GMFF - Girl Shaped Love Drug - Cinema Review

'A Mancunian love story, dealing in fate, electric energy and the unknown powers of the heart, Powell's film proves a brave piece of film-making'

Festival director Simon Powell presents his own film, Girl Shaped Love Drug for its première at GMFF on Saturday night. A Mancunian love story, dealing in fate, electric energy and the unknown powers of the heart, Powell's film proves a brave piece of film-making, if not an entirely successful one.

With lengthy individual scenes forming the mainstay of the narrative (Powell describes each as being 'a powerful piece of theatre in its own right', a description which feels apt), it is tempting to reduce GSLD down to its components. Lengthy scenes (three minutes plus) set entirely to music, with characters cavorting and dancing feel out of place, like mini music videos punctuating the drama. The more talkative elements are hit and miss. Early on protagonist Leonardo (Sacha Dhawan) lays out his philosophy to a cafe worker friend but it feels forced and fake and at around ten minutes, far too long. It's a stark contrast to the scene later on when a frank and honest conversation with Sally's (Rachel Austin) Dad proves to be the film's highlight.

Viewing the scenes as a whole can be tricky - they are very distinct, and occasionally very different - but step back and GSLD does a decent job of representing a modern fairy tale. The activities of the main two feel at once convoluted and recognisable; would we meet a girl on a city centre bench, as she drinks tea from a Thermos? Probably not. But the fairy tale meeting leads to the real world; clubs, a confrontation in a park, then back to a flat. Powell mixes the make believe and the realism well and it becomes possible to see a structured musing on modern day love with some old school values.

The lengthy scenes in the 'pieces of theatre' structure though make GSLD a hard film to warm to. Leonardo is a confused character, spouting philosophy one minute, confronting Sally's Dad the next, holding a knife to someone's throat a minute after. As a 'hero', he's wanting. Sally is much more successful, and Austin proves an adept actor, but she too gets lost in the deep conversations about life, the universe and everything.

There's certainly something here though, something similar to Before Sunset/Sunrise, with a Mancunian edge, some nice natural direction and a sometimes-sharp script. It's not perfect but it is aspirational and it should provide a talking point for GMFF's Saturday night.

The inaugural Greater Manchester Film Festival (GMFF) runs from 5th to 7th October, with screenings at The Printworks Odeon and Media City.

Girl Shaped Love Drug plays GMFF on Saturday 6th October at 20.00. Tickets are available here.

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