Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde


An okay biopic about a remarkable man. Havel chronicles the story of Václav Havel, a Czech playwright who would later become known for his activism. The film recounts his life during the late 60s, 70s, and 80s as Havel became increasingly involved in politics and refused to sign the Warsaw Pact (Operation Danube) in defiance of the Soviet Union and other pact signatories.

Viktor Dovrák’s performance and similarity to Havel is uncanny, but it isn’t enough to sustain a film that could have been so much more. Havel’s efforts as a dissident, activist, playwright, and humanitarian are glossed over in favor of an account of his personal life and internal struggles. Learning about Havel on a personal level would have been more effective if the filmmakers had shown what he accomplished or how these struggles shaped the man we know today.

Instead, Havel’s accomplishments are relegated to the end credits where images of Havel meeting with world leaders are shown. Nowhere in this film, although it’s implied, do we learn about Havel’s influence as a statesman who was described by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a titan of morality, civility, and political courage. I was disappointed because I tend to love films with historical or political leanings.

I still encourage you to watch this film, especially if you appreciate history and personal accounts of political figures. If you are not steeped in the politics and history of Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union, this movie might be a solid introduction. For those who are more familiar, I suspect you might find this film less engaging.


Havel Trailer

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If you’d like to learn more about Havel in his own words follow the links below. The links in this section will direct you to his biography (print), remarks by Secretary Albright, and the link to his foundation.

Written by Havel (if you intend to purchase a work by Havel consider supporting your local bookstore).

Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990 | Power Of The Powerless | Summer Meditations |Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala |The Garden Party: and Other Plays


Havel: A Life by Michael Zantovsky

Havel is currently awaiting North American Distribution

Visit the Havel Foundation | Secretary Albright’s Remarks in the Spectator and SIPA

Havel is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Sophie Jones

Written by Taylor Baker


Jessie Barr’s directorial debut Sophie Jones starring her cousin Jessica Barr manages to to feel personal enough to never lose the interest of the viewer. Though one may meander away briefly in scenes when Sophie lays down in the grass and looks at the sky or has another empty conversation with a peer from school. The film opens up on Jessica Barr’s Sophie rummaging and ruminating in her mothers closet. Looking as one does after a loss for ‘something’. Sophie continues that search for the runtime of the film. Often entangling herself physically if not romantically with a few boys, before realizing they aren’t providing her that ‘something’ either. 

Sophie Jones ultimately leans on the strength of it’s tone and the directness of the conversation of Sophie to nearly everyone she encounters. It’s the small moments that provide the bits of depth to the teen. Such as when she begs her sister to sit with her at lunch after her best friend departs for college, or when she is isolated at a party and goes to sit by herself. Those quiet personal moments give us some much needed empathy for the teen. I do find myself unsure about the full runtime of the film. Her journey doesn’t feel particularly remarkable or defined, rather an extended snapshot of a young girl’s grief. This will certainly be more than enough to grab onto for some viewers, but like Sophie in her mother’s closet at the beginning of the film, I’m still looking for that ‘something’.

There’s a lot of promise in this bootstrapping duo of storytellers. Sophie Jones may have enough sincerity to ring through into the coming of age film audience, if given a solid VOD acquisition to get there. I can certainly see enough potential here for a young adult cult classic. As with many debuts, I’m curious how they’ll follow this project up, and if they can lean more into their comedic sensibilities on the editing side on the next go around. There was a bit to much melancholic harshness during some quite absurd moments for me to feel like this is the best possible edit of the film.


Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/10/20

Sophie Jones is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up.

You can check out the HIFF Website here and stay up to date on Jessie Barr’s work here.