Category Archives: Film

A KID” (“LE FILS DE JEAN”)— Finding Family

“A KID” (“LE FILS DE JEAN”)

Finding Family

Amos Lassen

Thirty-five year-old Parisian divorcee Matthieu (Pierre Deladonchamps) has a six-year-old son he sees on weekends. Dedication to a demanding job in business keeps him from writing crime novels and this is what h really loves. He has only written one, but it has been quite a success.. One day he gets a phone message from Quebec that his father, whom he’s never known, (he didn’t even know he was alive, has died, and left him a package. His father was Jewish (he didn’t know that either) and the internment will be in a couple of days. He flies to Montreal, and from this point on, the film focuses on the few days of Matthieu’s time in Canada and its surprises and revelations. Director Philippe Lioret works quietly and brings us a story filled with many small details that is basically a search for personal identity and fatherhood. We see it as a mystery story.

Matthieu is met at the airport by Pierre (Gabriel Arcand), his late father’s longtime doctor friend, who at first, for a while actually, isn’t very friendly. Matthieu isn’t interested in the funeral, only in meeting the two brothers he’s just learned about. Pierre agrees only if Matthieu doesn’t reveal who he is.

It also turns out the father died while fishing on a lake, probably of a heart attack, and his body has not been recovered. The two brothers (Pierre-Yves Cardinal and Patrick Hivon), decide to search the lake again, and Matthieu gets involved, pretending to be a friend on vacation. Pierre goes too, to prevent revelations. There’s a violent drunken quarrel between the brothers that reveals misunderstandings about inheritance. Later Matthieu, whose identity Pierre has revealed to his own family, gets friendly with Pierre’s daughter and two little granddaughters, and eventually receives another revelation from his wife.

What is surprising is that in Montreal, no one had  knowledge of Matthieu’s existence and doesn’t seem to want to know … but he was called to be informed of the death. This kind of story of the son who finds a father he has never known is not new, but the treatment here makes all the difference. It is much in the unsaid and many surprises of the narrative that keeps interest high. Pierre Deladonchamps is remarkable in this film as well as Gabriel Arcand who  adds up emotions through his character giving tenderness and the sensibility of the story.

This is a warm-hearted, audience-friendly movie that looks at family love and personal identity, taking these issues to emotional depths that profoundly touch the viewer. Pierre gets grumpy at the idea that Mathieu wants to meet the family he never knew existed immediately. They also lost their mother only recently, and will be having a traditional Jewish funeral in two days. Mathieu had never had any idea that he was Jewish. And it turns out that his surname Edel was originally Edelstein.

Les yeux au ciel
photos: Sébastien Raymond.
seb©sebray.com

The funeral will not be an easy affair to organize. This is because Jean, who as far as Pierre can deduce based on his friend’s two previous cardiac episodes, suffered a heart attack while fishing and fell into the lake, meaning his body has yet to be discovered. In Jewish law there can be burial only if there is something to bury. From the woods and looking for the father’s body, , Lioret takes us on a ride through family relations (including Pierre’s own, with his charming wife, daughter and two granddaughters) that occasionally get ugly, are sometimes endearing, but always relatable

“ELDORADO”— The Difficult Questions

“Eldorado”

The Difficult Questions

Amos Lassen

Director Markus Imhoof brings together the intensely personal with the sociopolitical in his latest documentary, “Eldorado” the story of Europe’s modern refugee failures that he balances against his recollection of his own experience of his family offering shelter to a young Italian girl during the Second World War. Since what is happening today is the biggest since then, it’s a fair point of comparison and one which gives an additional emotional charge as he returns again and again to the concept of who we consider to be “us” and how we put “I” first no matter what.

Others have dealt with this in the past but Imhoof opens the debate to consider the economics of the situation with the personal touchstone ensuring that his film retains a character of its own. As Imhoof looks through old family photos, he recalls how their ‘adopted’ refugee Giovanna looked when he first saw her. This echoes the modern footage of medics triaging the newly rescued – many of who are weak from exhaustion or simply bewildered by circumstance. He describes Giovanna’s story, a story like other stories. We see the human urge to help is and the dedication of those whose lives are marked by the regular pick up of people in over laden boats is clear and is not the hoped-for paradise. A refugee currently in Italy talks about paradise again, and his current predicament in what he refers to as ‘purgatory’.

Away from the boats, the director speaks into a camera at one of the many makeshift camps that have sprung up and which are run by mafia capos, who get rich from the refugee men’s labor in the tomato fields. He goes back to Switzerland, the border between his homeland and Italy scarcely to consider the way that refugees are fulfilling much-needed roles in society such as caring for the elderly but they are also snared by red tape and sent back to the place they fear most. Imhoof digs into the economics. How the product of the slave labor of the tomato pickers will likely be bought by their relatives back home using what little money those working in the fields can send them, or the way that European Union milk production is killing the ability of farmers in Africa to make a profit. These are, perhaps simplified and small examples, but they say a great deal about a global trading ring that creates a vicious circle for Africa.

There is a sprawling quality to the film, and the two time-period narrative takes a while to find a smooth flow, but Imhoof makes sure to it all and he gives a good balance of factual information and personal testimony, both from himself and others.

The film is about both the movement of people and the movement of profit and while the bank balance of Europe may come out looking good, it is morally bankrupt. Halfway through the film, “an Italian humanitarian compares the journey of an African refugee to that of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem. First there is the hell of traveling north through Libya, crossing the Mediterranean, second there is purgatory, arriving in Italy and then finally the paradise of arriving in Northern Europe.”

Director Markus Imhoof shares his childhood in Switzerland and his relationship with Giovanna, a young Italian refugee his family adopted during the war. The politics that tore him and his newfound sister apart are used as a way to look at the journey of African migrants arriving in Europe. Imhoof refers back to his perspective as a child, the confusion, trying to figure out why there are borders and why some countries are stable and others are not.

We see the stages that the refugees experience upon arriving in Europe. The director spends time with the Italian coast guard responsible for rescuing them from seas and making sure they are healthy. Most of these people are shell-shocked or relieved to be on dry land but their expectations of Europe are soon broken as they try to make a living. We go into the refugee centers where the newcomers await the verdict on their destiny. Some are deported and others find menial work. Those who refuse deportation are welcomed by the mafia in work camps, where they live in squalor and slave for pennies. We see the ugly realities of the refugee crisis with Imhoof asking the difficult questions and answering them with humanity.

“GOLDSTONE”— A Noir Thriller Set in the Australian Outback

“GOLDSTONE”

A Noir Thriller Set in the Australian Outback

Amos Lassen

Indigenous Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) arrives in the frontier town of Goldstone on a missing persons inquiry. What seems like a simple investigation opens a web of crime, corruption and misuse of indigenous people’s land rights, and human trafficking. Swan must pull his life together and bury his differences with young local cop Josh (Alex Russell), so the two of them they can bring justice to Goldstone. 

Swan is bereft after the death of his daughter, drunkenly pulling into Goldstone on the trail of a missing persons case, but equally lost. He’s now an actual outsider coming into a hard town populated with hard people. The local sheriff, Josh (Alex Russell) is comfortable with where he is, but Jay’s arrival stirs things up and Josh begins to question the dubious partnership between the mayor (Jackie Weaver) and the manager of the local goldmine (David Wenham).

The goldmine built the town so it will come as no surprise that its influence is felt. The film wrestles with Australia’s colonial past on the periphery and alludes to it through the young pan-Asian group of girls that are flown in and forced to service the mineworkers to pay off debts. More than one reference is made to the recent spate of suicides by young people from the Aboriginal community – a very real and tragic epidemic – and the running of booze into the dry area in order to loosen morals.

The Mayor takes care of the town, and the mine runs everything else. The mine is a law unto itself with authority for deadly force. There is a fence marking a line beyond civilization, protecting a hole in the world but it is not the deepest wound in the community.

There is a deep sense of the spiritual of finding one’s place in this, the old, and the next worlds. “Goldstone” doesn’t just explore the subterranean ruthlessness of the outback. It moves across these three cultures, exploring how they meet, taking on the challenge “to try to fit all the elements together and to integrate different points of view and cultures. An opening montage of stunning old photos casts the film into an epic historical frame and as a way to show this three-way cultural encounter.

“THE GORE GORE GIRLS”—Violent, Gory and Fun

 

“The Gore Gore Girls”

Violent, Gory and Fun

Amos Lassen

“The Gore Gore Girls” is perhaps Herschell Gordon’s his grisliest, most outrageous offering of all time! It is the story of a vicious killer with a twisted sense of humor that butchers the girls of a go-go dancing club. As the grim death toll mounts, young reporter Nancy Weston teams up with obnoxious but private investigator Abraham Gentry to try and crack the case. “Nipples are snipped, faces are fried and behinds are tenderized as “The Gore Gore Girls” hurtles towards its shocking (and hilarious) conclusion.”

It is set in the seedy world of strip clubs. When an exotic dancer is found murdered, newspaper reporter Nancy Weston (Amy Farrell) hires famed gentleman detective Abraham Gentry (Frank Kress) to solve the case, promising a handsome reward if he can do so. Gentry and Nancy begin to frequent the local clubs to watch the dancers and to see if they can find any clues or suspects. As the murders continue, despite the fact that Gentry is watching things closely, he decides that he will have to set a trap to catch the killer, and he’s going to use Nancy as bait.

The appeal here is presumably supposed to be the long and drawn out scenes of the strippers doing their routines. This is the epitome of an exploitation film, as the story grinds to a halt in order to show those women going through the motions.

Though typically sleazy and cheesy, as all of Lewis’ work is, there are actually several humorous moments in this courtesy of The Killer, whose ‘methods’ of wiping out the dancers keep getting progressively more creative: one has her face ironed, another has her head boiled (along with some French fries!), yet another has her buttocks literally tenderized and yet another (!) gets her nipples snipped with scissors … only to discover that one breast produces whole fat milk and the other, chocolate. When it isn’t being outrageous with smashing up makeup and prosthetics, however, it goes back to cornball humor and overacting and inane plot revelations. At least there are plenty of strippers to keep the audience distracted.

Bonus Materials include:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Bonus Feature! 1971’s This Stuff’ll Kill Ya!
  • Introductions to the films by H.G. Lewis
  • Audio commentary on The Gore Gore Girls with H.G. Lewis
  • Audio commentary on This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! with camera operator and Lewis biographer Daniel Krogh
  • Author Stephen Thrower on The Gore Gore Girls
  • Regional Bloodshed – filmmakers Joe Swanberg and Spencer Parsons on Lewis’ legacy as a pioneer of regional indie filmmaking
  • Herschell Spills His Guts – H.G. Lewis discusses his career post-The Gore Gore Girls and his further adventures in the world of marketing
  • This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil

“THE GUARD”— Who is Denny?

“The Guard”

Who is Denny?

Amos Lassen

Denny (Bryan Veronneau) is a young married guy about to celebrate the birth of his first child. He should be happy but for some reason, Denny is having a hard time handling it. He truly loves his wife, Emma (Erika Thormahlen),he does so very much but the thought of a family is setting Denny off some sleepless nights which is affecting his job as a security guard for a office complex.

His boss, can’t really help Denny who is starting to looking rather tired and strained. Once when he looked a bit a rough, Denny’s boss had to send him home.Denny seeks advice from his local priest confiding that he is having trouble eating and sleeping and the priest offers some thoughts and prayers and sends Denny along. Desperate to find some peace in order to come to grips with his fears and doubts, Denny heads to the woods and what he finds will change his life forever….“The Guard” is extremely intense and dark with too many questions and not enough answers as we try and figure out why Denny is so afraid of becoming a father and having a family.  Why didn’t he address these fears with Emma? Or least with another friend who has a family?

Instead we are left to watch Denny and don’t understand how he got to where he is. Suspense only works when you can’t understand a inkling of the reason why.Mark Battle co-wrote and directed the film andVeronneau and Thormahlen are excellent as the expectant parents. What’s missing is information about Denny and I hope that will come to light.

“MOLLY”— “In a Brutal Apocalyptic World, One Woman Fights for Survival”

“MOLLY”

“In a Brutal Apocalyptic World, One Woman Fights for Survival”

Amos Lassen

..she looks nothing like a superhero, and that makes it all the more special when you see her stumble, push, shoot, stab and stomp through scores of villains.”  — Screen Anarchy. 

The English-language first feature from co-directors Colinda Bongers and Thijs Meuwese, “Molly” stars   Julia Batelaan in her feature film debut as the newest addition to the pantheon of teens standing between evil and the end of the world.

 “Molly” is the story of a woman’s desire to stay alive in a world where she is not wanted. Molly lives in a place ravished by war. She is a young woman with super powers who a roams the violent post-apocalyptic landscape, with only with a bow and arrow, to confront the dangers around her. When a sadistic ringmaster who runs an underground fight club hears of her supernatural abilities, he sends his sociopathic soldiers to capture her and make her a star attraction in his cage fights.

Science fiction films are few and far between these days and this is an intriguing film. It is set some years after a terrible cataclysm and humans are sparse. Some diseased survivors have regressed into a feral zombie-like state. These are called “supplicants”, and gangs of humans capture these for sport. Fights are staged, where people can bet on their favorite supplicant.

When a gang-leader hears stories about Molly, a super-powered girl roaming the land, he starts hunting her with the purpose of infecting her with the supplicant’s disease and using her as the gang’s new star attraction. Molly has other plans of course, and teams up with a young orphan…

From the very beginning the film is nonstop brutality and we understand why the directors did this. With such a violent opening, the main reason we start to like Molly is that she’s the only one who acts normal; everyone that she meets is either a deranged zombie or a sociopath.

In this rural world, everything is created out of saved garbage. Interiors seem filmed in an abandoned laser game arena by a group of friends on a lazy afternoon. This is very obviously a low budget film but the surprise comes when it proceeds to see what level of awesomeness it can achieve with this.

At first, the film seems amateurish, but then the first clever scenes appear and “fights turn into gritty wrestling matches rather than kung-fu ballets, and realism gets combined with inventive camerawork.” Molly often wins through perseverance and stamina rather than skill, and her worst wounds are those that are self-inflicted through clumsiness.

When the film finally enters its “attack mode”, there is a quite a shot that is so ambitious and so accomplished in its execution, that we can’t help but wonder how it was done. Julia Batelaan makes is quite a charismatic lead. She looks nothing like a superhero, and that makes it all the more special when watch how she deals with villains.

“THE BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION”— The Mexican Years

“THE BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION”

The Mexican Years

Amos Lassen

 

“The Boris Karloff Collection” is a compilation of four rare films on 2 DVDs starring the master of horror.

“Dance of Death” (1968)

Relatives visit the mansion of a wealthy man who is near death. However, the wealthy man is convinced that one of his relatives has inherited an illness from a dead family member who went crazy and killed people by digging out their eyes. Sure enough, people start dying… This is not a great movie but it is

certainly less weirdly incoherent than the other three movies here. Not that it’s good; like the others, it’s quite bad. It works in very familiar territory; it’s a rehash of the “old dark house” movies where relatives gather for the reading of the will and are then picked off one by one. You won’t be watching this one too long before you realize this fact, but once you do, you will realize with horror that Boris Karloff (the only reason to watch this one) is playing the part of the man whose will is to be read, which means he’s going to die early in the proceedings. And, sure enough, he does. Naturally, this leaves you in a quandary; either the movie has just killed the goose that laid the golden eggs, or it’s setting up a twist that is so patently obvious that there will be no surprise when it happens. In a sense, it hardly matters; when he dies, you know it’s going to be a long stretch of time before we see Karloff again in the movie, if at all. In fact, there is precious little in the way of surprises at all in this movie.

“Torture Zone” (1968)

Karloff died of emphysema soon after shooting his scenes for this that is sometimes known as “Fear Chamber”. Some will find a certain amount of camp fun in the proceedings, laughing at the awful acting of the cast, save for Karloff, who while not giving a great performance, does manage to inject a degree of professionalism that is lacking otherwise. Most viewers won’t find much fun in the film for very long; it quickly grows tiresome, and the spectacle of a man like Karloff reduced to such an awful movie becomes painful. Those who really get off on terrible horror films may want to give it a go, but others should let it pass by.

“Alien Terror” (1971)

In order to prevent mankind from benefiting from a scientist’s new invention, aliens possess the bodies of human beings to discredit him.

Karloff gets a little more in the way of screen time, and given that he’s easily the best actor on the lot, that’s a good thing. Still, the story doesn’t really make much sense; in particular, I can’t quite figure out why the aliens would wish to possess a known serial killer when he’s really more trouble than he’s worth. The movie is technically terrible; keep your eyes open for some of the most blatant actor substitutions in the fight scenes, and be amazed at the fact that the actor who dubbed in a line for Karloff at one point not only doesn’t sound remotely like him, but doesn’t even appear to be trying to do so.

“Cult of the Dead” (1971)

A new captain of the police arrives on an island and tries to put an end to the voodoo rituals of the natives.

The film actually starts out quite well, with an intriguing opening sequence (though animal lovers may want to steer clear; I think they killed a real chicken for this) and a good exposition sequence to introduce the characters. However, the movie falls into a muddle after this; ideas are introduced and dropped, some scenes exist purely for exploitation purposes and as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that a coherent script was never really written for this. The most interesting thing I can find about this one is Karloff’s performance; it isn’t one of his best, but he does give it his all, and despite the fact that he was on his last legs, it doesn’t show in his performance.

“DRAGNET”: COLLECTOR’S EDITION— This is the City…

“DRAGNET”: COLLECTOR’S EDITION

This is the City…

Amos Lassen

 The Shout! Select Blu-Ray of “Dragnet” features a new 4K HD scan, and new bonus features including a new interview with co-star Alexandra Paul and audio commentary. Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks try to save the city in “DRAGNET”, a hilarious box-office blockbuster that pays homage to the famed original police dramas of the ’50s and ’60s. This is a contemporary and very funny update of one of the best-known police shows of all time and now available on a special edition Blu-ray loaded with bonus features.

 Aykroyd is nephew of Detective Sgt. Joe Friday (originally played by Joe Webb). Like his no-nonsense uncle, he’s a blue-suited, by-the-rules Los Angeles cop who’s forced to reluctantly team up with the footloose, wisecracking Pep Streebek (Hanks). They are ordered to investigate a seemingly unrelated series of bizarre ritual killings and robberies; they eventually uncover a plot by an underground pagan group to undermine all authority in Los Angeles. Harry Morgan (“M.A.S.H.”) reprises his original TV series role as Bill Gannon; co-stars adding to the hijinks and hilarity include Dabney Coleman, Christopher Plummer and Alexandra Paul.

Directed by Tom Mankiewicz, the film suffers a bit from a plodding feel that’s compounded by a continuing emphasis on the central characters’ tedious investigation yet Aykroyd and Hanks raise the pervasively dull atmosphere. The lack of momentum ensures that the film wears out its welcome long before arriving at its finish.“Dragnet” is a case of a very funny sketch comedy idea dragged out beyond its ability to truly entertain in a feature film.  It’s funny in spots, but not enough to keep it all together the entire way. The first case that the two work on together sees them trying to crack a slew of recent murders in Los Angeles, ostensibly done by a mysterious cult known simply as P.A.G.A.N., (People Against Goodness and Normalcy) as the calling cars they leave behind at the scenes of their crimes suggest.  Signs begin to point in the direction of a smarmy TV evangelist named Rev. Jonathan Whirley (Plummer) and a smarmy smut merchant named Jerry Caesar (Coleman).  Friday and Streebeck rescue a sacrificial virgin, Connie Swail (Paul), at one of the P.A.G.A.N. gatherings, and for the first time in his life, Sgt. Friday has found someone wholesome enough to consider as his girlfriend, though he has now become too involved to think clearly — or play things by the book when the heart is involved.

Aykroyd delivers one of his best comic portrayals that at first seems like a superficial impression, but we begin to appreciate the subtle ways that Aykroyd manages to get in laughs through such a deadpan delivery.  He manages to convey something more inside Friday’s head than just an adherence to the law, and the result is quite funny.

Tom Hanks gives us a geniality and modernity to counter Friday.  He’s a little miscast, as Hanks has always seemed rather clean cut himself as an actor, and even if our first impression of him is of a slob, it’s not easy to see him in the role but he’s gracious enough to let Aykroyd hog the spotlight, as he plays the setup man for Friday’s increasing digressions into silliness. “Dragnet” is at its best when Joe Friday speaks, whether with his partner, questioning a witness, interrogating a suspect, or briefing his boss, Captain Gannon. It loses most of its appeal when Friday is off of the screen, or when the film devolves into extended chase/action sequences.  

Shout! Factory has created a line-up of bonus features including a brand new interview with co-star Alexandra Paul entitled “A Quiet Evening in the Company of Connie Swail” and new audio commentary from pop culture historian Russell Dyball. Additionally, consumers can order the collector’s edition directly from shoutfactory.com ; the Collector’s Edition will ship two weeks early and, while supplies last, will include a free 18×24 rolled poster featuring brand new artwork.

Special Features:

 NEW “A Quiet Evening in the Company of Connie Swail”: An Interview With Co-Star Alexandra Paul

NEW Audio Commentary with Pop Culture Historian Russell Dyball

“Just the Facts!”: A Promotional Look at Dragnet with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks

Original Theatrical Trailers & Promos

Photo Gallery

“LA MADRE, EL HIJO Y LA ABUELA” (“THE MOTHER, THE SON AND THE GRANDMOTHER”)— An Unlikely Bond

“LA MADRE, EL HIJO Y LA ABUELA” (“THE MOTHER, THE SON AND THE GRANDMOTHER”)

An Unlikely Bond

Amos Lassen

After their Chilean town is destroyed by a volcano, three people form an unlikely bond in this first feature film from Benjamin Brunet. It all begins when twenty-seven-year-old Cristóbal (Gonzalo Aburto) returns, camera in hand, to his hometown of Chaitén, after it has been destroyed by a volcanic eruption. As he searches among the ruins for his childhood home, amidst ruins, he meets Ana (Ana Gallegos), a strong-willed, middle-aged tobacconist whose sick elderly mother, María (María Muñoz), refuses to leave town in order to seek treatment.  As events unfold, this lonely trio forms an unlikely bond, and become the lost family for which Cristóbal had been searching.

The film is divided into three chapters, one for each character. Taken as a whole, this is a reflective, authentic and intimate film which rests somewhere between fiction and documentary. Cristobal, photographer and independent filmmaker had recently learned that he was that he was adopted and has returned to his village, in order to make a documentary about his origins and find out more details about his past. When he meets Ana, a middle-aged woman who lives with his elderly mother Maria with a sick stomach, he sees that she misses her Gonzalo, who for years has not been to see her so Cristobal decides to host them. In a few days, a strong bond is and it is almost as if the young man was really a family member.

 

Everything happens through the lens of Cristobal’s camera and he is ready to record every moment and make immortal anyone who comes near his lens.

Along with its DVD and Digital debut, LA MADRE, EL HIJO Y LA ABUELA will also be available on IndiePix Unlimited, the streaming subscription service of IndiePix Films.  For $5.99 per month at either Amazon Channels or IndiePixUnlimited.com, passionate cinephiles get 24/7 access to a highly-curated catalog of cinematic gems from both international auteurs and visionary new voices alike, joins other contemporary classics of world cinema including 2009 Cannes Camera D’Or winner, SAMSON & DELILAH, Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s feature-length debut, the Golden Lion-nominated WOMEN WITHOUT MEN and Noaz Deshe’s powerful WHITE SHADOW.

“PIN CUSHION”— Bullying

“Pin Cushion”

Bullying

Amos Lassen

Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and daughter Iona (Lily Newmark) are moving house and hugging a plant and the budgie’s cage in the front of the van. Moving seems to be something they’ve done before, maybe a few times. Upon arriving at the new place, Lyn gets their possessions in order and Iona offers to go round the corner and buy some milk. This is the first time we get an idea that something is not quite right and we cannot help but notice that Iona, though dressed like a much younger child, is about 14-years-old.

“Pin Cushion” shows us both the warmth of intense familial love and the cold of social isolation. Lyn was born with a hunch in her back and it has shaped her whole existence, and whilst one might argue that her eccentricity and lack of social skills might be a bigger factor in people’s rejection of her, it’s easy to see that they are products of that difference. Iona, by contrast, is a naturally pretty girl, but prettiness in adolescence isn’t always advantageous. Then there is this difference, and the ambition that surfaces in Iona when she gets a little taste of power that makes it increasingly difficult for them to understand each other.

We follow Lyn’s attempts to make friends (doing everything that advice columnists recommend) and Iona’s attempts to navigate boyfriends, school cliques and being cool. Writer/director Deborah Haywood draws the viewer into the film and to share Iona’s embarrassment about her mother’s behavior and only later recognize the unthinking cruelty of it. Iona herself is both victimizer and victim, trying to find her place in the world.

Haywood finds comedy in the absurdity and the hypocrisies of suburban life bleakest situations. Both leads deliver assured performances and the supporting cast is strong emphasizing that when Iona has the potential for real friendship it’s quietly visible alongside the dramatics of the main plot. The film will no doubt be too quirky for some and too disturbing for others, but it’s well made, bold and inventive.

Iona and her meek, hunchbacked mother Lyn were hoping for a new start in a new town, but the hostile welcome they receive strains their formerly close relationship. Iona and Lyn love birds and cats and stuff with lace and little cake things. Dad is out of the picture and never remarked on, so it is just them. Iona is eager to make friends, but through her imagination, she has visualized fast friendships that aren’t realistic. In fact, they leave her vulnerable to the predatory manipulations of Keeley, the queen bee of her class. Just for kicks, Keeley sets her up for a fall, leaving her a disgraced social pariah. Sadly, Lyn fares little better with her efforts to make friends among the snotty, rough-hewn neighbors.

This is often a hard film to watch, especially in light of the terrible stories of bullying we have today. Human beings can only take so much. We can see both mother and daughter reaching that point in “Pin Cushion” and it is harrowing to watch.