Mouthpiece (2018)

I put the original release date in the titles of all reviews on this site, not entirely sure why but it’s something I started doing so it’s now something I can’t stop as it’s the house style. Usually I end up with the previous years date in the title until about mid-June due to US films getting them before us, never had one 3 years out though. If you look at the poster you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Scandinavian film with English subtitles. It’s actually from Canada, lead exporter of hockey pucks, politeness, and sexy Ryans.

I’m not really sure why it took so long to get a UK release, especially on demand. Maybe it’s the non-sexual nudity, or the female masturbation scene (women enjoying themselves sexually is something cinema is still not comfortable with for some reason). I hope that’s not the case, and it’s probably not, but there’s like a 1% chance that is the case. Either way, it got released on various VOD platforms in the UK this year, and better late than never, if this film came out years ago when lots of stuff was released there’s a chance I wouldn’t have seen it as it wouldn’t have caught my eye. That would have been a real shame as this is the first genuine hidden gem of this year so far and it’s hard to imagine a film I know nothing about impressing me quite as much as this one did.

I often see films described as “performance art”, and that is never more true than this film. It features two characters playing the same character simultaneously, so everything they do is in sync in some way. It’s a GREAT gimmick and it really helps display the inner turmoil of the character and the duplicity of humanity which resides in all of us. There’s a moment where a guy is creepy to her (them? I have no idea whether to refer to the main character as plural or singular, it’s a unique film). One of her swears at her, but the other thanks him.

Now onto the negative, I feel this film could have been smaller. It’s adapted from a play so I expected it to make the most of the gimmick and have the two sides of the character interact with each other but it doesn’t do that too much, instead it introduces a lot of other characters, which slightly detracts away from the core story of a person losing their mother. When I saw what the film was about I expected it to be incredibly isolated and mainly be the two of them conversing with each other. Maybe that’s on me for it not being what I expected, as it doesn’t exactly make the film bad, it’s still a great watch.

As I mentioned, this film was based on a play, and I want to see it now as I’m curious as to how it worked. There are moments here which never would have worked on stage. An example of this is the characters walking around a shopping mall discussing the funeral when it goes into one of them imagining doing a musical number (with subtitles) at the funeral, which then leads to an argument from the two characters (well, two people, as I said, they’re the same character). I have no idea how that could work on a stage but it really works here. The sense of depressive playfulness is great. There are other moments which I’m curious to see how they were done on stage (if they were done at all), mainly the extensive flashbacks. This is how play to film adaptations should be done, they should recognise the differences between the two formats and use it to do things that weren’t possible in the original that enhance the story. I believe the two main characters were also the ones in the play, and that really helps the film as they GET the characters. Would it have been more successful if they cast bigger actresses? Probably. Would it have made the film better? Not a chance. The performers, Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, wrote the original play. So they know the material, and they know how to play every single moment in the most perfect way possible. Seriously, I cannot praise their performance enough, they’re a key part to this working.

I wish this film hit slightly harder, it didn’t leave me a complete emotional wreck, it just made me feel bleak for a while. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hit hard occasionally, the funeral scene is a highlight in terms of staging and performance. It starts with the two versions of her fighting to get to the one to deliver the eulogy, then the one who wins is physically unable to make it up to do it as they keep being pushed back by an unknown force. The two then embrace and walk up, delivering it together. Starting with them alternating dialogue, and then in tandem. It’s thematically the best way this film could end, in terms of narrative, in terms of film style, and in terms of character, you will not find a more deserving ending to a film than this.

Some people will resonate with this film a lot more than I did, and for some it won’t mean anything at all, but I recommend everybody gives it a go, you may love it, you may hate it, but it’s an experience you need to go through. Is it better than Soul? No. But if someone asked me to recommend a film from this year, I’d go with this first, purely because I believe it to be a film more people need to be aware of.

Toni And Cleo (feature-length script)

So as you may know, I occasionally post my own scripts on here, and that’s what today’s is about. Sometimes with my longer scripts I’ll post updates as I go so that you can see it all develop and come together. That’s not the case here, all I’m giving you is that it’s a follow-up episode to this. For those of you who didn’t click that, first off; rude. Second: a school shooting occurred. That’s all that’s relevant from that episode to this one. It features the same situation, but different characters and a different time frame. I hope you enjoy, worked really hard on it and incredibly proud of what I’ve managed to do:

Spoilers, so read that before you read on.

This went through quite a few different iterations while I was writing it. The moment where she burns the pictures of her son as she thinks he’s the killer, and only finds out the truth too late? That was originally the ending. Decided against that as it meant I was unnaturally delaying the characters from getting to that location. They would have gone straight there so narratively it was difficult to make that interesting. Would have just been people driving and talking, and that’s quite difficult to make compelling. My next ending was her finding out that her son was actually a good person, and beat people up for a good reason. Again, I brought that forward, because Toni was too sad and I needed to do something to cheer her up. The other major change was introducing the character of Esther. I never planned her to be in it, she turned up in the script one day and I was intrigued by what I could do with this character. I then decided to adjust the timeline and have a lot of it take place in flashbacks, so the show started on the set of Esther and we kind of worked the story back towards that point. The original opening was Toni’s husband leaving her. I don’t think it added anything to the story or the characters, so I deleted it and it doesn’t feel like it’s missing so worked out for the best.

The introduction of Esther also allowed me an antagonist. In the original draft the antagonist role was taken by someone very different: Toni’s sister Cleo. This is why the way they interact in the car from the airport is drastically different from how they do otherwise. I felt Toni needed someone who supports her, and Cleo was the best choice. It didn’t require much changing, I changed some of their dialogue to take place between Toni and Esther instead, other than that I kept it the same. That’s kind of weird but I feel it makes sense in the story, the two sisters do react with some hostility when they meet, and that relationship does change so there is the chance it could come off as unnatural. But luckily I made this change when I got to the part of the story where the shooting happens, so the audience just sees it as “they’ve put aside their petty differences because they’ve realised what’s important”. So it weirdly makes sense (albeit completely accidentally).

The other change was the ending. It did end with Esther shooting herself, and ending I was never really happy with, only had it happen because it needed an ending and it needed to be at that point (was going to make it twenty pages longer but when I got to that point I just felt “this has to end in the next few pages, otherwise it would feel wrong”). I’ve changed it so she walks out in shame (was going to have her arrested, but despite being a horrible person, she never technically broke any laws, plus, I knew enough about her character to know she’d flourish in prison). A fantastic ending is out there somewhere, I just need to try and find it.

Yeah, that was that. I hope you enjoyed it, any feedback will be greatly appreciated, and thank you for your time. Oh, and I am aware I labelled this a “feature-length” script, despite it being a television episode. My aim for every episode of this is that they could work as stand alone features with a little tweaking, and I firmly believe that to be the case here. Plus, if I said it was episode three people would feel they would have had to read the first two (which considering I haven’t written the second one yet, would be difficult)