Tribeca Film Festival 2014: Double-Feature “Brides” and “Starred Up”

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The tagline for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival suggests that film festivals are the original binge-watching experience. In that spirit, enjoy these suggestions for the perfect double-features at the Tribeca Film Festival, complete with suggested accompanying snacks. In this edition, we watch Brides and Starred Up.

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Brides

The Georgian prison system has undergone changes in their visitation rules, and in order to take advantage of the new policies, women are marrying their imprisoned boyfriends. One of these women, Nutsa (Mari Kitia), has cherished every smuggled letter from her new husband Goga (George Maskharshvili), but now that she has the chance to visit him and take their children to visit him, something has changed. She has to face her husband for who he is now, not how she remembered him, and she has other problems to face, such as her daughter not recognizing her own father. Nutsa, like many other wives of prisoners, has to be honest with herself whether their marriage will survive the years left on Goga’s sentence, and she must decide if what they have can be termed as a marriage at all.

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Starred Up

Eric (Jack O’Connell), a violent teenager, has been “starred up,” or moved to a prison for adults. Among the inmates is his father Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) who, in his own way, wants to be a part of his son’s life and help him survive his prison sentence. When a counselor Oliver (Rupert Friend) brings Eric into his anger management group, it seems that there is still hope for Eric to move past his violent tendencies and become fully rehabilitated. Unfortunately, rehabilitation is not the primary aim, and in the film’s tense final act, the prison guards reveal their true intentions, to keep Eric angry and locked up until he dies.

Why They Belong Together

Brides is an examination of the Georgian prison system from the outside, and Starred Up is an examination of the United Kingdom prison system from the inside. Both films are deliberate in their viewpoint with Brides only giving small glimpses of the inside of the prison and Starred Up staying almost entirely inside the prison. They are two sides of the same screwed-up coin, and together, the films show the damage that the current prison system is inflicting on families, communities, and society as a whole. It is a broken system that rewards locking people up and keeping them locked up, and if these prisoners serve their sentence and get out, life has moved on without them.

Another aspect that fascinated me about both films was the relationships that formed among the prisoner’s wives in Brides and the hierarchy of the prison in Starred Up. As Nutsa says, most families in Georgia have someone in prison, but nobody talks about it. Everyone makes up excuses, like Nutsa telling her son that his father is in the military. One of the few times she let down her guard is when she is visiting the prison and waiting with the other “brides.” It never struck me that she was particularly close with these women, but they had an unspoken understanding, a connection through shared experiences.

In Starred Up, the most compelling relationship besides Eric and Neville is between Oliver and his therapy group. Within the prison, Oliver has created this safe space for prisoners like Eric to work through their issues. It is simple and effective, and because it disrupts the status quo, the prison doesn’t like it. For the prison system, it means less repeat offenders, and for the power players among the general populace, it means less people to keep under their thumb. The bond between these characters, even after Oliver is gone, is touching and gives a small glimmer of hope after the final heartbreaking scene between Eric and Neville.

Suggested Snack

Popcorn and Valium

Bonus!

Bring tissues for this double-feature.

May
09
2014
Rachel Kolb • Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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