East End Film Festiva – M.L.E. Review ***

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It ain’t easy being a struggling foreign actress in London. Even worse if you’re called Julie Robert. So to what extent are you willing to go to make a dolla and survive in the big Smog?

Julie (played by director Sarah Warren) is having the worse day of her life: her acting debut Vampire Mermaids go to Heaven has just been cancelled, her agent dropped her and she just spent the money stash of the family’s friend whose house she’s staying in. Desperate for cash, when Bella, a woman she almost run over invites her to spy on her stepdaughter, she has no chance but to say yes. After all, spying is so much better than sleazy sexual favours for agents and singing for rude children… right?

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In a mix of awkward Canadian humour with unpretentious quirkiness, M.L.E. gives us a funny yet on point portrait of the sad reality of working on a creative industry and being, you know, broke almost all the time. Julie is an unlikely hero, with her passion for puppets and cake, and we can’t help but to care for her, but she needs no sympathy – she may not be a strong, independent woman, but she’ll do just fine. Compared to her friend Camila (Julie Sype), who is way more relaxed about the “little” sacrifices she needs to do to be an actress, Julie is the one that refuses to play the game unless the rules are fair. And this is the strongest point of Warren’s script – it could have easily fell through a Wes Anderson shallow quirkiness rabbit hole, but the intelligent writing prevents the story from taking this turn. We have Camila telling Julie to be more sexy and less weird, the rude comments of the British people to Julie when she walks down the street (apparently that’s how the UK flirts), and, in a scene that had me in stitches, the male “feminists” not letting Julie give her opinion on the matter. This is still a comedy, and not a moral tale, though, so don’t worry as no sermons are included in M.L.E.

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The extremely stylized cinematography by Kristin Fieldhouse mostly works nicely, but at points it goes full annoying, preferring the style to a more effective storytelling. Also, its distancing factor is an ambitious move for the comedy genre, and easy to fall on its face – which at points does happen in Warren’s film. But her acting, together with some great scenes (which include Julie’s musical number with love interest (?) Harry and the Stepford Wivish moment on the Yay Singing Camp) keeps us watching until the end. It’s a promising debut from an original voice, and we can’t wait to see the next film.

M.L.E. is part of the East End Film Festival. For more information, please check http://www.eastendfilmfestival.com/

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.