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Film review: Maxine Peake takes the audience on a journey of heartache and raw emotion


The Stroud Film Festival once again delivered in spades, the highlight was easily Incompatible, directed by the brilliant Maxine Peake.

Maxine, who attended the screening at Museum in the Park and took part in a Q&A, is of course a stellar actor in her own right. She is known for her roles as Twinkle in Dinnerladies, a sitcom on BBC One, as Veronica Ball in Shameless, the comedy drama from Channel 4, Martha Costello in the BBC One legal drama Silk, and Grace Middleton in the BBC One drama series The Village.

Writer and actor Hayley Standing from Coronation Street, Downtown Abbey and New Tricks fame was the star of the short, which is a tribute to all those who’ve suffered in silence over making the impossible decision to terminate a pregnancy, after Standing’s character is told her unborn baby is incompatible with life.

IMG 2750 | Film review: Maxine Peake takes the audience on a journey of heartache and raw emotion
The audience at Museum in the Park

Standing drew on her own personal experiences and real life case studies to tell this powerful story of loss and childlessness. Perhaps the most shocking line from the film, was a nurse who turned to Standing prior to her termination and said, ‘babies are just like pancakes; the first one never turns out quite right’. 

Incompatible is just 15 minutes long, but in that short time the audience is taken on a journey of heartache and raw emotion, which was palpable in the room. I watched the film with my young daughter, and as I sat in the darkness of the auditorium with tears in my eyes, I squeezed her hand a little tighter in mine.

I always thought you’d feel slightly short-changed watching a short film, but that’s just not the case. There’s no fat. They’re lean productions which get straight to the point, and that’s really powerful but similarly a great challenge for the filmmaker. 

This year’s Stroud Film Festival programme promised an inspirational season of stories from all over the world, from Iran to Nigeria, from new directors to seasoned storytellers- films that challenge, inspire, explore and entertain. The Journey Short Films encapsulated all of the above.

A selection of four short films on the subject of ‘journey’ were screened at Stroud’s Museum in the Park on on Sunday afternoon, in front of an audience including BAFTA CEO and Patron of Stroud Film Festival, Jane Millichip. Four very different short films from filmmaking talent from across the world, but all thematically connected. 

Claudia Weston’s Living in Limbo documented a Syrian family living in Turkey; former University of Gloucestershire students Laura Makai and Filip Bos’s film The Journey You’ll Take, explored what it is like to live in the UK as a young immigrant; Forbidden Birth from director Sohrab Kavir, delved into the taboo subject of babies conceived outside of marriage in Iran.

It was wonderful to see such a range of filmmaking talent in one room; from the award-winning and highly-acclaimed, to university students, all sharing the same space. Where else in the world could you see that, other than Stroud!

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