Film diary: The Eternal Daughter, All That Breathes, Funny Pages, Brian and Charles and Avatar: The Way of Water

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Eternal Daughter (2022), directed by Joanna Hogg. Screener.

On paper, everything I could want from a film. Stealth sequel to the two Souvenir films! Ghostly vibes! Surly waitresses! Two Tilda Swinton roles!

In reality, a film I admired more than loved – as opposed to the Souvenir films before it which gave me both. This may be a victim of screener season – Joanna Hogg’s laconic style and Pinteresque appreciation for subtext is probably better served in a distraction free cinema rather than on a laptop.

Though if Hail, Caesar did not prove it enough, this is further evidence we need to give Tilda Swinton two roles in everything!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

All that Breathes (2022), directed by Shaunak Sen. Screener.

The fun thing about preparing for my critics’ group awards (Dorian Awards represent!) is that it often throws up films that are almost a parody of the kind of obscure arthouse films that only the most pretentious film snob assholes would watch.

As a pretentious film snob asshole, however, I loved this documentary about a hospital for birds in India. Like Descendant from last week, it is one of those documentaries which uses its central premise as a magnifying glass with which to look at the whole world. Come for the birds, stay for the profound insights into being a human in a world in crisis. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Funny Pages (2022), directed by Owen Kline. Screener.

Finding myself burned out from two days of IRL Christmas parties and a Zoom clusterfuck, I treated myself to this piece of sublime scumbag cinema. What better way to balance out heavy socialising than with a 86 minute (what a magnificent runtime!) dose of misanthropy.

In our world of homogenised cinema, how great to watch a film with its own set of weird influences (underground comics, Terry Zwigoff movies, the detritus of ‘50s culture) but that isn’t beholden to them.

Main character Robert, the aspiring comics artist rebelling from his middle class home by living in squalor, cuts close to the bone to all of us one-time budding artists with pretensions but life experience to back them up. And the misadventures he lives through in his quest to befriend an unbalanced ex-comics colourist elicited at least four out-loud gasps from me.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Brian and Charles (2022), directed by Jim Archer

Watching this film, about a lonely man who builds a robot friend, I couldn’t help thinking of Truffaut’s quotes that British cinema was a “contradiction in terms.” 

I imagine the director would have been similarly waspish about this too-gentle-for-its-own-good comedy. There are some laughs to be had with Charles the robot with his washing machine body, love of cabbage and his face of a middle-aged professor. But mostly the film’s cavalcade of light eccentrics feels destined for an afternoon slot on BBC Two.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022), directed by James Cameron. Odeon Greenwich.

Splish splash. I’ve gone on quite the journey with Avatar since watching the first one and not really liking it. Avatar having no cultural legacy became such a tired take that I began to chafe against it – after all, if Film Twitter kept bringing up the film to say it had made no impact, then clearly that was not the case. Plus, the very fact that James Cameron persisted with it for 12 years, forcing Oscar winner actresses to stay underwater for minutes on end, gave the film some interest.

Watching it, I had the same experience that everyone else seemed to have when they watched the first one in the cinema in 3D (an experience I missed back in 2009). I found the visuals awe-inspiring, but much of the action cheesy  – though not necessarily in a bad way. And the film does take a lot of time to get to its climax, but when it gets there and you’re watching whales fight battleships, it feels worth it.

However, none of this makes up for how the film wastes its actresses. Zoe Saldaña is left with nothing to do but hiss, Kate Winslet’s role could have been taken by anyone, and Edie Falco is a walking exposition machine. True, some of that walking sees her in a robot exoskeleton that is holding a coffee cup, but even so.

Follow me on Letterboxd for more thinly veiled attempts to use puns.

More film diaries:

  • December 5 – 11 (We, A Banquet, The Menu, Bones and All, Prayers for the Stolen, Descendant, EO)
  • November 28 – December 4 (The Inspection, Three Minutes: A Lengthening, Fire of Love, Faat Kine, She Said, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and Tár)
  • November 21 – 27 (Camp de Thiaroye, Guelwaar, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Pearl, Honk For Jesus Save Your Soul and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery)

Published by Samuel Spencer

Journalist at BBC Three. Deputy Culture Editor at Newsweek. Formerly at, Press Association, ARTINFO. Lover of film, TV and the actresses it they give work to. Contact me

One thought on “Film diary: The Eternal Daughter, All That Breathes, Funny Pages, Brian and Charles and Avatar: The Way of Water

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