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Hurt by Paradise review – pretty, pretentious young-mum drama

Director Greta Bellamacina plays a single mother struggling for recognition as a poet in this charming, gawky and overplayed tale

At last year’s Cannes film festival the poet/model/actor/filmmaker Greta Bellamacina revealed she’d been turned away from the festival site by staff because she had her three-month son with her in a buggy – the irony being that her film (she directs, co-writes and stars) is the story of a young single mother struggling to be taken seriously as a poet. Hurt by Paradise turns out to be a drifty, pretentious, London-set drama, though pretty enough, with the smudged eyeliner glamour of an edgy fashion shoot.

Bellamacina’s film is self-consciously highbrow: that much is clear in the opening scene in which Celeste (Bellamacina) gets the brush off from a cartoonishly cynical literary agent who tells her that the reading public is only interested in dead poets: “Look at Sylvia Plath!” He suggests turning her poems about her absent dad into a novel. Celeste leaves in disgust, and heads back to her Fitzrovia flat, where she is raising her toddler alone, perpetually broke. Her quirky neighbour, out of work actor Stella (co-writer Sadie Brown), babysits while Celeste writes, and the pair’s odd-couple domestic bliss gives the film its most likable scenes; they have something of the gawky charm of Greta Gerwig’s Frances Ha.

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