The Movie Waffler New to Amazon Prime Video - HURT BY PARADISE | The Movie Waffler

New to Amazon Prime Video - HURT BY PARADISE

hurt by paradise review
Two young London women struggle with their artistic careers and personal relationships.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Greta Bellamacina

Starring: Greta Bellamacina, Tanya Burr, Sadie Brown, Jamie Winstone, Camilla Rutherford

hurt by paradise poster

Like the recent American indie drama To the Stars, writer/director Greta Bellamacina's feature debut Hurt by Paradise is another movie that played the festival circuit in black and white only to ultimately be released in a colourised version. In its original monochrome form, Hurt by Paradise's opening nod to Woody Allen's Manhattan would no doubt have played as a much more explicit reference than the full colour tribute here, which now comes off as somewhat half-assed.

hurt by paradise review

Bellamacina's film borrows heavily from Allen, but largely from the wrong end of his career. It may open with a tip of the hat to Manhattan but with its paper thin characters, indecisive storytelling and impatient editing, it has more in common with Allen's recent dud, A Rainy Day in New York.

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Hurt by Paradise tells the story, such as it is, of Celeste (Bellamacina), a twentysomething Londoner struggling to establish herself as a poet while raising a young boy. She pawns much of the latter off on her upstairs neighbour, Stella (Sadie Brown), a thirtysomething whose acting career is going down the tubes and who spends her evenings chatting online to a strange man with whom she believes she is in a relationship with. Meanwhile. Celeste is working her way through Britain's phone books in an attempt to track down the father who left her when she was five years old.

hurt by paradise review

In aiming for Woody Allen, Hurt by Paradise falls short and lands somewhere closer to BBC Three territory. It plays like the first three episodes of a second-rate sitcom about the struggles of millennials in the UK capital, but it rarely feels tangibly real. It offers the odd moments of cringe comedy - like when Celeste is put into a taxi by her date, only to then have to inform the cabbie that she can't afford the fare - but they're few and far between. A large chunk of the film consists of montages of Celeste roaming around the more scenic boroughs of London while annoyingly twee indie pop blares on the soundtrack. Celeste talks a lot about her financial woes yet always seems to be suspiciously well dressed, and while Bellamacina certainly has a star presence, her model looks only serve to distance us further from the character.

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I couldn't quite figure out where the film stands on Celeste. She's not exactly easy to warm to, especially in her somewhat self-serving relationship with the put-upon Stella. The movie keeps cruelly referencing Stella's weight issues and lack of conventionally attractive features, and the climax sees Celeste swoop in to her rescue in a last gasp moment of unearned saviourship. The dynamic between Celeste and Stella comes across like those teenage girls who hang out with less attractive girls to make themselves look prettier by comparison.

hurt by paradise review

Making Celeste a poet brings its own problems too, as poetry is arguably the most subjective of all art forms. Like most people, I have a tin ear for poetry, so I have no idea whether Celeste possesses any genuine talent in this field. Is she right to feel the world is against her or is she fooling herself in pursuing poetry? Bellamacina is herself a poet, and composed the many verses rendered in voiceover throughout the film, so I guess we're meant to believe Celeste is gifted, but it all just sounded like word salad to my ignorant ears.

Hurt by Paradise is on Amazon Prime Video UK now.