Manchester Film Festival: Friday Narrative Features

Will Stevenson | 3rd March 2018

After a successful opening night thanks for Painted Woman, Manchester Film Festival atendees were raring to go for day 2. So by the time 3pm finally rolled around, the anticipation was high for Friday’s first narrative feature, Bernard and Huey.

Director Dan Mirvish’s was a film not unlike many New York based romantic comedies before it, but what truly stood out was the more dramatic and somewhat more reserved than usual performance by Jim Rash (Community).

Based on characters from a 1950s cartoon strip, Bernard (Rash) is visited by his best friend from college, Huey (David Koechner – Anchorman) after 25 years. What first appears to be a story about these two old friends reconnecting takes an interesting turn when Bernard meets, and begins to date Huey’s daughter, Zelda (Mae Whitman).

A film that just gets funnier as it goes on, it is a very simple tale of love and friendship, littered with David Koechner’s usual crass humour which plays off excellently with Rash’s more neurotic style. They are a comedic duo that wouldn’t necessarily come to mind but they have surprisingly great chemistry in their scenes together.

It isn’t only Rash that is allowed to be more dramatic either. Koechner also produces rarely seen dramatic chops as the down-on-his-luck Huey as he comes to realise what he has to do to get his life back on track.

Zelda’s own subplot of her aspiring artistic career is arguably the most interesting story in the film as she begins by drawing gratuitous anti-men cartoons due to the hatred she expresses towards her father for leaving the family when she was ten. As her story, and her relationship with Bernard progresses however, she also reconnects with her father, meets Conrad (Eka Darville – Jessica Jones) and her career takes off.

At its core, Bernard and Huey is a film about reconnection, about not forgetting those people who have shaped you in life despite flaws they may have. Breezily directed by Dan Mirvish, this film, while small scaled, is certainly sweet and more than worth checking out should it be picked up for distribution; especially for fans of Rash and Koechner.



A film that is as oddly eerie as it is twisted, as interesting as it is gripping, Covadonga is a story about grief. Although that may sound dark and depressing, the film is actually rather heartfelt. Sean Hartfolis: writer, director, editor and lead actor of this film presents us with a character dealing with the death of his wife in the way he believes to be right.

Occasionally haunted by the image of his wife, Martin lives alone in a cabin beside a lake, far from anywhere and when he spots a young couple take a night-time boat ride where only the boy returns, he believes the boy has killed her which causes him to take matters into his own hands.

Packed with Celtic folk songs of Hartfolis’ own composition, it is these songs that really give Covadonga its eeriness. Reminiscent of folk horror with the idea of seclusion and religion but with the slight gothic element of hauntings, the film is captivating from start to finish. With a total cast of five people, the film does not work if not for Hartfolis’ leading performance and he delivers such twisted intensity yet loving mourning that excitement is built for what he may do next.

The question is never answered if Martin is consciously twisted enough to be keeping the man captive or if it is how he is dealing with his grief; by exacting ‘justice’ on those he believes to have done wrong. However, the ambiguity only adds to the intrigue that this film creates.

Covadonga, whose name comes from a religious cave in northern Spain, is a truly wonderful film. Shot almost entirely at this lakeside cabin, it offers immediate unease with its location and that feeling of unease never leaves, even long after the film has finished.


More to come from Friday’s festivities including review of Shia La Beouf’s Take Me Anywhere.