The Best of Dorien B 2019 ****

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The title comes from a ancient mix CD that Dorien (Kim Snauwaert) plays in her car to her children, who are none too impressed by their mother’s music. It’s one of a number of caustic scenes in this accomplished first feature from Anke Blondé, a Belgian film with dialogue in Dutch. Dorien’s problems are recognisable enough; her husband Jeroen (Jelle De Beule) is charming, but he’s had an affair and enjoys the company of other women in his workplace. Infidelity is an issue; Dorien’s mother has been cheating on her father, and moves in with Dorien’s family, to her distress. Dorien herself is contemplating an affair with an old acquaintance. And her veterinarian practice, which she inherited from her father, pushes her in directions she doesn’t want to do; she doesn’t like dealing with horses. Dorien is in need of a change; things just aren’t working out for her as they stand. All these problems are dealt with in some way by the narrative here; the screenplay is acerbic, and there’s a few blistering scenes, such as a parents evening that takes an unexpected turn. And Dorein’s martial arts ability takes another scene in an unexpected direction. The Best of Dorien B. is the kind of thoughtful, intelligent film that critics are keen to describe as promising, or that Blondé is ‘one to watch’; the point here is that The Best of Dorien B. is an excellent film in its own right, and not just as a harbinger of something better to come. Snauwaert is terrific in a film that gets right under the skin of the central character, and the punch-line is uncontrived. This kind of careful, observational film is increasingly rare; watch Dorien B. and ask yourself when you last saw a British or American film so in tune to a female central character. British audiences might hark back to Carla Lane’s much loved 1980’s tv show Butterflies, which had a similarly sympathetic, acerbic view of motherhood, but Blondé’s film doesn’t need comparisons; like the central character, it’s got a vibe of its own.

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Cronofobia 2018 *****

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The title refers to the fear of time passing; it’s not a term used directly by the characters in Francesco Rizzi’s accomplished debut feature, but the notion of elision infuses the story. Rizzi’s film is about two people, a man and a woman, who have a tangential connection to the kind of concerns that most of us have. Frequently wearing a false moustache and seemingly living in a van, Michael (Vinicio Marchioni) is a man whose occupation is deliberately obscured. Is he a hit-man, a thief, a serial –killer? His furtive manner, his strange behaviour keep the audience on edge, particular once he meets Anna (Sabine Timoteo). It’s not quite a meeting cute, as Michael is waiting in his van outside of her house, but his motives remain obscure for most of the film. She, widowed, vulnerable, insomniac, has her own complex issues, but the relationship between the two is constantly fascinating, often hard to pin down as they both slip through different characters and identities against an unfamiliar background of mundane Swiss locations. Cronofobia has a little of Chris Nolan’s The Following, but the gleaming visuals, choice musical cuts and edgy mood have an energy all of their own, and the central performances are striking. Rizzi’s film is something of a find on the festival circuit (screenings in Locarno and Rhode Island follow on from Edinburgh and Tallin), marking him out as a fresh and original talent who creates something personal and poetic from the most anonymous of situations. Highly recommended.

Love Type D 2019 ****

‘Being unlucky in love is genetic’ runs the tag-line for Love Type D, a classy film from writer/director Sasha Collington. Her anti-rom-com tells the story of Frankie (Mauve Dermody), a young woman who is unlucky in love, or so she thinks. But an encounter with Dr Elsa Blomgren (Tovah Feldshuh) suggests otherwise; the tv specialist suggests that whether you are dumped or the dumper is a matter of genetic make-up, and with this fresh info, Frankie manages to convince the others who have been regularly dumped within her office to rise up and shake off the stigma of their genetic lottery by contacting their exes and dumping them en masse. Love Type D has the kind of simple high-concept that would suit a platform like Netflix; while not exactly probable, the light fantasy of the idea is enough to see the film through, with a few genuine laughs and none of the cringe-factor associated with low-budget rom-coms. By keeping her targets specific, and refusing to give into lazy genre clichés, Collington marks herself out as a talent to watch here.