Esther McCarthy reviews Midnight Special and My Name is Emily
My Name is Emily
Simon Fitzmaurice had already made an award-winning short film and seemed destined for further success, when he was given a devastating diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease eight years ago.
Undaunted, the father of five set about completing his script for My Name is Emily, surrounded himself by a supportive and talented cast and crew, and set up a crowd funding scheme to help raise extra funding.
That the film got made at all is a remarkable achievement - he’s the first writer/director in the world to complete a feature solo. That it's a real charmer is a bonus.
Yes, the story will be too slight and quirky for some tastes, but it has a sense of place and strongly formed characters. Best of all, it has heart.
Emily (a very good Lynch) is a teenager who has learned to embrace the term ‘freak’. With her mother gone and her father (Smiley) struggling with his mental health, her upbringing has been anything but normal.
When she learns her father may be at a mental institution across the country, she sets off in search of him with new classmate Arden (a lovely Webster) by her side.
Filled with philosophical life observations, it’s hard to see where Fitzmaurice’s story ends and Emily’s starts, and that’s a good thing.
Midnight Special (12A) ****
Fantastical sci-fi dramas don’t come much better than Midnight Special, a movie where you'll need to park any scepticism early on.
If you can make the initial leap - and not everyone will want to - the rewards are numerous.
Young Jaeden Leiberher is terrific as Alton, a strange little boy, who, we learn, wears those earphones and sunglasses for very unusual reasons.
Alton, you see, has special powers that are not always within his control, and the film opens with him on the run with his father (the brilliant Shannon) and his dad’s mysterious friend (Edgerton).
That’s because everyone wants a piece of Alton, not least the cultish community who’d taken him under their wing in a place called The Ranch (run by an underused Sam Shepherd). Their entire belief system functions around the boy, and with doomsday coming, they are desperate to bring him back to save them.
The movie has strong echoes of the classic Spielberg sci-fi movies of the 1980s (I found myself thinking of ET many times) and while it wanes in the finale, there’s no doubting this movie’s power and energy.