Rotterdam 2024 Review: HEAD SOUTH Goes In Two Directions

Jonathan Ogilvie's new feature is an enjoyable, inoffensive watch.

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
Rotterdam 2024 Review: HEAD SOUTH Goes In Two Directions
In Jonathan Ogilvie's coming-of-age picture Head South we follow a schoolboy in Christchurch, New Zealand, around 1980, who desperately tries to be cool. He fakes selling weed, he fakes playing bass guitar, he's basically fantasising his way into being cool and never quite gets why that doesn't work out to his advantage. Until he lies himself into a corner, that is, and is forced to start a band. A post-punk band thankfully, so the threshold seems low, but he still needs to come up with something or lose all of what little credibility he's got left among his friends. So: where to get instruments? Where to get people willing to play with him? How to learn playing bass before Friday? And what the hell will he call his band?

IFFR2024-review-headsouth-ext1.jpgAccording to Jonathan Ogilvie, he actually made not so much a coming-of-age film but an I-can't-believe-it's-not-an-autobiography film. Head South had its world première last Thursday, where it had the honour of opening the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and Ogilvie explained on stage that he was describing a certain stage of his youth. He also said that most of the things you see in the film, including some very weird coincidences, had really happened to him. It's always the implausible things in a film like this which turn out to be real.

Interesting though that may be as a fact on paper, it doesn't make for a consistent narrative. It's a bit hard to take both the protagonist's troubles and his parents' troubles seriously, especially since they only occasionally coincide a bit. Head South comes across as "two crazy adventures in the life of..." and apart from happening to the same person, not much links the two.

There is almost nothing here you haven't seen before (and often better) in other titels. But the film is fun, has a couple of good jokes and is well played. Special mention must be made about Marton Csokas, who shines as the dad in the story, a man with his own troubles but who still tries to provide the right mixture of boundaries and freedom to his son. He may be one of the finest actors working today and even in a shallow role as this one he stands out and steals the film.

The audiences in Rotterdam really liked what they saw and awarded the film a rating of 4.3 out of 5.

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