SIOBHAN Synnot gives her verdict on the latest big screen releases
Dark Horse (15)
CONTINUING to mine a rich seam of deadpan dysfunction, writer-director Todd Solondz is back with another game cast which includes Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow as frustrated parents of an underachiever still living at home.
Jordan Gelber’s Abe is a chunky 35-year-old who drives a hideous yellow 4x4 and works for his father when he’s not bidding for action figures on eBay. This leaves him plenty of time to daydream, seethe at having to live in the shadow of his younger more successful brother (Justin Bartha) and throw tantrums when anyone dares confront him. Abe likes to characterise himself as a dark horse, but his potential is all curdled. In other words, he’s a typical Solondz sad case.
Deciding to chat up a dark, pretty and clinically depressed woman called Miranda (Selma Blair) at a wedding, he astonishingly manages to extract her phone number. Later she even agrees to marry him. “That wasn’t so terrible,” she says after their first kiss.
Solondz has some favourite targets in his sights – sterile relationships, gaudy suburbia, oddballs out of their comfort zone. But while Abe is sour, abrasive and squirmy to watch, Solondz treats him with something close to sympathetic distaste. His world view is not as smug as Neil LaBute’s nor as punitive as the Coen brothers. And there’s also compassion in his portraits of Farrow’s indulgent mum and Walken, wearing a bearskin of a toupee.
It seems unlikely that Miranda and Abe will make each other happy, but for once that probably isn’t the point. It’s brutal to watch, and perhaps mercifully short.
• Dundee Contemporary Arts, Friday until 22 July
The Giants (15)
In Bouli Lanners’ abandoned children drama, three boys are left to fend for themselves in the Belgian countryside. They are in their early teens – not children exactly but not old enough to have a handle on their circumstances physically or emotionally. They are, however, quite resourceful. Brothers Zak (Zacharie Chasseriaud) and Seth (Martin Nissen) have been left in their late grandfather’s cottage by a mother who is working abroad. Food and money are running out, and in desperation they and local teenager Danny (Paul Bartel) decide to rent out the cottage to a local drug dealer called Beef (Didier Toupy) to grow and deal his cannabis crop.
Shot around a series of summery idylls, surprisingly this is a rather gentle, sweet film which seems content to ramble around with the kids without an enormous sense of having any particular place to go. Yet if you watch The Giants with no strong sense of urgency it’s quite a beguiling portrait of resilient kidulthood.
Glasgow Film Theatre, from Friday
Town Of Runners (PG)
Runners from a village in the Ethiopian highlands have broken ten world records and won eight Olympic medals, a string of achievements out of all proportion to its size and wealth. Jerry Rothwell follows two young girls who dream of success as long-distance runners. “Running is a way of life here,” says one of the coaches, and that’s about as satisfying an insight as this documentary provides.
Glasgow Film Theatre, tomorrow until Wednesday
Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap (15)
Ice T offers a guide to the last 30 years of rap by quizzing Kanye West, Dr Dre, Eminem, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg amongst others. It’s likely to be fascinating if you are a hip hop fan, but almost wilfully unilluminating if you aren’t.
Cineworlds in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and Showcase, Paisley, Thursday.
In Your Hands (15)
Kristin Scott Thomas plays a divorcee who becomes obsessed by the man who kidnaps her and holds her captive. She’s a rather chilly surgeon, he’s a widower who wants revenge after his wife died on Scott Thomas’s operating table. The film generates some interest by fragmenting the narrative structure but it’s really a potboiler without much heat.
Glasgow Film Theatre, from Friday