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The Book of Life, Love Rosie, Nightcrawler

This month Simon watched a family-friendly alternative to Halloween flicks, a rather hit-and-miss romcom, and a dark socio-pathic thriller.

The Book of Life

Rating 7½/10   U   95 mins

The Book of Life is a family-friendly animation produced by highly-rated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. The story is set against the background of the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead. There is a zombie film of this name, but the festival is more innocent, although it will seem a little foreign for northern Europeans. The Day of the Dead is actually a three day festival beginning on 31st October when families gather together around the graves of their deceased loved ones where they light candles, decorate the tombs, eat special foods and remember those who have gone before. TBOL is presented as a traditional folk story of the sort that would be told in the course of the festival. It is a story of a trio of children – a girl and two boys – who grow up to become a love triangle. The timing of the film’s release and the date of the Day of the Dead means that there will be natural comparison with Halloween. Christian parents who have misgivings about their children being involved in Halloween activities may look to this film as a way out. However, there are elements of the story’s view of the afterlife that might be of equal concern. Having said this, TBOL has some good songs, fun characters and has the usual positive moral message. 

Love, Rosie

Rating 6½/10   15   102 mins

Love, Rosie is based on Where Rainbows End, a story by Irish novelist Celia Ahern. Alex and Rosie are childhood best friends, but in their final year at school, just as it appears that friendship might turn into love, it all goes wrong. Rosie has a fling with Greg and gets pregnant, putting on hold all her plans for the future. The film tells the story of how these three young people move in and out of each others lives. There is a similarity to David Nicholls’ novel One Day in the way in which the story is told over a period of twelve years with each story focussing on the main couple’s on/off relationship. However, while the film One Day was inferior to the novel, it is still more interesting than Love, Rosie. For a romcom, there was not enough of either rom or com and both the romance and comedy tended towards the crude and seedy. One interesting point is that two of the main actors – Lily Collins and Jaime Winstone – have famous fathers: Phil and Ray, respectively. Warning: this film contains a considerable amount of bad language. 

Nightcrawler

Rating 8½/10   15   117 mins

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins the film as a Forrest Gump-like misfit, but by the end is not far short of a socio-pathic genius. Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Lou is a tour de force. Lou Bloom works his way up from being a petty thief, stealing copper to sell to scrap metal merchants, to becoming a ‘nightcrawler’ a video recorder of fatal crashes and bloody murders in Los Angeles. Those around him are by no means whiter than white, but using their weaknesses Lou manipulates them for his own ends. Nightcrawler is a satire on the news industry – a 21st century Drop the Dead Donkey – and in Lou Bloom it has created a softly-spoken, yet frightening monster. Warning: this is not a film for anyone who dislikes screen violence.