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: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi (2014)

Funny and exciting from the off, this delightfully dark fairytale is a painstaking miracle of old school stop-motion animation.

For ten years since the Trubshaw baby was kidnapped there’s a nightly curfew in the cobble-stoned city of Cheesebridge.

Despite the horror stories about them devouring children, the Boxtrolls are actually peaceful, kind and incredibly inventive.

Their subterranean grotto is a Heath Robinson paradise, a magical place full of weird and wonderful contraptions built out of all the junk the city-folk have thrown away.

Living with the Boxtrolls is a boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright). They’ve raised Eggs so successfully he thinks he’s a troll and the well-intentioned ‘trolls have difficulty explaining the painful truth.

Meanwhile First citizen Lord Portley-Rind and his white-hatted councillors employ the ferocious red-hatted exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Kingsley) to hunt down the cardboard box-wearing trolls.

If he can hunt down and destroy all the creatures, social-climber Snatcher is promised a white hat – an honour only bestowed to the cheese-gobbling upper classes.

Cheese-eating is the ultimate in conspicuous consumption for these burghers who drip with delicious self absorption. In the best tradition of Roald Dahl the films designers and animators delight in every exaggerated ill-mannered slurp.

One night as Eggs and the Boxtrolls venture out to tidy the city, his adopted dad Fish (Dee Bradley Baker) is captured by the fearsome Snatcher and his crew.

As the voices of Snatcher’s henchman Pickles and Trout, Richard Ayoade and Nick Frost are a curious casting choice with neither offering much energy or spark, they’re adequate with added whimsy.

Pickles is the more interesting of the two, constantly questions the validity of his dark deeds even as he perpetrates them. This is a lengthy set-up for a beautifully crafted gag which pays off tremendously in the final reel when Ayoade provides a wonderfully delivered monologue culminating in a brilliant reveal.

Eggs attempts to rescue Fish, teaming up with Portley-Rind’s spoilt, headstrong and argumentative daughter Winnie (Elle Fanning) along the way.

Breaking into Snatcher‘s factory they discover the captured Boxtrolls and the truth about the fate of the Trubshaw baby. It’s dangerous information and the resulting battle threatens to tear Cheesebridge apart in an action-packed finale.

Unwrap these Boxtrolls with care and you won’t be disappointed.