My Favourite Memory (Matthew Roberts 2019) – Review

This film releases tomorrow, July 20th! I will update this with a link to the film when it releases.

EDIT – here is the link: https://youtu.be/8KQpQTpx-oQ

The second film from director Matthew Roberts, who also made the wonderful documentary Different Palettes (available on YouTube here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p60xZwP8ff4&t=14s), follows a range of eighteen different people who simply tell stories about a favourite memory of theirs (the hint is most definitely in the title here). It sounds very simple – and it is – but that’s exactly why it works. Whilst Different Palettes focused more on the creations from the people involved, I think that here the more stripped back and raw approach complements Roberts direction beautifully. I hate to go off on any tangent, but for any filmmakers, this is a must (especially for those focused on documentaries above all else) with the simplistic approach in terms of technical prowess and direction but the content that really carries it along. This kind of open hearted approach to documentary filmmaking is so often set to one side, the director often being too focused on presenting an unbiased reality (and more often than not failing anyway), but here it just sticks perfectly, working alongside the gentle nature of the content so beautifully. 

With just one shot per interview (there’s no need for cutting, the way that each and every interviewee approaches the camera is something beautifully honest and humane in and of itself – some look straight into the lens, others look around the room and some jump between the two, it’s the kind of subtle observational filmmaking I love more than I can even really describe effectively), a short fade between each marking the jump between interviews, most of which are either gently expressive and wonderfully endearing or melancholic and touching in their reminiscence on a time long passed. 

A shot from what may be my personal favourite story, though this will definitely differ from person to person!

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the film captures a time and place with pain-staking authenticity and sincerity. The last thing I was expecting from this was for it to be somehow sprawling (especially whilst maintaining the intimacy that it thrives on), however, both the memories discussed (the topics in some of them touch on sexuality, mental health, etc) and the huge range of those interviewed turn this from a small, unreserved passion project into something… inexplicably bigger. It just feels huge, the kind of film that works as a total time capsule by itself with how it manages to capture the time and the people living within it with an unmatched authenticity. The memories are telling of right now, making this the kind of film likely to be discovered in the future and looked upon with a great nostalgia or, furthermore, a historic importance. It feels grand, but at the same time it manages to maintain the searing intimacy and closeness that comes from just how eloquently the interviewees tell their stories (Roberts clearly made all of them very comfortable with the camera) and how naturally they interact with the audience. Few films are anywhere near as sincere as this, and watching Roberts make this incredible step-up in his direction from his debut feature just a few months ago is stunning, frankly. Very few films feel as human as this, as lived in as this, and whilst movies that feel as if they have been made by robots seem to be a running trend among both mainstream and more underground cinema, there is something to be said about something this human, the kind of film I can see myself always returning to no matter how my taste may (continue to) change. 

As is said in one of the stories featured in here, “It was one of those feelings where you just realise you’re exactly where you want to be”, a quotation that perfectly sums up the feeling of watching this. A simple, emotional, embracing and delicate film that acts as a warm hug in the very same way that the films of Studio Ghibli do, and one of the very best films of 2019 so far. I can’t stress how heavily I recommend this one enough. 

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