This week sees the release of four films: Encanto explores the compelling but complicated relationships within families, Last Night In Soho is a dark-tinged, neon-drenched, original thriller, parents despair when their son disappears in My Son, and the local film New Material is the sequel to Material.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Encanto tells the tale of the Madrigals, an extraordinary family who live in a wondrous, charming place called an Encanto. Each child has been blessed with a magic gift unique to them—each child except Mirabel. But when the family’s home is threatened, Mirabel may be their only hope.
Before the setting was chosen, before even a single character was imagined, the filmmakers behind Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 60th all-new original feature film Encanto had decided what the heart of their new film would be: family. Filmmakers knew from the get-go that their story would be about family, and they quickly focused on the role perspective plays in family dynamics.
“It’s a story about how the people who are closest to us, especially family members, don’t always see us—or fully understand us. And likewise, we don’t show people we love our whole selves for many reasons. Our story shows how one member of a family who feels the least seen can learn to see her whole family and ultimately herself, ” says screenwriter and director Jared Bush, who was the co-director/co-writer on Zootopia, and also wrote the screenplay for Moana.
The film features all-new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Moana) and is directed by Byron Howard (Zootopia, Tangled) and Jared Bush (co-director Zootopia), co-directed by Charise Castro Smith (writer The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez) and produced by Clark Spencer and Yvett Merino. Bush and Castro Smith are screenwriters on the film.
In acclaimed director Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer, Sandie. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.
While Wright was drawn to the idea of making a ‘60s thriller, a mystery full of the horror elements and show-stopping style of that time, he also wanted to tell that story through a contemporary lens. He didn’t want to simply glamourise the past, or draw a veil over the grotesque reality of the seamy, sexist ‘60s. By putting a modern protagonist into the ‘60s story, he could bring a wariness to the milieu and perhaps avoid the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.
“Last Night in Soho is a love letter to that specific part of London, and to a bygone age when the Rolling Stones and Princess Margaret were hanging around,” says screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns. “It’s a love letter to the past, but a warning as well not to look back with too much nostalgia, or gloss over the seedy underbelly.”
Driving in the heart of the Highlands, Edmond Murray (James McAvoy) receives a call from his ex-wife (Claire Foy), in tears. Their seven-year-old son went missing from a campsite. Soon it becomes clear that the child was kidnapped, and the parents give way to despair.
This compelling mystery thriller is writer-director Christian Carion’s English-language remake of his own 2017 French production Mon Garçon. Although the cast, setting, and script were all changed, My Son was made using the same distinctive methodology as the French original, what Carion calls “orchestrated improvisation.”
Accordingly, James McAvoy, who plays a man whose young child goes missing in the Scottish Highlands, arrived on set knowing only that he was playing a man whose son had disappeared. Then, throughout production, he was entirely in improvisation mode: his portrayal of Edmond is a series of real-time reactions to the other actors. The idea behind orchestrated improvisation is to allow actors to express spontaneous emotion, to even devise their own dialogue at the moment if they so desire. The result of this unique production method is both an incredibly authentic portrayal from an actor and a distinct story, personalised to a particular moment and person.
“In this concept of shooting a movie, it relies very deeply on the trust between the actors and the director,” says writer and director Christian Carion. “If the actor doesn’t believe in what we’re trying to do, that’s it. So, I said to Claire and James at the end of the shoot, ‘I thank you for trusting me because without trust nothing can happen. Nothing at all.’”
This sequel to Material, released in 2012, combines moments of heart-wrenching family and personal drama with hilarious snippets of stand-up comedy and everyday life in one of the continent’s most cosmopolitan cities.
Written and directed by Craig Friemond.
Read more about the latest and upcoming films here.
Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit www.writingstudio.co.za