Daphne


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There is a new animated version of The Jungle Book showing at the London Film Festival on 14th that closely imitates the classic Disney film but without the inclusion of people or any anthropomorphic behaviour on the part of the animals. You can have a look at the trailer here. What they have aimed to do is remove any hint of artifice, showing how the characters would act in reality. It is a familiar story viewed without the Hollywood filter.

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The reason I mention this is because to some extent this movie Daphne seems to be doing the same thing with Bridget Jones. It follows the life of a self obsessed, English thirty something woman as she works, dates and deals with her parents but their is not an ounce of exposition, affectation or exaggeration. It shows the character behaving normally in her natural habitat. In places the film waves at the French New Wave and directors like Truffaut and Jacques Demy, one sequence with mirrors particularly reminded me of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and lead actor Emily Beecham has a resemblance to a young Catherine Deneuve. Essentially though Daphne presents a realistic slice of modern, middle class London and how isolating this can be.

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Daphne herself is barely off screen and this is the story of her having no story. She initially appears to be one of those people who believes themselves to be too superior for the mundanity of life but chooses to ignore it rather than rise above it. She is abrasive and selfish but Beecham’s precise performance means she is never unlikable and slowly you begin to suspect the drinking and sex with strangers is to help her feel nothing rather than something.

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Daphne isn’t always an easy watch and about an hour in you begin to fear that our hero will do something totally self destructive but it is a gently fascinating character portrait and ultimately, despite the cynical woman at the heart of it, is a subtle celebration of life, connection and finding a reason to carry on. 

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It this one for the kids?

 

Daphne is not one for the kids; hers is an adult life. Cleverly director Peter Mackie Burns plays with our expectations of what this looks like though. At one stage you think the protagonist has sneaked out to take drugs only for it to be cheese only for her to be seen taking drugs two minutes later. It also has one of cinemas most discomforting consensual sex scenes.

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The Ripley Factor:
The film clearly has a female lead who is never objectified on screen and is often painfully real. Her sense of agency is limited though and she is shown to be vulnerable in a way men rarely are in cinema. Yet again, despite everything pushing things in the other direction though, this woman’s story manages to be quietly inspiring.

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