Brian Coulton in Metro News, Toronto
September 2008 (4/5 Stars – ‘Excellent’)
Loosely related stories of love, loss and loneliness are brought together in Duane Hopkins’ powerful, impeccably paced first full-length feature, Better Things. With very minimal dialogue, the film is compelled to communicate primarily through visual expression, a task performed impressively by a cast of mostly first-time actors.Characters act or sometimes just exist to a limited supporting soundtrack that emphasizes natural sounds and silence to build a realist drama. It’s not for mainstream audiences, but for modern artistic cinema buffs, it doesn’t get much better than Better Things.
Source | Metro News
Article in Dazed and Confused
Duane Hopkins’s debut focuses on fractured lives and drug abuse in the rural Cotswolds. Here, the director writes about his intentions…I set Better Things in rural England, the place where I grew up and where my first obsessions were formed. I was driven by a wish to create a more honest interpretation of young and old lives outside of the urban areas that so many think exclusively constitute our country. I wanted to make a modern rural English film, taking aspects of social realism and twisting them into something more poetic and transcendental, I wanted to see the atmosphere I remembered from being young on the screen – sex, drugs, boredom, extreme love, extreme hate, romance and loss. All those elements that we’re so used to seeing in urban films against the indifferent and beautiful background of the countryside that I remembered from childhood. Rural areas conceal as much underneath their surface as any city does. The majority of the cast had never acted before. My process begins with being interested in how someone looks, how they walk, talk and move – all the experiences etched into their face that help compose their physiology. I then try to find common elements between them and the character to give me a bais from which to direct them, using things you know they have been through to try and help or provoke them. Then you can use a camera like a microscope. Essentially, I was interested in describing our requirement for security and safety, our basic need for emotional stability and happiness – all the things we associate with companionship. And to use these themes in a new environment, to explore the actions of separate generations in the pursuit of happiness, the success and failure of love; and the use of artificial substitutes to the same ends. Put simply – life, love, loss and intoxication.