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The Monthlies: What We're Watching (January Edition)

It's that time of the month! The Blister Team is here to give you the lowdown on what they've been watching.

Sophie: Land of Ashes (Cerviza Negra)

MUBI (2019)

Land of Ashes is slow and peaceful, yet magically evocative. Set in Costa Rica, the film follows a young girl, charting an almost coming-of-age arc, but one interwoven with mystique, trauma, and mourning, as 13-year-old protagonist Selva reckons with family loss, abandonment, and a premature awakening into adult independence. Spacious and lengthy fixed shots give a sense of breadth as well as patience to the deeply intimate exploration of Selva’s personal growth. Quiros’ use of light is almost tactile; dark and dense scenes contrast beautifully with bright, boundless ones, echoing a kind of empty vulnerability as Selva is often left to her own devices. In the way that young Selva and her dying grandfather live in an open, unsecured house, with curtains and blankets for doors, and often empty space for windows, Quiros establishes that boundaries are delicate: between generations, between youth and adulthood, between life and death, between illusion and reality. Selva is mesmerisingly grounded, a courageous fireball, and Smachleen Gutiérrez plays her with a level of professional discipline completely unexpected of a young, amateur performance. Nominated for several key awards for this feature debut, Quiros is definitely one to watch.

Selva, a young girl, is standing in a lake, only her upper torso can be seen in the centre of the shot. Behind her is a tropical forest.

Neena: Lovesick

Netflix (2014-18)

If you’re anything like me, cold weather and impending doom leave you yearning for the past. I have watched Lovesick all the way through no less than six times. Each time I find new nuances to obsess over, new triumphs of characterisation, and I fall in love all over again with Evie and Luke… just as I become exasperated anew with Dylan’s Ronsardian pining. Sorry, I know you may have no idea who these people are, but the protagonists of this show feel like friends to me now. I am aware of how sad that sounds, but it’s just that good.

The show’s premise is… ridiculous. Dylan, a man in his mid-twenties finds out he has chlamydia and since this is his first time being tested for STIs (silly boy), he is tasked with breaking the news to every woman he has ever slept with. Flanked by Luke and Evie, his two best friends, he embarks on a journey through his romantic history, and we are taken along for the ride. As each episode lurches backwards and forwards in time, relationships emerge, characters are fleshed out, and storylines knit together, to reveal an utterly compelling and wincingly accurate portrayal of love and friendship in your twenties.

Three friends from Lovesick sit together on a sofa, looking at the camera

Ellie: Atlantics

Netflix (2019)

Atlantics is French-Senegalese director Mati Diop’s feature debut, for which she was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Black woman ever to do so. Set in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal, the story follows Ada, whose lover Souleiman disappears unannounced one day, deciding to join his friends and take the treacherous journey across the sea to Spain. The young men are never heard from again, but something of them remains, and Ada finds a way to be reunited with Souleiman. Almost Afrofuturist in genre, Diop’s film reaches both forwards and back in time. It fuses West Africa’s cultural heritage and spirituality with contemporary issues of migration, feminism and class, and the result is futuristic - supernatural, even. Framed with meditative static shots of the waves rolling into the shore like clockwork, accompanied by the protagonist speaking in Wolof, Atlantics is as poetic as it is political, anchored in the watery possibility of the ocean. Beautifully shot and with a carefully crafted storyline, Diop’s film is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Ada and Souleiman from Atlantics are dancing intimately in a empty nightclub, green strobe lights surround them

And introducing our newest addition to the team...

Inez: Black Mirror - Hated in the Nation

Netflix (2016)

Black Mirror tells stories of the future, but this future seems to be encroaching on us quicker than we think. The success of dystopian films such as The Hunger Games and Divergent is undeniable, but these stories portray futures that diverge heavily from present-day conditions. Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, however, has managed to portray a future that is bleak enough for a futuristic dystopia, but not one distant enough to be unrecognisable.

Hated in the Nation serves to denounce ‘cancel culture’ and underlines the veracity of the death threats people receive via social media. In our modern world, journalistic opinion pieces can incite public outcry, and much of this dissent is communicated via the almost uncontrollable force of social media. This idea drives the episode, and the controversy surrounding a polemic piece even results in the death of a character. This conclusion is entirely feasible in our world today, let alone the distant future. No matter how much technology can help us, it can also hurt us and has the potential to ruin our lives. As someone who is already suspicious of mass surveillance, I found the added layer of government monitoring in the form of ADIs (autonomous drone insects) a fantastic feature. It makes you realise just how close this future really is; the government already stores so much of our private information. Plus, the technology used for this surveillance is not that hard to imagine… If you’re anything like me, and you thrive on conspiracies and the fast advancement of social media, then this episode is one to watch.

Black Mirror: A lone woman is sat at a desk in front of a crowd of people in suits. She is staring down at an open folder.


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