I think 'Locke' is the best film I've so far seen at the Sydney Film Festival. It's innovative, but accessible. A very neat film. It's shot in real time and has one location, the interior of a car, and only one actor, the accomplished Tom Hardy. The central character, Ivan Locke, is a man marked out by his capability. He's a very successful and careful building project manager with a wife he loves and a close relationship with his sons. He has built a life of duty, care and control - the opposite of the feckless father whom he rejected. But a one-night stand with a lonely woman for whom he felt only compassion led to pregnancy and he is driving to a city an hour and a half distant to be with the woman having the child for whom he feels responsible. A series of phone calls on speaker phone is the only 'action' of the film. Locke's life falls apart - both his job and his relationship with his wife crumble as his sense of duty and his desire not to be like his father force him to be with a woman he hardly knows who is fathering his child. It's a quiet tour de force by Tom Hardy and simple but perfectly controlled direction and script by Steven Knight. Another four and a half.
'Two Days, One Night' is a rather old-fashioned social realist film by the renowned French Dardenne brothers, who wrote and directed the film. Marion Cotillard gives a moving performance as Sandra, a woman who over two days and a night needs to persuade her co-workers to support her retention at the factory where she works by giving up their bonuses. As she speaks with each of her co-workers their financial and family circumstances are revealed and the injustice of the choice to be made is clear. This is a moving film with great performances, but it's not engaging film-making. Maybe a three and a half for its performances and its politics.
I didn't really like two of the films I've seen. 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' was beautifully filmed and visually memorable, but there simply wasn't a sufficiently interesting narrative to drive the action or make us care for Kumiko, the central character. It's partly realistic and partly fantastic and for me veered uneasily across these genres. Three out of five. I spent some time wondering why 'Words and Pictures' was scheduled for the Festival as it seemed too light-weight for the Festival context. It's a romantic comedy with predictable characters and a predictable story - designed for viewers who are no longer young but not yet old. It's the kind of movie you might go to on a rainy day if nothing else was offering. It stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche who are both charming and who make their way through the film with minimal demands on their otherwise considerable acting skills. But I think I solved the question of why it was scheduled. It's veteran Australian director Fred Schepisi's latest offering and this year Schepisi gave the Ian McPherson Memorial Lecture for the Festival. Despite my admiration for Schepisi, this film only deserves a two and a half out of five.