The donkey from EO. Bless it.

A one-line spoiler-free review of everything I watched in the cinema in February 2023

I’ve never really been a movies person, they last too long and I always want the bar/toilet after 20 minutes like at a gig, which stresses me out. But I got myself a BFI and a Picturehouse membership and once a week I try to find the weirdest most ‘Martin’ thing to watch somewhere. But I’ve treated it like watching TV/gigs/football rather than a sacred art event. Boring? I’ll leave. Need a wee or a drink? Go do that. Occasionally you miss the vital two minutes of a movie but then so what? There’s another one next week. It’s been brilliant.

Aftersun (2022), Charlotte Wells – The Guardian’s best film of 2022, and Charlotte Wells has been very clear about giving the space to let people put their own interpretations of loss on to it. I found it incredibly moving even though essentially, nothing really happens, or rather, nothing really happened a long while ago in the 1990s and then echoes through to the present day, with two brilliant performances by Paul Mescal and especially Frankie Corio.

Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal in Aftersun

EO (2022), Jerzy Skolimowski – A donkey stumbles sometimes by accident and sometimes wilfully from one human vignette to another, and you know it isn’t likely to end well because, frankly, what kind of person picks up a stray donkey by the side of the road for the LOLs with good intentions? This film has really stayed with me.

The Blue Angel (1930), Josef von Sternberg – I was finding this quite pedestrian and slightly puzzled as to what the fuss was about – aside from the obvious attraction of Marlene Dietrich and her pre-code stockings positively sparkling all the way through it – until the final third and then I was like, “Oh, this is why it is considered a classic”, incredible performance from Emil Jannings.

Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel (1930)

Blue Jean (2022), Georgia Oakley – So much of the art and culture, music, film, TV, all of it, that I love has been heavily influenced by or been made by people in or adjacent to the LGBTQ+ community and I found this incredibly affecting about a teacher trying to just get on with their life and hold down their job and relationship in the 1980s at the height of the Section 28 bigotry of the Conservative government of the time, cheerled by huge sections of the media. Remind you of anything today? You should watch this.

Rosy McEwen in Blue Jean

Sissy (2022), Kane Senes and Hannah Barlow – Very enjoyable Australian horror-comedy about Instagram/TikTok influencers with some well observed genuine laugh-out-loud 80’s straight-to-VHS-video-nasty moments and a valuable lesson about leaving the past behind.

Aisha Dee in Sissy

Saint Omer (2022), Alice Diop – I knew this was going to be a courtroom drama from the trailer, and quite tense, but I didn’t realise how much of it would be only close-cropped dialogue in the courtroom, and I think a lot of the nuance of the French-African immigrant experience as a woman and what motherhood is like just passed me by.

Guslagie Malanda in Saint Omer

M (1931), Fritz Lang – More police procedural than the psychological thriller I expected, the subject matter meant this was very grim, and let’s be honest not many movies try and make a child sex offender the sympathetic character in the final act. It had a weird device where it was a talkie but then had extended periods of absolute silence to heighten dramatic tension as directed by Lang, which worked better at some moments than others. Somehow the context of where and when it was made, and what happened next there, seemed omnipresent, especially in the angry mob scenes.