Coco (2017)



Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina

Stars: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt

Another first-rate animation from Pixar? I should coco!

Pixar needn’t fear about entering the land of the dead after Coco dazzling audiences and critics alike. They’ve been teetering lately with their three most recent films (The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory and Cars 3) all of which received relatively mixed reviews from a studio who have churned out more timeless animations than any other. Coco sees them back on top form though by emotionally weaving an engaging and constantly surprising story about family, love and loss.


It follows a spirited Mexican lad called Miguel who wants nothing more than to be a musician. Unfortunately for him, his family are from a long line of music-haters after Miguel’s great great great grandmother’s husband left her and her daughter alone in order to pursue a career in music. Since then every child from the family has been raised to detest all kinds of music (as any sane family would do) which means Miguel has to tinkle his ivories in secret whilst worshipping his superstar musical idol, Ernesto De La Cruz. For reasons never quite explained, Miguel ends up in the Mexican land of the dead where a madcap adventure ensues, never failing to entertain along the way.

Coco fools you initially by pretending to be a straightforward family adventure film with stunning visuals and cute characters, but a genuinely shocking third act twist reveals itself to be so much more. It’s quite barmy how a film targeted for children is more unpredictable than the majority of films aimed at adults in this day and age. Nevertheless, this is Pixar and we all know that despite being family friendly, they’re really made for adults!


What makes the film so memorable though is its pure emotion. Pixar have been pulling at our heartstrings for years from the infamous opening of Up to the tragic demise of Bing Bong in Inside Out. I’m happy to say that Coco is no exception. I’m not one to cry in films but I must admit to being quite choked up several times in Coco, particularly in its closing moments. This isn’t manipulative, sugary, trying-desperately-hard-to-make-you-cry kind of emotion seen in the likes of the recent Wonder but genuine tear duct pulling. This is a film which genuinely cares about its characters so the audience does too.

coco1 (1)

Some people are calling this the best Pixar film ever but I think that’s a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. It lacks the innovation of say, Inside Out and the comedy of Up but that’s not say it’s a great film because it is. Pixar have just churned out such a high calibre of animated features that to say one is better than the other doesn’t really count for much. Coco will certainly be beloved for years to come though, I know I’ll be watching it with my kids all the time if anyone would have them with me!




Train to Busan (2016)


Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Stars: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jeong

Zombies on a train

Zombie films have been hitting our screens since the dawn of time. Well, it certainly feels like they have anyway. Popularised by George A Romero’s terrific Dead trilogy, zombie films have since been rearing their heads like hordes of the undead themselves. Whilst they can be a lot of fun, more often than not, they can also be cliché ridden and trashy. We have had some quite enjoyable zombie films recently such as, Cockneys Vs Zombies and The Horde but we haven’t really had a properly great zombie movie since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. Train to Busan changes that.

I saw Train to Busan on a whim. I’m travelling in Singapore and had a few free days so I thought that I’d check what’s on the cinemas here. Train to Busan caught my eye but I had never heard of it, however I saw that it was Korean and that it had zombies in it, so I was sold! To my surprise, I came out of the cinema having just viewed easily the best zombie film in a decade. Korean films have hardly ever let me down and Busan is no exception.

As there’s very little coverage of this film on the Internet, I’d better give a rough plot outline. It basically follows a selfish father who is cold and neglectful towards his cute young daughter. For her birthday, she wants to travel to Busan to see her mother so he reluctantly takes her on the train to Busan (creative title) however, a rather inconvenient zombie outbreak occurs as they board the train. The rest of the film is a claustrophobic and thrilling fight for survival as the survivors desperately try everything in their measure to get to Busan on a undead-infested train.

What makes this film so great is the characters. Most horror films (particularly ones with zombies in) sprinkle a load of disposable characters in who all die in a predictable order. We don’t often particularly care when they die, in fact we’re more likely to relish the gory death shown in all its bloody gory. In contrast, Train to Busan focuses in on a line of memorable characters who we actually care about and want to see survive. They’re developed in such a way that when someone cruelly perishes, we feel a great sense of loss and emotion. This is where the film’s strength lies. What’s also interesting is that they’re not all stereotypes either. The protagonist isn’t your typical hero, he’s a character who is grossly selfish and unlikable at the start, but he subtlety develops into someone you begin to care about and admire.

The film starts off as a good little zombie thriller. There’s a sense of realism to the whole situation as we’re made to watch the panic unfold on the train in an effective way. There’s also a nice comic touch to the whole thing with some witty dialogue so it never takes itself too seriously. It also somehow never gets boring even though the film is essentially two hours set on a train, which is no easy task. There’s always tension and a sense of peril. You get the feeling that anything could happen to these characters at any given moment. Once the film reaches the mid-way point though it stops being good and starts becoming great.

Things get going fairly quickly so the characters develop through the action, making the film all the more gripping as it goes on. It’s an unpredictable ride with lots of thrilling set-pieces to keep you on edge. The final half hour is essentially non-stop action and it becomes exhausting to watch without ever feeling too ridiculous. What really impressed me though was the emotional charge in the second half. There are a few scenes which had me welling up with tears, which I wasn’t expecting. I just got so absorbed in the characters and their intense situation. The use of music and editing is also hugely effective in pulling at your heartstrings.

There’s really very little which Train to Busan does wrong. If I were to nitpick, I’d say that I would’ve liked more gore. Zombie films always give a good excuse to give us an array of fun, gory effects but this film is surprisingly restrained. There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat and nothing else creative. However, this does sort of add to the realism of the situation as you’re not going to find many axes or chainsaws on a train. It’s still not as bloodless as World War Z.

I can’t urge you enough to watch Train to Busan, especially if you’re a fan of Korean cinema. It doesn’t just offer plenty of nail-biting thrills and impressive special effects, It offers emotion and splendid characters whom you can properly invest in. It’s a powerful film which wears its heart on its sleeve and contains more character development in two hours than The Walking Dead has in six seasons. Once the film was over I became overcome with emotion. I felt like I could just break down and cry at what I had just watched. This is so much more than a zombie flick, at its heart it’s a devastating drama about family and the importance of human kindness. I loved it.



Top 10 Scenes In Interstellar



Christopher Nolan’s latest space epic is probably the best film he’s ever done in my opinion. It gets quite a bit criticism thanks to the daring final act which requires some suspension of disbelief, which is rather similar to The Prestige. If you’re willing to go along with it though, you’re in for a thrilling finale which will have you reaching for the tissues. For me, Interstellar is one of those rare flawless films. I was monstrously excited to see it and even booked a seat at the UK’s biggest IMAX screen in London to see it and even though my expectations were astronomical, it still surpassed them. At 170 minutes long it gives itself plenty of time to pack in a load of memorable scenes. The following list is an Interstellar-styled countdown of my favourite scenes from this marvellous film. There are loads and loads of hideous spoilers here, so if you’re one of those weird people who read lists on films they haven’t even seen yet, you have been warned.

10) In the wormhole


If you were lucky enough to see Interstellar in IMAX then I won’t need to remind you how earth-shattering this scene felt! The whole building rocked and you felt as if you were going through some psychedelic super portal. Don’t worry if you didn’t see it in IMAX though. This scene (and the whole film, in fact) is just as stunning on your big TV and surround speakers at home. Just make sure that the neighbours are out!

9) Drone chase


This delightful little scene feels like something from a Steven Spielberg film, only with less CGI. In fact, this showcases just how much more involving scenes like this are when they’re filmed for real. If you’re going to film a car chasing a drone through a cornfield then do it for real for gawds sake! Hans Zimmer’s electrifying score does a lot for the scene too. It’s an early moment which hints at the insane adventures our hero is about to go on and also beautifully outlines the heart-warming bond between Cooper and Murph which is the heart of the entire film.

8) “Do not go gentle into that good night”


The first use of the do not go gentle poem is probably the most powerful. I think it is a perhaps a little too over-used and having Michael Caine repeat it on his death bed is overboard. Nevertheless, it is a great poem and an interesting one to use. I just think every element in this scene is perfect. I love the image of the Endurance out in space as Michael Caine reads the poem out. There’s also the hair-raising use again of Hans Zimmer’s score (you’re going to be hearing me say that a lot on this list!) as it creeps up louder and louder in a foreboding manner. I remember seeing this for the first time and feeling so excited about where this journey was going to take us.

7) Mann down


A lot of people don’t like the Mann character because they hate Matt Damon. Personally, I’m not fussed about Matt Damon and don’t really see the big fuss surrounding his appearance in Interstellar. Anywho, the revelation that Dr. Mann is in fact evil surprised me. The entire fight scene had me on the edge of my seat as we’re all rooting for Matthew to win. When his helmet cracks though we’re left wondering if he will win. It’s a thrilling sequence which only becomes more thrilling when we see an explosion and everyone scurrying to their respective spaceship in order to reach the Endurance first. After this sequence comes arguably the most exhilarating spectacle in the entire film.

6) Tidal wave


Visually, this is probably the most impressive part in Interstellar. It’s an exhilarating sequence from the moment we touch down on the water planet as we’re acutely aware that every single second counts. Anne Hathaway and the other bloke plod off to collect some data whilst Matthew gets agitated at the amount of time they’re taking. Suddenly, those mountains in the background get closer and closer to reveal themselves as waves! It’s an eye-popping moment and things get all the more thrilling as lovable TARS rushes off to save Anne just in the nick of time as the spacecraft rides the wave. It’s a set-piece, but who cares when it’s this good?

5) Behind the bookshelf


So far we’ve had a lot of action scenes, but for me it’s the more emotional scenes which make Interstellar as powerful as it is. This scene concerns Cooper who’s fallen down the rabbit hole and into the mysterious tesseract. When I first saw the movie I was incredibly confused as to what was going on, however the whole concept thrilled me. I can see why it doesn’t quite work for some people, but for me it’s perfect. Cooper has been filled with regret for the whole film at the thought of not seeing his family again and here he is behind Murph’s bookshelf and screaming her name. It’s such a powerful and painfully sad scene. The sequence in the Tesseract goes on for quite a while, but the whole time it’s just exhilarating. Hans Zimmer’s score definitely carries a lot of the power here too.

4) Leaving Murph


This is the scene which pulls at my heartstrings the most (tied with my number one spot) and I don’t even have a daughter! It’s just so emotional and a lot of it is down to the superb performances by Matthew and Mackenzie. When you think of Interstellar, you might think of its epic scale and adrenaline-charged set-pieces, but it’s the powerful human element which is the heart of the film. Goodbyes are never easy, but Murph’s reaction makes it even harder. When Cooper says, “Don’t let me leave like this, Murph!” my heart breaks a little and tears start to form in my eyes. I’d like to point out that I hardly ever get teary in films, in fact I can count the ones I do on my fingers (Dancer in the Dark, Amour, Brotherhood, Life is Beautiful, Requiem for a Dream and now this one) and they all feature one scene where I get emotional. Interstellar has several scenes where I tear up. It’s also terribly sad to see Cooper drive away in tears and even peeking under the blanket to see if Murph’s hiding there again. Once again, in this scene Hans Zimmer’s score is shattering.

3) Docking


I have to be honest. When I first saw Interstellar, this docking scene didn’t stand out for me. It wasn’t until I went around reading everyone’s opinions on the film around the interweb that I found out that this docking scene was so cherished. I think the reason why I didn’t take it in the first time around was that I wasn’t entirely sure what Cooper was trying to do. Everything happens so fast with Mann blowing himself to smithereens (I LOVE the use of silence here) and the Endurance being in jeopardy. So when I saw the film for a second time on blu-ray, I paid particular attention to this scene and can now see why it’s so talked about. Even Interstellar’s biggest critics admit to this scene being masterful. It’s just so spectacular with the Endurance spinning out of control and Cooper hopelessly trying to dock. You know he’s going to succeed, yet it still remains incredibly tense. This is probably my favourite use of Hans Zimmer’s score too. The organ is just so loud and commanding here!

2) Reunion


It might be a little controversial to have this scene so far up on my list, but it’s my list OKAY!? Many people find this part unsatisfying because it all seems too contrived and sentimental to end in this way. However, I’ll never forget seeing this scene for the first time and just being so overwhelmed. I was not expecting Interstellar to touch me in places like this (that sounds wrong) and this part really pulled at my tear ducts. I’m getting a little teary now just writing this! I don’t find it contrived at all, in fact I think it’s essential that the film ended this way. If you’re still not satisfied then you can always go with the plausible theory that everything from the tesseract onwards is Coop’s dying delusions. After all Matt Damon did say that our children are the last people we see before we die, didn’t he? Either way it’s just such a powerful scene and also quite tragic that Cooper basically missed the majority of his daughter’s life. The fact that Ellen Burstyn is playing Murph is just the cherry on top of an already spectacular cake. She’s a bloody legend.

1 ) Messages from home


This scene succeeds in so many ways. Not only is the concept mind-melting, but the emotional impact is so so high. Out of all the emotional scenes in Interstellar, this is the scene that probably hits me the hardest. Cooper goes away for an hour and goes back to find that he’s missed decades of his children’s lives. It’s just extraordinary to see years of messages with his son marrying and having a child. Hans Zimmer’s score is once again blaring away over it all in the most delicious manner and crucially goes silent when Murph finally appears to deliver that heart-breaking monologue about her father promising to go back to her. When it cuts back to Cooper absolutely sobbing his heart out, that’s when I almost lose it. It’s just a perfectly crafted little scene which I can’t fault. The performances are also incredible here from Matthew, Casey and Jessica. Faultless.

So there you have it! It’s strange that in a film filled to the brim with spectacular set-pieces and very special effects, most of my favourite scenes are in fact purely stripped back and character-based. Yes, the tidal wave is jaw-dropping and the black hole is probably the best CGI effect in movie history, however they don’t have the power to move you like Matthew Mcconaughey watching a video on a tatty TV screen. My sister refuses to watch Interstellar because she doesn’t like space stuff or actiony stuff, which I think is tragic. If only she could watch and see that Interstellar isn’t much of an action science fiction film at all! Space is a mere backdrop. Interstellar is really an epic family drama about a father longing to be with his daughter who’s light years away from his reach. It really is a masterpiece. Please let me know your favourite scenes in the comments below!

Brotherhood (2004)


brotherhood poster Director: Je-kyu Kang Stars: Dong-gun Jang, Bin Won, Eun-ju Lee

Kicks Private Ryan’s arse!

When I slipped in the disc for Brotherhood I expected a really good war film. I didn’t expect to be sitting on the sofa with my eyes filled with tears by the end of it, and convinced that I’d just seen one of the very best war films ever. My love for Korean films is unabashed. Whilst Korean horror is what I go for most, I have also tried and loved some of their explosive thrillers like, The Man from Nowhere and A Bittersweet Life. War films aren’t really my thing though. My favourite war film is probably Inglorious Basterds, but even that isn’t really interested in showing us battle sequences. brotherhoods What’s fantastic about Brotherhood is that it puts its characters first. In fact, this is what the majority of Korean films tend to do and I think that’s the secret to their brilliance. With Brotherhood, I was gripped by every battle sequence because I cared about the people who were in them. It’s a real epic which spans across the entire length of the Korean War, as well as briefly showing us before and after events take place. If someone said to me ‘oh, this is a movie about the Korean War…’ I’d immediately switch off because war movies just don’t interest me. Brotherhood makes you interested right from the very start. The first half an hour is dedicated to events before the war. We see two fantastically likeable brothers who are devoted to their family. Some may find it overly sentimental, however for me it worked. I immediately cared about these characters and was totally gripped from when they’re whisked away to fight in the war. brotherhood The battle sequences are brilliantly intense to watch. The camera does shake a little too much for my liking, but it’s really not that much of a distraction. They’re intense because you care about what’s going to happen to the characters. When a comrade dies you almost feels as much pain as the other characters do. The special effects are also very convincing (apart from the shoddy CGI planes towards the end) and manage to put you right there in the firing line. What’s most interesting though is watching the two brothers slowly grow apart from each other. At its heart, Brotherhood is a tragedy. One brother turns into a cold-hearted and ruthless leader, whilst the other remains compassionate. This arc is done gradually and realistically throughout the film and it’s what keeps the film so emotional and absorbing. The ruthless brother could’ve easily come across as a caricature, but thanks to the fantastic writing and acting we’re left with convincing character development and remain involved with the character. Various shocking events unfold which have the power to move, however it’s the relentlessly melodramatic final twenty minutes which really hit hard. Again, many will find this finale too melodramatic and sentimental, but for me it totally worked.


I’m not one to cry in films (the only ones I’ve shed tears for are Dancer in the Dark and Amour) however, there are several moments towards the end where I had tears REALLY filling up in my eyes. It’s incredibly emotional and ultimately powerful. Brotherhood isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a damn near one. I was never bored for a minute of its hefty 140 minute runtime. I cannot urge people enough to check this out, even if (like me) you aren’t into war films. At its core it’s a character-driven tragedy with the Korean War used as a mere backdrop. It’s ten times better than Saving Private Ryan and if you aren’t moved by the time it’s over then you truly do have a heart of stone. Brotherhood is a spectacular triumph which needs to be watched for its sheer emotional power. nine-out-of-ten

The Man From Nowhere (2010)



Director: Jeong-beom Lee

Stars: Bin Won, Sae-ron Kim, Tae-hoon Kim

Seek this out somewhere!

I don’t want to bore you with a long list of Korean films I love, but it’s important for you to know that I love Korean films. My favourite is probably I Saw the Devil, so you can imagine my excitement when I sat down to watch The Man From Nowhere (I’ll call it The Man for short). With Korea’s incredible reputation in films The Man had a lot to live up to and it didn’t disappoint. The Man demonstrates why Korean film’s are so good in its opening half hour or so as it zooms in on a very touching (but not fake) relationship between a pawnshop man and a little girl who’s mother is a heroin addict and altogether bad mother! This relationship is so cockles-warming and cute you can’t help but be sucked into these characters.


I would guess that the American remake (which will inevitably arrive) will feature a Mum with shelves full of ‘Mom of the Year’ awards and the man (I’ll call him the man as I’m quite bad at Korean names) will probably be a taintless guy who saves orphanages and adores kids. However it’s the character’s flaws that make them interesting, realistic and altogether more likable for it. The man isn’t the nicest person in the world, however he has great qualities and its enough to make the audience like him. It turns out that he becomes even more bad-ass than Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis put together!

I’ve heard this film being compared to Taken and Oldboy, but really this film is much, much better than Taken (and I loved Taken!) but not Oldboy, however it’s not that far off Oldboy’s greatness! But this just goes to show that foreign cinema is so much better than American (in the majority of cases) as Taken was even directed and written by a Frenchman! The Man however is superior in every way. Its narrative is more complex, and its characters are much stronger, and although it may not be as action-packed as Taken it certainly carries more of an emotional punch.


I do really want to give The Man a 10/10 but I don’t think it’s right to. The plot did become overly complicated in some parts (especially with all the similar-looking faces) and there were some parts where I was just waiting for some more action to happen, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy The Man because I did! At 2 hrs there’s rarely a moment where the film dies down. It’s a fantastic thrill ride which explores some typically dark avenues (it’s Korean!) and you can’t help but appreciate it for having the balls to do so.

There are also some incredible action sequences that are shot almost to perfection. The camera is extremely quick but never does it make you feel disorientated as to what is going on. These action scenes are more up to Ip Man standards, which if you haven’t seen Ip Man is very high! There’s a hugely entertaining and tense fight scene in the men’s toilets and it just leaves me wishing that there were more. However, The Man is so much more than just an action film. Its got a huge heart and brain to match! The directing is terrific and quite mesmerising at times. One stand out moment features a smash through a two-storey window all in one shot!


All of this thrilling narrative culminates into a stupendously entertaining climax that almost feels as cool as Kill Bill! It’s an action extraveganzer (hard word to spell) full of incredible directing and superbly choreographed fight sequences with quite a bit of blood too! It’s a rip-roaring revenge rampage which is quite incredible to watch! The ending, however, is even more impressive. It’s quite simply one of the most touching endings I’ve ever seen with a great use of music that really pulls at the heart strings. I had chills, and those chills took a while to leave after the credits had rolled, as it just created such an emotional impact that is quite hard to top.

The Man is quite simply another Korean masterpiece. Its storyline might not be all that original but its characters and intricate plot points shoot it up into matching the greatness of The Chaser. The Man excels in its wonderful characters and huge heart. Yes some parts could’ve been simpler, but its a film I can’t wait to see again, which certainly can’t be a bad thing, can it? It rivals most American films and you’ll need the hardest heart in the world, not to be touched by the knock-out ending. A truly mesmerising film!


Lilya 4-Ever (2002)



Director: Lukas Moodysson

Stars: Oksana Akinshina, Artyom Bogucharskiy, Pavel Ponomaryov


Those who know me well will know that depressing cinema is my kind of thing. Any film that can take you on a powerful and draining experience is a film well worth seeing in my book, so when I heard about how gruelling Lukas Moodysson’s third feature, Lilya 4-Ever, was I just had to seek it out. Whilst I can understand why most people would find it completely bemusing as to why someone would want to watch a film where the protagonist is put through hell, this is the kind of film I really admire when done right. Lilya 4-Ever is done right, and whilst it’s by no means an easy watch, it’s an important one which everyone should make time to see.


The film opens to Rammstein, a heavy metal German rock band used more recently in Lars von Trier’s latest near-masterpiece, Nymphomaniac. They play over a horrendous and ominous image of our hero, Lilya, running from something and covered in bruises. The entire film is a flashback which leads up to this emotive image, and it’s an image which assured me that this was going to be a film to remember.

Lilya 4-Ever opens with a sense of hope and optimism with Lilya looking forward to going to start a new life in America and leaving her Russian slum. However, this is quickly crushed within the first 10 minutes. Her mother abandons her and leaves her at the mercy of her hard-hearted Aunt who offers as little support as possible. Things go from bad to worse and eventually end up at the worst. Lukas does a wonderful job at immersing the audience in the world of Lilya. The raw handheld directing is reminiscent of our own cuddly pessimist, Lars Von Trier.


In fact, Lilya 4-Ever would’ve made a welcome replacement for The Idiots in Lars’ golden hearts trilogy. The film is very much like Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves in that it takes a likable and generally kind-hearted female and then the world mercilessly rips her apart. It’s about as far away from Hollywood as you can get, but unfortunately this is the world we’re living in. Someone, somewhere in the world is having a life like Lilya and Moodysson does a damn convincing job at portraying this.

The authenticity of the film isn’t least helped by 15 year-old Oksana Akinshina’s stellar performance. I believed her in every frame and sometimes she just broke my heart. It was so nice to see her in those rare moments where she’s smiling and laughing, and trying to make the most out of her dreadful situation. The moments when she’s at her lowest are the most sould-crushing, and Oksana often conveys more emotion in just one heart-breaking expression than most actors manage to do in a career.


Lilya 4-Ever is an experience that is hard to forget. It didn’t quite make me cry, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I welled up in more than one place. What makes the film even more crushing to watch is that you know that it’s completely true and that this stuff has happened and is happening to people across the world. It’s not a film you instantly forget the next day, and to me that’s the mark of a truly great film. The ending is beautifully done and is powerful enough to move mountains. As I said before, Lilya isn’t an easy film to watch, but very much like the equally distressing 12 Years a Slave, it has such an important message that it needs to be seen by everyone.




Breaking the Waves (1996)



Director: Lars Von Trier

Stars: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Katrin Cartlidge

It broke more than my waves

Dancer in the Dark is one of the most emotionally devastating films I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the extremely few films to actually make me cry and its sheer power makes it Lars Von Trier’s masterpiece for me. When I heard about Breaking the Waves and how it’s part of the same ‘Golden Hearts’ trilogy as Dancer in the Dark, I just had to see it. I’m not a normal cinema-goer who goes out to see mainstream films for entertainment. Of course, I do do this from time to time. I’m not a complete film snob. However, the films which I admire the most are the ones which pack a strong emotional punch which you never forget. I love depressing films which stun me into silence and play on my mind for days after seeing it. Breaking the Waves is one of these films.


Whilst I personally don’t think it’s quite as good as Dancer in the Dark (I just love how Dancer in the Dark is a musical and everything) it’s certainly not far off, and is definitely one of Lars Von Trier’s (a director I admire very much) greatest films and one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen period. Just like Dancer in the Dark, the film opens on a happy and humorous note. Our hero, Bess is getting married to the love of her life, Jan and everyone’s having a wonderful time. Not least is Bess who discovers the magical powers of making love. A stark contrast to the loveless sex she has during the crushing final hour of the film.

Lars presents their love as an honest and pure one. It’s cleverly against the backdrop of a god-fearing, miserable Scottish village that aren’t very Christian at all. It shows how damaging religion can be to someone as childlike and naive as Bess, who regularly plays out conversations with God and imagines Him as a cruel and impatient old man with no sympathy for anyone. Lars takes his time in telling the story. The first part of the film looks at how in love Bess is with Jan. She’s absolutely infatuated with him and is outrageously devastated when he has to go back to the oilrigs for some time. Emily Watson makes Bess’ pain feel all the more overwhelming with her realistic portrayal of hysteria.


Like most of Lars’ films, Breaking the Waves is broken up into a series of chapters. Each one becomes more disturbing as the film goes on. Many have accused Lars of being sadistic and nihilistic in his treatment of Bess, however I disagree. If Lars wanted to be sadistic then he would have been much more explicit in the latter scenes of the film and wouldn’t have given as much time to allow Bess to develop as a character. As I said before, the film is very patient in telling the story and whilst I wasn’t bothered or bored by this at all others may be. It’s important to be patient with the film and allow yourself to immerse yourself in it. The earlier scenes which depict Bess anticipating Jan’s arrival are slow but extremely important. It just shows how much Bess is in love with Jan, and how childlike and charming this love is.

When Jan is paralysed we feel Bess’ pain. She sticks by him and just wants to be with him. It’s all the more tragic that this is her undoing. Bess’ descent into sexual degradation and humiliation becomes increasingly more painful to watch. It’s all the more excruciating as the film is shot on Lars’ signature raw hand-held camera which gives the film an incredible sense of documentary realism. There’s nothing you can do but weep for poor Bess and her immature ways of thinking. I didn’t cry, but I almost did. Tears filled in my eyes in some parts and a very potent lump formed in my throat. It’s an incredibly powerful look of a woman’s life spiralling into madness.


Breaking the Waves is a powerful and heart-breaking piece of cinema. Emily Watson is incredible as Bess and really does immerse herself in her character. I don’t know who else Emily was up against in the Oscars, but I’m pretty sure she should’ve won. The surrealistic ending is bound to infuriate many, but for me it just confirmed the film as a masterpiece. It was the perfect way to end and made the film all the more powerful. It’s not an easy watch and it’s extremely depressing, but it’s also one of the most heart-breaking experiences I’ve had watching a film. Lars Von Trier has created a timeless masterpiece. One which has the power to move, compel and inspire.