One of the plus points of online services like Netflix is that they allow users to see films like Raúl Arévalo's The Fury of a Patient Man (2016), which somehow failed to find a slot on the weekly release schedule. Chronicling the relationship between barmaid Ruth Díaz, jailbird boyfriend Luís Callejo and seeming milquetoast Antonio de la Torre, this slow-burning thriller had much in common with Oriol Paulo's The Invisible Guest (2017, also on Netflix) and Rodrigo Sorogoyen's May God Save Us (2016, which isn't). However, the latter has reteamed with screenwriter Isabel Peña to provide the estimable De la Torre with an equally memorable role in The Candidate, a simmering thriller that reaches UK cinemas on the back of converting 10 of its 13 Goya nominations and exploiting the global sense of political distrust to become an instant cult classic in its native Spain.

Having taken a phone call on the beach, political fixer Manuel López Vidal (Antonio de la Torre) strides through the kitchen of a chic restaurant to present his associates with a platter of red shrimps. There's plenty of banter around the table, as Manuel does an impression of Rodrigo Alvarado (Francisco Reyes), the rising star of the unnamed political party, who is being interviewed on the television. Regional president José Luis Frías (Josep María Pou) takes Manuel to one side and informs him that he has chosen him to be his successor and urges him only to tell wife Inés (Mónica López) and teenage daughter, Natividad (María de Nati), until he feels ready to go public with the news. 

When regional vice-secretary Francisco `Paco' Castillo (Nacho Fresneda) is arrested for receiving illicit payments, the TV news buzzes with how the case will impact upon Alvarado's bid to clean up the party and Manuel is nervous because reporter Amaia Marín (Bárbara Lennie) dislikes him and may well see this incident as a chance to expose corruption in the party. As Manuel's staff go into document shredding overdrive, Frías reassures him that it should be possible to keep a lid on things, but urges him to keep a close eye on Cabrera (Luis Zahera), who is due to return from a business trip to China. 

Having warned underling Gallardo (David Lorente) to keep his mouth shut, Manuel gives Pareja (Óscar de la Fuente) a pep talk about looking confident outside the office, as though nobody has anything to hide. However, he is aware that solids could hit the air conditioning at any moment and continues his round of potential security risks by lunching with Susana (Sonia Almarcha), who is stressed because the maid has found drugs in the pocket of her youngest son. But, having met Cabrera at the airport and reminded him to be discreet, Manuel thinks he has the situation under control and spends the weekend with his cronies aboard a luxury boat. 

His confidence is dented, however, by a late-night phone call from journalist Jacobo (Chema Tena) informing him that incriminating tapes exist of him and Paco and he fears that they are about to be made public. Desperate to find out who has been wearing a wire to entrap him and discover which conversations have been recorded, Manuel bullies Pareja into confessing and he has no time for his apologies when he explains that he had no option because the police had been closing in on him. 

As Amaia reports on big bucks being made from land re-zoning and siphoning off EU subsidies, Inés asks Manuel to take her into his confidence. But he is determined to ride out the storm caused by Operation Amadeus and is confident of doing so until Alvarado and Asunción La Ceballos (Ana Wagener) come from Madrid to tell Paco that they will cover his back, while throwing Manuel to the wolves. In his office, La Ceballos promises that the party will take care of him if he eats humble pie in the media. She dangles the offer of a post in Washington, DC and reassures him that this is all part of Alvarado's tough guy transparency act to boost his bid for the party leadership.

Unconvinced, especially when Farías refuses to return his calls, Manuel breaks into the boss's office and photocopies and downloads everything pertaining to the `Persika' project, so that he can take his superiors down if they seek to destroy his reputation. Some of his inner circle have doubts about his tactics, but the sight of Farías denouncing him on the television convinces Manuel that he's doing the right thing. He has hidden the files on two memory sticks and appears to have them confiscated when Judge Costa (Mona Martinez) sends the police to arrest him and search his home. 

Convinced that someone inside his office has tipped them off about their existence, Manuel fires one of his team before lawyer Fernando (Paco Revilla) accompanies him to his arraignment. Granted bail, he takes the train to Madrid to confront La Ceballos and, when she refuses to honour her promises, he offers his information to Alvarado, so that he can burnish his image as an incorruptible reformer by exposing La Ceballos and the dying Frías's complicity in the embezzlement and by showing that such practices are endemic at every level of Spanish political life. And, just to make sure he has another arrow in his quiver, Manuel also contacts Amaia and offers her the scoop that will make her career.

When Gallardo agrees to co-operate with the prosecution and provides evidence that Manuel was not just involved in the Amadeus scheme, but also the brains behind it, Inés is dismayed by the amount of stuff he has kept hidden from her. Natívidad remains loyal, however, and continues their daily swims in the sea, even after a couple of locals at the beachfront café spit at them and accuse Manuel of having his snout in the trough. But he is emboldened when Alvarado gives him a week to prove that the corruption goes all the way up to the top of the party. 

Having sent his wife and daughter to Canada, Manuel arranges a meeting with Cabrera and convinces him to talk on the balcony because his office is bugged. By duping him into believing that Paco and his cronies are about to betray him, Manuel coaxes Cabrera into naming names. As he leaves, however, Paco blocks his way and discovers the tape recorder that Manuel had hidden in his jacket pocket and destroys it before it can do him any harm. Lucky to escape without a beating, Manuel is distraught. But Fernando has one more card up his sleeve and accompanies Manuel to Andorra to track down the ill-gotten gains amassed by Bermejo (Andrés Lima). 

Borrowing money from Inés (who agrees to the loan, but asks her husband to stop calling her), Manuel travels to the mountains and finds Bermejo's daughter, Lucía (Laia Manzanares), having a cocaine party with her friends. He tells her that her father has sent him to collect some important documents and breaks down a locked door to find a treasure trove of evidence that could bring down the entire establishment. Threatening to tell Bermejo that Lucia is taking drugs and having underage sex, Manuel fights his way through her suspicious friends and shows what he has found to Fernando. 

Recognising that they have a sensational story that they should give to the press rather than Alvarado, Manuel heads for Madrid. Somewhat furtively, Fernando insists on calling his wife and promptly disappears at a deserted service station, where Manuel realises he is being followed. He climbs out of the bathroom window and speeds off in his car. But he soon sees another vehicle closing up behind him and he turns off his headlights and flips the car into a field to that he can dispose of the snoop when he comes to check whether he has survived the smash. 

Grabbing the suitcase full of evidence, Manuel switches vehicles and drives to the TV studio to do a live interview with Amaia. She checks up on him, as he is having his make-up applied, and comes across as friendly. The moment the camera rolls, however, Amaia asks Manuel why he has chosen to give his evidence to a television audience rather than a courtroom. Taken aback by her attitude, he insists that he has lost faith in the system and feels that he will only get a fair hearing from the public at large. 

On returning from a commercial break, Amaia delays showing pages from the incriminating ledgers to the camera and Manuel realises that she is under orders from the owners of the network to fudge the interview to protect their own hides. Furious at being denied his moment in the spotlight, Manuel threatens to leave with the books if the director cuts to another ad break and questions whether Amaia is the crusading journalist she purports to be or just a boss's lackey. 

However, she turns the tables and asks why he has only come forward with this damning information now, when he has known about party corruption since he joined in 1993. Furthermore, she demands to know whether he paused once during that time, when he was drunk on power and living the high life, and felt a pang of conscience at defrauding his compatriots of a small fortune while many of them were struggling to survive. The confrontation ends with a fade to black after dramatic cross-cuts between extreme close-ups of Manuel and Amaia's faces, as he realises that the game is up and that he can't hope to stay afloat by clinging to the wreckage. 

Rattling along like a cross between The Thick of It and an Alan J. Pakula paranoia picture from the early 1970s, this is slick exposé of the Spanish political system that would easily translate to Washington if somebody fancied doing a Hollywood remake. Sadly, ideal stars Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino are now too old to play the Manuel role. But, even in their prime, they would still have their work cut out to surpass Antonio de la Torre's compelling performance, as the scabrously amoral and irredeemably ruthless rat seeking a way out of his trap by dragging as many fellow conspirators into the snapping mechanism with him. 

The support playing is of a similarly high standard, with Luis Zahera and Bárbara Lennie standing out during the taped balcony conversation and the climactic interview. However, the plot contrivances that bring about this seething showdown almost capsize the enterprise, especially when De la Torre is suddenly required to become Bruce Willis, as he upends his speeding car and coolly murders the pursuer sent to dispatch him. Nevertheless, he does everything with such conviction that even the most sceptical viewer will cut him some slack. They will probably be less forgiving where Olivier Arson's thuddingly unsubtle electro score is concerned. But Alejandro de Pablo's camerawork is bristlingly muscular (especially when following in the wake of De la Torre's purposeful stride), while Alberto del Campo's editing has a similar pugnacity. 

As for Sorogoyen, he continues to impress after following a Best New Director nomination for Stockholm (2013) with double Goya triumphs for May God Save Us and The Candidate, which would make a splendid double bill partner for Paolo Sorrentino's Loro. He even received an Oscar nomination for Best Live-Action Short for Mother (2017). By all accounts, he is planning a feature version of the story of a woman who receives a frightened phone call from the young sons she thinks is holidaying in France with his father. It promises to be another deeply disconcerting watch.

There's always a fuss when women directors dare to tackle contentious topics. Consequently, Swedish debutant Isabella Eklöf's Holiday has been the subject of much discussion, as it uses social intimidation and sexual violence to coerce audiences into reassessing their attitudes to toxic masculinity and what some may see as female complicity. Many have compared this unflinching study, which was inspired by a book by co-scenarist Johanne Algren, to the work of Austrian provocateurs Ulrich Seidl and Michael Haneke. But Eklöf - who trained at the Danish National Film School and served as a runner on Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In (2008) before winning awards for co-scripting Ali Abbasi's equally unsettling Border (2018) - coolly employs a penetrating female gaze to survey her scene from a #MeToo perspective. 

Clacking through the airport in high heels, twentysomething Danish protagonist Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) arrives at Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera to stay with her older drug-dealing boyfriend, Michael (Lai Yde). After we see her gyrating in a skimpy white outfit under the opening credits, she is shown preening in front of a full-length mirror in an even more revealing swimsuit. While out shopping, her credit card is declined and she borrows some money from a sum she is supposed to hand over to Michael's contact, Bobby (Yuval Segal). When she confesses this to him, he slaps her face and warns her that she won't be forgiven for any subsequent slip-ups. He despairs of a world in which pretty girls use their charms to get what they want and Sascha seems chastened. 

However, she resumes her kittenish act when she hooks up with Michael and leaves behind the tacky hotel for his ultra-chic villa. He paws her proprietorially on the bed and she acquiesces as much as responds, as she seems to accept that, while she is fond of Michael, this is the price she has to pay for zipping around the coast in a sports car and being bought expensive emerald earrings. As part of Michael's entourage, she gets the best spot on the beach and gets to laugh at the man who tries to complain about their loud music and gets squirt-gunned by one of the kids. 

While queuing in an ice-cream parlour, Sascha meets the Dutch duo, Tomas (Thijs Römer) and Frederik (Michiel de Jong), who have a yacht in the Aegean harbour. Tomas flirts with Sascha, who enjoys the attention without seeming to realise the impact or the implications of her seemingly innocent actions. Back at the villa, Bobby brings some wares for the gang to sample and Michael spikes Sascha's drink, so he can manipulate her unconscious body on the bed like a living sex doll. 

She wakes none the wiser and eavesdrops without comprehension on Michael discussing a big deal with one of his cohorts. Indeed, she is so seemingly unaware that she cross a swanky restaurant at lunch to say hello to Tomas and Frederik and fails to notice the hint of menace in Michael's voice when she returns to their table. That night, she watches herself in the mirrored walls of a nightclub, as she appears to practice the seductive moves she might use on Michael. Or is she trying to reassure herself that the luxurious lifestyle makes her abasement seem worthwhile? She gets bored listening to henchmen spinning yarns about acts of senseless violence and texts Tomas, who meets her on the beach. While Michael ogles pole dancers in a club, Sascha and Tomas take Ecstasy and chastely stroke one another's faces. 

She feels unwell the next day and, after Michael feeds her pudding at a café, she throws up in a litter bin while visiting an amusement arcade. Needing to get some air, Sascha goes on a scooter ride in the hills. When she stops to ask for directions, a Turkish workman advises her about to tie her shawl around her to stop it catching in the wheel. But she ignores him and has a crash (off screen) on a winding stretch of road overlooking the sea. As she tugs the material out from the spokes, she kicks the machine before sitting down to examine her scraped knees. 

Back at the villa, Sascha is relaxing beside the pool when one of the underlings. Musse (Adam Ild Rohweder), incurs Michael's displeasure and she is sent to watch cartoons with the children while a punishment is loudly meted out in an adjoining room. Some time later, she tries to cheer Michael up while they are sprawled on the sofa. But she takes exception when he gets rough and tries to leave, only for him to throw her on to the floor and rape her. One of the entourage comes down the staircase behind them, but quickly retreats when she sees what's happening. Slapping Sascha's face, he forces himself into her mouth and wipes his hands on her hair with contempt, as he flops back on the sofa and she struggles slowly to her feet. 

Keen to atone for his error, Musse buys Michael a jackknife and a bottle of Turkish brandy for Bo (Bo Brønnum), the heavy who administered his beating. He also finds a replacement scarf for Sascha and Michael gives him an envelope full of cash to show he has been forgiven for his mistake and he gushes with gratitude, as Michael reminds him that he has standards to uphold. His bonhomie doesn't last, however, as he refuses to join in when Jens (Morten Hemmingsen) sings a sentimental karaoke classic in a bar. Moreover, he follows Sascha when she wanders down to the marina and he finds her chatting to the Dutchmen. Introducing himself as her boss, Michael sips wine and pours scorn on Tomas's anecdote about saving his soul by quitting a cutthroat job to sail in search of contentment by suggesting he only bought his boat to attract gullible women. He even intimates that Tomas and Frederik are gay and they begin to feel distinctly uncomfortable around him. 

As they stroll back to the villa, Michael quizzes Sascha about Tomas and how much time they have spent together. On finding his number in her phone, he invites Tomas for supper on the pretext of asking him about yachts. However, when he fails to laugh at a crude joke, Michael decides to show Tomas who's boss and humiliates him by ordering Sascha to remove her underwear and demonstrating how he can use and abuse her to his heart's content. Tomas recoils and flees when Michael threatens to hurt him if he catches him hanging around Sascha again. But she doesn't seem to realise the underlying meaning of the encounter and doesn't quite appreciate what she has done wrong when Michael slaps her across the face. 

Nevertheless, she wanders down to the moorings to check if Tomas is okay and try to apologise for Michael's behaviour. He spots the marks on her neck and asks if Michael abuses her. She insists he doesn't, but Tomas fails to understand why anyone would allow themselves to be mistreated in return for the odd good time. Sascha is confused by his hostility and, when he orders her to leave, she grabs a heavy glass jug and twice bludgeons him across the head with it. Tossing the jug and her shoes into the sea, she pads into the nearest police station, but changes her mind and wanders out again, leaving the trio of Turkish cops to conclude that she's high.

Climbing over the security gate at the villa, Sascha finds Michael dozing on the terrace and they share a cigarette in silence and stare out at the cold, grey dawn. Later that day, Sascha positions herself on the jetty and tells Frederik that she has been stood up by Tomas. He invites her to lunch and she accepts as if nothing untoward has happened. She is last seen sunning herself on the deck of a boat with Michael and his gang (have they appropriated Tomas's craft and were the cleaners who passed Sascha and Frederik on the quayside working for Michael?). Sitting like a figurehead in the prow, she half-turns to see what's happening behind her. But she doesn't seem to be looking back with any sense of anger or regret. 

Seeking to show that it's possible to invert the male gaze while defying Bechdel guidelines, the 41 year-old Eklöf has made quite an impression with her first feature behind the camera. The abrasive insouciance of the rape sequence has certainly caused a commotion and invited comparisons with similar scenes in Gaspar Noé's Irreversible (2002) and Coralie Forgeat's Revenge (2017). But this comes closer to being a nastier and more twisted version of Orson Welles's The Lady From Shanghai (1947), with Victoria Carmen Sonne putting a new twist on trophy victimhood and femme fatality. 

Yet, for all the laudable boldness of Eklöf's approach and the slickness of her visual style, she doesn't entirely avoid contrivance, with the Tomas subplot feeling somewhat specious long before Michael stumbles upon it and its messy consequences are far too neatly tidied up. Where the Dutch angle is significant, in the absence of any detectable character interiority, is that it forces the viewer to question Sascha's motives for befriending the stranger and ask whether she is playing a cleverly subversive game or is simply too naive for words. 

Having been slapped over a mere €300, Sascha must know what is likely to happen if she risks Michael's ire by threatening his masculinity. Or is she misguidedly trying to follow Musse's example by seeking an act of atonement that will earn her Michael's forgiveness? If this is the case, Sascha is either more cunning than outward appearances would suggest or so addicted to the trappings of the moll lifestyle that she will do anything to cling to her wreckage of a relationship. Then again, for someone who spends so much time looking in the mirror, Tomas's harsh words might just have forced Sascha see herself for who she really is and she impetuously lashes out to silence the unwelcome criticism. 

Wherever the truth lies, Eklöf does a fine job in sustaining the levels of ambiguity and balancing them against the revulsion induced by the assault, which is filmed in a single take with an audacious sense of confrontational detachment. She is superbly abetted in this regard by cinematographer Nadim Carlsen, production designer Josephine Farsø and editor Olivia Neergaard-Holm. 

Yet, while Sonne's performance makes Sascha impossible to fathom, the same can't be said of Michael and Tomas, who are markedly more conventional characters (and, thus, less interesting in and of themselves), even though they are proficiently played by Lai Yde and Thijs Römer. Maybe Eklöf and Algren are striving to highlight the shallowness of powerful white males. But their invidiousness needs to be more nuanced for Sascha's plight to be truly entrappingly tragic and for this occasionally clinical parable on Trumpist misogyny to appal rather than discomfort.

Indian director Ritesh Batra has been anything but idle in the six years since he made his award-winning debut with The Lunchbox (2013). Indeed, he has enjoyed a modicum of success with the English-language adaptations of Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending and Kent Haruf's Our Souls At Night (both 2017), which had the distinction of reuniting Jane Fonda and Robert Redford for the first time since Arthur Penn's The Chase (1966). But admirers of the delicate chronicle of Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur's unlikely friendship will be delighted to learn that Batra is back in Mumbai for Photograph, an equally beguiling fable that is the dictionary definition of an arthouse crowdpleaser. 

Now in his forties, Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) works as a street photographer in Mumbai and sends the majority of the pittance he earns to his grandmother, Dadi (Farrukh Jaffar), who still lives in his home village. One afternoon, he takes a picture of Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) beside the Gateway of India, after she gives her mother, Saloni (Brinda Trivedi), and sister Sheilaben (Lubna Salim) the slip after trying on wedding saris. Hearing her name being called, Miloni runs off without paying for the snapshot. But Rafi makes use of it when he keeps hearing from friends around his rundown neighbourhood that Dadi has stopped taking her medicine because he has yet to find a bride. In the accompanying letter, Rafi extols the virtues of a fiancée named Noorie in hoping that the photo will stop Dadi from worrying. 

Unfortunately, Dadi is taken by the image that she announces she is coming to the city to meet Noorie and roommate Zakir (Saharsh Kumar Shukla) is certain that he is going to get into serious trouble when he fails to produce the girl in the picture. As he travels by bus, he spots Miloni's face on a hoarding for the accountancy classes run by Anmol Sir (Jim Sarbh). He has just confiscated the Rafi's snapshot, after it was being admired by Miloni's fellow students and she is dismayed by his high-handed attitude. 

When Rafi goes to the school, Miloni hangs around the Gateway and they miss each other on the same bus before finally bumping into each other. She agrees to pose as Noorie in return for another print of her photo (which Rafi makes using a digital printer he keeps in his haversack) and they exchange key family details in the back of a taxi to make sure they keep their stories straight. The cabby is curious to know if they are actors rehearsing their roles and, when Rafi explains, he loses his tip by scoffing that he could never get a girl like Miloni in real life. 

Rafi welcomes Dadi at the station and she tells him that a baby girl was born in her compartment during the journey. She is eager to meet Noorie and chides Rafi for not telling her that her parents and sister were killed when a mosque wall fell on them. This is news to him (and a fib, as she lives at home and not in a women's hostel) and he is equally surprised when Dadi takes such a shine to Noorie that she presents her with a pair of heirloom anklets. As he walks her to a cab, Rafi reassures Miloni that he will break the news about their break-up gently. But she asks if he can take some more pictures of her, as she prefers the version of her that he captures on film to the one she sees looking back at her from her mirror.

Dadi comes to stay with Rafi and his pals and they revel in teasing him when she fusses over him. But Miloni has been so touched by the old lady's trust and generosity that she insists on chatting to the family maid, Rampyaari (Geetanjali Kulkarni), after she notices that she is also wearing antique anklets. She asks about life in the village and smiles when Rampyaari declares that it would be an honour if she ever paid a visit. Such dedication is also echoed in the stories Rafi tells Miloni about Dadi making them laugh at mealtimes to take their mind off the fact that there was little or no food and of her camping outside the school for three days to shame the principal into taking Rafi and his sisters back after they were expelled for being poor. 

The next day, Miloni poses as Noorie again to help Dadi choose a headscarf and listens happily, as she describes how Rafi saved enough to pay for the wedding feasts of both his sisters. She wishes he would get a job that kept him out of the sun and accuses him of having turned the colour of a dried raisin. Hurrying home, Miloni hides the scarf that Dadi had bought her and arrives in time to meet Hasmukh (Denzil Smith), who is trying to find a suitable bride for his son. When he asks her parents if they have a recent photograph, they are taken aback when she tells them about the picture taken at the Gateway, as she has previously been reluctant to indulge in any matchmaking. 

When they take Dadi for a ride on the ferry, she asks Rafi and Noorie how they met. As he is so tongue-tied, she tells the embellished story and mentions that he refused payment for the picture. But she was charmed by how pretty and happy he made her look and she kept coming to the Gateway so they could talk. Unable to get a taxi to ferry her home, Rafi takes Miloni for chai and he asks why she never drinks cola. She explains that her grandfather always used to buy her Campa Cola and that she didn't have the heart to try anything else after he died and the company went out of business. He understands her choice, as his grandfather had always bought him kulfi on the last day of the month and he now won't eat it on any other day. 

As Dadi is off to see relatives, Rafi tells Miloni that she can have the day to herself. But she suggests they make use of the spare time and he invites her to the pictures. He looks across at her in the darkness and reassures her when a rat scuttles across her feet. She's shaken by the incident, as it reminds her that they are from such different worlds and, the following day, she falls ill after eating an ice candy from a street vendor. Her father, Kanti (Sachin Khedekar), is cross with her for doing something so foolish so close to her exams. Dadi is unable to sleep because Noorie is so delicate and it takes one of Rafi's roommates to reassure her that she will toughen up when she gets used to lower-rung food. He also teases her that the noise she can hear is the flat's resident ghost, Tiwari, who had hanged himself from the ceiling fan. 

After a couple of days apart to let Miloni study, she meets up with Rafi again and he is put out when the taxi driver (who hails from the next village to Rafi's) chatters on about town-and-country marriages. He tells the cabby to focus on the road and he is cross at being told to shut up in his own car, especially as he has an English degree and is forced to drive because there's no other work. Rafi feels ashamed and tries not to catch Miloni's eye. But she has an embarrassing moment of her own when Dadi asks them to pose for some couple photos on the beach and Rampyaari spots her, while out shopping with her friends. They have a quiet word after Miloni's parents have gone to bed because they have arranged for her to meet Hasmukh's son, Chintan (Deepal Doshi). However, Rampyaari tips her off that he used to be fat and smiles that he could easily get that way again. 

He turns out to be perfectly nice during their date and is even touched by her ambition to have a small farm in a remote village. But she is distracted by the fact she is missing Dadi's birthday party and makes her excuses to leave. She claims to have a class, but she meets up with Rafi, who tells her all about the party and Miloni informs her parents that she doesn't want to marry Chintan. 

Keen to do something to thank Miloni for her help, Rafi asks Gafoor (Robin Das) the shopkeeper about getting hold of some Campa Cola. However, a soda wholesaler (Virendra Saxena) tells him about a man who bought the formula to make the drink at home because his wife liked it so much and Rafi goes off in search of Mr Sodabottlewallah. However, he comes across Miloni being pestered by her teacher, who wants her to have coffee with him. She is grateful to Rafi for intervening and clasps his hand in the back of the taxi and they exchange reassuring glances. As it's raining, he takes her back to his digs and, while he's out buying supper, she finds his collection of her photographs and she's pleased to see he is so fond of her. 

She wants to tell Rampyaari about how she feels, but she has already laid out her bundle on the kitchen floor and Miloni doesn't wake her. By contrast, Rafi can't sleep and is glad of a visit from Tiwari's ghost (Vijay Raaz), who promises him that Miloni is also lying awake. He explains that he killed himself because of unrequited love and now misses having a quiet smoke. When Rafi reveals that he is thinking about giving up his camera and opening a small Campa Cola factory, Tiwari nods in approval and wishes him well. 

On her return from visiting a relative, Dadi tells Rafi that she knows Miloni isn't called Noorie and that she isn't a Muslim. She confides that she had seen her picture on a billboard, but it had been covered over by the time she could go back to check. The new poster was for home loans and she urges Rafi to stop working to pay off his father's debts and reclaim the old family home. She would rather he was happy and he agrees to think about himself instead of others. Having said that, he finds Mr Sodabottlewallah (Sam R. Kerawalla), who gives him a bottle of Campa Cola for Miloni. 

He has it in his bag when they go to the cinema, but she leaves when another rat runs over her foot. She sits in the lobby and Rafi tells her that all films have the same story these days, as the star-crossed lovers will inevitably have to overcome the objections of her parents if they are to become one. Miloni smiles and, turning down the offer of some samosas, suggests they leave. But, while they go together, there's no guarantee that they are walking out into a happy ever after. 

Those familiar with Indian cinema will note how deeply Batra's tongue is in his cheek during Rafi's climactic speech about modern movies following the same predictable plotlines, as `love across the tracks' has been a standby scenario since before Bollywood pictures first began to talk. Indeed, cinemagoers have always preferred an involving narrative to faddish novelty and there's such a reassuring ring of matinee traditionalism about this delightful drama that it will take more than a scuttling rodent to drive most people from their seats before the closing credits. 

As with The Lunchbox, the casting of the principals proves key to distracting the audience from the highly romanticised screenplay's more fanciful aspects and the discreet connection between Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra should prove hard for most to resist. Prepared to indulge in a harmless deception to please his grandmother, Rafi is a proud man who takes his responsibilities as the man of the family very seriously. Similarly, the thoroughly modern Miloni still wants to be a dutiful daughter and goes through the motions of considering an arranged marriage, while clarifying her thoughts about her future career and any romantic involvement with a taciturn stranger who inhabits a different (one might say Parallel) world. It would be nice to think they could find a way to be together, but the fact they have managed to share an enchanted interlude may have to be enough for them and us. 

With many key moments taking place off screen and Siddiqui and Malhotra often saying more with their silences, it falls to Farrukh Jaffar to provide the chatter and she excels as the demanding, but devoted Dadi. But the next most important character is Mumbai, which is photographed in all its contradictory splendour and squalor by Tim Gillis and Ben Kutchins. Shruti Gupte's production design is also noteworthy, with the contrast between Rafi and Miloni's dwellings being bridged by the bedding that Rampyaari nightly spreads on the kitchen floor because she doesn't merit a room of her own in what is an evidently affluent household. Some might find Peter Raeburn's piano score a touch whimsical and intrusive, but it serves to remind us that we are watching the very kind of cine-nostalgia that Batra is seeking to celebrate in his impeccably crafted, but pleasingly unhurried way.

You have to give Welshman Jamie Adams credit. He keeps churning out features on shoestring budgets that find their way into cinemas with a regularity that must make him the envy of just about every other independent film-maker in Britain. The trouble is, having made such a positive impression with the Modern Romance trilogy comprising Benny & Jolene, A Wonderful Christmas Time (both 2014) and Black Mountain Poets (2015), Adams has struggled for consistency, with Wild Honey Pie!, Songbird (both 2018) and Bittersweet Symphony (2019), which have all riffed on the theme of seeking artistic inspiration from everyday life. 

He returns to the notion in Balance, Not Symmetry, which came about after Adams met Simon Neil, the frontman of Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro, and discovered that they had each endured a youthful bereavement that had made a lasting impact. Rather than following his customary practice of encouraging his actors to improvise their lines, however, Adams set Neil the challenge of taking their co-written script outline and producing a soundtrack that would both drive and reflect the narrative developments. It's a bold approach, but it fails to pay off because so much more attention is paid to the songs over the characters and the plot that this wayward wallow winds up feeling like a glorified promo for an accidental concept album. 

When her doctor father dies, Shirley-Caitlin Walker (Laura Harrier) is taken aback when mother Mary (Kate Dickie) apologises for taking her away from her American friends to start a new life in Scotland. She is studying at the Glasgow School of Art and classmate Hannah (Bria Vinaite) comes to the Walkers' remote coastal home to check she's okay. While discussing projects for the forthcoming term, they get the giggles over the sketches they have made of each other while sitting in the garden and this reconnection with the wider world convinces Caitlin that the time has come to return to the city. 

A blast from the title track accompanies footage of Caitlin walking the streets and shooting hoops before she attends a class in which a trendy lecturer Fiona Miller (Tamsin Egerton) reminds the third-year students who should already be fully aware of the fact that their art should be a reflection of their personality and their beliefs. When Caitlin hangs a cloth on a wall in a studio, however, she has no inspiration and she is scribbling with no success in her flat when Mary calls to ask her to come home for the weekend. Protesting that she's too busy, Caitlin feels guilty at letting her mother down and the camera focuses closely on her eyes and lips, as she deals with her grief, guilt and creative block. 

As `The Naturals' plays on the soundtrack, Hannah force Caitlin into dancing in their living room. When they spot a stranger lingering on the corner of their street, they follow him to a house party, which they gatecrash. A band is playing in a red-lit room and Caitlin watches the antics of the guests before sitting on a sofa with a bearded chap, while Hannah tries to pull her to her feet. 

There's no sign of Caitlin when Hannah attends a Miller lecture on Abstract Expressionism that turns into a plea to the female students not to let themselves be written out of history. She's walking with Rory (Scott Miller) beside the canal and he talks her into a visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, where they discuss the need for art to be raw and visceral rather than conventionally decorative. She poses beside Mary Pownall's sculpture, `The Harpy Celaeno', while they pick out resemblances in Sophie Cave's `Floating Heads' installation. Meanwhile, Hannah is bored back at the flat and leaves a message on Caitlin's phone urging her to call. 

Suddenly, Caitlin is inspired and, to the accompaniment of `Different Kind of Love', she begins painting a giant sunflower on the canvas in her studio, She draws on the pain of seeing her father in his open coffin and her frustrations, as she smashes things in her room, are cross-cut with those of her mother, who is drinking to cope with her loss and also lashes out at items close at hand in order to unleash her pent-up emotions. As Caitlin cleans her brushes, she listens to a phone message from Mary (which we don't get to hear) and rushes back to the family's ultra-chic modernist house to find her crashed out in a chair. Bringing her round, Caitlin complains that she can't keep coming shuttling back and forth, as she has to concentrate on her studies and Mary promises to pull herself together. 

Back in the lecture theatre, Miller crouches down and whines into the microphone before offering a few thoughts on love. Hannah doesn't pay any attention to what she is saying, however, as she is arranging to go for vegan cheesecake with Stacey (Lily Newmark), who has followed her into a class she isn't taking because she's intrigued by her. In her nearby studio, Caitlin has another tantrum (which is choreographed to a drum solo), as she decides her creation is rubbish and she starts flinging paint at it. Miller bursts in to stop her and confides that the image is pretty good (it most certainly isn't) and encourages her to keep going along the same path. 

While she follows that advice, Mary munches on a sandwich in her pristine home and makes forlorn attempts at starting a project of her own (is she also an artist or some kind of designer? The director clearly doesn't think it matters, but the lack of specificity makes the character even more of a cipher than she already is). Hannah jots down notes in an equally cavernous library (seemingly the only student on the entire campus who needs to use the facility) before taking a call from Stacey and agreeing to meet her rather than hook up with Caitlin. 

She is busy putting her hair up and, to the sound of `Tunnels and Trees', she heads to another venue illuminated with red-tinted bulbs. Spotting Rory, Caitlin kisses him passionately before Hannah stands before her and shoots her an accusatory glance. But she follows Rory to the bar, where they proceed to get so drunk that he can't perform when they go back to her place. By contrast, Hannah and Stacey make out in pink and soft blue hues and they are still feeling lovey-dovey when they pad into the kitchen for breakfast. 

Hannah is peeved because Caitlin has guzzled the almond milk and, when she and Rory wander into the room, she asks why she didn't replace the carton. Snapping on to the offensive defensive, Caitlin suggests that Hannah goes out to buy some, as she is already wearing her sweatshirt. She then complains about a hanging basket that Hannah has positioned by the window and tells her to stop showing off in front of her new girlfriend. When Hannah counters that Caitlin is also acting out to impress Rory, she insists she doesn't care a jot about him (and he exchanges a `what have we done to deserve this' glance with Stacey). Fed up with her flatmate using her father's death as an excuse to behave badly, Hannah accuses Caitlin of being self-obsessed and raises her eyebrows in disbelief when the taunt is returned with a slap and middle-fingered emphasis. 

As `Colour Wheel' plays in the background, Hannah resists Stacey's efforts to dance her into a good mood and starts moping around college seeking inspiration for her next piece. She scrawls slogans and asks Miller to film her saying `I have the cruellest mouth' in phonecam close-up and the tutor coos in wonderment at the amazing nature of what is, frankly, amateurish tosh. Meanwhile, Caitlin heads home for a little TLC from Mary, who is pleased to see her and surprised she has fallen out with Hannah because they are so close. She implores her to patch things up, but it's Hannah who makes the first move when she comes to Caitlin's studio and they hug and apologise for not being on the same page. 

While playing basketball on a deserted floodlit court, Caitlin tells Rory that she needs some time and space and he nods before accepting a challenge for  a little one on one. Miller invites Hannah and Caitlin to a Q&A session with  famous Scottish artist, Catherine Hendricks, and the latter listens intently as she describes a piece of art that helped her rebuild bridges were her mother. Suitably inspired, she produces a series of childlike daubs on gauzy fabric and Hannah and Mary are swooning over their brilliance when Miller brings Hendricks to meet Caitlin and she purrs over the cathartic nature of the work and the intelligent use of negative space before offering Caitlin a job as her assistant in London. 

As Caitlin has realised she can't live without Hannah, she persuades Hendricks to find her a spot, too, and they toast each other with pink champagne and joke about becoming famous artists. With `Touch' rounding off the so-so song score, Caitlin and Hannah bop in slow motion at the Arts Ball, with Miller and Stacey seeming to hit it off on the other side of the dance floor. Caitlin kneels at her father's grave and reassures him that she's ready to move on and she places his gold chain over the (decidedly flimsy) crucifix headstone before joining Hannah in a white sports car to head south in search of an adventure. 

Given that Adams was prompted to make this film by the death of his own mother, it's easy to see why he would want to examine the healing nature of creativity. But nothing even vaguely profound emerges from this erratic meld of Jock Rock and the inane witterings of the art students and their near-parodic professor, whose vacuous eccentricities have the misfortune to reach our screens so soon after those of Oliver Masucci in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck vastly superior Never Look Away. Adams's use of songs to dot the action also falls well short of the standards set by Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs (2004) and On the Road (2017), as it's not always easy to detect the connection between the lyrics and the scenes they're supposed to be complementing. 

This disconnect pales beside the lack of chemistry between the principals, however. It can't be easy playing insufferable, backstoryless stick figures, but neither Laura Harrier nor Bria Vinaite seems comfortable improvising, with their big kitchen argument being excruciating for all the wrong reasons. The pretentious awkwardness of the Kelvingrove date is even more wince-inducing, as it's evident that neither Harrier nor Scott Miller (whether in character or not) have a clue about the art they are commenting on. But nothing can top the risibly implausible climactic visit from the famous artist who spots a budding genius and invites her to salvage a limbo project in that London. 

Even the usually reliable Kate Dickie gets sucked into the over-arching air of ponderous deliberation, as everyone indulges in earnest, actorly gestures that have little to do with normal human behaviour or interaction. When not hovering above the sea- or cityscapes on a drone, Ryan Eddelstein's intrusively intense camerawork is clutteringly alienating. But the buck must stop with Adams, whose insistence on improv exposes the shortcomings of his young stars and whose reluctance to provide more than a wisp of context reinforces the superficiality of a deeply flawed conceit.

Almost five years have passed since 3QU Media announced that it would be debuting with Ross Venokur's revisionist fable, Charming. Indeed, Venokur even found time to release the sciurine heist comedy, Get Squirrely (2015), in the interim. The fact that the film has apparently been sitting on a shelf since December 2017 doesn't bode well, but it arrives on UK screens in time for the school holidays and may just amuse those tinies who have lain awake wondering why Disney doesn't focus on postmodern princes instead of fairytale princesses. 

Once upon a time, Prince Philippe Charming (Wilmer Valderrama) found himself engaged to Cinderella (Ashley Tisdale), Snow White (Avril Lavigne) and Sleeping Beauty (Gloria Tang Sze-wing, aka G.E.M.) at the same time. Philippe's father, King Charming (Jim Cummings), despairs of the fact that every man in the realm despise his son because he only has to look at a woman and she falls in love with him. As the three princesses arrive at the same time to order a wedding cake from Frazelli the baker (Carlos Alazraqui), they sing a ditty about their `trophy boy' and the reasons why they adore him. However, none realises that they are all betrothed to the same prince, who has asked them all to marry him in the hope that he will discover the meaning of true love. 

At the palace, King Charming recalls how he `ran the gauntlet' on Fire Mountain in order to find the woman of his dreams and suggests that the time has come for Philippe to take the trials himself. However, the monarch also remembers how his guide, Nemeny Neverwish (Nia Vardalos), had been so jealous that he had chosen his future queen instead of her that she had placed a curse on their son so that he would prove so irresistible that every woman would become besotted with him. Moreover, she had also robbed the boy of the ability to love and had threatened to banish romance forever unless he had married for passion before his 21st birthday

Not wanting to spoil things for everyone else, Philippe takes a turn around the town and soon has maidens swooning over him. The one exception is Lenore Quinonez (Demi Lovato), a thief who has also been cursed by Nemeny Neverwish so that she is incapable of loving. It's confusion at first sight for the prince, who keeps burbling inanities instead of sweet-talking her. As she is anything but impressed and would rather beat a hasty retreat from the guards of the treasure coach she has just robbed, Lenore hides in the bakery. Knocking out Frazelli, she dons his chef hat and proceeds to steal the valuables from Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, when they come to collect their cakes and describe how they met their prince. Amused by their somewhat eccentric courting anecdotes, Lenore asks to see pictures of their beaux and a shriek of horror echoes around the town as the women finally realise they are all affianced to the same man. 

With Lenore in jail after being caught leaving the bakery, the town crier (Cory Edwards) provides a brief recap of events by bellowing out the headlines from Ye Olde Tribune. Moreover, it's revealed that Philippe has agreed to go to Fire Mountain to face three ordeals in the hope of lifting the curse. The princesses come to visit Lenore, along with King Beauty, Cranky Dwarf  (both Carlos Alazraqui) and Fairy Godmother (John Cleese), in the hope of persuading her to act as his guide to make amends for her crimes. She agrees in return for a lavish reward and steals the moustache of one of the gaolers so she can disguise herself as Lenny. 

Needing assistance, Philippe accepts Lenny's offer and they head into the hills together. When it comes to supper time, Lenny is annoyed by Philippe's insistence that he rustles up some food, as one of the perks of being a prince is being waited upon. After Lenny roasts three birds killed with a single arrow, Philippe casts shadow puppets from the fire to explain the challenge ahead of them, which will require him to cross an impassable pass, survive an unsurvivable attack and conquer an unconquerable beast. But the trickiest task requires a leap of faith that will enable two people to fall in love and live happily ever after. 

Accompanied by a red bird named Ellie and riding on in cart pulled by Charley the horse, Philippe and Lenny find themselves in a dense wood, with serpentine creepers coiling down at them from the branches. When the prince slashes ineffectually with his sword, Lenny gives him the reins and uses a bow and arrow to clear a path. As Philippe is an inexpert horseman, they career off a cliff and are fortunate to float down to earth with the cart canopy acting as a parachute. Unfortunately, Nemeny Neverwish is monitoring their progress and she vows to stop the pair at any price. 

She uses a purple mist to obscure the best path through the mountains and Lenny leads Charley along a diversion, while Philippe recalls how he met Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and how they turned out not to be love's young dream. No sooner have the travellers realised they are lost than they are caught in a sack by a tribe of giant women known as the Matilija. Lenny claims to have heard that nobody has survived an encounter with them. But Philippe turns on the charm and every single Matilija is bewitched. 

While the chief (Tara Strong) informs Philippe that he is going to be anointed in preparation for marriage to one of the giants, Lenny is locked away with the Half-Oracle (Sia Furler), who is blind in one eye and, therefore, her predictions are only right half of the time. She detects that Lenny has embarked upon the odyssey to break free from her past and find love. As she sings a song about what she needs to do to liberate herself, we see a heart being placed in an iron locket to symbolise the curse blighting Lenore and she wonders whether Philippe might be her soulmate. 

Unfortunately, the Half-Oracle is only able to answer maybe yes, maybe no. Moreover, she alerts the Matilijas when Phlippe manages to escape and uses an indestructible dagger to free Lenny. They shelter in a crack in the road and Ellie finds them a way out before the man-eating giants can stomp them to death. Lenny is grateful to Philippe for freeing her and is about to tell him the truth about her identity when he recalls how came to meet Snow White and how she has had trust issues since being awoken with a kiss. Indeed, all three princesses have been pretty messed up by their fairytale experiences. But there's no time to dwell on their psychological frailties, as Nemeny Neverwish has unleashed some temptations to try and drive a wedge between the questers. 

By picking up shiny gems from a cave, however, Lenny awakens a rock monster by stealing his heart. She looks on admiringly, as Philippe attempts to defeat the undefeatable beast and wonders whether he is the missing piece in her life. As she speaks, Philippe returns the ruby to the creature's chest and it fist pumps him in gratitude. He has taken quite a pounding, but he has run the gauntlet and is curious to know which of the princesses will become his beloved. That's when he finds a note from `L', asking him to meet at the Dainty Dish at eight o'clock.

As she finds a white dress to wear for their date, she sings about finding the one and thinks back on their adventures so far. However, Nemeny Neverwish knows that a heart that has been locked away for a long time can be easily broken and she ensures that Philippe is surrounded by adoring beauties when Lenore arrives at the restaurant. Feeling foolish for believing that he could ever have true feelings, she flounces out into the night and vows to focus on her reward and stop wasting her energy on the unattainable. 

Resuming her disguise, Lenny remains in a bad mood when they reach Fire Mountain the next morning. Philippe tries to explain that he has been trying to grow up since he met a girl who refused to respond to his charms, but Lenny insists that he has no idea what love and friendship mean and that he will always remain selfish and alone until he does. Entering a cave, they find the princesses and their guardians waiting for them and Philippe is astonished when Lenore removes her whiskers and avers that she was only interested in the gold and jewels that were her price for escorting him through the trials. But Philippe has learnt his lesson and he rejects Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella because he has realised that Lenore is the love he has been searching for. 

As she wants nothing to do with him, however, Philippe reasons that the curse must die with him to spare his subjects from the misery of a loveless world. In order to relieve the women he has entranced of their burden, he writes to them all and Ellie steals one of the letters and drops it in Lenore's lap, as she sits gloomily in a half-lit room piled high with her riches. Realising that she is the true love to whom Philippe refers, she rushes to the city in time to prevent the Executioner (John Cleese) from doing his duty before the sun sets. 

While Lenore's arrow cuts the noose around his neck, Nemeny Neverwish casts a purple cloud to prevent them from finding each other and sealing their romance with a kiss. She also zaps him unconscious and Lenore falls to her knees beside the prince to revive him. Ellie trills that she should try kissing him and not only does Philippe come round, but the curse is lifted from every women in the crowd and they turn to embrace their sweethearts. Moreover, the hex preventing Lenore from feeling emotions is also removed and she kisses Philippe again and proposes marriage. 

The picture closes with Lenore finishing the story she has been telling the court painter who has been doing her portrait. We learn she is now eating her favourite pancakes for two and that she prefers not to think of this as The End, but The Beginning. As the credits roll, we are treated to some pleasing scenic views of the kingdom, while Catherine Missal provides a perky rendition of the title tune. Like the rest of the numbers, including the two composed by Sia, it's not particularly catchy. But not every animation outfit can have its pick of the denizens of Tin Pan Alley. 

Nor do they all have the resources to produce the finest computer-generated images. But Venokur and his team create a creditable long ago, while also doing a decent job of switching from the glossy colour wonderland to Nemeny Neverwish's benighted perspective. It's a bit disconcerting to realise that, with his long chin and goatee beard, Philippe is the spitting image of former Match of the Day pundit Jimmy Hill, while there's something off-putting about the fact that the princesses are such vacuous air-heads (not that Cinderella had any royal blood). Yet, in seeking to put a fresh spin on the yarns that he used to read to his own three daughters, Venokur succeeds in following the Shrek franchise in inverting the odd fairytale cliché, This could never be mistaken for the bedtime stories that the #MeToo movement has been waiting for. But it raise the occasional smile and confirms that its director has come a long way since he started out with the live-action short, Saddam 17 (2005).

The truest words ever spoken in a boat were uttered by Joe E. Brown during the last scene of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and they quickly come to mind while watching Heike Bachelier and Andy Heathcote's documentary, Of Fish and Foe. This is a markedly less idyllic study than The Lost World of Mr Hardy (2008) and The Moo Man (2013), as it requires the co-directors to balance the actions and arguments of those on opposite sides of Scotland's highly emotive net fishing debate. Neither group covers itself in glory during the course of filming and there is much to censure in the behaviour of those seeking to manipulate the situation from behind the scenes. But, as Osgood Fielding III so sagaciously put it, `nobody's perfect'.

An opening caption informs us that Atlantic salmon are born in rivers, but live in the sea and only return to spawn and die. A few Scottish fishermen have a licence to catch these fish and tether leader nets to the shore in order to guide them into holding nets. But it's a dying trade and one that is opposed by environmentalists and others with vested interests in the coastline. According to the law, leader nets have to be removed at weekends to give the salmon a clear run up the river and the actions of Scottish Wild Salmon (which is run by the Pullar family) are monitored from the clifftops by the river bailiff from the Esk Rivers Salmon Fishery Board. But two members of the Kingston Hunt Saboteurs Association are also on vigil and the female speaker claims that the fishermen shoot seals for fun, while one delights in ripping the wings of live seabirds and toss them back in the water. 

Unsurprisingly, George, Keith, John and David Pullar deny these charges and aver that they are subjected to continuous harassment by both Hunt Saboteurs and Sea Shepherd activists like Jessie Treverton. A bizarre montage shows each side filming each other at close quarters before Jessie castigates the Pullars for shooting the grey seals stealing fish from their nets after they appeared to have made a commitment to use sonic devices to scare them away. Sitting on the jetty at Gamrie, near Banff in north-eastern Scotland, her cohorts add their twopennyworth to her denunciation, as they spy on the Pullars and note every move they make.

Out in their boat, the brothers seek to show the damage that seals do by showing how one salmon had almost had its tail bitten off. Kevin calls the fish `bars of silver', but the sight of them clubbing the catch to death and doing the same to a bird whose wings had become caught up in their nets doesn't look good, even though the Pullars insist that they were being cruel to be kind by putting an injured creature out of its misery. They have more luck with another bird that bobs off on the tide. But the observers only comment on the casualty and question whether a fisherman they have nicknamed `The Ape' is on the boat, as he has a reputation for sadistic cruelty. 

At the Scottish Wild Salmon base at Usan, near Montrose, Kevin receives news that Jessie has been caught on camera having sex in the back of a car. He jokes that they should post the footage on their YouTube channel. But the tone becomes altogether nastier when he slings racist and homophobic slurs at Jessie and her crew during an argument about the clubbing of seabirds after Sea Shepherd's John Harris returns in a kayak from a net-cutting rescue attempt on some other trapped birds. As Kevin and his assistant Darren demonstrate, however, there are ways to free the birds that don't have to involve criminal damage to Pullar property. They also make a big show of taking James Minty, the water bailiff for the River Deveron Salmon Fishery Board, on a trip to the nets to show that they are abiding by the rules. But Jessie continues to make sweeping accusations about their tactics and gleefully hopes that they have secured footage that will enable them to launch a prosecution for homophobic abuse. 

Another caption reveals that the Pullars are entitled to klll 112 grey seals across their three fishing stations. However, as Kevin and John approach the rock from which they can see their nets, they are blocked by a couple of Sea Shepherd activists and the cameras come out so that every word of the cncounter can be recorded for future use. Kevin calls the police, but he is the one to be taken into the back of the van and we don't get to see if the officers follow through on their promise to remove the duo supposedly trespassing on the Pullar rock (on which they claim to have a lease). Back home, Kevin admits that he has an imminent court date to defend a charge of threatening and abusive behaviour, but he is more concerned about the fact that he keeps having to justify conducting a lawful business in the face of persistent provocation that largely goes unpunished. 

We meet Gisela Grothkast, who runs a B&B on the waterfront and she explains how guests have started to stay away because the Pullars shoot seals from the rocks abutting her home. Kevin tries to start a conversation with her, but she doesn't want to know. Meanwhile, Jessie follows one of the Pullar marksmen on to an outcrop and he accuses her of assault when her hand brushes his rifle. Taunts and insults fly, as John calls the police to report aggressive Sea Shepherd harassment preventing him from conducting a lawful pursuit. When Kevin complains to a pal about the situation, he struggles to make him see that getting Jessie arrested for protecting seals plays into her hands, as the press will portray her as the victim and not them and Sea Shepherd will be able to run the story on its website with a donation button to raise funds and awareness at the Pullars' expense. They are also on shaky ground (as it were) because they can't prove they have a proprietorial right to the rocks and, thus, the police can't stop Jessie and her team from stepping on to them. 

Kevin reports to Banff Sheriff Court for a witness hearing and Jessie's crew seem mutedly buoyant as they leave. Back at work, he sits quietly in his boat, as a crewmate reveals how a family had been charged with animal cruelty for throwing stones at jellyfish. Meanwhile, John has gone to the Pullar station at Murkle, near Thurso. Sea Shepherd accuse him of shooting a seal, but he finds the cadaver and claims it has started to decompose and, so, perished long before he arrived on the scene. He also points out he is not alone in shooting seals in Caithness. When Bachelier questions a Sea Shepherd activist about a porpoise caught in the Pullar nets, he smugly answers `no comment' to anything other than the weather. 

Back at base, John produces video footage that seems to confirm his contention that the porpoise had been dead for some time before getting caught in his nets. But he bemoans the fact that Sea Shepherd aren't interested in the truth and prefer to publish their version of the facts. Shortly afterwards, he is seen killing a seal with a single shot after protesting that humans need to control Nature, as the salmon population will be wiped out if the seals are not culled because their only predator is the orca whale and there aren't enough of them to keep seal numbers down. He takes pride in the fact that he shot the creature clean through the head so that it wouldn't have felt any pain. Yet, when he next hauls in his nets, he dispassionately beats the fish about the head with wooden clubs before tossing them into a plastic crate.

Back in Banff, Kevin is acquitted and defence lawyer Deborah Wilson is pleased that the sheriff found that Sea Shepherd exaggerated the nature of the offence. He returns to the water and boasts about the accuracy of a shot that takes out a seal pilfering from his nets and insists that he wouldn't have been able to meet the wage bill if he had left it to eat about 50% of his daily catch. As they head for shore, a caption reveals that, during the year Heathcote and Bachelier were filming, the Pullars claim to have only killed 27 grey seals. Moreover, Robert Harris, from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrew's University, agrees that the grey seal population has increased (at 120,000, it has tripled in the last 50 years) and that they rely on free meals from the nets. Back at his lab, he views video footage of a seal attacking a salmon in the net and he expresses concern that tight pockets in the netting make it easy for them to corner their prey. 

As salmon are becoming rare in some rivers, a group of Scottish river owners and anglers have complained to the European Union that coastal net fishing breaches the terms of the EU Habitat Directive, which was passed in 2005 to protect endangered species. By imposing a Precautionary Measure ban (which requires no tangible evidence), the EU is able to stop fishing in a particular area until it issues an all clear. The irony is not lost on the Pullars, who once had a £100,000 grant from the EU to build a new fishing shed, but they are powerless to protest and John laments that they are one of the most hated families in Scotland because they are targeted by so many different organisations. 

Eddie McCarthy, head bailiff with the Caithness Salmon Fishery Board, says that the nets-men kill everything they catch, while leisure anglers (who bring a lot of revenue to the region) are only allowed to keep two fish during a week-long stay. We follow him on his rounds and he plays the hail-fellow-well-met, as he explains that he would never ask fishermen to risk their lives by removing nets at weekends in inclement weather. But John shows us a video clip of McCarthy taunting him about needing to get a job on a mill pond when he returns from cutting leader nets in choppy waters. Furthermore, he reveals that Sea Shepherd had footage of Pullar nets being slashed on its Facebook page before he knew the damage had been done. This convinces him that the activists and the angling fraternity are in cahoots to drive the net community out of business.

George Pullar reveals that Hugh Campbell Adamson, the chair of the Salmon and Trout Association, has been lodging complaints about the Pullars and their employee states that he is in league with the Hunt Saboteurs and Sea Shepherd to have them closed down so that the way is left clear for the leisure anglers. A caption declares that the organisations that Campbell Adamson represents were behind the complaints to the EU about fish stocks, while they and the two activist groups were responsible for a string of complaints to the police about the Pullars fishing outside agreed hours. When Bachelier and Heathcote ask Campbell Adamson for an interview, he declines because `the battle with the Pullars has been too bitter'. 

In all, 11 charges of illegal fishing are lodged against the brothers and they report to Forfar Sheriff Court for Kevin to report that they were fined a total of £7000, having never previously been found guilty (according to one elderly family member) of fishing illegally. He views this as conclusive proof that they are being squeezed, especially as the Sheriff claimed that the 18th-century legislation governing fishing practices is not fit for purpose. When the film-makers approached Campbell Adamson outside court, he tells them that it is `morally wrong' to be producing a documentary that keeps alive a story that should be allowed to die. Nevertheless, Esk District Salmon Fishery Board member Martin Stansfield resigns his post because of the unfair treatment of the Pullars and he is happy to state on camera that `Hughie is the villain of the whole charade'.

George's son, Matthew, comes out on the boat during the school holidays and Kevin recalls that's how he started out. But John points out that the traditional skill of net fishing will be lost when they go and he finds that sad, as it's part of Scotland's heritage. Shortly afterwards, George receives news that the Precautionary Measure is to be reinforced and that they will be put out of business. The work of generations is ended by a phone call with no conclusive scientific proof to support the decision and there's an element of crowing in Campbell Adamson's statement announcing the closure the net fisheries across Scotland that put `pressure on wild fish'. Yet a final caption confirms that the anglers he is keen to attract to the region killed more salmon than the nets-men during the year that Bachelier and Heathcote were filming. But the activists who hounded the Pullars don't seem all that bothered.

Sharing much with Mike Day's The Islands and the Whales (2016), this is a carefully calibrated account of the battle between old school fishing practices and those forces lined up (for whatever reason) against them. It's impossible to not to be appalled by the brutal methods used to kill the salmon, while the cavalier attitude of some of the fishermen to snagged seabirds is deeply regrettable. But it seems clear from the evidence amassed by Heathcote and Bachelier that a concerted campaign was waged against the remnants of the once-proud netting industry by an unholy alliance of militant do-gooders, indifferent law enforcers and self-interested executives. The Pullars don't always help themselves with the blunt presentation of their case. But they have an integrity that isn't always evident in their adversaries. 

Unfortunately, in their effort to remain impartial, the co-directors don't always make things crystal clear. This might have been remedied by using a narrator instead of the occasional caption. But the Bachelier's organisation of Heathcote's footage cannily exploits the muddied waters by setting up the showdown between the Pullars and the eco warriors before slyly introducing the hissable fat cats late in the day. As the likes of Campbell Adamson and the bodies they serve are sprung on the audience without adequate contextualising information, it feels as though a convenient capitalist scapegoat has been found to blame for the demise of the Pullars without the need to demonise the noble saboteurs. One can only surmise which way the Pullars might have voted in the EU referendum!

It's baffling why film-makers make such little use of the Internet to showcase their back catalogues. They would seemingly rather have their work go unseen than run the risk of it being pirated. It makes sense for them to want to monetise any exhibition of their early shorts or those features that failed to find a mainstream niche. But not everyone can snag a deal with Netflix. MUBI or Amazon Prime. Several fringe-dwellers tuck their work away on self-promoting channels on YouTube and Vimeo and, while some make titles available for free, others charge exorbitant rental fees in a bid to pay off the debts accrued in trying to launch their careers. 

So, why has nobody created a collective website to gather these pictures that flicker briefly on the festival scene (if they even make it that far) before vanishing into myth or obscurity? Films like Eloy Domínguez Serén's No Cow on the Ice (2015), which drew some tantalising reviews from its handful of UK festival dates? Why should pictures like this only be available to those who happen to live in towns on the festival circuit or to those who can afford to shell out for expensive monthly subscriptions to exclusive sites that only show items for a limited period? 

Wasn't cinema supposed to be the people's medium or has it become so elitist that only the privileged few can be granted admittance to the charmed inner circle? Film-makers always bleat about being right on and wanting to make a difference in the world. But they will rapidly become an irrelevance unless they connect with the widest possible audience and the best way to do this is to make their work accessible at sensible prices on a cine-equivalent to the existing music and podcast providers. There must be someone out there with the nous to make this happen? Go on Dragon's Den if you have to, but, to quote Captain Luc Picard, `make it so'.

What prompted this rant is the fact that Dochouse is screening Eloy Domínguez Serén's Hamada and many of those fortunate enough to catch a screening in London will be eager to catch up on such previous outings as Pettring (2013), Jet Lag (2014), Yellow Brick Road (2015) and Rust (2016), which are less readily viewable than short subjects produced a century ago in Domínguez Serén's native Spain and adopted Sweden. He's not alone in keeping his light under a bushel,  but he clearly has worthwhile things to say and it's frustrating that he and hundreds more like him seem so reluctant to ensure that they can be heard by as many potential hearers as possible. 

Following the restoration of the monarchy after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain allowed the former colony of Spanish Sahara to drift into the dual control of Morocco and Mauritania. This annexation and the formation of Western Sahara was opposed by the Polisario Front, which proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, with a government in exile in Tindouf, Algeria. A 16-year guerilla struggle for independence ensued, with the United Nations recognising the Sahrawi right to self-determination. However, the majority of the Sahrawi population continues to live in either occupied territory or in refugee camps in the Tindouf border region. 

This documentary takes its title from the geographical term describing this rocky terrain. But `hamada' also translates as `emptiness' and `lifelessness' in the Sahrawi language and Domínguez Serén strives to show how three camp residents strive to counter this stifling sense of ennui, which is encapsulated in a voiceover seeking to determine the difference between a dream and a nightmare. The liveliest of the group is Zaara Mohamed Saleh, who blames the car and her instructor, Sidahmed Salek, when she has a hard time mastering the basic skills during a driving lesson. She also makes exaggerated claims about her talents and experience in hoping to land a job working with children and the woman interviewing her keeps commending her on her enthusiasm while struggling to get a straight answer to any of her questions. 

As so many of his friends have already moved to Spain, Sidahmed is desperate to join them. But he doesn't want to follow the risky migrant path and listens intently to a pal recently returned from Europe, as he describes how their vehicles got stuck in the desert in Mauritania, where the locals left them to their fate because they were Sahrawi. Breaking off from his anecdotes, the driver stops to chat to Ainina, who cadges a lift to meet a girl in Smara and they trade good-natured insults in the manner of twentysomething mates everywhere. 

By the side of the road, a man wearing a blindfold and holding a boom microphone identifies passing cars by the sound of their engines. When darkness falls, people listen to the news on their cellphones or gather to watch the Real Madrid match on the television. But powercuts frequently plunge the simple dwellings into darkness and the only form of illumination comes from phone screens. Tahar Mulay Zain spends much of the night online because he has nothing to do during the day and Zaara warns him that he will make himself ill if he doesn't sleep properly. She also chides him for drinking too much milky tea and declares that he looks like a rusty nail because he is taking such poor care of himself.

Sidahmed is good with his hands and takes pleasure in fixing things. We see him working by spotlight to repair a car, while his friends sit around checking their phones as a disco light colours the walls behind them to a pounding drum beat. With their heads wrapped in scarfs against the wind and sun, Zaara and her friend don trendy sunglasses to watch a giant screen being erected in the camp. They despair of the men who withhold their number to make suggestive phone calls and wish they would grow up and show some respect. 

Following a documentary that recaps the history of the region from its colonial days to the 1975 Green March that saw Morocco seize control, an activist delivers a passionate speech in which he promises that the plight of the Sahrawi people will never be forgotten. But those assembled in the darkness seem more interested in having a good time than in hearing rehashed political promises. Tahar is particularly fond of enjoying himself and has convinced himself that foreign girls are the most fun. He dreams of finding a French girl and quizzes Sidahmed while he packs a bag to meet up with some Europeans in Tifariti. He is cross with Tahar because he has borrowed his jacket without permission and tells him to get his own stuff. 

The journey gets off to a flying start, as a convoy of Land Rovers speeds across the desert. But one gets its wheels stuck in a muddy rut and Sidahmed tries to dig it out with his bare hands, while his pals urge him to wait for somebody to bring a tow rope. As the vehicles stand proud in a long shot, we are reminded of the story told to Zaara (after she had badmouthed the cars after applying unsuccessfully for a job in a pasta factory) about the man who had lived in his Land Rover after his shack had toppled over in a storm. 

When he finally reaches Tifariti, Sidahmed tries to describe Western Sahara to a European girl. But she only understands bits of his Spanish and he picks up only the odd word of her English and they get into a muddle when she asks where Bulgaria is and he thinks `Black Sea' is something to do with islands and swimming. He cuts a lonely figure at the party, as he hangs on the periphery and looks very out of place. Back at the camp, Tahar plays cards with Zaara and her friend and asks her what qualities she looks for in a man. She hopes to find a non-smoker who trusts her implicitly and doesn't try to control her. Her friend mentions a marriage arrangement and Zaara urges her not to let the man change her because she would resist any attempts by someone to mould her into their ideal conception of a partner.

Notwithstanding his unhappy trip, Sidahmed tells Talhar that he has had enough of the camp and is ready to try his luck in Spain. He explains how he has been working every hour to pay for his mother's medical bills after she fell ill over the winter. But he has realised that he will never earn enough in Western Sahara and will go wherever someone can offer him a wage worthy of his labour. In the meantime, he will keep trying to teach Zaara to drive, even though she is a frustrating student and they keep losing their temper with each other. After the latest lesson, he asks why she wants to drive when she would never be able to afford a car and couldn't change a tyre if she got a puncture in the middle of nowhere. But she insists she is tired of her brothers having the freedom a car can bring, while she is stuck in the same place all the time. 

Tahar finds himself in the middle of a show of support for the Polisario, as Sahrawi women wave flags, denounce the UN for doing too little to help them and lament the fact that every one of them has lost a male loved one to the cause of independence. This sense of purpose inspires Zaara to ask for a job at the local garage. However, they need mechanics not car cleaners and she gets complains when Sidahmed uses technical terms in showing her how an engine works. She goes to see Tahar, who is lounging around and smoking and he smiles when she does a little finger dance to the music. 

Always looking for something to do, Sidahmed decides to rebuild a shack that has fallen down so that a tented family can live there during the winter. As he tells Tahar, he found his grandfather's old fishing rod in a box and learns from his mother that he had made his living catching fish from the sea and Tahar agrees that it's a shame such a traditional Sahrawi trade is a thing of the past, as there's certainly no use for a rod in the middle of the hamada. But Sidahmed is tiring of working hard for no reward and sells his car to raise money for his trip to Spain. He is devastated, therefore, when he is granted a passport, but denied a visa and he tells Zaara that he is going to take his chances because he will go crazy unless he can spend at least one day in Spain. 

She tells him to calm down and put his faith in God. But, while he prays, he feels penned in and tries to keep busy to take his mind off his plight. He works on the shack and amuses some small children by telling them a story about a man who falls for his own lies. Meanwhile, Zaara has started to do voluntary work at the camp hospital in the hope she can land a full-time job and she dutifully scribbles notes during an expectant mother's consultation. She also picks up information from websites, but admits to Tahar that the chance of ever being able to afford a car is fast receding. 

A crack of lightning signals Sidahmed's departure for Spain and Tahar and Zaara admit to missing him. They haven't heard much from him since he left and they send him a jolly message with another friend, Azman. When Zaara gets a reply, she leaves a voicemail calling him `beautiful eyes' and promises to send anything he needs to remind him of home. He is more honest with his male friends, however, and we hear a harrowing message in which he regrets ever having come to Spain because of all the racism he is forced to endure. 

Not wishing to end on such a downbeat note, Domínguez Serén (who has been visiting the camp since applying to teach at its film school in 2014) has Zaara show Tahar how much her driving has improved. She stalls before getting into gear, but manages to pull away and builds up a steady speed. As the screen goes black, we hear Tahar point out a man in the road and Zaara tells him not to fret. A loud beep of the horn sounds before the credits start to roll and this amusing conclusion (along with the use of the word `cast' in the crawl) reinforces the feeling that a fair number of sequences in this engaging and refreshingly buoyant study of refugee camp life have been staged for the camera after collaborative consultations between the director and his principals. 

It matters little whether they have or not, as Zaara, Sidahmed and Tahar come across as authentic characters, whose contrasting attitudes to kickstarting their futures has a ring of universality. Wrapped up in brightly coloured traditional costumes, with sunglasses often peering out from layers of scarf, Zaara is a chirpy free spirit with a Yosser Hughes approach to work and a determination to defy any efforts to make her conform. With his trendy beard and chilled take on employment, Tahar proves that slackers exist in any community and it would have been interesting to see how he would have behaved at the party that left Sidahmed feeling so marginalised. 

His message from the land of his dreams is desperately sad, particularly as he is so surprised by the prejudice he has encountered after living most of his life in a camp because he is not even accepted in his homeland. Always ready to help out and possessed of skills that are surely useful outside the camp, Sidahmed leaves one wondering how he picked up his knowledge of cars and raises all sorts of questions about wider camp life that Domínuez Serén doesn't even begin to consider. 

The narrowness of his focus is frustrating, as it makes it appear as though the trio live in a bubble. But this debut feature has much to commend it, notably the rapport Domínuez Serén (who knows something about displacement himself) has clearly established with the leads and their friends in order to elicit such natural `performances'. His camerawork is also impressive, as he captures the look and feel of the camp and its desolate surrounding dunescape with both establishing shots, the evocative sound design and the deftly revealing pillow episodes with which he and co-editor Ana Pfaff dot the action.

Austrian documentarist Nikolaus Geyrhalter is probably best known in this country for his 2005 study of food production, Our Daily Bread. But he has also used his distinctive observational style to examine such diverse topics as the Chernobyl disaster (Pripyat, 1999), tradition and progress (Elsewhere, 2001), technology and security (Abendland, 2012), labour and unemployment (Over the Years, 2015), and the fragility of human existence at the end of the industrial era (Homo Sapiens, 2016). Now, Geyrhalter addresses the changing face of the global landscape in Earth, which is the latest essential work to be shown under the auspices of Dochouse.

An opening caption reveals that 60 million tons of surface soil are moved each day by rivers, winds and other forces of nature. By contrast, humans move a daily 156 million tons of rock and soil, which makes Anthropocene Man the most decisive geological factor in history, After we see a digger inflict a scar upon an already ravaged slope, we cut to a towering top shot down on to the San Fernando Valley in California, where a fleet of yellow Caterpillar vehicles rumbles off to transform the landscape. 

Trent Wells jokes that he can boast to girls that he really does move mountains for a living and celebrates the fact that human ingenuity has brought the species on so far from the horse and buggy days. As far as he is concerned, another town represents progress and he feels there should be no limits to what humankind can achieve. Paul Mellor regrets having to tear into a landscape he knew as a kid and agrees that there are now too many people in the state. He wishes places he used to drive through didn't have to become destinations, but the demand is there and developers will always do things the most effective way and this means that environmental concerns are rarely considered.

A bear of a man, Steven Kuzar drives his rig over rutted terrain and admits to hating the woodland clearance aspect of jobs. But this lunar surface no longer has anything to do with Nature and he's able to treat it as just another job. He enjoys getting paid for having having life-sized versions of the Tonka toys he had played with in his sandpit, but acknowledges that the Earth fights back and he is pretty battered and bruised by the end of the day. Geyrhalter positions a camera on the back of a giant digger that scoops dirt into a container before releasing it through a trapdoor at a designated spot. The brutal power of the machine is readily apparent, as it trundles on a circuit with several others reshaping a scene that has become a soulless wilderness. 

Switching to the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy, Geyrhalter films a brass band playing at a religious service in the tunnel being excavated by a giant boring machine. One of the bosses pays tribute to a lost employee before a symbolic detonation is greeted with polite applause. The scene inside the tunnel resembles something from a science-fiction film and Svyatoslav Babyuk says he sometimes feels like an astronaut because he is the first person to set foot on a newly drilled spot. He explains how the apparatus works, in hoping that Nature plays along with humanity's bid to impose its will on rocks that have been formed over millions of years. 

We see the debris being carried on a conveyor belt and fired on to a heap that is controlled by diggers and removal trucks. Marina Zanetti boasts that they are working on the longest railway tunnel in the world and claims that the demand for goods means there is no alternative to building it, even though it has contributed to the cumulative effect that has knocked the planet a fraction of a degree off its axis. The sci-fi sense recurs, as we see more machinery backlit by flood beams, while the shots of workers in hard hats reveals how small they seem in such a cavernous structure. But, sometimes, old-fashioned methods like dynamite have to be used and the screen goes black as the power of the explosion damages the camera. 

Relocating to Gyöngyös in Hungary, we are shown the only dump-generating bucket-wheel excavator in the world and Attila Matusinka explains how it's the only strip mining model not to require a conveyor belt. It also allows for all of the debris to be recultivated, so that farming and wildlife can eventually thrive in the area. Two of the men operating a huge digger, Josef Köles and István Szappan, describe how the bucket teeth sometimes get torn off by hard coal seams or calcified tree trunks. They like the idea that they are akin to time travellers, as they see how the planet must have looked thousands of years ago. 

At the nearby museum, Veronika Watah reveals that the region recently yielded part of a fossilised forest of swamp cypress trees and she explains how this part of the Carpathian basin was once submerged beneath the Pannonion Sea that was all that remained of the larger Paratethys Ocean. It's her belief that humanity will disappear like the dinosaurs, although we shall only have lived on Earth for a fraction of the time that they did, while doing considerably more damage. Matusinka, who had taken Geyrhalter up the 168m gangway has no remorse about removing trees to clear the way for progress. But a co-worker shows photos of a trip to the glaciers and he is dismayed by the fact that coal mining has contributed to them melting at such an alarming rate over the last 50 years. 

While the camera glides above the pocked, muddy track along which a people carrier is bouncing, the scene shifts again to Carrara in Italy, where marble is being cut from the terraced quarry that is shown in another towering top shot. Shirtless boss Luigi Pasquali claims it takes skill, experience and luck to avoid accidents while cutting and removing large chunks of rock (which is dismayingly compared to taking the mountain's virginity). He also says that methods of excavation have changed beyond all recognition since the heavy machinery moved in and he can be away for a few days and not recognise the place on his return. Francesco Muscolini agrees that mechanisation has speeded up the process and he worries that the mountain is shrinking and that there will be nothing left in 300 years time. Humans may well be living on the Moon or Mars by then and he defends his right to earn crust, especially when his job gives him such an adrenaline rush. 

As a shaped block of marble is taken away on a forklift, we cross the continent to Minas de Riotinto in Spain in time to look down on an explosion sending a cloud of grey smoke into the air. A crew prime another detonation and hide behind their vehicle until all is clear. Carlos Amijados Sanchez, who is one of the crane drivers filling dumper trucks explains that they are mining copper and have to dispose of the residues left behind after the ore is processed. In the control room, engineer Susana de Elio de Begny claims that copper has become vital to modern living and she insists that methods have become more eco-friendly to improve mining's reputation and produce quality materials in the most efficient and sustainable way. She finds it exciting that there is every chance that better quality ore is simply waiting to be found deeper below ground.

Leaving behind colossal diggers that look like metal dinosaurs, we go to the ancient site of Corta del Lago. Luis Iglesias Garcia, who is involved in the archaeological dig, notes that this place provide the Roman Empire with the bulk of its copper and silver. He regrets that the processes involved in removing the minerals is so violent, but points out that whenever humankind seeks to extract or take something from Nature, there is an element of force involved, whether it's ploughing fields, catching fish in dragnets or removing rock. 

As if to emphasise the point, we see a drill penetrating the surface and a juddering explosion before we retreat into the dig's base, where Garcia posits that history is a spiral rather than a cycle and regrets that humanity learns so little from the past in repeating its mistakes. With the depletion of precious resources, however, there may not be anyone to lament the follow of our generation for not changing the lifestyle model while there is still a chance to avoid doing permanent damage. He sighs, as he contemplates the moral flaws that prevent us from changing course. 

Bidding adieu to a digger toiling in the Spanish rain, we head to Wolfenbüttel in Germany for a nocturnal top shot of a seemingly peaceful compound. However, an infomercial plays on a screen to reveal that nuclear waste is stored on the premises in the Asse mountains to the south-east of Braunschweig. The chambers were originally created by salt and potash miners and Geyrhalter joins Ina Stelljes and Lutz Teichmann in the lift shaft that has been used to ferry barrels for storage and other vital equipment for several decades. They are in the process of stabilising the tunnels so that the waste can be safely removed because they have realised that the mine is not going to survive the million years required for the radioactive material to become relatively safe. 

A clip from the old documentary shows the barrels being dumped unceremoniously down a slope and lightly covered in sale to provide ballast. However, Teichmann and Stelljes reveal that water seeping into the chambers through cracks in the wall will create a brine solution that will eventually erode the barrels and cause leakage. The best they can hope to do is maintain existing levels of security and hope no excessive amounts of water get in before the waste can be removed. While it was felt that deep subterranean burial was the best policy to avoid accidental exposure and keep humans away, geologists have since realised the threat posed by instabilities in the storage areas and solutions are being sought, while everyone keeps their fingers crossed that their isn't a catastrophe in the interim. 

Finally, we fetch up at Fort McKay in the Canadian province of Alberta, as Geyrhalter travels along the perimeter of a tar sands refinery with Jean L'Hommecourt, who is a member of the First Nations Dene tribe. She claims that the owners are incredibly secretive, but refuses to let them dictate to her when it comes to the ancestral lands that have always provided her food. However, she has stopped eating fish from the polluted river on the advice of Health Canada and despairs that the situation will only deteriorate. L'Hommecourt and Gabe Desjardins take Geyrhalter up river to see an abandoned Athabasca complex, which has been earmarked for restoration as a museum, as it would be too expensive to demolish and clear up the surrounding area. They are sceptical about plans to reclaim polluted land, however, and fear that Nature will not be able to fight back and repair the damage. 

Closing on a long shot of trucks slowly gliding along a dirt road in front of the diggings that have decimated the landscape, Geyrhalter leaves the audience to ponder what they have witnessed. Anyone familiar with Peter Mettler's Petropolis and Leslie Iwerks's Dirty Oil (both 2009) will be familiar with the impact that tar sand production has had on the Canadian countryside, while there are echoes in the Wolfenbüttel episode of Michael Madsen's Into Eternity (2010), which focused on the Onkalo waste repository in Finland. It's also tempting to recall the landscape films of James Benning and Jennifer Baichwal's collaborations with Edward Burtynsky on Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013). But, as usual, Geyrhalter succeeds in making his points through perceptive observation, often spectacular photography and (more unusually) the cogent input of those with first-hand knowledge of the subject. 

Not all of the speakers oppose what many would see as desecration and Geyrhalter is right to give them a platform to justify their activities. Few viewers will support their assertions, however, although there will be those who will question the sites chosen when areas of Africa, Asia and South America have also been ravaged. Perhaps the estimable Austrian and editor Niki Mossboeck already have these in their sights, as it would certainly be intriguing to hear how workers in developing nations would feel about losing what many would consider to be lifeline occupations.

Director Mark Sloper has a decent track record when it comes to rockumentaries, with Sid! By Those Who Really Knew Him (2009), One More: A Definitive History of UK Clubbing 1988-2008 (2011), Punk ’76 (2013) and Billy Fury: The Sound of Fury (2015) to his credit. However, he has also produced five entries in the I, Superbiker series (2011-15) and he returns to two wheels in Speed Is My Need, which touches on a range of topics after initially following Leon Haslam's bid to win the British Superbike Championship for the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team in 2017. 

As ex-World Superbike champions Colin `Texas Tornado' Edwards and `Fast' Freddie Spencer recall the sensations they experienced on the starting line, performance coach Penny Mallory and sports psychologist Professor Craig Mahoney discuss the role that fear and excitement play in driving the great riders. `Rocket' Ron Haslam knows all about the adrenaline rush and the notion that each race could be the last from his own days on the track. But, now, he is watching son Leon Haslam challenging Shane Byrne for the BSB title in 2017 and commentators James Haydon and James Whitham and race director Stuart Hicks question the Kawasaki team's tactics in the penultimate weekend of the season, as Leon's bike didn't have the oomph to see off `Shakey' Byrne.

As Ron had a reputation for letting titles slip out of his grasp, rumours spread of the family curse striking again and Times journalist Rick Broadbent claims it can't be easy for Leon riding in his father's shadow. But personal trainer Kirk Gibbons urges him to forget about the past and focus on his own destiny. However, brake failure during the final race sends Leon spinning off the track and he has to be carried to embrace the victorious Byrne in the pits. While Hicks muses on the Haslam yips, Mallory declares that winners are invariably those who want it more and are willing to go through all sorts of sacrifice and suffering to be the best. 

Over old footage of Barry Sheene in his pomp, we hear him describe how his father got him into the sport and clinical psychologyst Dr Victor Thompson agrees that the family connection is often important in shaping a young person's interest. Broadbent mentions the Dunlop family (who were so painfully profiled in Michael Hewitt and Diarmuid Lavery's Road, 2014) and both Edwards and Spencer remember growing up around bikes, becoming comfortable on them and developing the ambition to race. 

Mallory and Mahoney also highlight the extent to which father's live vicariously through sons in the hope they will emulate or surpass their achievements. There is also the `ugly parent' syndrome that sees fathers getting angry on the sidelines in order to urge their child on, while making themselves unpopular in the process. However, Broadbent reckons that Rocket Ron tried to steer Pocket Rocket away from the sport because he knew what he would have to endure and because he had lost his brother, Terry in 1984. We see footage of Leon winning motocross races at the age of nine and Ron reveals that he actively sought to persuade him to switch sports after a leg break. But Leon was determined to keep racing and Ron backed him because he knew he was competing for himself and not to please his dad. 

In discussing the racing mindset, Spencer claims that riders need to think so far ahead that they can solve problems on the track before they arise. Mahoney and Mallory concur that develop physical and mental skills to cope with the demands competition makes. Edwards jokes that it's a primeval urge to beat everyone else to `get all the chicks'. But Spencer insists that racers need a mindfulness that allows them to get the better of an opponent while ensuring everyone gets home in one piece. 

A caption reveals that over 250 riders have perished in the Isle of Man TT Races since their inception in 1907. Commentator Matt Roberts claims the race appeals because it hasn't changed much in the intervening 112 years and that the element of danger makes it more attractive to the thrill-seeking side of the best bikers. Spencer recalls his first ride on the open roads and Horst Saiger and Gary Johnson agree it's a lifetime goal to complete the course. We see a memorial to those who have lost their lives on the island, but Edwards and Spencer reveal that riders have to shelve any emotions about fatalities or serious injuries because the race must go on and that entertaining doubts makes you a danger to yourself and others. Mahoney suggests it's a harsh reality, but it's also part of a survival instinct because negative thoughts can have grim consequences. 

We meet Dean Cooke, who owns a hyperbarbic chamber that helps riders recover more rapidly from injury, and Peter Hickman, who wins the Senior race at the end of the TT fortnight. But these episodes feel a bit tossed into the mix, while Broadbent and Edwards's concluding remarks about competitors entering the event of their own volition and having a right to do what they want with their own lives have a whiff of the machismo that has previously been kept in check. 

Back on the track, team owner Pete Extance monitor's JD Speedfit's pre-season testing. He is confident that the problems have been addressed, but the opening race goes badly and Leon finishes ninth. Wife Oli says they will bounce back and reveals she is close to mother-in-law Anne and they make a good support team. But rather than examining this aspect of the Haslam brand, Sloper veers back off into an analysis of the addictive nature of competing. Mallory and Mahoney discuss personality types and how the body produces chemicals to help turn fear into thrill so that it can savour the rush of pleasure that comes with victory. Interestingly, Spencer says he raced from a sense of purpose, while Edwards claims that the glory was nice, but the real motivating factor for him was the cash to make the risks worthwhile. However, Mahoney counters that legacy often matters more than money, especially when a successful rider has already banked a sizeable nest egg. 

Spencer defines a winner as `somebody who refuses to get beat' and Leon Haslam ably proves the point by winning on the Brands Hatch circuit where his championship dream had ended a few months earlier and triumphs on a tricky rain-slicked course. He then won the second race after surviving a shoulder barge on the line to present Ron with a Father's Day double. 

We duck out of the BSB title race to consider the right time to retire and both Spencer and Edwards claim they knew when the moment had come. Broadbent, however, recalls Valentino Rossi telling him that he would retire in his late twenties and he is still racing approaching 40. Mahoney opines that older riders become more conservative and the slight hesitancy makes them more likely to have a spill. But, as Mallory (an ex-rider herself) notes, riders are retired a long time and they need to find something to replace the sensations that had experienced in their heyday. When not on his farm, Edwards runs a bikes and guns resort for enthusiasts, while Spencer runs a training school to put something back by encouraging students to use best practices on the track and on the road. 

As Spencer avers that discipline and consistency are as important as speed and flair, Leon begins to impose himself on the BSB Championship. With Byrne suffering an injury, the man threat comes from Jake Dixon. But he comes to the 12th Round at Brands needing only to come sixth to take the crown. After cannily keeping out of trouble, he finishes where he has to and takes the title to the delight of his proud father. Byrne is among the first to congratulate him to confirm the camaraderie of the gladiators and Leon jokes that they were the longest 20 laps of his life. While he relishes the moment, Spencer and Edwards agree that the need to win is in our DNA and that humans will always feel the need to prove their mettle against others. 

Those familiar with the sport will already know the outcome of the Haslam side of the story and will be robbed of the element of suspense that awaits newcomers. But it's hard to think there will be many of those, as this is purely for two-wheel petrolheads. The race footage is slickly assembled by Craig Macintosh, but his contribution as Sloper's co-scenarist is less distinguished, as the film veers between its salient points about rider mentality with more vigour than cogency. 

Overall, the scientific input is more intriguing than the inside track insight, with Mahoney and Mallory rightly refusing to sensationalise or simplify complex concepts. Freddie Spencer's contribution is also markedly more considered than that of Colin Edwards. But the person you'd want to spend most time with is journalist Rick Broadbent, as he combines an appreciation of the mind-and-body aspects with a knowledge of the sport's history and a respect for the riders who risk life and limb for the myriad reasons Sloper identifies during his haphazard, but enjoyable ride.