Talking Movies: Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Song of Names and A Whisker Away

Spling reviews Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Song of Names and A Whisker Away as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a romance drama, a coming-of-age music drama and an anime adventure.

Starting off with a romance drama now on Labia Home Screen…


On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.

Writer-Director: Céline Sciamma

Stars: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel and Luàna Bajrami

– This is one of the much-talked about films that was snubbed at this year’s Academy Awards.
– A French romance drama period piece, this is a tender, delicate and sensual slow-burning drama
– Centred on a similar device to Final Portrait, this drama grapples with desire through secret and forbidden romance.
– Moving at its own smouldering pace, steeped in nuance and all about stolen glances, it’s intoxicatingly beautiful.
– Using nature to convey the forces at play, it’s a dance between fire and water as the powerful soundtrack weaves music and nature to stir your soul.
– The story is fairly simple, yet remains compelling in the detail, as two women befriend one another under false pretenses only to grow closer and more intimate with each passing day in an effort to capture one’s essence in a portrait.
– Using dramatic tension, the filmmaker swathes us in this windswept romance drama with cliffs overlooking oceans and romantic wardrobe harking back to hearths and easels.
– Two outstanding and powerful co-lead performances compel this drama in a similar way to Call Me By Your Name.
– Masterful storytelling and artful cinematography keep you locked in as if mesmerised by an artwork and unable to move on.
– This is a film almost entirely comprised of women, made with an uncommon sensitivity and subtlety.
– It’s a remarkable film, stoking the embers of passion, creating a tug-o-war between art and relationship through mood and modesty.
– This first-class production is a rarity that transcends the celluloid on many levels…

A near-perfect 9 on the splingometer

Moving on to a film now on Box Office…


An Englishman travels throughout Europe to find his childhood friend, a violin prodigy, who disappeared on the eve of his first solo concert.

Director: François Girard

Stars: Tim Roth, Clive Owen and Catherine McCormack

– Based on the novel by Norman Lebrecht, this sombre mystery drama pivots on the relationship between a man and his adoptive brother.
– Told through flashbacks, the story grapples with the boy’s attempts to find his family, which is echoed by his brother’s quest to track down in later life.
– Triggered by a student’s trademark preparation technique, he’s led on a journey across Europe, tracing his friend’s steps, all the while retelling their history.
– The Song of Names is a sprawling mystery music drama with fine production values and a strong focus on the soundtrack.
– Almost built around one climactic moment involving music, it’s as if the rest of the film exists in order to simply support this scene.
– Ordinarily, there’s an imbalance in terms of quality and consistency with period dramas that use flashbacks, however in this case there’s an equal weighting.
– Unfortunately, while well-acted, beautifully composed and handsomely mounted, the sum of its parts don’t add up.
– Slow-moving instead of slow-burning, a little distant and not truly capturing the air of intrigue at its core, it’s fairly heavy-going… teasing with its payoff.
– It has the prestige factor, a flicker of intrigue, grapples with some important themes and is laden with fine ingredients, yet remains just out-of-reach and mostly recommended for its soundtrack and a few flourishes.
– It does just enough to get…

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally a movie now streaming on Netflix…


A brazen young girl tries to win her classmate’s affections by transforming into a cat.

Directors: Jun’ichi Satô and Tomotaka Shibayama

Stars the voice talents of: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae and Johnny Yong Bosch

– In the tradition of Japanese anime powerhouse, Studio Ghibli, comes A Whisker Away… a Japanese anime fantasy romance comedy drama adventure
– It’s a delight for cat lovers and fans of Ghibli, who will enjoy the film’s magical take on felines and their secret lives.
– Adopting elements from Cinderella as well as the The Frog Princess, this is a sentimental, funny and entertaining animated movie that’s so heavily influenced by Studio Ghibli’s body of work, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one of theirs.
– The animation has flair without stepping too far from the realm of Spirited Away, The Cat Returns and My Neighbour Totorro.
– Centred on an eccentric, bold young girl with her heart on her sleeve, it creates a different core energy, blending elements from its influences.
– A fascinating and even eerie story with a spiritual dimension, A Whisker Away much like a cat, never quite allows you to think you’ve got it figured out.
– Amusing, cute, fun, wild and even a little disturbing at times, it will appeal to fans of Ghibli with its balance of ordinary Japanese life for a teenage girl and the zany adventures of a fantasy world that lie just beyond our consciousness.
– While family-orientated and full of pluck, there’s some mild peril and fantasy aspects that could be unsettling for little ones.

A solid 7 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE… powerful performances, tense drama, delicate themes and great restraint characterise this moody, slow-burning and stirring romance drama… A near-perfect 9!

THE SONG OF NAMES… this handsomely mounted mystery music drama is intriguing, thoughtful and well-acted yet distant and inert… A satisfactory 6!

A WHISKER AWAY… while heavily influenced, it’s a cleverly reframed, entertaining, playful, fun, plucky and wonderful copycat adventure… A solid 7!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!