Stockholm International Film Festival, November 2008
One character has just lost his girlfriend to heroin. Another is afraid to leave her room. Two loved ones are dealing with separation anxiety, while another couple experience true love in an extremely painful form. Originally written as 150 unrelated sequences, Better Things revolves around several people connected only through their own isolation. It is a multi-narrative film about sexuality, loneliness and drugs.
Set in a rural part of England, not far from director Duane Hopkins’ birthplace Cotswolds, the cinematography of the film is very still, focused and at times almost poetic. It is not a movie about substance abuse, but rather an exposé on the drug addicts’ psychology.
Hopkins uses sound in a creative way, to further illustrate the inner struggles of the protagonists. The cast consists of non-professional actors and former drug addicts, creating a deep and true sensation of realism in a gritty and rural environment.
AFI Festival, Los Angeles November 2008
"Real life was difficult, at best," Gail reads to herself, a good summation of this exploration of people connected by their isolation. An agoraphobic, Gail keeps inside, escaping into romance novels. Mr. and Mrs. Gladwin find their 60-year relationship shifting. In her abiding love, Mrs. Gladwin tries to erode, with little gestures, the barriers built by the years of unspoken truths. Rob is a heroin addict who has just lost his girlfriend Tess (in an early scene, we see her lying in her neat, quiet house, needle in her arm). But where do you find solace after the death of a loved one if you, and all your friends, are addicts too? A lush meditation on isolation and addiction in rural England, Duane Hopkins’ surprisingly quiet film speaks volumes, delivering sharp insight into the lives of his characters. With raw, exacting performances by a mostly non-professional cast, BETTER THINGS wields fertile metaphors and a sophisticated sense of psychology. Hopkins penetrates the subtle process of human transformation and the possibilities for meaningful interchange lying dormant in contemporary country living. There are no shaky drug-fuelled parties here. Instead, Hopkins immerses us inside each person's loneliness. Lucid, articulate, and breathtakingly poetic, BETTER THINGS is nothing short of masterful.