In a male dominated industry, filmmaker Sarah Gavron flies the flag for female-led cinema. Her works tells important stories from a women’s perspective, and her latest feature is no different. Rocks is a high school coming-of-age drama set in the hustle and bustle of East London. The story follows the path of Shola (Bukky Bakray) after she and her little brother are abandoned by their struggling mother.
I watched it at Glasgow Film Festival earlier this year (you can read my review here) and grabbed the opportunity to ask Gavron some questions…
With a largely non-professional cast and an improvised script, high school drama Rocks is a daring, some might say risky, third feature from director Sarah Gavron. The London-based plot centres around Shola (Bukky Bakray), a fun-loving teenager whose nickname gives the film its title. On what first appears to be like any other school morning, she wakes up to discover that her mother has absconded, leaving behind only a letter of apology and some cash in an envelope. Fending for herself and her little brother Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu), she is forced to grow up fast and puts on a brave face whilst trying to make ends meet and avoid unwanted attention from the local authorities.
Irish crime family thriller Calm With Horses marks the directorial debut of Nick Rowland. It tells the story of ex-boxer turned mob enforcer Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong played by rising star Cosmo Jarvis. Caught between his loyalty to the Devers family and his responsibilities as a father, he is faced with an impossible dilemma that will have life-changing consequences.
At Glasgow Film Festival, I was lucky enough to sit down with the director Nick Rowland to discuss the film…
Calm With Horses is of course adapted from a short story by Colin Barrett. How did you come across the source material?
I first read the collection of short stories when I was still at film school, and I had been writing short film scripts…and they were terrible. I was trying to read people who actually knew how to do short form storytelling better. Young Skins is amazing and Calm With Horses is like the sort of centrepiece of the collection. It was about 70 pages, so it felt like a good-sized story to develop into a taut movie.
Glanbeigh is a fictional small-town on the west coast of Ireland which serves as the bleak yet breath-taking backdrop for a series of short stories called Young Skins by author Colin Barrett. Crime novella Calm With Horses is the bruising centrepiece of the collection and has been adapted for the screen by newcomer director Nick Rowland and screenwriter Joseph Murtagh. The plot centres around ex-boxer turned muscle Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) who does the dirty work of Dympna (Barry Keoghan) for the drug-pedalling Devers family. When he discovers that his ex-girlfriend Ursula (Niamh Algar) is moving to Cork with their young son Jack, he is forced to confront his conflicting loyalties head on.
It’s been a decade since Welsh actor Craig Roberts’ breakthrough performance in Richard Ayoade’s critically acclaimed indie film Submarine. Sally Hawkins played the part of his mother back then, and now she takes up the leading role in comedy drama Eternal Beauty, his second feature as writer and director. The plot centres around Jane (Hawkins) who suffered a psychological breakdown years earlier after being jilted at the altar. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, we see how she interacts with her sisters Nicola (Billie Piper) and Alice (Alice Lowe), her mother Vivian (Penelope Witton) and her madcap love interest Mike (David Thewlis) who has mental health issues of his own.
Best known for his work in front of the camera, acclaimed Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen has moved behind the scenes to write and direct his second feature Gutterbee. The offbeat indie plot follows ex-con Mike (Antony Starr) and ex-pat Edward (Ewen Bremner) on their mission to open a German sausage restaurant in small-town America. They encounter conflict from narrow-minded businessman Jimmy (W. Earl Brown) who is very much against the gentrification of what he sees as his land.
I had the chance to chat with Ulrich Thomsen about this very unusual project…
First of all, how did the idea for Gutterbee first come about?
The idea is from quite some time ago when I stumbled upon the history of the sausage. Some years ago, there was a 50th anniversary for these little hotdog stalls that we have on every corner in Copenhagen, and a journalist had been writing about the history of the sausage. What’s interesting about the film is that it’s all based on fact, and all the sausage trivia in it is actually true. I thought would be interesting to tell a story about bigotry, homophobia, and religious stupidity but around the history of the sausage where nothing has changed in 2,000 years. The movie is essentially about identity. Every country has its sausage.
Much beloved actor Billy Crystal is best known for his delightful performances in classic romantic comedies, but he started out his career as a stand-up comedian. He makes a return to this area in Matt Ratner’s directorial debut Standing Up, Falling Down. The plot centres around down-on-his-luck jokesmith Scott (Ben Schwartz) who, after an unsuccessful stint attempting to ‘make it’ in on the LA circuit, moves back in with his parents in his hometown. At a local bar, he bumps into his dermatologist Marty (Crystal) who appears to have a drinking problem, and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship.