Morvern Callar Reviews
Morton's character, named Morvern Callar, is a girl from a lower-middle-class background living in a small town in Scotland. She has a pleasant demeanor but little to say. She only hangs around with people her age, whose favorite pastime is all-night raves where drugs and alcohol flow liberally. Let's just say that reading books is the last thing on the minds of these 21-year-olds. Their greatest happiness is a feeling of oblivion. Ramsay may not like ravers very much, but she certainly gets them. The depiction of aimless youth is better here than I've probably seen anywhere.
The problem is that it doesn't make for very compelling viewing. Boring people don't often make arresting protagonists. Ramsay also doesn't push her agenda with much intensity. She starts to seem as bored with the film as the characters are bored with life. I like the basic idea of the project very much, and there is a haunting quality to the filmmaking, just like there was with Ramsay's previous film, "Ratcatcher." But Ramsay got stalled in the story development, never fully baking her ideas. Thus "Callar" has a sketchy, fragmentary quality to it that isn't very compelling.
There is one story thread that tightens up substantially at the tail end of the film involving a spectacular attempt at plagiarism and a dead boyfriend. The film would have been stronger had Ramsay focused on this more. She seemed determined to drain the movie of as much story as possible, when there were several threads begging for development.
There's no mistaking, however, that Lynne Ramsay is a talented, original, and genuinely artistic filmmaker. Even a weaker piece of work from her has more value in it than the mountain of prefabricated entertainment product being churned out in America. Cinephiles the world over owe it to themselves to cross paths with Ramsay's work. I'm very disappointed that she's had trouble getting a third film together. I wait with bated breath for her return to filmmaking!
My big problem with Morvern Callar is kind of my own - I have a huge problem comprehending Scottish accents and could hardly understand what any of the actors were saying. I watched the movie on Netflix, so subtitles weren't an option, and turning it up didn't help much. It's a testament to the movie's striking physicality that I took as much away from it as I did, so maybe it's actually an advantage in the long run. Also, some people may find the film ponderous and navel-gazing; it is inaccessible, yes, but never lost in itself. You could write an essay on what the movie tells you (and doesn't tell you) about Morvern. In this regard, the movie owes a lot to Samantha Morton, who seamlessly nails an incredibly tricky role. For me, her bizarre behavior didn't raise any question marks, but just acted as a reminder about how confusing it is to be young, poor and unhappy.
Morvern Callar demands a lot of patience and attention, and the returns are not really for everyone. I recommend it, but hesitantly. If you don't care to watch the film, at least get the soundtrack. Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, The Velvet Underground...good stuff right thurr.
After Morvern's boyfreind kills himself on Christmas Day, he leaves a note saying "don't try to understand, be strong, pay ...(read more) for my funeral with my account and send my book to the publishers", and instead she cuts up his corpse burries him(after several days of him on the kitchen floor), signs her name to his book, and uses the advance to go on a trip to Spain to with her best freind, who she later ditches in the desert.
Though the journey sounds thrilling and surreal, and it many of its finest moments it is, it's a also haunted one, beautifully photographed and excellently aurally composed. It is as much and visual and tonal expression of isolation as it is a feast for the senses.
There's very little dialogue and somewhat thick scottish accents are a little hard to hear without subtitles, in many scenes though what is audible is often fighting over the roar of crowds or the roar of music. Not unike Callar herself, one small voice, among many, being at best, partially heard, but talking on anyway.
Samantha Morton (the main pre-cog in Minority Report) is hypnotic and commanding, as is the movie in general. One of the best Christmas films in years!
The darkly absurd early image of Christmas tree lights flickering on a still corpse gives us a certain clue as to what kind of movie this will be. It's a devastating opening that succeeds in grabbing the viewer's attention. But what keeps us interested is the peculiar way in which Movern goes about dealing with the death of her boyfriend. You may find yourself shocked not only by the audacity, but more so by the coldness of Morvern's actions. Why does she put her own name on that manuscript? Morvern certainly has no interest in the romance of being an artist. Her reasons for doing such a thing are purely mercenary. Her actions also provoke interesting questions about the nature of her relationship to this man.
This is quite a strange movie about a rather strange woman with a very strange name. Samantha Morton gives an incredible performance, perfectly conveying the enigma that is Morvern Caller. She says little but has a menacing air about her. We don't know what mental activity goes on behind her big eyes and it's unsettling to guess at. At times, as in the beginning of the movie, she seems completely vulnerable and terrified of what the future holds in store for her. More often she appears spookily detached and supremely indifferent to the world around her. She is completely inexplicable and contradictory, and that is what makes her such a fascinating character to observe. It doesn't surprise me that Woody Allen chose Samantha Morton to portray a mute lady in Sweet and Lowdown, as I can't think of any other performer who can express so much without uttering a single word. This is the perfect role to display her talents and it's as good a performance I've ever seen from any actor or actress in recent years.
This is the second movie of Lynne Ramsey, who later went on to direct the acclaimed We Need to Talk about Kevin. She's a very talented director and here she successfully creates an atmosphere of dread and foreboding. She also manages to capture a general feeling of nausea, postponement and depression, particular in the early scenes. She has a strong visual flair and an eye for stark, grotesque imagery. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work.