Greta Bellemacina’s Hurt By Paradise is a whimsically charming piece that floats through its running time by rarely giving its audience something to grab onto to fully embrace both of the leads.
Celeste (Greta Bellamacina) a young poet and single mother, trying to make her way in London. We follow her comedically unsuccessful attempts to get her first book published and to find her estranged father. With her best friend, babysitter Stella (Sadie Brown) – a struggling actress captivated by an online love affair – by her side, will they succeed in their attempts at living life to the full?
Hurt By Paradise perhaps meanders a tad too much in the beginning, yet at the same time carefully. Presented with situations that allow us to gauge how these two characters are not only with each other but in the more open world is good. It just doesn’t go far enough considering the amount of time we spend with them in the opening half. More should be happened to give us a purpose other than abstract ideas that do not connect enough until the last act.
This is down to the film having too neat a scene. Each one could be its short film never having to connect fully with the other. However, this is also the joy of Hurt By Paradise. It takes its time, it has comfortable silences where an edit would usually have taken place. It is a jazz piece or as said, a poem, enjoying itself as it takes us on a journey that of abstract moments blended to make one full piece. The movie pauses and moves at its own pace which in truth is quite freeing for a film in this era of cinema.
The world Bellamacina has created is all the more realistic considering the current economic climate. People with creative aspirations are struggling. This is seen as Celeste continually has to delay paying back the equally broke Stella. They shop in the cheaper stores or charity shops. Yet, they are undeterred, they want to reach the light at the end of the tunnel in their career aspirations. Celeste an Stella feel they have the quality and skill to make it, so why shouldn’t they? They simply need financial help that is forever absent with a Conservative Government.
As we are told in the opening of the film as Celeste tries to sell her poems. The middle class, who would lap up poetry and the arts, is virtually gone now thanks to recessions and the like. People do not have the money to spend on what they enjoy as much, so a book of poems, is a struggle. The publishers need something that will make them and also their client’s big money. They want book deals that turn into film or TV deals. Published poems will not do it in this creatively stifled Londonscape.
The writing and performances here in Hurt By Paradise struggle as characters either deliver them as if they are performing to the back of the room. They overplay their roles and it distracts from the subtle and well-placed performances from Bellamacina and Brown. In a film that shows the struggles of people in this sector, it sure does enjoy playing to some of the stereotypes and then not giving them enough to round out their paper-thin characters. It is one of the shames to the film as there is an awful lot to enjoy here as we whimsically float through the picture.
While Bellemacina is strong here, Sadie Brown steals the film as her performance is balanced enough to show the dreamer, but also someone who is still centred enough in the real world. Celeste on the other hand tends to be too carefree considering her financial predicament. Stella on the other hand is paranoid enough to not trust mailboxes as the best delivery method and would rather give it directly to the postman. We see not only her hopes for her career (however fleeting those hopes may eventually be) but also for her to find that someone and to have that happy ending. This sensitive side to the script is where the film shines and perhaps with an added bite. It is one that really could have shined that little bit brighter.
This is still quite a pleasant film, Bellamacina has seemingly made a poem come alive with her film. It doesn’t always work as well as hoped, but when it does it is charmingly pleasant.
Hurt By Paradise is available on Digital platforms now.
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