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  Hurt by Paradise Poetry Please
Year: 2019
Director: Greta Bellamacina
Stars: Greta Bellamacina, Sadie Brown, Nicholas Rowe, Jazzy De Lisser, Anna Brewster, Tanya Burr, Sai Bennett, Robert Montgomery, Tim Pritchett, Jaime Winstone, Elisabeth Hopper, Camilla Rutherford, Jason Thorpe, Veronica Clifford, Bruno Aleph Wizard
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Celeste Blackwood (Greta Bellamacina) believes herself to be a poet, but unfortunately for her she cannot find a publisher who agrees. Take today, she goes to see an editor (Nicholas Rowe) who takes a look at her latest opus, an autobiographical book of poems about her absent father who walked out on the family when she was very young, and he tells her that she should rewrite the material into a novel instead. But she does not want to do that, and soon she is going home to her infant son and best friend and babysitter Stella (Sadie Brown) with her tail between her legs. So what can Celeste to do to make an impression in the literary world without committing suicide and being published posthumously?

She could try vanity publishing, especially as there was more than a whiff of vanity project about this film which Greta Bellamacina had co-written with her husband Robert Montgomery, who produced, and Brown, who co-starred, obviously. It came across as something she had set her heart on without much consulting of anyone who could have shaped this into a stronger narrative, perhaps added some more conscious humour, anything really to prevent it from the fatal amounts of meandering that afflicted every scene. If you saw one shot of Celeste playing with the toddler, or looking soulful as she contemplates her life, then you had seen a hundred, since that was the amount of inconsequential bits and bobs that littered her movie, to little effect.

Fair enough, have confidence in your ideas, but it was difficult to believe a major studio would have got behind something that gave indie drama, if not a bad name, then a name that suggested you should keep on scrolling should you come across this on a streaming service. They had roped in a biggish name in Jaime Winstone, who played a phoney fortune teller, but she was on the screen for a minute or two, if that, and the rest of the cast appeared to be made up of Bellamacina's mates, just as her family were all over behind the scenes. Though the photography managed a nice enough summery glow, the feeling that these were someone's supercharged home movies was never far away, the impression that they were going to mean so much more to her social circle than anyone else looking in was too strong to ignore, bolstered by the story's curious take on single mother poverty Celeste is presumably suffering.

At least, whenever she delves into her purse she doesn't have any money, but she seems to sustain a pretty cushy lifestyle on... what, exactly? The kindness of strangers? The kindness of plot convenience? It's certainly not on her writing, which we hear in voiceover though it's unclear if it's intentionally bad to explain why she can't get it sold, or whether it was actually bad and the writers had not realised. There was a "posh girl slumming it" tone to much of this, the scenes with Celeste anyway, while Stella, who also has no visible means of support other than her pal's generosity, gets stuck with a subplot where she has been chatting online with a mystery man who she has utterly unrealistic expectations of which we can see will come tumbling down well before we reach the end. And that finale features a coincidence that strains credibility to put it mildly. Maybe this kind of metropolitan privilege has trouble travelling outside of its insular milieu, because there was not much to relate to for everyone not in the in crowd. That said, it wasn't all bad: Camilla Rutherford as the weirdo hotelier was very entertaining, as were her sozzled customers.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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