Interviews

Published on February 26th, 2019 | by Padraic Coffey

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My Favourite Things – Rhianna Dhillon

Rhianna Dhillon is a film critic and broadcaster. She is the film critic for the BBC 6 Music Breakfast Show and has worked for BBC Radio 1, the British Film Institute (BFI), BAFTA and FilmStruck.

Call Me by Your Name (2017, Luca Guadagnino)

Being asked ‘What is your favourite film?’ might be the hardest question for a film critic, and also the one I hear most often. So you’d think that I’d have a really clear answer to it by now, but I still don’t because there are so many favourites and they change all the time. I love The Railway Children, Shaun of the Dead, Dirty Dancing and anything with Carey Mulligan in it, but I’ve chosen Call Me by Your Name as one of the more recent films which really set my world alight. I loved the performances, the Italian setting, the idea of a young man falling in love with an older man, and that love – or lust – being returned. But most of all, I just loved how it made me feel.

There’s so much nostalgia for me in this film, about growing up and having crushes on unsuitable people. When you were young, summers seemed to go on forever, and they could make or break you. You could either do something amazing over that summer, if you were abroad, or at home, by forging new relationships, or you would do absolutely nothing and feel like you’d wasted your entire life. I loved that, in this film, it could go either way. It’s a mood film, in a similar way to Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight because, I think, in both, although the plot is really interesting, and obviously super important, for me it was more about the emotions that it stirred up, that other films hadn’t quite managed to do before. It got really under my skin.

And as an added bonus, we see Armie Hammer in his little swimming trunks. He was a revelation, because I’d always thought of Armie Hammer as being a fairly bland, all-American stereotype, like in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. I was wondering why people kept giving him roles, because for me, it used to be a sign that if Armie Hammer was in something, it probably wasn’t a great movie, but when I saw him in Call Me by Your Name, he blew me away. It was just because he wasn’t getting the right roles. I’ve heard him speak since about how he was typecast and really only offered those pretty boy roles, and this was so much meatier. He really does manage to show his range as Oliver.

Opposite him, the fresh-faced Timothée Chalamet, showed so much vulnerability and bravery. For somebody just starting out in the industry, and dealing with some quite explicit, tense sex scenes, it’s an incredibly brave role. He manages to be a sulky teenager and an intense, lustful young man, all at once. I just wanted to watch this over and over again. It really does have that rewatch value. I thought it was a very smart move not to tackle the whole book, just the first third. By stopping the narrative where they did, it bases it a bit more in reality. It’s not necessarily a happily-ever-after ending, in the same way as Dirty Dancing. It’s about that one summer of love. It’s not about the longevity of a relationship, it’s about that extreme, exciting passion. I think Call Me by Your Name portrayed that in such a clever, emotive and entertaining way.

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995, Oasis)

I loved Oasis growing up. It was never even a question of Blur versus Oasis in the battle of the Britpop bands like it was for so many people. To me, Blur didn’t even come close. My older brother was really into Oasis, and I think that’s why I thought they were so cool. I wanted to be like him. I was six when (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was released. Wonderwall was on the radio all the time. Even Travis, another one of my favourite bands, reference Wonderwall being on the radio all the time in their song Writing to Reach You.

As I got older, I started to prefer Noel’s voice to Liam’s. Don’t Look Back in Anger, which Noel sang, tops the album for me. I remember being on a school skiing trip, and inching my way down this slope on a mountain, and the only way I could get through the terror was by singing Don’t Look Back in Anger over and over again, just to concentrate on something else at a really traumatic time! I love it for that reason. I think all the songs on the album are classic and timeless, and the album shows a proper, thought through concept. It obviously starts with Hello, a greeting, and it ends with Champagne Supernova, a really climactic song.

That’s the thing about Oasis. Their music bonds people. Everyone at some point in their lives has been somewhere bellowing out an Oasis song, often with complete strangers, connecting for those three minutes, and then getting on with their lives. I also love how you have these anthems alongside almost throwaway songs like She’s Electric. I think that shows the irreverence of Oasis. Not every song has to be about something deep and meaningful. It’s not like I relate to everything they’re singing about, because the drugs and the rock star lifestyle is very far away from my life! It’s just the nostalgia of hearing them takes me back to being a kid, listening to them, and wanting to be older and having a window into what it was like to be them.

Persuasion (1817, Jane Austen)

Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel, because I think it’s one of the funniest and most insightful novels about human behaviour. It’s the story of Anne Elliot and her family; her two awful, self-obsessed sisters, her incredibly vain father, and then, the love of her life, Frederick Wentworth. We learn that he once proposed to her, and she was persuaded not to marry him because of his lowly status. Then, when he returns from overseas, he’s rich and desirable, but still really hurt that he was rejected all those years ago. Anne, meanwhile, “has lost her bloom”, which I think is one of the best descriptions ever in a book. She doesn’t realise that his pride is still hurt, and that despite his manner, he is as much in love with her as he ever was.

I think my main reason for loving this so much is that there is obviously no sex in Jane Austen, but she captures the sexual tension of two very proper, English people who are in love but unable to speak it aloud. In one letter-writing scene, where Captain Wentworth is writing a second proposal to Anne, he says, “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” Being a romantic, that is what I thought being in love was going to be. It set my expectations of men way too high…! I just think the novel has such a beautiful way of explaining exactly the pain of falling in love and also encourages the tenacity and determination you need to keep that love going.

Follow Rhianna on social media.
Twitter: @RhiannaDhillon

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About the Author

Padraic Coffey is a freelance writer and film critic who currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He has written for the Sunday Independent, Ireland's largest circulation newspaper, and Trinity College, Dublin, ranked in the top 100 best universities in the world by the QS World University Rankings in 2014. Additionally, his film criticism has appeared on Volta - Ireland's first VOD website - as well as sites such as Taste of Cinema, Film Jam and Head Stuff.



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