Hurt by Paradise (2019) ***

September 5th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Greta Bellamacina; Cast: Greta Bellamacina, Sadie Brown, Lorca Montgomery, Robert Montgomery, Bruno Wizard; UK 2019, 83 min.

An interdependent friendship between two women is explored in this stunningly shot drama debut from British filmmaker and poet Greta Bellamacina who is clearly aiming for a Woody Allen, Baumbach Gerwig type of filming in her debut drama set in Soho and the Kent coast. It’s a worthwhile try but doesn’t quite make the mark.

Hurt by Paradise is both naive and infuriating. Co-writing with Montgomery and Brown, Bellamacina also stars as poet Celeste Blackwood in the female centric cast alongside Tanya Burr, Sadie Brown, Jamie Winstone and Camilla Rutherford. The film unfolds in ten verses, with headings like “You are a Mammal eating the soul of a dead Bird in the Sky”.

Celeste is having a difficult time of it with various publishers and Stella (Brown) is an actor, often thwarted at auditions, and mostly employed (but not regularly paid) as babysitter for single mum Celeste’s baby son Jimi (L. Montgomery). The women are used to being rebuffed by the world  and Celeste’s family doesn’t help: her posh sister, pedantic husband, and paranoid mother are all self-centred and superficial. Celeste’s efforts to find a boyfriend end dismally when she meets airline pilot Harry (R. Montgomery), whose ex is still firmly in his head. Stella’s internet relationship isn’t faring much better with Roman. All this comes to a shattering conclusion when Stella goes missing, Celeste plays detective, with Jimi in tows. But Stella soon fetches up in Margate with the famed Roman (Wizard), whose identity you have probably already guessed.

Shot in saccharine pastel colours by Fabio Paleari and Emily-Jane Robinson, the best thing about Hurt by Paradise is listening to Celeste’s entertaining inner monologue in poetry format, but it’s unsure if the intended tone here is irony. This can’t be said for the narrative which is rather clichéd along with most of the dialogue in this feature shot by family and friends, without enough critical distance between theme and characters AS 

RELEASES IN CINEMAS | 18 September 2020



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