Raindance 2017 reviews: Stuck, Maya Dardel
Ivan Radford | On 01, Oct 2017
The 2017 Raindance Film Festival takes place in London from Wednesday 20th September to Sunday 1st October, showcasing web series, VR shorts and indie films from around the world. We take a look at some of the movies screening, from those in search of distribution to those heading soon to VOD.
When was the last time you made eye contact with someone on the train? Or smiled at the person sitting opposite you? Both are cardinal sins in modern society, so clearly inappropriate that you would never even contemplate doing them, let alone something as unthinkable as actually talking to them. Stuck, Raindance’s superb closing film, sees a group of passengers get stuck together on the New York subway. And so they go beyond the merely unthinkable: they start singing to each other.
A modern musical set on a train? It sounds entirely implausible, and Stuck embraces that impossibility with winning charm: musicals, after all, are the genre of the impossible, inserting into day-to-day the kind of magic that has no choice but to erupt from one’s vocal chords.
The passengers are from all different walks of life: there’s brooding Eve (Ashanti), wannabe comic book artist Caleb (Gerard Canonico), reclusive dancer Alicia (Arden Cho), down-to-earth worker Ramon (Omar Chaparro), and weary family woman Sue (Amy Magida). They’re all brought together by Giancarlo Esposito, who is on fire as resident carriage crazy Lloyd, the kind of man who brings a dustbin and some drumsticks on his morning commute.
He’s the one who sees everyone day in and day out on the city’s underground ring, and while the Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul actor has experience at projecting calm menace, he relishes the chance to let loose here, laughing, teasing, reciting Shakespeare, and – of course – singing. To the others, of course, he’s just a homeless man, just as Esposito, to audiences, is the drug-dealing Gus Fring: and Riley Thomas and Michael Berry’s script is all about that disjunct between the way people perceive others and what they’re really like. The songs, then, don’t just become expressions of each person’s thoughts and feelings, but central to the film’s theme, as Alicia presumes Caleb is a creepy male stalker, Sue tries to lecture Eve on her life choices, and Eve accuses everyone of being racist. The truth is more nuanced than that, and each showstopper catapults us out of the train and into their individual lives – just one of many surprising ways Berry’s direction keeps the visuals fresh, given the single-location setting.
Composers Riley Thomas, Ben Maughan and Tim Young ensure the songs are catchy and cute, but also pointedly unique, harnessing each character’s imagination to employ a different musical style. Their singalong culminates in the standout titular number, Stuck, a boogie-woogie rag that briefly unites them all on the same page – a subtle display of a diverse nation coming together that will have your toes tapping on the train for days afterwards. Through it all runs the percussion of the railway track, a gentle beat that taps out a reminder of music’s universal power, regardless of age, gender or nationality. When Ramon starts singing his own song, we don’t get subtitles. Lloyd’s the wise fool who provides the insight: you don’t need translation, if you stop listening with your ears. What an absolutely joyous piece of cinema.
Screenings: 1st October, 6.30pm
Leno Olin is on fierce form as the eponymous writer in Maya Dardel, a twisting, twisted drama about an ageing author who is facing her final days. And so she issues a decree: she will commit suicide, once she has found someone to inherit her estate. All men are welcome to apply. And so we watch as a string of suitors all try to match up to her requirements, only to be played with by the merciless writer. Her games are all-encompassing, intellectual and sexual, as she finds a way to get absolute power over each of them. As her perverse quest boils down to two main candidates, the cycle of cynicism and control becomes occasionally repetitive and sometimes a little too shocking, but as we wait for her endgame to appear amid the questions of art, freedom and expression, Olin is so utterly in command of the script and the film’s tone that it’s hard to take your eyes off her. More roles like this for women of all ages please.
Screenings: 30th September, 6.30pm / 1st October, 4pm