20th Century Women

Director: Mike Mills (2017) BBFC cert: 15

My heart sank when I read this drama described as a ‘poignant love letter to the people who raise us’. But it’s even more insuffrable and indulgent than I feared.

Set against the US energy crisis of 1979, this is a mawkishly nostalgic  semi-autobiographical riff on the teenage life of writer/director, Mike Mills.

The charm of Annette Bening alone isn’t enough to enertain us. She stars as bohemian single mum, Dorothea, who lives in a dilapidated mansion.It is strewn with the director’s favourite records, books and clothes of the era.

She rents spare rooms to a hippie handyman and a forthright photographer, while inviting complete strangers to her frequent parties. Meanwhile her son Jamie has an unrequited crush on sulky girl next door, Julie.

Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, Lucas Jade Zumann and Billy Crudup play the unlikely cohabitees. Indulgent and under plotted, it feels like an actors workshop.

Everyone spends their time over analysing each other’s behaviour and fertility and feminism are much discussed. Little else happens and most of what does occur is dull.





Director: Pablo Larrain (2017) BBFC cert: 15

The grave of US president Kennedy is raked over once again in this well observed portrait of his widow, Jackie.

Natalie Portman brilliantly fleshes out the  First Lady’s steely and shrewd ambition, presenting her as a chain smoking, perfectly poised and prickly coquette.

In the fear and chaos in the aftermath of JFK’s assassination in November 1963, everyone around her is jockeying for power.

Having lost her husband, house, status and income, Jackie must act quickly to secure her husbands – and her own – legacy.

She conducts an one to one interview with a journalist, played with an out of his depth curiosity by Billy Crudup.

Jackie claims the meeting is her attempt to put the record straight, but it’s really to ensure her version of the truth is the one which will last.

The script is scathing about the importance of stage craft, celebrity and media control in sustaining public power. The shooting is astutely and sensitively  handled, we feel Jackie’s horror even as she becomes the most famous bystander in history.

A mournful, unsettling study, it’s as cold, calculating, complex and compelling as its subject.