Saturday 20 February 2021

Article: Glasgow Film Festival – Findings - Part 1

With many parts of the world still in the grip of the pandemic, Film Festivals have been forced to reconsider how they function as a main cog in the industry. The focus is now heavily based on streamed screeners and zoom interviews as the main approach. Something that festivals were aiming towards for a small while anyway. However, the acceleration of this possible new normal has allowed a broadening of scope which perhaps had not been tapped into in previous years.

With Glasgow film festival having to adapt to the situation at hand, it has allowed the likes of myself – unable to travel up to bonnie Scotland – to be able to take part in the proceedings in a way that I would have perhaps been able to before. If the new adaptation is adopted and improved upon even further, the fact that we may be able to see a flourishing of diverse opinion provides a profoundly optimistic outlook to the world of cinema and film writing. One hopes that when COVID-19 is no longer a mainstay of our news and lives, such broadening of horizons remains with us.

The Toll:

Set entirely in the sparse but photogenic Pembrokeshire countryside, The Toll casts Michael Smiley as the quiet yet sinister Tollbooth operator whose shady secret from his previous life sparks a whole manner of chaos in a remote Welsh town. Ryan Andrew Hooper’s loads his debut feature with a hefty amount of local colour and oddball characters. The film’s cast is filled with solid character actors that help deflect the purposely fractured storytelling, which may or may not convince viewers. However, the main strength of the film lies in the wryly comic observations on topics such as teen criminals asking for Instagram engagement and English ex-pats claiming Wales for themselves.  British cinema could do worse than have a few more attempts at what this Welsh Western is trying.


While we may only be in the second month of the year at the time of writing, I would not be surprised if Minari stays high up in my list of favourite films of the year. Lee Isaac Chung’s tender drama takes place in rural Arkansas in the 1980s following a Korean American family moving from California to a remote plot of land, to grow Far Eastern produce for immigrant vendors. With its naturalistic cinematography and warm performances, the film is quietly disarming in nearly every scene.

Semi-autobiographical in nature, Chung’s film eschews the kind of typical racial conflict which one could have expected from such a film. Instead, Minari is more interested in the frayed family tensions that come from Steven Yeun’s Jacob overwhelming desire to make his way through the American dream. The film is not overtly plotted and does not have to be to deliver its emotional gut punches. A film that delivers a strong wind with butterfly wings.


A myriad of interconnecting stories which meld within one another, the Estonian filmed Undergods is an eyeball hijacker from a production design standpoint. The stark, dilapidated landscapes perfectly capture the nature of this anthology of dour tales which centre around broken family values, mistrust, and isolation. Spanish director Chino Moya starts proceedings well. Opening with a snappy, spiteful story of a splintered relationship being suspiciously invaded by a too-friendly neighbour.  

However, the film becomes a bit too self-absorbed in its bleakness to be fully invested. The film falls down rabbit holes, telling stories within stories and punctuates itself with moments of dark violence. But by the time Kate Dickie starts wildly dancing to Conway Twitty’s Lonely Blue Boy, Undergods steers into David Lynch territory, but with none of the engagement.