Hurt by Paradise is a film focusing on female friendship, poetry and self discovery. This debut film by Greta Bellamacina tells the story of Celeste a single mother trying to forge a future for herself as a poet whilst raising her son in London. It’s an interesting, whimsical film and at its beating heart is the story of two women: a poet and an actor, telling stories to others and themselves in order to make sense of the world around them.
Hurt by Paradise is interesting in part because it shows characters not ordinarily seen in this type of non gritty urban drama. A single mother, Celeste (Greta Bellamacina) with a narcissistic mother and a self absorbed sister. It’s directed and co written by Greta together with Sadie Brown. Sadie Brown plays Stella, the best friend of Celeste, babysitter and struggling actor.
It’s quirky and whimsical, a sort of I Capture the Castle: a coming of age for those who’ve already come of age but are still trying to figure out what it is all means. The women live in a place where men are always on the outside. Celeste trying to find her father who left when she was young. Stella communicating with the mysterious, potential love interest, Roman. The only man they both love unconditionally is Celeste’s son. The patriarchal theme runs throughout this film but becomes less interesting as the film reaches its dramatic conclusion.
The unconventional family unit that Stella and Celeste create as they both raise her son is interesting and very current. However, as an indie drama, it fails when it tries to become conventional in the final third of the film. Camilla Rutherford hamming it up as the hotel owner and the wrapping up of the father storyline both feel unnecessary. The more the conventional family storyline unfolds the less interesting the film becomes, maybe it tries too hard to go the Fleabag route, in which the family are the most interesting element of the series. Here Celeste and Stella are very interesting and if only more time had been spent excavating their backstories, especially Stella’s it would have made for a more rounded film. The direction is very good and the use of poetry adds a properly interesting dimension to the film. Both of these elements lift the film, it is just a shame that the script fails to deliver.
Nonetheless, at 83 minutes it is an interesting and refreshing look at a diverse range of female characters we simply don’t see enough on screen.
Hurt By Paradise is released in cinemas on 18 September.