Hurt by Paradise
The actor, model and filmmaker, Greta Bellamacina, directs, co-writes and stars in this tale of Celeste: a young single mother and struggling poet. The movie follows the lead as she tries to get her writing published and find her father – who has been absent since she was five. The narrative is coupled with the tribulations of her friend, Stella (co-writer Sadie Brown), a “girl with big hair”, as she pursues a romance entirely online with the unlikely Roman. The protagonist enjoys a brief dalliance with a picturesque pilot who immediately ejects when learning she has a toddler son, but this isn’t really about that.
The tone of the feature is that of a moving poem, set at a dreamy, drifty pace. The cinematography of Fabio Paleari and Emily Jane Robinson captures London at its most grubby yet lush, centring around the BT tower and Celeste’s Fitzrovia home. The camera loves Bellamacina, caressing her smudgy eyes and the beauty the Financial Times described as “part English rose, part vamp”. There is a lyrical waft to her; some people manage to just look right, even as they struggle. The single mother’s money problems could possibly be best described as “fashion skintness”, as she ruffles in her purse interminably but still owns a line of chic boho dresses of various pink hues. A film’s MO is to look good, however, so one really can’t criticise that.
Hurt by Paradise feels homespun, charming but with some fraying at the edges. The acting can stray into the self-conscious realm, where viewers become very aware that they are watching someone recite a script. Those lines, however, have some inspired moments. For instance, in one scene, a postman laments “I don’t know if I’ll be here next week”, to which Stella replies “none of us do”. Of her dad, Celeste clarifies: “he’s not dead, he’s probably in Finchley.” The protagonist’s creative yet narcissistic mother points out the madness of living near the sea by asking: “have you ever seen a sane seagull?” It can be rare to find moments of genuine ingenuity in dialogue when audiences are all so cinematically literate.
There are enjoyable turns in the flagrantly decrepit Margate and these faintly surreal moments are where the film is at its beguiling best. It has a distinctly English feel: romantically eccentric; if modern Camden were a feature, it would be this. The plot may be slight, but it wears it well. Bellamacina is an intriguing auteur, she has a delicate yet distinctive presence, creating something different and true to her vision.
Hurt by Paradise is released digitally on demand on 8th February 2021.
Watch the trailer for Hurt by Paradise here: