Black Mountain Poets – Review

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One of the hardest tasks for any filmmaker is to determine a distinctive cinematic language in the early stages of their career, to make a film that is undeniably theirs. It’s something that auteur Jamie Adams, now presenting his third feature film – following on from Benny & Jolene and A Wonderful Christmas Time – has established, with a deft commitment to realism, albeit a rather heightened take, reveling in the quirks and subtle absurdities of everyday life in a naturalistic manner. His latest, Black Mountain Poets, is no different.

We delve into the haphazard life of freewheeling sisters Claire (Dolly Wells) and Lisa (Alice Lowe), who find themselves in a spot of bother when on the run from the police following a failed robbery. They have better luck when attempting to steal a car – and decide, on a whim, to adopt the identities of the victims and follow instructions that lead them to a poetry convention and pretending to be the acclaimed ‘Wilding Sisters.’ The low-key retreat consists of a small handful of their fans, excited about seeing the double act perform in real life. Unsure as to whether they’re going to be able to wing it, they buy some time on a camping trip in the Black Mountains of Wales, where they both take a liking to fellow wordsmith, Richard (Tom Cullen).

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Though reveling in a comedic setting, Adams is careful to ensure the picture remains gloriously understated, and it’s that sense of intimacy which makes for such congenial cinema. The fact the event the sisters hijack consists of around six or seven people, and that the grand finale, where they must finally perform, takes place in a mini gazebo in somebody’s back garden, grounds this picture, and maintains the sense of realism that lays the foundations for the narrative to thrive off.

Adams manages to affectionately ridicule the notion of spoken word poetry (it’s ripe for derision, after all) without ever laughing at these characters, instead laughing along with them, as while we take on the perspective of two outsiders who find this world as bizarre as we do – we have a traditionalist comedic trope, whereby those who represent normality, are actually the most abnormal ones of all. Be it Father Ted to Dougal, Mark to Jez, or Hardy to Laurel – it’s a tried, tested, and triumphant technique which ensures this film makes for an indelible cinematic experience.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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