20th Century Women (15)
DIRECTED BY: Mike Mills
STARRING: Annette Benning, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, Billy Crudup
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
Director Mike Mills follows Beginners, his Oscar-winning study of the relationship between a son and his gay father, with another picture that takes as its jumping-off point the bond between parent and child. In the case of this late 70s-set cultural odyssey, the parent is gregarious, open-minded single mother Dorothea (the superb Annette Bening) and the child is Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), the teenage son she isn’t quite sure she can guide on his path to becoming a man.
To this end, she recruits the help of two other women to help raise him. Her lodger, Abbie (Greta Gerwig), is a photographer crowd surfing on the anger and energy of the new wave scene. And Julie (Elle Fanning) is Jamie’s best friend, a sullen beauty who is casually oblivious to the fact that he is in love with her.
But the 20th century is almost as important a character as the women. Mills weaves together a tapestry of social, cultural and political strands. In part of the extensive voiceover, delivered predominantly by Dorothea and Jamie, the boy talks of his last memory of his absent father – a birthday in 1974 – which deftly links mid-70s fashion trends (mirrored sunglasses) with news events (President Gerald Ford’s historic tumble down the steps of Air Force One) and with vomit on a carpet.
Mills makes reference to the experimental documentary Koyaanisqatsi with accelerated clips of teeming southern California life; he even includes a clip of Koyaanisqatsi itself to emphasise the parallel. Dorothea’s 1940s jazz rubs shoulders with Talking Heads and Black Flag; still photography mood boards give way to psyched-out, colour-saturated “film burn” effects, which nod to the California hippie hotbed that spawned the film’s other key character, William (Billy Crudup). There’s a certain arch self-awareness in the screenwriting that won’t appeal to everyone, but I loved the film for its scrapbook structure, its warmth and candour.
Wendy Ide - The Guardian
THURSDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2017
Doors: 7.30pm Film 8pm
The Guardian - ★★★★
The Telegraph - ★★★★★
The Independent - ★★★
The Times - ★★★★