Boasting 18 characters and half as many storylines, Duane Hopkins follows his prizewinning shorts with visually distinctive first feature "Better Things."

Boasting 18 characters and half as many storylines, noted British photographer and visual artist Duane Hopkins follows his prizewinning shorts with visually distinctive first feature “Better Things.” Beautifully shot with cast of eye-catching non-pros, this rural England portrait of love, loss and drug abuse ultimately proves less than emotionally compelling because of overly wrought editing. The slide-show-like rhythm moves too quickly between the multiple narratives, obfuscating relationship of characters and not giving various plots time to breathe. Nevertheless, interesting fest fare should find fans on the cinematheque circuit before segueing to Euro TV.

The assorted storylines center on adolescents, twentysomethings and the elderly, with middle generation near absent. All feature problems of communication and a struggle for intimacy. Unable to cope with modern life or accept love, some of the youths resort to dangerous behaviors. The elderly also have frustrations that mar their relationships. Evoking memories of early work by Alan Clarke or Lynne Ramsey, as well as Nan Goldin’s “Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” pic gives a special twist to U.K. tradition of social realism by juxtaposing the natural and the constructed. Sharp tech package combines glowing and gritty.

Better Things

U.K. - Germany


A Third Films (U.K.)/Flying Moon (Germany) production, in association with U.K. Film Council, Film Four, EM.Media, Wellington Films, Glasgow Film Office, Broken Spectre. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Samm Haillay, Rachel Robey. Executive producers, Christopher Collins, Peter Carlton, Lizzie Francke, Paul Trijbits. Co-producers, Helge Albers, Alastair Clark, Alexander O'Neal. Directed, written by Duane Hopkins.


Camera (color, widescreen), Lol Crawley; editor, Chris Barwell; music, Dan Berridge; production designer, Jamie Leonard; sound (Dolby), Douglas MacDougall. Reviewed at the Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 17, 2008. Running time: 93 MIN. With Liam McIlfatrick, Che Corr, Rachel McIntyre, Betty Bench, Kurt Taylor, Freddie Cunliffe, Frank Bench, Megan Palmer, Patricia Loveland, Jane Foxhall, Tara Ballard, Mike Randle, Kerry Rowe.

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