This post is written by a guest writer – A. L. Fox. This woman is a professional writer, having written articles for newspapers and magazines but here is her first blog post. She writes about films and TV shows that she watched recently and wants to recommend to you.
It’s All About the Plot – Dramas by Women to Watch this Summer by A.L. Fox
What makes a good film? Simple question but there is no simple answer. Critics and the viewing public often disagree as box office figures often illustrate. One recent example is that of the latest blockbuster in the Star Wars franchise, Solo. It was given a warm reception by most film critics and yet, it has had poor box office returns.
However, back to the question about what constitutes a good film – and, in my definition, that means a film that I have enjoyed watching – and one that I don’t wish back the hours spent in its’ company.
For me, plot is everything – tell a good story and you’re definitely on to a winner; dialogue comes next closely followed by good acting – and good casting. If the actors aren’t right for the characters whom they are portraying (wrong age, wrong ethnicity, wrong dynamics and so on) then no matter how good their acting skills, they won’t be convincing and the film will feel contrived. You could argue that all films operate at this level but there has to be some ring of authenticity to connect with the audience. On reflection, perhaps casting needs to lead the field. Nina Gold, casting director of well-earned repute, with Games of Thrones and The Crown, just two of her long list of credits, would probably agree.
There are so many films out there; so much choice that hours can be wasted just choosing one to actually watch. Sometimes the blurb helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Here are two of my random selections from Netflix:
Maggie’s Plan (2015)
Directed by Rebecca Miller
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore.
Reading the blurb on Netflix and the ‘rom com’ categorisation, almost had me swiping right. But the quality of the cast led me to press select and I urge you to do the same. This was a sensitive portrayal of relationships and conflict and a very touching reflection of the dynamics within those relationships. Maggie wants to have a baby but she’s not in a relationship and decides to use a donor. But she meets John, who has distanced himself from his marriage to a much more successful college professor, Georgette. John doesn’t work – he is writing a book and Maggie is flattered that he has asked her to proofread his manuscript. Their relationship develops as Maggie finds herself pregnant and they marry.
However, Maggie then finds that John continues his self-absorbed life and she becomes the main breadwinner and carer, often looking after John’s children from his first marriage. Seeking to regain her independence, she seeks to reunite John with Georgette realising that they still love each other and that they are similar personalities.
There’s a wonderful plot suggestion at the very end of the film that completes the heartwarming tale.
Their Finest (2016)
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Stars: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy.
This was categorised as drama and it provided plenty of that along with a slice of war history that is not as familiar as the bombs and battlefields of WWII. Catrin leaves her Welsh home to live with a man in London but he soon leaves her for another and to support herself, she works as a secretary and then as a scriptwriter for the film division of the government, making propaganda reels to keep up the country’s morale.
Her struggles for recognition as a woman scriptwriter are documented without becoming too sentimental or political but it does highlight the difficulties of being accepted as a professional working woman in that era. There is a love interest who, although set against her joining the division at first to the extent of undermining her contribution, eventually falls in love with her. The ending isn’t as expected but this elevates the film from descending into the realm of fantasy. A good watch with some interesting historical detail and a good plot.
That word again – plot. The television series that has caught my attention – and kept it – is The Split, from the pen of Abi Morgan. The story centres on the travails of a family of divorce lawyers, the Defoes, mother and two sisters who are lawyers and another sister who works as an au pair, thrown into turmoil by the return of the father after a thirty year absence. He ran off to America when the children were small – with their nanny. There is plenty of drama with everyone’s relationship falling into the spotlight in turn; it’s all there, from hidden children to hidden secrets, from the twists and turns of divorce battles to betrayals. It depicts love in all its’ forms and manages to retain a freshness and dynamic that keeps you interested. With Nicola Walker heading a fine list of actors (Anthony Head is the father), the occasional misstep could be overlooked in the lower ranks. It is now on iPlayer so watch it before it vanishes.
Reviewing my recommendations, I have noticed that they are all by women – the writing, and the directing. Women tell a good story and have more empathy with the position of women in society generally, In the beginning, in the 1920s and 30s in Hollywood, the majority of screenwriters were women; it was relatively low-paid and it was all about the action. When cinema became big business and men realised there was money to be made from writing, they muscled in and took over. Now, only 16 percent of screenwriters are women – a shocking statistic that needs to be addressed, something the above writers are helping to change.
After all, women have been telling stories for centuries; they need to regain control and prominence on our screens once again.