October Sonata (รักที่รอคอย) (2009)

dir. Somkait Vituranich. A beautiful, sad, and beguiling Thai romance film, about a young seamstress/aspiring author and, her doomed love affair with an academic/political activist. Some interesting parallels to Warren Beatty’s REDS (1981). The production design is superb, and completely evocative of 1970s Bangkok. The attention to detail in the costumes, the cars, and the architecture are highly impressive. The two lead actors Ratchawin Wongviriya, as the luminous Sangchan, and Thanawat Wattanapoom as the rugged democracy activist Rawee, are both delightful and it’s painful to watch them pulled apart by circumstance, and by chance. It’s a bitter coincidence to watch this story of how the darker forces of Thai society impact the lives of ordinary people, on the same day that the streets of Bangkok once again witness a new generation forced to throw their bodies against the barricades, for love and freedom.

Fish Tank (2009)

dir. Andrea Arnold. Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a fifteen year old girl, living with her neglectful mother, and her eight year old sister Tyler in a council estate in East London. Angry and friendless, Mia escapes through alcohol and hip hop dancing. Her difficult life is made more challenging when her mother takes on a new live-in boyfriend, Conor (Michael Fassbender). Heartbreaking and beautiful. Like some other great social realism films, the distressing subject matter is transformed into riveting viewing through the outstanding naturalistic performances, and unpredictable storytelling. It’s unbelievable that this was Katie Jarvis’s first film, she’s confident and superb. There are moments of genuine humour and hope, that lift you above the films more upsetting moments. Incredible. The film also looks wonderful, with perfectly framed images in a TV style 4:3 aspect ratio.

Up In The Air (2009)

dir. Jason Reitman. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) travels around the USA, sacking employees of large companies on behalf of employers. He is joined by young tech-savvy Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), to see first hand how the work is done. I love watching Clooney flirting with Alex (Vera Farmiga), comparing loyalty cards, and bonding over their love of business travel. There is an odd tonal shift two thirds though the film, that turns the film into a more conventional comedy, which is very irritating. One part of Clooney’s character is he moonlights as a motivational speaker, and is writing a book based on his talk “What’s in your Backpack”, this is definitely in the zone of parasitic life coaches, and I wish the film explored that more, rather than the family plot. A very funny and bittersweet film, that is even more poignant right now with millions losing their jobs due to the current pandemic.