Better Things

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Cannes, Critics Week

CANNES -- What is striking about Duane Hopkins' debut feature, "Better Things," is the number of negatives it accumulates. No camera movements. No musical soundtrack. No story. No humor. It's tempting to go on: no warmth, no hope, no love, no life. In their prospectus to the media, the filmmakers promise poetry and transcendence. These, like beauty, reside largely in the eye of the beholder.

The problem with "Better Things" is that, beyond the community of festival-goers and hard-core art house buffs, there are likely to be few beholders.

It's possible that this outline is too sweeping. There are at least two tracking shots, and on occasion the camera shifts to take in the head movements of the younger and livelier characters. From time to time the characters play recorded music, usually classical, on vinyl or cassette. There are some splendid wintry views of the northern English countryside.

Gail (Rachel McIntyre) is an adolescent who lives with her aged grandmother. Her story is interwoven with that of Rob (Liam McIlfatrick), another adolescent whose girlfriend has just died of a drugs overdose. His solution to his problems is to shoot up, along with those of other local kids who either hang out, do drugs, occasionally attend school, engage in sex and exchange angry phone calls over perceived infidelities. Also in the mix are an elderly couple who appear to have reached a late-life crisis in their relations.

These social dramas are handled in a self-consciously arty manner with none of the commitment of a Ken Loach or the conviction of a Mike Leigh (both of whom would surely have used actors with regional accents). The movie's occasional philosophizing is trite, and the dialogue and its delivery are stilted, at times laughably so.

Production company: Third Films Ltd.
Cast: Rachel McIntyre, Liam McIlfatrick, Emma Cooper, Che Corr, Freddie Cunliffe, Kurt Taylor, Megan Palmer, Katie Samuels, Michael Socha.
Screenwriter/Director: Duane Hopkins.
Producers: Samm Haillay, Rachel Robey.
Photography: Lol Crawley.
Editor: Chris Barwell.
Production design: Jamie Leonard.
Sound design: Douglas MacDougall.
Sales: Celluloid Dreams.
No rating, 93 minutes

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