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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Black Mountain Poets movie review: rhyme and unreason

Black Mountain Poets green light

A tasty treat of gentle but wise humor, full of as much sympathy but also tough love for its messed-up sisters as they are for each other.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for stories about women

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Two con-artist sisters on the run from the law steal a car and figure that where its owners were headed is as good a destination as any… perhaps not the wisest of moves, but Lisa and Claire are pretty impetuous. So now they have to pretend to be the Wilding sisters, the guests of honor at a “spiritual retreat” run by the “Poet’s Poetry Society” in the Black Mountains of Wales. This, the third semi-improvised feature film from director Jamie Adams, is a tasty treat of gentle but wise humor that is forgiving of the foibles of the overearnest scribes the women ape even as it satirizes them. And though its sympathies are with the sisters, they are of the tough-love sort, and much the same could be said for the relationship of the messed-up sisters as well: they are devoted to each other but know how to cut each other deeply too, as starts happening here when both instantly fancy handsome and artistically tormented poet Richard (Tom Cullen: Weekend). You can almost hear the film fret a little whimper at its own suggestion that pretending be someone else might be a good way to figure out who you really are; maybe, it might also hasten to add, don’t take this as a life plan for yourself, and consider only that it’s a really good bad idea for these two women, whom you wouldn’t want to emulate anyway. Surpassingly sly performances by Dolly Wells (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Claire and Alice Lowe (Paddington) as Lisa make this a shrewd, deceptively relaxed tandem character sketch full of unforgettable moments: you may never look at a grocery receipt the same way again after hearing Lisa brilliantly recite one as poetry.


green light 3.5 stars

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Black Mountain Poets (2016)
UK/Ire release: Apr 01 2016

BBFC: rated 15 (strong language)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • Danielm80

    You can almost hear the film fret a little whimper at its own suggestion that pretending be someone else might be a good way to figure out who you really are…

    One of the themes of Freaks and Geeks was that teenagers keep trying out new identities for themselves. Maybe the women in the film are going through a late adolescence.

    I wonder if so many teenagers like super-heroes and cosplay because that allows them to experiment with new identities.

  • Yes, I’m sure that’s true.

    But these women are late 30s/early 40s, and they are impersonating real people (real in the story, that is). Probably not a good idea. :-)

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