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Pink Sugar

don't see this alone!

Rotten Tomatoes has become my #1 go-to movie review site. And I’ll tell you why. While I often check what their website has to say about a film I’m contemplating watching, I make a point of testing the site’s reviews of every film I have recently seen. Why? To measure myself. Did I miss something? Was I swayed by hype or marketing? Did a friend get overexcited? Did I?

 

What I love about the site is how quickly after the release of a new film you can work through dozens (if not hundreds) of critical reviews and gauge a measure of your own thoughts and responses against many experienced cinephiles. Often enough, I collect many glinting specks of gold dust. Details I missed. Trivia which illuminates. Connections and insights I wish I’d articulated – but with my friends I’ll pretend are my own thoughts.

 

Take this astonishing release from Australian-Macedonian writer/director Goran Stolevski, recently premiered in Australia at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). I went with my partner who was curious, having met Goran at a party a couple of years ago when he told her he was fed up with trying to break into Australian film and television after ten years of frustration. He was heading home to Macedonia to follow his dreams.

 

Let me tell you, Goran is one dreamer who has a right to back himself. The film is quite breath-taking. A quick scan down the summary page of comments by “top critics” on Rotten Tomatoes reveals entirely positive comments. Writers trip over themselves to find fresh and original ways to express what my partner and I also felt. This was a film that grabbed you by the hair in its opening minutes and didn’t let go until the closing titles. But to call it a “horror” as some marketing and some reviews suggest, it totally, utterly mislabelling it. If this is a horror movie, then Pulp Fiction is a “drama”!

 

No, You Won’t Be Alone almost defies category. Think of a dark Brothers Grimm fairy-tale for adults. Then layer it with astonishing insights into mother-daughter relationships, the rusty, double-edged knife-blade of feminine power, sexual ambiguity, animal energy, instinct and otherness.

 

Pick through even the top reviews and you’ll spot writers trying to account for the poetic use of language, the intensity of performances, the slow-creeping bitter-sweet humanity of the unfolding tale. A hypnotic journey through cruelty, loneliness, curiosity and love.

 

After the film, we were treated to a live Q & A in the theatre with Goran. I watched this quietly proud 30-something chat coyly about his work. Caught, it seemed to me, between his hunger for long-deserved recognition and being dazzled by the sudden spotlight of acclaim. I felt a touch jealous. At his age I also felt pangs for artistic success; but never risked abandoning the sensible pathway of marriage-career-children. I would never have dared walk away from security in pursuit of unlikely artistic acclaim. Experiencing the originality of his script and the commanding confidence of his directing, I seriously doubt I had the talent.

 

Of the 30+ top reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, only one has the impudence to score the movie less than 3½ out of 5, or a B. Most extravagantly praise. Critic Tomris Laffly scores the film 2.5/4 and writes a lengthy account of the film’s “enthralling” plot and twists, gushing admiration for the acting and “revolutionary” scripting. But then ends by claiming, “Stolevski can’t always sustain the viewer’s patience, often biting off more substance than his film can chew and digest.” I absolutely disagree. And so do pretty much all of the other critics. This is what makes Rotten Tomatoes so valuable. In this light, even somebody who hasn’t seen the film can safely dismiss Laffly’s review as an outlier and trust the avalanche of applause to recognise a must-see film.

 

My advice: experience it on the big screen – then go immerse yourself in the thoughts of other film-lovers through Rotten Tomatoes.

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