Stuart McBratney’s “Pop-Up” film Reviewed by Marcus Victor Grant

Australian-Romanian coproduction, 2015

written and directed by Stuart McBratney

produced by Rebecca Abramovic

Seen at the Elvira Popescu / Institut Francais Cinema at the International Festival of Psychoanalysis and Film of December 2015. Vision date: Friday, December 11th, 2015.

The topic

“The film, a comedy with dramatic overtones, presents three stories that intertwine that of an unemployed father, a Romanian immigrant woman and a theater director seeking revenge on a critic.

The preview in Romania took place in the presence of the Australian director Stuart McBratney and the actress Laura Vasiliu. Andrea Sabbadini, the director of the European Psychoanalytic Film Festival will comment on this movie with the Director of Psychoanalysis International Film Festival, the film critic Irina Margareta Nistor. “(text from the festival description)

(keep reading ↓)

Critical review

Seeing this independent movie, an Australian-Romanian coproduction, creates some leaping reactions. Either you marvel at the brilliance of a line, of a scene or the exposure of a psychological mechanism, or find yourself asking what are you doing in the cinema and why does the time hang so heavy.

This inequality comes from the director’s oscillation itself, who, albeit creative, hasn’t got very clear in mind what he wanted to convey and, especially, what he managed to express. I was the fortunate spectator of a projection of which the author managed to clarify widely his intentions. But probably the vast majority of the viewers will not have this privilege – as happens with the vast majority of art movies.

Based on the principle “shoot at a pigeon and kill a cow”, the strength of the film doesn’t lie on the narrative technique (the crossing of some stories that incidentally converge to a narrative event that links the characters), because here things are really forced, appearing highly unlikely and cheap. The strength is the construction of the characters, due to which, the actors (very talented, as a matter of fact) really have what to play and the psychological mechanisms which the author stresses, really have the chance to emerge.

Of course, the sublimation of the emotions doesn’t represent a very interesting or obvious topic outside the psychologists’ area, but, somehow, to his credit, Stuart creatively manages to make it cinematographic. Therefore, we have an unqualified worker who defies his elevator phobia, a Romanian woman who faces her fear of rejection and a producer who struggles in order to get recognition. What the characters do on the screen with the emotions and the situations in which they find themselves is certainly exciting and also funny, here and there.

However, the direction in which each of these characters goes is not dramaturgical, is not dramatic and is not even credible. The starting point contains unused potential. The author’s creativity works for the movie to a certain point. That point is when the structure should intervene. Pop-Up is a comedy that wants to be a drama or a drama that wants to be a comedy and manages to be neither one nor the other, so it remains a mediocrity.

(keep reading ↓)

Pop Up_02

Of course, it’s not wrong to make a movie about characters. As such, Pop-Up would stay in a place of honor in a psychological portraits gallery. But its tragedy is that it doesn’t aim to be a character movie, but a narrative one. And, as such, it fails.

The definition of drama is “how characters manage to triumph despite the toughest conditions.” The definition of comedy is “how do the characters fail despite the best conditions.” So the characters fail their initial intentions (Mick does not keep the job he chooses, Neil fails with his theater play, Rada fails in finding a boyfriend) in a quite comical manner.

However, they manage to triumph, despite the conditions rather limited and desperate, not as a result of their merits but as a result of a Deus Ex Machina event type: things simply arrange themselves on the good track. How cute! It ends like a fairy tale:

  • without characters taking responsibility for what happened in their life;
  • without negative consequences;
  • without making a much conscious effort.

Similarly, Stuart McBratney’s film manages to make a zero-sum game, incidentally. It’s not a bad movie. But is not a good one either. And it doesn’t say anything about reality but about how Stuart McBratney’s mind works. From whom I hope to see better.

Pop Up_01

My score: 5/10

Marcus Victor Grant

Occasionally, film critic

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2015-present. Translation by AIM of the article Recenzia filmului românesc „Pop-Up” (2015) published in Romanian at 21.1.2016 on Discerne. The original material was written and initially published in 2015. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved

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