A film that admittedly takes a while to really find its feet, Hurt By Paradise ultimately evolves into a really engaging and even charming drama. Complete with sobering emotional depth as well as good humour, the film plays out for the most part like a stream of consciousness, mirroring its main character's thought processes and love for poetry. It's a technique that's certainly eye-catching, albeit frustrating in the opening stages.
Lead actress and writer-director Greta Bellamacina is clearly full of passion in this film, telling a story based on her personal experiences, as well as her view of all that's good and bad in the world.
In that, we get an intimate portrayal of her love of poetry that contrasts with an often soul-destroying view of struggling to get ahead in the world, but that personal touch and clear passion makes Hurt By Paradise an undoubtedly engaging watch throughout.
Where the film is most striking, however, lies in its style. Bellamacina mirrors her character's thought processes by structuring the film very loosely. For the majority of the first act, there's little in the way of a narrative that progresses forward, and we follow her character's inner monologue as she navigates the world around her.
At first, the way that this stream-of-consciousness style evokes the elegance of her poetry is rather nice, but the film frustratingly loses its way and becomes a little too loose, almost rambling on aimlessly in a way that Bellamacina is clearly trying to avoid, as her character tries to convince us that her being a poet is far from being purely pretentious.
Fortunately, although Hurt By Paradise does lose its way in its first half, it manages to regain your interest by the time the latter stages begin, as the focus shifts to tell a more equally-balanced story between Bellamacina's character and that of her friend, played by Sadie Brown.
Arguably, Brown's side of the story is a little more simple, while Bellamacina's is a little more abstract. Both have their strengths, and both have their weaknesses, but together, they make a really nice pair.
Both sides of the story have similar themes about struggling to make dreams happen and the harshness of the real world, but we get a more conventional narrative in Brown's case, and still keep the eye-catching stream-of-consciousness style on Bellamacina's side.
That's where Hurt By Paradise is able to play all its cards at once, and it does so really well. Tying its story together really sweetly in the end, the film tells a sobering story while retaining a vivid voice and an almost charming atmosphere, not to mention its sparing but effective use of humour throughout.
In general, it's fair to say that Hurt By Paradise isn't a film that's fully effective at every moment, with a misdirected style in its early stages really hurting it. However, with a second half that sees the story really come good, and a redressing of the balance between conventional and more abstract storytelling, the film ultimately becomes a really solid and engaging watch.