In the middle of World Cup frenzy, two films will become available for home release that are being cannily marketed as an antidote to football. Both are written and directed by women, and blithely unconcerned with the macho mechanics of the beautiful game.
Near the beginning of Jessie McCormack’s Expecting (2013), Lizzie (Radha Mitchell) and her husband Peter (Jon Dore) are told by their jaded marriage counsellor (Mimi Kennedy) that they are ‘boring’. The counsellor is far more entertained when they visit many months later, not least because they have with them Peter’s ex-addict brother Casey (Michael Weston) and Lizzie’s scatty best friend Andie (Michelle Monaghan), who is pregnant with a child that the infertile couple plans to adopt.
The truth is, despite all the best efforts of the cast to bring them to life, Lizzie and Peter are boring, and the film is only ever enlivened when Andie or Casie is on screen. As we follow Andie to full term, the realisation gradually dawns that the search for a missing pet dog – the neurotic focal point of all Lizzie’s frustrated maternal feelings – really is as climactic as this film is going to get. Still, there is some good character comedy, and the bittersweet, understated ending really is not what you’ll be expecting.
There is a reason for the plural in Karen Moncrieff’s The Trials of Cate McCall. Its protagonist Cate (Kate Beckinsale) is, or was, a hotshot lawyer dealing in the kind of criminal cases that can lead to death penalties – but after a personal crisis, divorce and a lapse into alcoholism, Cate is currently involved in a custody battle with her ex husband over her young daughter, even as she tries to crawl her own way back up the career ladder. So if Cate at first sees the appeal case of a woman convicted of murder merely as an opportunity for professional advancement, her growing belief in her client’s innocence will soon offer a chance, after so many trials, at redemption.
If all this sounds like a weepy courtroom melodrama about a wronged woman (or two), then its second act takes a twisty turn in an edgier, if also more reactionary, direction, before it finally settles on a cynical yet vaguely optimistic view of a judiciary and constabulary that, like Cate, are deeply flawed but can always improve – 12 steps at a time. Cate is not the most interesting of characters, and there remains the troublesome sense that what is being watched here genuinely does despise the marginalised, doubt rape victims and demonise goths – but it is an ambitious and ultimately hard-hitting film that never quite lets its heroine off the hook of her own making.
Expecting is released 30th June on VOD
The Trials of Cate McCall is released 7th July on DVD and VOD