Week One Films

On Monday I saw my 1st cinema film of the year.

It was Sightseers. It passes the test in the first few minutes and passes on many occasions after. I don’t want this blog to be reviews of films so I won’t write the whole thing up except to say I thought it was funny and I enjoyed it. The script was written by Alice Lowe, who is also the star of the film. It’s a great performance from her (and Steve Oram who is the other writer/star).

I know it’s obvious, but if you have a female protagonist, a film is almost certain to pass the test. I guess I’ll be seeing a lot of films with women protagonists this year. This excites me. When I saw Brave last year, I connected with it so much, despite it being an animated film about a Scottish royal family± from the middle ages. Aspects of my own personality and experiences were echoed by the women in the film. Similarly, when I watch Borgen (my favourite TV show) I get a real thrill from seeing complex female characters from a variety of perspectives, and it’s certainly not at the cost of male characters who are equally complex and engaging. It’s a brilliant show.

I saw Sightseers at the Prince Charles Cinema.

Today I saw Silver Linings Playbook. I struggled to get my boyfriend to come as he was very put off by the title which he thinks is one of the worst in history. But I managed to convince him which was just as well as I was going with an Orange 241 offer and nothing is sadder than a 241 voucher and no one to share it with.

The film only just passes – there’s a scene where two sisters briefly talk to each other about each other. I really liked this movie. It’s very moving and surprisingly funny. The lead actors are terrific. Jennifer Lawrence has impressed me in every movie I’ve seen her in.

This leads me to thinking about the roles women have in films. In this movie only Lawrence’s female character feels fleshed out and real. Her sister and the mum come across as fairly two-dimensional. The male characters are plentiful and more rounded.

There are so many talented female actors and far fewer female roles. In my experience, I’d estimate there are around 8 women actors for every 1 male actor. It could be much higher, it’s definitely not much less. In terms of parts available, the reverse ratio is probably the case. Again, I don’t have exact stats, I’m just estimating based on my own experience of studying drama for 18 years and being a professional actor. And of these parts available for women, they are often stereotypical and two-dimensional, particularly in TV and film. I could write in great detail about this and I might later but I just wanted to touch on it in relationship to this experiment. I would anticipate that films that pass the Bechdel test would feature at least one interesting, developed female role and that films that strongly pass the test would feature at least two.

Of the films I saw this week, that is certainly the case. Sightseers passed strongly and had two weird, interesting, unpredictable women in it. Silver Linings Playbook, which passed just about, had one. Two examples are not enough to base a thesis on but it’s something to look out for. I’d definitely love to see more complex female characters in film, not least because that means more possibility for me to play more parts, but also because in real life no women are stereotypical and two-dimensional and our art should reflect that the way it does with men.


Films seen at the cinema so far in 2013:


Silver Linings Playbook

± I am a staunch republican


11 thoughts on “Week One Films

      • It’s pretty common now for a film to have to have two minutes of the female conversation which reduces the number of passing films shockingly. I’ll have my stopwatch going when I see it!

  1. The Bechdel movie list says that Silver Linings Playbook fails the test because the female-female conversations are only about men. Hmm. Great film though.

    • the movie list is not definitive as it is user generated so disputes occur. I saw this film yesterday and the women have a conversation not about men. I think it definitely passes the test due to the dinner party scene where Veronica asks Tiffany if she’s not allowed to brag about her sister’s dancing and they have an argument about their clash of personalities without mentioning the men.

      • I agree. However (and you’ve probably addressed this already and I am just a careless reader) but how do you then know which films pass the test before you go to the cinema?

  2. I check the list, though with new movies they don’t go up that quickly. I ask people who have seen them on Twitter and if that doesn’t tell me, I look at credits which can instantly show if there are at least 2 women, then do a bit of scouting around on blogs and things. It’s worked ok so far, but we’ll see.

    • Cool. Enjoying the blog anyway. Only bad thing is that the test is distracting me from films as I can barely think about anything else when am watching them!

      • That’s one of the reasons I decided to do it. When I see a new movie I spend time waiting to see when/if it passes and relax as soon as it does!

    • Informally, since I saw a production of Undermilkwood age 9, I’ve been reading/watching/analysing plays. Formally since 11 I guess, at school. All the way up to a masters degree and beyond.

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