with the demands of the role.

In a brilliantly tense conclusion we see Rachael asleep in her apartment and Deckard approaching her, gun in hand. We don’t know whether he will kill her or kiss her.

There’s a declaration of love and a big sigh of relief from the audience. But as Deckard and Rachael leave his apartment, they find an origami unicorn left by Gaff. This changes the entire thrust of the story and our understanding of it.

UnicornGaff’s origami is evidence he knows Deckard’s dreams are memory implants, causing Deckard and the audience to belatedly realise he is also a replicant. His entire life is a lie and he has unwittingly killed his own replicant family members at the behest of the police, his enemies, who he realises he now has to escape from.

This bleak revelation is perfect film noir.

But the power of Blade Runner has been diluted by the studio edit prompting a discussion over Deckard’s replicant status. This drags our focus from a brilliant noir ending to a non-debate over the nature of Deckard’s humanity.

Instead of the audience being overwhelmed by the force of this drama, for nearly forty years everyone has chuntered over the ‘is he a replicant’ debate, a controversy this definitive version retires.

Harrison Ford was strategically picked to play Deckard in a casting masterstroke of cinematic deception. The audience is fooled by their own presumption the star is playing a hero.

A huge star from his swashbuckling roles in 1977’s Star Wars, and 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, as Han Solo, and Indiana Jones, the audience expected more of the same. Ford’s status as heroic Hollywood leading man leads us to believe Deckard is the hero until we and Deckard realise he isn’t. We don’t expect a character played by Ford to be the fall guy.

The Big SleepAs a hard drinking detective with a laconic delivery and ready attitude in the face of authority, Ford is presented as a futuristic Humphrey Bogart, rebooted, updated and teleported in from Hollywood’s Golden Age of noir.

Ford is happy to riff on Bogart’s goofy undercover book lover in  1946’s The Big Sleep to emphasise the connection. There’s even a reference to Sydney Greenstreet in Bogart’s classic wartime melodrama, Casablanca as Deckard interrogates a fez-wearing gangster, The Egyptian.

Plus the story is told through Deckard’s eyes. So Deckard’s the hero, right? He’s an updated and rebooted sci-fi Philip Marlowe, right? Wrong.

To watch The Final Cut is to realise, and this is despite what Bryant tells him, Deckard is not especially good at his job.

He’s beaten up in turn by each of the four replicants. While failing to dispatch either of the males, he shoots the unarmed females, and he only manages to kill one of them by shooting her in the back as she’s running away. And as Batty mockingly points out, Deckard is not very sporting. Ordered to retire Rachael, Deckard has sex with her instead.

indemnityFar from being Bogart 2.0, Deckard is far more of an upgrade of Fred MacMurray’s hapless insurance salesman Walter Neff from 1944 noir masterpiece. Double Indemnity. In classic noir fashion, Deckard is too dim to realise he’s always behind the game. it’s not until the end he understands how little he knows. He’s a prize chump.

Blade Runner is rightly celebrated for its superlative sci-fi styling, but I love The Final Cut for revelling in the noir at the heart of this rain-soaked LA story.

@ChrisHunneysett

BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC

Cert PG Stars 4

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter get the band back together as their goofy time travelling rock musicians return with a third knockabout sci-fi adventure comedy.

As they once more travel back to the future and all about in a phone box, they must compose the greatest song ever written to unite the world in rhythm and harmony to save reality, but have only 75 minutes to do it.

First appearing as Bill and Ted in their 1989 Excellent Adventure and returning in 1991’s Bogus Journey, the stars generate the same warm charm and silly earnest chemistry, and have great fun playing different versions of their future selves.

As the playful script pays homage to the history of popular music, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and Mozart among the famous artists encountered, as well as a killer robot.

Upcoming talents of Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine are the new kids on the block and are endearingly bright eyed as Bill and Ted’s  adult daughters, and many fan favourites appear – not least William Sadler as the Grim Reaper.

Brisk, funny, nostalgic and with a great deal of heart, it’s an uplifting power chord of love, signalling it’s time to be most excellent to each other, and not forgetting to party on dudes!

SAVAGE

Cert 18 Stars 4

Violence, prejudice, loyalty and rivalry feature heavily in this powerful Kiwi biker drama which features enjoyable camaraderie between horrifying scenes of drugs, prostitution and child abuse.

Australian actor Jake Ryan is immense as the brooding and volatile gang enforcer known as Damage, who’s torn between his biological family and his surrogate family, a biker gang called The Savages, a conflict which threatens his lifelong friendship with gang president, Moses.

With alarming facial tattoos, Ryan is a real life Taekwondo black belt and brings an all too believable ferocity to the brutality while also essaying a moving portrayal of the wounded integrity and inner turmoil of a man weary of being feared,

Strong in detail and sense of place, ambitious in its scope yet intimate in mood, writer and director Sam Kelly spreads his narrative over 30 years and coaxes lovely performances from the child actors as younger versions of the characters.

Inspired by the true stories of New Zealand’s criminal underworld, this a little explored aspect of New Zealand society, far more often associated in cinema with the lovable and genteel Hobbits.

THE BROKEN HEARTS GALLERY

Cert 12A Stars 3

The abundance of breezy light-hearted charm in this enjoyable escapist New York romcom is in large part to the irrepressible screen presence of its hugely engaging and likeable star, Geraldine Viswanathan.

She was great in 2018’s comedy hit Blockers where she starred as John Cena’s screen daughter on a wild night out, and again she’s delightful here, anchoring the good natured tale with energetic confidence, comic timing and no small talent, addressing the camera in a confessional manner as she negotiates the hurdles of life and love as a 26 year old in the Big Apple.

As Lucy, a vaguely ditzy 26 year old and extreme hoarder of sentimental bric-a-brac, who in the wake of suffering two relationship break-ups within the first ten minutes, is ordered by her friends to declutter her life.

However taking her bits and pieces and those given by others, she creates a public art space she calls ‘the broken hearts gallery’.

Providing romance and proving opposite attracts, is the understated presence of Dacre Montgomery as Nick, who’s much more minimalist in his taste, and is trying to build a boutique hotel almost from scratch, a great example of the type of aspirational lifestyle career everyone here seems to be enjoying.

And of course Lucy has a pair of best friends to provide frank sex talk, emotional support and break up advice.

A passion project for actress turned producer, Selena Gomez, it’s skilfully marshalled by writer Natalie Krinsky in her directorial debut and her smart script provides her bright eyed cast with some nice lines and enjoyable exchanges.

Though she has a nice eye for the absurdity of people’s obsessive behaviour, Krinsky is kind to a fault to her characters, meaning Utkarsh Ambudkar as Lucy’s ex-boyfriend lacks the bad boy allure Hugh Grant deployed so effectively in Bridget Jones’ Diary.

I enjoyed watching it but it will speak more loudly to an audience younger than myself, and my twentysomething niece and her girly mates will probably love it.

ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND

Cert TBC Stars 4

Though perhaps best known in the UK for his 1987 solo hit ‘Somewhere Down the Crazy River’, but revered by film aficionados as the musical genius who picks the music for Martin Scorsese’s movies, Robbie Robertson gives a wonderfully engaging account of his early career in this important and hugely enjoyable music documentary.

As creative powerhouse of the group named simply The Band, it’s a not wholly surprising tale of alcoholism, drug addiction, car crashes and an acrimonious break-up.

Fans of Robertson like myself will love it, and for everyone else it’s an essential part of your music education

KOKO-DI KOKO-DA

Cert 18 Stars 4

Inventive, twisted and very dark, this Scandinavian modern day psychological horror toys with ideas of karma, reincarnation and puppet shows in an increasingly tense, surreal and heartbreaking experience.

Leif Edlund and Ylva Gallon star as a couple whose camping trip turns into a frantic battle of survival when they’re unexpectedly and repeatedly attacked by Peter Belli’s white suited circus sideshow artist and his two assistants.

A haunting fable from Swedish writer and director Johannes Nyholm, it’s a violent, odd and disturbing tale of humiliation and torment a lack of budget can’t restrict Nyholm’s bold imagination.

With flashes of very black comedy, grotesque characters and a repertoire of dogs, cats and rabbits, it reminded me of the work of Oscar nominated director of The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos, combined with Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, and Britain’s own macabre TV show, The League of Gentlemen.

The title is taken from the lyrics of a lament sung for a wounded dog which opens the film and it gets progressively more weird from there, you’ll never leave your tent for an early morning pee ever again.

I’M THINKING ABOUT ENDING THINGS

Cert 15 Stars 3

Irish actress Jessie Buckley has been building an impressive career with big performances in in small films since coming to national attention as the runner up in BBC’s 2008 TV talent show ‘I’d Do Anything’, and she delivers again with an intense and transcendent turn in this aggravatingly opaque art house horror.

As an unnamed young woman she stars alongside a blank faced Jesse Plemons as her boyfriend travelling on a dark snowy night to meet his parents at their remote rural home, played with unsettling and eccentric enthusiasm by Toni Collette and David Thewlis.

The small cast deserve full credit for fully embracing the jarring rhythm, time-skipping narrative, dark theatricality and surreal approach, which begins with the deliberately ambiguous title and goes on to include dance, animation and movies within movies as it explores regret, longing and memory.

Based on the 2016 novel by Iain Reid, it’s written, directed and produced by one-man film industry Charlie Kaufman, previously an Oscar nominee for his superior and more commercial scripts for Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation.

MULAN

 Cert 12 Stars 4

Disney’s latest big budget live action remake of its 1998 classic animated features delivers exactly what’s promised, a handsomely staged and stirring action adventure set in medieval China.

Faithful to their original story, we follow Mulan, a young woman who steals her father’s armour, disguises herself as a man and runaways to join the imperial army to defend the empire from barbarians from the north.

However there’s no songs and less humour than I expected with the absence of Eddie Murphy’s manic energy as a dragon comedy sidekick being a loss.

Careful to cast ethnically correct actors to avoid accusations of ‘whitewashing’, Chinese born actress Liu Yifei cuts an earnest, determined figure as Mulan, and impresses most when showing off her physical prowess.

The well-staged set pieces lean towards the acrobatic bamboo-pole balancing style of films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the magical life force of chi with its good light side and evil dark side reminds us Star Wars supremo George Lucas drew heavily on Chinese folktales for his concept of ‘The Force’.

Elsewhere Yoson An charms as the handsome love-interest, Jason Scott Lee is effective as the revenge driven bad guy, and popular actors such as Donnie Yen and Jet Li appear in key roles.

The biggest change is in the addition of a wholly new character, with revered actress Gong Li appearing as a powerful and villainous shapeshifting witch who offers a dramatic counterpoint to the loyal, brave and good Mulan.

Pitching our hero against a fearsome antagonist who’s afforded sympathy is an idea previously encountered in Disney’s groundbreaking Marvel superhero adventure, Black Panther which starred Chadwick Boseman who sadly passed away earlier this week.

And as his performance, charisma and talent was instrumental to Black Panther’s success and its proving to Hollywood the viability of top tier films with a non-white cast or Western setting, the existence of Mulan is part of his legacy.

It’s just a shame this won’t be seen on the big screen, where it’s epic sweep and breathtaking vistas could be fully appreciated.

DEEP BLUE SEA 3

Cert 15 Stars 3

This silly and gory fun sci-fi horror sequels is more in the same vein of throwaway nonsensical fun, and though the story and dialogue are ridiculous, the locations are stunning, underwater photography is pretty, and it admirably never gets dragged down by a sense of seriousness.

The wonderfully earnest Tania Raymonde stars as the leader of an international team of buff young scientists on a small Indian ocean island who become terrorised by a gang of genetically enhanced super-sharks.

‘I find this really hard to believe’ says one potential victim. But I reckon that’s overthinking the preposterous premise.

SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW

Cert 12 Stars 3

I’m much more of a Batman than Superman fan, but I enjoyed this typically fast paced and action filled thirty-ninth film in in the Warner Bros. animated series.

Young Clark Kent is an intern at the Daily Planet newspaper working alongside ace reporter Lois Lane and yet to adopt his famous costume or even the name Superman.

When a snarling alien bounty hunter called Lobo arrives with violent intentions, the Man of Steel has to team up with future arch-enemy Lex Luthor and leap into action faster than a speeding bullet to save the world. Not for the little ones.

 

PAYDIRT

Cert 15 Stars 2

Christian Sesma writes and directs this low rent violent revenge heist crime thriller with the over-excited unthinking sleazy schoolboy sensibility of a 1990’s music video, and is all too impressed by his ability to make his characters ability to swear and shoot. Occasionally at the same time.

Far better than the material deserves, former Bros drummer Luke Goss is a confident and likeable presence as a recently released convict mixed up with bad cops, the Mexican cartel and a stolen bag of cash, while poor Val Kilmer looks desperately unwell as a Sheriff chasing them all.