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quietearth [Film Festival 06.25.10] United Kingdom movie review drama

Year: 2010
Directors: Viv Fongenie
Writers: Viv Fongenie
IMDB: link
Trailer: Not available
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 5 out of 10

The name alone had me excited, and with comparisons to Donnie Darko in the EIFF catalogue, and a theme surrounding particle physics, madness, death and grief; how could I resist? Once again I eagerly sat at the back of the cinema, notebook in hand, and anticipated something special. Special it most certainly isn’t. Maybe it’s ‘competent’, but I’ve been there, done that and seen it done better before.

The films begins with Ollie marching down the street, wearing a bathrobe, fez and scarf and talking dementedly to his smiley face kettle. “Don’t complain to me!” he spits, “At least you get to see the world!” We’re then treated to a cosmic opening credits sequence, and to whoever designed it, it’s the best part of the film, zooming around galaxies and planets as the titles appear. Ollie (Edward Hogg) lives with his fiancée Noreen (Jodie Whittaker) and they share an easy, stress-free relationship, with science expert Ollie explaining string theory in basic terms while she tries to get him interested in classical music; they sit in the park and enjoy the sunshine. She gets a headache. Several in fact, although she neglects to visit the doctor and it’s not long until tragedy strikes, and geeky but cynical Ollie is absolutely devastated.

He falls into a depressed slump, and although his friends Tom (Andrew Knott) and Jackie (Cathy Tyson) try to persuade him, in a very British way, to move on and accept what’s happened, Ollie is defeated and begins to lose it, as audio hallucinations and obsessive behaviour towards his fridge become the order of the day, and he paints his entire flat purple and turns-up to work in his (purple) Y-fronts. Ollie thinks that if he can find the correct balance he can alter the universe and maybe retrieve Noreen with the help of a micro-chip hidden in a block of cheddar cheese, but Andrew realises that Ollie is suffering from major mental health issues that, under Noreen’s calming influence, had been hidden until now. As Ollie becomes increasingly unhinged and resentful towards Andrew, his world crumbles around him and he seeks solace with his kettle and a power drill.

The first thing to strike one about Ollie Kepler’s Expanding Purple World is that it has a very television feel to it. It’s not a cinematic film and feels like it should be shown on the sci-fi channel, rather than premiered at an international film festival. The director, Viv Fongenie, is a former NME journalist who’s worked closely with mental health patients and also wrote/produced the film. There are occasional cutaways to scenes of Ollie sitting in front of a blown-up photo of outer space, looking for all the world like a demented, 80’s era David Byrne as his voiceover explains scientific theories in monotone, and he thanks the audience for listening. These are the highlights really, just for sheer weirdness, but the rest of the film is really just a series of domestic confrontations between the unhinged Ollie and his two bewildered friends, which makes for a strangely depressing and disappointing watch. There’s no real humour in the film and although a man hiding microchips inside his cheese, eating endless bowls of muesli and talking to a kettle sound like a laugh riot, it’s more uncomfortable and, to be honest, dull.

It’s a real shame for somewhere inside Expanding Purple World there is a good film screaming to get out, but the way the material is handled is too ham-fisted and uncertain of what it’s doing or actually wants to be. There’s no lift or flow, and it never really comes together in the way that you really want it to, which makes for a very frustrating film experience. Perhaps if Ollie were a nicer man, or we had more time to spend with he and Noreen before the accident occurs, and the tone shifts to become more depressing and down-beat, then we’d be on-side, but as is, it just doesn’t work. While Hogg’s performance is perfectly fine, the character he projects is too unsympathetic to really garner audience support and we’re left, at best, simply wondering where the story will go, rather than rooting for anyone in particular, especially given the somewhat cruel nature of his friends attempting to brush him off, although I think I would too if I were them.

Don’t be fooled by the title, as it’s a sad fact that some films are given especially whacky names to boost sales and gain interest and this is defiantly one of them. While it’s far from being a terrible film, it is a seriously disappointing one.

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Lotus Eater (11 years ago) Reply

David Byrne is a wonderful artist.


rickmcgrath (11 years ago) Reply

ahh, too bad... excellent review, tho... regardless of your slight allusion to the Byrnester


projectcyclops (11 years ago) Reply

He just looks really like David Byrne from back in the 80's, thought it warranted mention. Don't get me wrong - Talking Heads and indeed The Tom Tom Club are awesome. Stop Making Sense is an old favourite.

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