Eerie, morbid, yet somehow life-affirming, Morvern Callar stars the superb Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown, Minority Report) as the title character, a young Scottish woman whose boyfriend has just killed himself, leavin... more »g behind a cassette of assorted songs and an unpublished novel. Instead of reporting his death, Morvern puts her name on his novel before sending it off to a publisher, then uses the dead man's bank card to pay for a trip to Spain with her friend Lana (Kathleen McDermott), where she tries to lose herself in sensation and chaos. The events of Morvern Callar suggest a story, but director Lynn Ramsay (Ratcatcher) focuses on moments of ambiguity and ambivalence in between the dramatic action--and when Morvern does take decisive action, her choices are unnerving. The movie's striking images and rich use of color vividly capture a dislocated state of mind, when life has come unmoored from meaning. --Bret Fetzer« less
Very strange movie. Agonizingly slow with a pretty much non-existent plot. Acting was Okay but I really felt it was tedious to watch this movie.
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Watching a person
Philippe Ranger | Montreal, Can. | 03/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is not the best film ever, and it certainly is going to bore some people. However, it's a remarkable piece of work outside Hollywood's beaten paths. The point is to *show* us a woman, to leave us with a many-colored, personal view of her, simply by close, intelligent observation through the camera. The film does not sacrifice to plot, and it especially does not sacrifice to text. It uses the classical means of film, but scoured of the accommodations films make for those two elements TV has trained us to see as central - story and speech. There is little story - Morvern wakes up on Dec. 24 to find her live-in boyfriend (Tom?) dead by suicide, mourns him privately, then goes out for Christmas eve and explains to her best friend, Lana, that Tom has left for some other country. She later avoids the troubles of dealing with authorities by cutting up the body and burying the parts in the heath outside Glasgow. She then sends Tom's manuscript novel to a publisher, as instructed, but under her own name. The manuscript is accepted, and she takes the money Tom had left for his funeral to go with Lana on a late-winter vacation in Spain. By keeping her mouth shut at the right moments, she manages to get a hundred-thousand-pound advance for the novel. She finds the check in the mail when she comes back home. She immediately sets out on another trip outside the UK (we don't know where), with no intention of coming back. Lana refuses to come, so we leave Morvern alone waiting for the train out of Glasgow. Of course she knows that all the publisher will get for its money is the manuscript it already has. There will me no rewrites, no proof corrections, no interviews and no next novel. Better be out of reach.There is even less talk (that can be understood) - When not at work Morvern lives by emotions, and finds them in party environments. Most speech is drowned by the noise, and what comes through is the kind of short phrases you'd exchange in passing during such a party - except that a lot of it will be lost on you if you're not Glaswegian. The film aims a joke at viewers that illuminates the theme. Lana says "pal" is a synonym for "neighbor". Much later, in Spain, she sets out to reveal to Morvern that she slept with Tom while he lived with Morvern: "We were pals." While she's trying to clarify, Morvern tries to cut her off: "Tom is dead." Of course, Lana understands: "That's all water under the bridge". File under Important Communications with Best Friend.What you're left with (as exemplified by other reports here) is a feeling for who Morvern is. I was especially struck by her capacity to find her footing and her simple, unemotional, determination when she has a goal in mind. The word that came to mind was "survivor", but *not* in the sense of "survivor to the suicide of her boyfriend". How did I come to feel this? By watching Morvern, and that's the whole point of Ramsay's method. You get a lot for your 97 minutes of viewing, but it's not plot and it's not talk. It's a person."
"Lost in the middle of nowhere."
Mary Whipple | New England | 11/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Winner of awards for Best Actress (for both Samantha Morton and Kathleen McDermott in different competitions), Best Direction (Lynne Ramsay), and Best Cinematography (Alwin Kuchler) at film festivals from Cannes to Bratislava, Morvern Callar is a strange, haunting picture of alienated youth with few goals and even fewer opportunities. From the outset Morvern Callar (Samantha Morton) is passive and emotionally frozen. Waking up Christmas morning, she discovers her boyfriend dead beside her, a suicide, but she ignores the body, puts on her makeup and goes out to a party, where she drinks, dances, goes to bed with two people, participates in nude snowball-throwing, and tells her friend Lanna (Kathleen McDermott) that her boyfriend has "gone to another country."
He has left behind Christmas presents, recorded music, a message of love, and a just-completed novel, asking her to send it to a publisher. Changing his name to her own on the manuscript, she sends it off. She then disposes of the body, cleans the apartment, and invites her girlfriend Lanna (Kathleen McDermott) over to spend the night. Her boyfriend's "funeral money" buys tickets to Spain for a vacation with Lanna, a fellow employee in the meat room of a local supermarket. The surprising, immediate sale of his manuscript gives her additional money to travel wherever she wants in Spain, seeking action at the beach, parties with other young people, and sensual pleasure.
With some scenes filmed with a handheld camera, the film has the tone of a home movie, giving it remarkable verisimilitude. The action and the characters feel real--human--and the mumbling voices and sometimes incomprehensible accents keep the film low-key and even more realistic. The cinematography (Alwin Kuchler) is brilliant, with dramatic scenes showing stark light and dark contrasts--backlit empty halls, bleak snowfalls, staircases appearing to go nowhere, flashing lights freeze-framing action, and vast, empty expanses contrasting with frantic activity--the cinematography emphasizing the emptiness of the characters' lives and their bleak prospects. The loud, sometimes jazzy score further emphasizes their alienation.
Morton makes a compelling, emotionally dissociated Movern Callar, conveying her reckless search for excitement and her slowly developing need for peace. McDermott as Lanna is even more frenetic and uninhibited, and there is never a sense that either of these actresses is acting. The director's touch is light, giving the actors leeway to explore their roles, which they do boldly but with a touching poignancy. R-rated for good reason, the film succeeds in capturing a seldom-featured segment of youthful society, presenting the constant search for pleasure as a way to escape the pain. Mary Whipple "
Morvern's Not Amoral, She's Scottish
Philippe Ranger | 10/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many people might not understand Lynn Ramsay's beautiful cinematic adaptation of Alan Warner's novel Morvern Callar because they have not read the novel. Of course many people who read the novel misunderstood Morvern, as well. In a cold port town in Scotland, Morvern is faced with a life that is void of hope and comfort. Instead of bitching about it, she turns inward to music and films. When her boyfriend committs suicide on Christmas Eve, Morvern finds herself faced with letting the outside world know of her pain or hiding it from them. Disposing of his body is her way of keeping the secret, possibly even repressing her own pain. She further escapes to warmer climes, raves, and the closeness of another hurting human body. Just as in Scotland, Morvern finds herself only able to relate to the land and the music of Spain. Although she is physically close with the sweaty bodies during the rave scenes, she is metaphorically distant and unable to relate. The soundtrack captures this brilliantly with the juxtaposition of "while I'm far away from you my baby" over the psychodelic rave scene.After Ratcatcher, I could think of no better person to adapt this groundbreaking novel than Lynne Ramsay.It's simply brilliant."
yippee1999 | New York, NY United States | 01/06/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an "unusual" film, and is not for folks who need to "understand" everything, or have an explanation to everything that occurs in a film.From the very beginning, you know this is not your typical Hollywood type film. The film opens with closeup shot of a woman (Morvern) lying in a dark room, with her face illuminated by the rhythmic flash of a reddish light nearby. At first one assumes she's in bed, and that she is in some seedy hotel, or else in a sketchy neighborhood full of bars, etc. But as the camera pulls back, we see that she's actually lying on her apartment floor, caressing the body of her apparently dead boyfriend, as the Christmas tree lights flash in the background.Over the next few days, we see how she deals (and in some ways doesn't deal) with his death. Her boyfriend had put a new screensaver on his PC that says "READ ME". It directs her to his suicide note, where he doesn't offer any insight as to why he killed himself, but says that he loves her, and oh yeah, that the novel he was working on can be found on the disk in the drawer, and that the novel is "for her". We don't see many other pivotal characters in the film, except for Morvern's close friend from her supermarket job. Morvern never tells her friend about her boyfriend's suicide, and instead simply tells her that he "left her".Morvern submits her boyfriend's novel to a publishing company in London, and waits to hear back from them. In the meantime, Morvern goes about her day-to-day life, which basically consists of a menial job at a depressing supermarket in some small coastal town in Scotland, and partying during the evening.The party scenes are really well done. You can't just throw together a bunch of colored lights, loud music and some actors drinking alcohol, and think you're going to provide a real sense of the partying experience across to the audience. But this director did an excellent job, as well as the writer, by using lots of clipped language/bits of conversations, which is exactly how you hear things at a party, especially once you're a bit drunk. And the camera work and the lighting are also done to perfection in these scenes.Morvern invites her friend to go with her to Spain (somewhere on the southern coast I guess), for vacation. This trip also provides us with some great scenes, as the girls get lost one night on the open road in the middle of two towns, and another time they happen upon a small town in the midst of a local religious street festival.Again, there is lots of endless partying, and some freewheeling sexcapades during their trip to Spain. Both girls don't seem to have much else going on in their lives. While in Spain, Morvern learns that the publisher is interested in "her" book, and that they'd like to fly to Spain to see her. Once Morvern meets with them, she learns that they are prepared to give her 100,000 pounds for the rights to the story. Naturally Morvern is quite thrilled with this.She returns home a few weeks later, and lo and behold, there is her check in the mail. But she doesn't seem to have any lofty plans for the money, other than to go back to Spain and have some more "fun". The film ends in Spain, with an image of a lonely, directionless Morvern. It's actually quite cool how the director did it, and the song playing in the background is so perfect for the particular scene.While this movie certainly isn't uplifting, I appreciate the artistic aspects of it."
Tough to Take
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 01/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Morvern Callar," a film directed by Lynn Ramsey, is another very dark, very Scottish film made with the assistance of the Glasgow Film Board. It's a multiple prize winner:nominated for 14 awards, it took nine. It's based on a novel by Alan Warner, and might be considered another entry in the tartan noir school of filmmaking: just a bit bloodthirsty; more than a little graphic in its portrayal of young people going about their daily rounds of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
The highly talented Samantha Morton stars as Morvern Callar, a young woman without a future, working as a grocery store clerk in Oban, a picturesque town, full of retirees, on Scotland's west coast. It's a town where futures are not made. She awakes one morning to find her boyfriend has committed suicide. Her behavior then is not what we'd expect; it goes well beyond ordinary denial as we'd conceive it. She spends the funeral money he'd left her to get herself and her best friend from the store to a vacation in Spain; lots of sex, drugs and rock and roll to be found there. She also signs her name to the novel the boyfriend had written, and sets about trying to sell it as he'd instructed on his last disk.
Director Ramsey, in this movie, follows the maxim "Show, Don't Tell." It's intense, frequently color-saturated, particularly in the Spanish scenes, and moves fast. No spoon feeding of what to think, no backstory, no voiceovers, just a close up,unblinking eye on Morvern and company. Her first film, "Ratcatcher," also set in Glasgow, was almost unwatchable in some unbearably dark scenes;evidently she doesn't believe in going easy on her audience."