Review film - In the blink of an eye

8th October 2010 at 01:00


Director: Julian Schnabel

Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Anne Consigny

Out now on DVD

Certificate: 12

Rating: 55

This film is a triumph. It manages to turn an extremely solemn subject into a piece of magic. The story is that of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was paralysed, yet still managed to write a book using the blinking of his left eye.

The magic, however, does not lie there. It lies in the narrative voice of Bauby, which is told as if we were hearing the thoughts inside his head. This, you may think, could be chilling, but in fact it is a wonderful insight into the mind of somebody who can barely move.

There is even more to this extraordinary film. Bauby's present-day story is interjected with flashbacks from his past, from a few years ago right up until the moment he was paralysed. This gives a great background to the character who we now see in front of us, greatly diminished.

Bauby is very philosophical and this shows in his narrative. But his philosophising also helps him to deal with his illness.

He, for example, thinks of himself as a "diving bell and butterfly". The diving bell is his body, the butterfly is his mind. The film is not without sad parts, which is somewhat inevitable for the subject choice. But they are handled in such a delicate, uncheesy matter that they are golden moments in the film.

To summarise, this is an extraordinary film that teaches you how to embrace life. In one word - amazing.

Ben Duncan-Duggal, 13, Bishop Luffa Church of England School, Chichester, West Sussex


Director: Gary Winick

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gael Garcia Bernal, Marcia DeBonis, Vanessa Redgrave

Out now on DVD

Certificate: PG

Rating: 25

Letters to Juliet is a story about an underestimated protagonist, Sophie. Visiting Verona with her fiance, they soon grow apart. While he scours the country for cheese and wine, Sophie becomes disheartened at how their holiday is unfolding and seeks out the "true" Verona.

She finds Juliet Capulet's supposed house, where women write letters asking for advice. Sophie finds a letter written to Juliet 50 years before and, unable to resist, writes back.

By replying, Sophie invites Claire and her grandson Charlie to Verona, where she is determined to find Claire's long-lost love.

Charlie, Claire and Sophie's adventures take us through Tuscany's rolling valleys of the deepest green, orchards stretching out as far as the eye can see, traditional buildings and beautiful artwork, all blended superbly into the background.

I understand the aim of the film: it has tried, vainly, to become a beautiful testament to what we perceive today as true love. It has potential, and if it had been acted well, I would have ignored the chick-flick stigmatism and enjoyed it.

However, even the picturesque landscape could not make up for the lack of able acting from the majority of the cast.

The writers seem ignorant: why centre a love story on someone who knows nothing of relationships? My baby brother knows more about how love works than this Juliet wannabe. Don't waste your time watching it.

Jack Thomas, 13, Cheam High School, Sutton, south London


Director: Lixin Fan

Starring: Suqin Chen, Changhua Zhan, Qin Zhang, Yang Zhang

Released on DVD on October 11

Certificate: TBC

Rating: 35

There are 130 million migrant workers in China, and Chinese New Year is the only chance these workers have to see their family. With such limited time, the train stations soon become overcrowded with people trying to get home. This documentary follows the Zhang family from 2006 onwards in their journey through working life.

In Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles, it follows the Zhangs' lives in chronological order. It is an extremely powerful film, which took a toll on my emotions. For example, you saw the terrible conditions of the factories in which these people work. The train stations were heaving with people - some of whom had been waiting for a week to get on a train that didn't even leave.

People were pushing so hard I was worried that they would get crushed to death. During the film the teenage daughter, Qin, was rarely seen by her parents because she was cared for by her grandmother. She didn't get on with her parents and I can see why.

For someone of my age, this wasn't as engaging as it would have been for an older viewer with more life experience. However, culturally, this was interesting because all the workers made products for Western brands - none of the brands were Chinese. This made some of the workers feel that China as a country was not being represented properly as it was only a manufacturer for other people's products.

In conclusion, this film was as shocking as it was eye-opening. It was difficult to get to grips with because of my age, but it was still a very important film. If I were a few years older I would appreciate the significance of this film more. Generally this is a very good film, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to someone under the age of 15 because they wouldn't appreciate it properly.

Kathryn Brammall, 12, St Peter's Catholic School, Guildford, Surrey


Director: Babak Jalali

Starring: Abolfazl Karimi, Behzad Shahrivari, George Hashemzadeh, Hossein Shams, Karima Adebibe, Khajeh Araz Dordi, Mahmoud Kalteh

Released on DVD on October 11

Certificate: 12A

Rating: 15

Frontier Blues portrays the uneventful and unfulfilled lives of four men living and working in a town at the Iran-Turkmenistan border. One man, whose main companion appears to be a donkey, collects car registration plates, while his uncle works in a customer-less clothes shop and spends most of his time staring at the ceiling fan. One young man works on a chicken farm while another is the subject of a photographer from Tehran.

The four men go about their daily routines wishing they were somewhere else, and sadly that's exactly what I ended up wishing throughout each overly drawn-out, single-shot, fixed-camera scene. So little happens that some scenes are repeated to show how mundane the characters' lives are. Why subject the audience to the same monotony twice?

I got the feeling that Babak Jalali was going for "deadpan"; unfortunately, it doesn't hit the mark.

The best thing about the film is that it looks beautiful. Every shot is like a prize-winning photograph. But even that ended up feeling contrived as it looked a bit too arranged and perfect.

It's fair to say that not a lot goes on at the Iran-Turkmenistan border, which the film certainly manages to depict, but it was lacking key elements to make watching nothing even slightly interesting.

Adrianna Thomas, Filmclub leader from Da Spot Centre for looked-after children and young people in Hounslow, west London

l Filmclub, a charity supported by Lovefilm, helps to set up after-school film clubs where children watch and discuss a range of films, promoting learning in an informal setting. Each week members of Filmclub will review everything from new releases to cinema classics. Join at www.filmclub.orgregister.

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