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Shell [Blu-ray]
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on 8 August 2013
Scottish screenwriter and director Scott Graham`s feature film debut which he wrote, premiered in the New Directors section at the 60th San Sebastián International Film Festival in 2012, was shot on location in Scotland and is a UK production which was produced by producers David Smith and Margaret Matheson. It tells the story about a 17-year-old woman named Shell who lives with her father named Pete at a gas station in the Scottish countryside which he made years ago. Shell spends most of her days waiting for new customers and most of the time meets people who are just passing by. She has become friendly with a middle-aged man named Hugh who usually makes a stop at their place when he is on his way to see his children who lives with their mother and is sometimes visited by a man close to her age named Adam who works at a sawmill nearby and who seeks her company, but Shell`s only constant is her father whom she has grown as attached to as any daughter could to her father.

Distinctly and acutely directed by Scottish filmmaker Scott Graham, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated mostly from the main character`s point of view, draws a silently reflective and consistently moving portrayal of a strangely though understandably affectionate relationship between a man whom is suffering both from illness and personal experiences and his daughter whose only communication with the outside world, which is an enigma to her, is through brief encounters with various passers-by. While notable for it`s naturalistic and prominent milieu depictions, evocative and masterful cinematography by cinematographer Yoliswa Gärtig, fine production design by production designer James Lapsley and use of sound and music, this narrative-driven story about blood ties and an increasingly isolating dependency that has kept two people inseparable, depicts two interrelated studies of character regarding two relatives who are becoming painfully aware of how chained they are to each other and how stuck they have become.

This refined, situational and authentic coming-of-age drama which is set mostly at a remote roadside petrol station in the Scottish highlands during an autumn and where a single parent and his only child whom is in the transition between adolescence and adulthood is being internally changed and differently affected by the majestic landscape which surrounds and contrasts them and is a character in itself, is impelled and reinforced by it`s fleeting narrative structure, substantial character development, subtle continuity, graceful melancholy and psychological depth, poignant conversations, discreet humour, humane characters and the perceptive acting performances by Scottish actress Chloe Pirrie, English actor Joseph Mawle, Irish actor Michael Smiley, Scottish actress Kate Dickie and Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker. A mythical, cinematographic and mysteriously atmospheric character piece about the human condition and a timeless narrative feature which is one of the finest Scottish films in recent years.
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on 23 March 2014
It's a very disturbing story of the life of Shell. It shakes one awake that we carry the responsibility of our children's lives and bring them on course so they can explore life at all. It's hard to say that her father's death was her ticket out of her misery but it's true. This film makes you wonder what she's doing now.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 August 2014
This 2012 debut feature from Scottish film-maker Scott Graham attempts to make a 'cinematic spectacle’ of solitude and loneliness – never an easy challenge to meet, of course, but Graham does a remarkable job here in what is a slow-moving, subtle and atmospheric watch. Chloe Pirrie’s titular 17-year old and her father (and epileptic), Joseph Mawle’s Pete, inhabit an isolated petrol station/'breakers yard’ in the windswept, desolate highlands of Scotland – theirs is a life of chance (and sporadic) encounters with 'regular locals’ and passing tourists, where 'excitement’ is generated by road accidents and local thefts, all to the backdrop of an incessant, howling wind and the periodic bone-shaking passing of an articulated lorry.

As you might have guessed, Graham’s film is not exactly 'a thrill a minute’, but where (for me at least) it scores particularly well is in its claustrophobic (surprising perhaps given the vast expanses of the film’s backdrop) study of this 'community’s’ pent-up frustrations. Pirrie is outstanding here as the ‘repressed’ and dutiful adolescent ('I can’t just leave whenever I like’), the 'object of desire’ for Michael Smiley’s (in another fine performance) passing 'divorcee’, Hugh, and 'local lad’, Iain De Caestecker’s Adam, and whose relationship to Pete Graham reveals to us subtly as the pair are mistaken initially for a married couple by passing tourists, Robert and Clare (Paul Hickey and Kate Dickie), whose car has hit a stray deer (Graham adds a nice touch here as Clare gives as a gift to Shell Carson McCullers’ novel The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter). It is, of course, Pete and Shell’s relationship that is at the heart of Graham’s film – an entrapping 'love affair’ ('cold hands, warm heart’) subject to bouts of jealousy and whose solitude provides physical temptation (a 'difficult’ subject which Graham portrays in a painfully honest and totally credible way).

The film’s slow, episodic pace is depicted impressively by Yoliswa Gartig’s cinematography, which captures intimacy (characters’ long silences, embarrassed glances, stares into the distance) and expansiveness (endless roads and vast landscapes) equally well. And, although there are moments when you are willing something to happen, the film’s denouement (both powerful, but not entirely unexpected) convinces me of Shell’s merits and the promise of Graham as a new British talent. The closing sequence of the enhanced colour of the landscape (as opposed to the opening shot’s more faded hues), all to the sounds of King Creosote, also provides some hints of optimism.
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on 16 August 2013
Compelling realist drama set in an isolated petrol station in the Scottish Highlands. 17-year-old Shell (Chloe Pirrie) lives alone with her father (Joseph Mawle) at their garage, with little to occupy her other than caring for her sickly father, and serving the infrequent local customers. Despite a few amicable friendships with the locals she is virtually isolated from the outside, a young woman yet to find her place in the world and seemingly locked in a loving, but curious relationship with her father.

`Shell' is a small quiet film that is almost entirely constructed of tiny mannerisms and idle small talk, eschewing any hint of melodrama and instead summoning its power from its humanity and atmosphere. Both Shell and her father are clearly troubled, their faces plainly wrought with disquiet - the air is thick with the unspoken, and an unnerving melancholy runs through their lives and relationship. As a result this is an absolutely captivating, haunting watch laced with unpredictability. This simplicity is `Shell's real strength. Not a single word or second is wasted, every glance or movement carrying so much weight and intrigue it's impossible not to be drawn into this curious Scottish fable.

The cinematography is exceptional, and captures a sombre barren beauty in the Highland landscape with long static shots disrupted by the perpetual wind. This is counteracted with tightly framed imagery of the characters, allowing facial expressions and movements to communicate far more than dialogue. The tiny cast all deliver flawless performances. Pirrie in the title role is particularly adept, bringing the conflicted young woman to life with subtleties that hold a murky internal depth. That such a visceral unease is conjured with next to no music and an elusive narrative is astonishing and shapes the film into an experience bordering on the transient - both heavy and light at the same time. Even more impressive is the fact that this is the first feature from writer/director Scott Graham.

`Shell' is a hugely evocative little tale that is as economical as its title, possessing a haunting power that simultaneously lifts and dampens spirits. Imaginative, intelligent and genuinely moving.
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on 5 August 2014
I found this as a late night curio on Film 4.

It's an intriguing film: Pete (Joseph Mawle) and his teenage daughter Shell (Chloe Pirrie) run a remote petrol station in the Highlands. With an absent mother, Shell is devoted to her epileptic father; though she does not have the same need to cocoon herself as her father does. Shell chats to the few people (mostly men) who stop by but shuns their attempts at friendship. Her only physical intimacy is with her father and it takes an increasingly incestuous tone.

It reminds me of a Dogme film in the amount of silence and emphasis on human behaviours and interactions rather than plot. It conjures up the sensation of isolation and Mawle and Pirrie both convey the idea that Pete and Shell are shells, existing rather than living. The incest theme is dealt with touchingly and without sensationalism; it's a product of their loneliness and emotional isolation. The daughter encourages it and the father rightly discourages it, which is a refreshing change as the abuse would be intolerable.

However, the film is hard work. There's no sense of humour at all and the dialogue is sparse. Scott Graham is unfortunately a much better director than writer; he aims for hyper realism but occasionally falls prey to clunky lines such as "Cold hands. Warm heart". Maybe this is because the characters cannot express themselves but to me it seems that Graham makes the actors and landscape do all the work. It seems like a thin tale that would be much more effective as an hour-long TV drama and the ending feels trite.

Ultimately, if you like this type of film, you'll find that Shell meets your expectations but it's more like an interesting blueprint than a fully-fledged film.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 March 2016
This is a quietly powerful, poignant and unnerving film which explores the relationship between a father and his 17 year old daughter who eke out a living in a remote petrol station in the Scottish highlands. Both leads are excellent. Joseph Mawle gives an admirably understated and compelling performance as a taciturn man who has withdrawn from the world while Chloe Pirrie skilfully conveys the vulnerability and inquisitiveness of a sheltered girl on the cusp of womanhood. Communication between the two is sometimes painful to observe, the dialogue masterfully minimalistic reflecting years of isolated co-existence and co-dependence and hinting at an unsettling intimacy. Despite the uncompromisingly slow pace and relatively mundane narrative (the deer incident, excepted) there is an underlying tension which permeates the film, an ominous strangeness which suggests impending resolution. Providing an enveloping backdrop to all this is the surrounding bleak and beautiful windswept mountains which isolate the pair from the outside world, occasionally allowing a stray tourist or needy local into their self-sufficient existence. Beautifully shot and directed, this intelligent non-mainstream movie definitely warrants a viewing, but only if you appreciate this type of film.
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on 8 August 2014
I didn't like matalica as I don't like documentaries. too much talking and not enough music.
tribal is a cracking album. I feel this is IMELDA'S best so far. she has a powerful voice and the music is really catchy
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on 19 July 2014
The DVD works as should, so I can't give much of a comment on that.

The film itself is an unusual one - taking place in the Scottish Highlands, it deals with lonliness, isolation, seperation, and love. With Shell's mother having ran from Shell and her father, the two continue to run their petrol station, occasionally getting a repeat customer. As Shell is growing up though, she is evaluating her place in the world, and being in the middle of nowhere isn't always the best place for that.

It has mildly creepy themes - a very mild level of sexual assault, death, and health issues.
It has a couple of scenes that might be innapropriate for younger viewers - Shell is scene in a bath, with her breasts on screen for a moment. There is one scene of penetrative sex, but is clothed and somewhat obscured.
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on 17 May 2016
Usually this is the kind of slow movie I like. But the beautiful highland-background (from where - for the film, a purpose built garage was constructed on a viewpoint overlooking the loch) can't save the movie - which could have been a lot better. - I don't like the problematic father/daugther almost incest relationship (which is the reason why it only gets 1 star/ insted it could have had 3). - As a Danishman - I've been traveling near by the highlands in Inverness and Skye as a backpacker - where the movie was recorded (this is further northly) and had made a music CD about my trip as a backpacker to Scotland. But I would have like this movie to have had a better plot and story.
I would definately recommand the much more funny and moving Irish movie, also about a Garage callaed: Garage (Josies World).
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on 5 July 2013
Graham Scott's debut full length film is a beautiful, haunting study of relationships and loneliness. The acting is mesmerising, the use absence of music and use of natural sounds creates tension. I've often found myself travelling the remote roads in Wester Ross where this film is set wondering about the life's of those living in such solitude and it was no surprise to learn that this was the same experience Scott Graham had that led him to create this script. I was left with strong feelings long after watching this film, not all positive but certainly deep and real. Graham uses natural sounds, absence of script, nature and wonderful acting in a manner that Terrence Mallick strives for but all too often doesn't achieve. This film will not be everyone's taste and many will find it slow, ponderous and depressing. I found it a deep emotional experience with images that have remained with me long after watching it. I look forward to the next film from Scott Graham and the next performance from Chloe Pirrie.
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