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Review - Film - Blank canvas suffused with haunting beauty

Days of heaven

Director: Terrence Malick

Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard

Certificate: 15

Out now on DVD

Rating: 5 out of 5

After seeing Days of Heaven for the first time, my thoughts immediately turned to director Terrence Malick. To have managed to find a new way of making films, in which silence and the understated take precedence over plot, and the human drama of three flawed protagonists is presented with no explanations or excuses, he is clearly a remarkable man.

With its hauntingly beautiful visuals and refreshing simplicity, Days of Heaven has found its way into my heart as a classic.

Watching the relationship of Richard Gere and Brooke Adams flourish was the most enjoyable part of the film for me. I found myself as furious with each character as I was in love with them.

I always thought the mark of a great film was when the audience can really immerse itself within a plot, but Malick has a completely contrasting agenda. He creates an almost blank canvas, inviting the audience to figure characters out for themselves.

I would recommend Days of Heaven to anyone who is sick of over-plotted, predictable blockbusters, someone that would prefer visuals and the unspoken to take over the narrative, painting a beautiful human drama of the tragedy of consequence.

Sarah Wilson, 18, the Boswells School, Chelmsford, Essex

Filmclub, an educational charity supported by Lovefilm, sets up school film clubs where children meet to watch, discuss and review films. Each week members of Filmclub will review everything from new releases to classic and world cinema. To find out more and to join, see: www.filmclub. orgregister or call 0207 288 4520. To take part in a survey on the benefits of film in education, go to www.21stcenturyliteracy.org.ukthe_evidence.php

THE UGLY DUCKLING AND ME

Directors: Michael Hegner, Karsten Kiilerich

Starring: Anna Nugent, Gary Hetzler, Morgan C Jones

Certificate: U

Out now on DVD

Rating: 5 out of 5

This film is about a rat called Ratso. He is always trying to find a good act to be in a show. He travels far and wide to get to a carnival while being chased by a girl rat. The ugly duckling is crazy like my sister but he is also very cute. Everyone bullies the ugly duckling because he is ugly but what they don't know is that he turns into something beautiful. He is kind through the movie but people always laugh at him. I like this film and I hope you do too.

Abbie Howell, eight, Hartsholme Primary, Lincoln

WINTER'S BONE

Director: Debra Granik

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Shelley Waggener, Garret Dillahunt

Certificate: 15

Out now on DVD

Rating: 5 out of 5

Seeing areas of extreme poverty in one of the wealthiest countries in the world is something of a sucker punch. It is often hard to acknowledge that poverty is not just confined to the hot plains of Africa but is a universal problem.

Winter's Bone is set in the Ozarks, one of America's poorest regions. Seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is forced to find her meth-head father after he puts the house up as surety and then skips bail. If she cannot find him, she, her younger siblings and her invalid mother lose everything. Ree is forced to confront the local people to find him and is met first with distrust, then hostility, before finally with outright violence.

Winter's Bone is a pretty blunt but equally artistic film. The gothic, ominous scenery inspires dread in the viewer but few wide shots are used. Instead, direction focuses more on the characters populating the barren area. The film has dark subject matter but doesn't languish in its misery (compared with the many low-budget, offbeat films that fail to do anything but illustrate how unfortunate things can be).

What makes it stand out is the flawless acting. Jennifer Lawrence is a force of nature, standing up against against the wrath of a town. John Hawkes is a sinister presence as Ree's erratic uncle Teardrop, with seemingly bottomless, chasm-like eyes and eruptions of fierce aggression. Both are backed by a tremendous support cast. In short, Winter's Bone is an intense ride revolving around the central struggle of the unfaltering Ree.

Jay Polley, 15, Isleworth and Syon School, Middlesex

THE COMPLETE BUSTER KEATON SHORT FILMS

Director: Buster Keaton

Starring: Buster Keaton

Certificate: PG

Out now on DVD

Rating: 5 out of 5

This is the best comedy ever. I could watch it again and again and still laugh. The three films I watched were Seven Chances, The Balloonatic and Neighbours. I love the way his expression never falters and his timing with stunts is perfect.

Like when he was crawling along the ground with a gun in his hand trying to hunt for food, when there's a bear wandering after him unnoticed by Buster. Then another bear appears from a hole.

Buster Keaton hits the bear on the head with the butt of the gun, while shooting the other bear without realising what he has done - and all with a very straight face. It is extraordinary. I think these three were better then most modern comedies.

Ciaran Wakefield, 11, Sharrow School, Sheffield.

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