Baby Driver: A Film with Surprising Combinations

Keen to watch a movie this weekend? Then Baby Driver is a pretty good option.

The baby-faced hero of Baby Driver is a young man (Ansel Elgort) with consummate driving skills and a tortured past. Because of one youthful mistake Baby (that’s his name) has to work off a debt for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) as a getaway driver on bank heists. Baby meets and falls in love with waitress, Debora (Lily James), and thereafter becomes keenly conflicted about where his loyalties and values lie.

Ansel Elgort, the titular character in Baby Driver. Picture source: Den of Geek

On the face of it this plotline looks like a fairly typical crime drama but the film offers some surprising combinations. Doc is quite funny and the criminal teams he hires are oafs. Baby lives with his deaf, wheelchair-bound stepfather, of whom he takes tender care. Music features strongly; our hero suffers from a constant ringing in his ears and has to listen to music all the time. Many scenes show Baby, a man of few words, seemingly zoned in only to his own inner world, only to reveal that he has observed and memorised everything around him in the minutest detail. And then of course there’s Baby’s past which slowly becomes clear, engendering viewer sympathy in the process.

The driving scenes are really, really good to watch.

Baby Driver opens at cinemas in South Africa on 4 August 2017.

‘Youth’ (the film) makes old age look depressing

In the movie, Youth, Michael Caine stars as the main character, Fred Ballinger. Fred is a retired orchestra conductor who takes some time out in a health resort in the Swiss Alps. Also at the resort is Fred’s lifelong friend, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), who is currently working on a screenplay. The two friends are tied not only by friendship but by the marriage of Fred’s daughter, Lena (Rachel Weisz), to Mick’s son, and through a common affection, in years gone by, for Fred’s elusive wife.

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Micahel Caine and Harvey Keitel in Youth. Photo source: https://bathffblogger.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/youth/

As the title “Youth” implies, Fred and Mick reminisce about their youth. While doing so they try to both hold onto their youth, and to accept its loss, something Fred seems to achieve to some degree in the end. Lesser characters at the spa also experience their own inner turmoil. For example, Lena’s marriage falls apart, and the brooding young actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), cogitates upon the art and value of authentic acting.

Whilst the film ends on a somewhat positive (musical) note, most of the “action” is of a gloomy psychological nature, punctuated by a few bursts of happiness in the form of wise quips from small children. Even the beautiful alps form a silent and suffocating backdrop to the resort guests’ mental distress. Youth paints a depressing picture of old age, particularly amongst the idle rich, and is made even more melancholy by its cerebral approach.

Youth reminded me of another film Michael Caine starred in, the similarly psychological and depressing Mr Morgan’s Last Love, which I also reviewed. Whilst I didn’t exactly want to stick needles in my eyes rather than watch Youth, its two-hour long screening was not a particularly enjoyable one.

Youth opens at cinemas in South Africa on 8 July.

National Arts Festival, Grahamstown: A Perspective

Day two in Grahamstown dawned difficult for the humans of Feast of Tales, which made the day’s entertainment ahead all the more welcome. First up was Brothers Streep: Same Streep Different Day. Unlike the previous version we had seen this show involved just the two ‘brothers’ rather than the whole band. The pair’s constant banter, their originality, and their songwriting – in the present as it were – was clean, enjoyable and made us forget our troubles. As the weather turned stirringly blustery we hurried off to one of the fest’s scheduled films, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. This absorbing film tells the true story of a brother-and-sister team who were part of the White Rose student movement in Nazi Germany. Told mostly from the sister’s (Sophie’s) perspective, we learnt how Sophie and her brother were arrested and ‘tried’ for bravely disseminating anti-Hitler literature. Sophie’s Christian faith is portrayed as a strong, yet gentle, motivator for her actions. Own the Spotlight was the last viewing of the day for us, a dance show involving beautifully choreographed pieces of ballet, modern and contemporary dance set to engaging movie sound tracks.