A review by Brenda Daniels
Two South African films open at cinemas across South Africa on Friday 28 November. They are Spud 3: Learning to Fly and Leading Lady.
In Spud 3, Troye Sivan stars again as schoolboy John Milton (Spud). At the beginning of this year of his life, Spud is faced with losing his much-needed scholarship to the private school he attends if his performance and behaviour don’t improve. On the advice of his teacher and friend, The Guv (John Cleese), Spud makes a list of things he can do to keep his scholarship and then sets about doing them.
One by one, his plans fail – from short-lived romances to a dismal performance at the school play. Spud’s only remaining hope is to run for prefect. His decision to do this causes trouble amongst the Crazy Eight (which comprises only seven boys) and the relationship with his closest buddies is tested.
On top of all these troubles, Spud’s mad family goes from bad to worse as his father leaves home and starts a bar to try and make a living.
In romantic comedy Leading Lady, aspiring actress, Briton, Jodi Rutherford (Katie McGrath), visits a farm in South Africa in the hopes of getting into character for an Afrikaans role she is preparing for. She meets handsome farmer, Kobus Willemse (Bok van Blerk) and his odd family, and ends up helping them and the community prepare for the annual nativity play.
Both films are light-hearted, character-driven entertainment, free from angst and political agenda. This is a good thing, given South Africa’s often dismal public affairs outlook. It was particularly poignant given the fact that half way through the pre-screening of Leading Lady I attended, the centre in which the cinema is held had to be evacuated! (For a false alarm I later learnt).
But this harmless fun isn’t enough to make up for the inadequacies in the two movies. Despite their quality production both Spud 3 and Leading Lady seem to suffer from small camera angles – no sweeping shots and large scenes – and stilted action. Leading Lady in particular has too many close-ups of, albeit attractive, Katie McGrath, which I found annoying after a while.
And in Spud 3, the lack of scenery and big numbers of people (which would be normal in a school setting), felt suffocating and unnatural.