Short Film Spotlight: IN VITRO (2015) directed by Toby Stephens

In many ways, short films can be just more effective and compelling than feature films. IN VITRO is a prime example, which marks an excellent directorial debut from British thespian Toby Stephens.

In Vitro posterI found out about its Indiegogo campaign last year and I’m glad to be one of its backers. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the screening in London, and at present I’m still waiting for my request to interview Toby. I hope one day I could post that interview, but in the meantime, I want to spotlight his excellent work, currently available on We Are Colony.

In VITRO is only 18min long but it packs a punch. The film follows the fractured journey of a man dealing with the still-taboo subject of infertility.

In a commentary in We Are Colony, Toby “…wanted to tell the story from a male perspective because it is a largely unheard voice, but no less valid aspect on this subject, that helps reveal the moral complexities of procreation.”

Well, he certainly achieved that in this film, presenting the subject matter as it is without judging one side or the other. It’s not preachy nor did he try to push a certain agenda, but the story is definitely thought-provoking. This isn’t a topic that I think about much but it made me think about what if I were in the characters’ shoes… how would I feel? What would I have done?

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The film was written and directed by Toby Stephens himself and stars his Black Sails 2 co-star Rupert Penry-Jones, and Anna-Louise Plowman and Stephanie Leonidas. Anna-Louise happens to be Toby’s wife and both of them were also Penry-Jones’ co-stars in BBC’s miniseries Cambridge Spies back in 2003.

All the actors fit the roles nicely, with Penry-Jones skillfully carried the weight of the film. He’s a naturally likable presence, which helps as his character isn’t exactly a virtuous man. But I can’t help sympathize with his character despite his flaws.

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I like how Toby frame the story in a non-linear way, which keeps things more intriguing. The cinematography by Simon Dennis is beautiful to look at. The use of music definitely fits the tone of the film and there’s an atmospheric quality to the nighttime scenes. I’d say this is an excellent debut from Toby and he’s definitely a promising writer/director. As a phenomenal actor himself, he certainly has a vision of what he wants from the performers and it shows. I sure hope he’ll continue to make films in the future, and perhaps star in his own feature film?

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Check out the trailer, courtesy of We Are Colony:


What are your thoughts of IN VITRO?

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Inspired by my recent viewing of Gone Girl which features yet another collaboration between David Fincher & Trent Reznor, it made me think of other great director/composer partnerships.

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Fincher & Reznor have collaborated on Se7en, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo previously. There are many other similar partnerships that have churned out amazing works: Steven Spielberg & John Williams, Christopher Nolan & Hans Zimmer, Ridley Scott & Hans Zimmer, J.J. Abrams & Michael Giacchino, Peter Jackson & James Horner, just to name a few. Wiki has a list of all director/composer partnerships if you’re curious.

So what’s your favorite director/composer collaborations?
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2. I just want to highlight a couple of new trailers that came out in the last couple of weeks. The main draw for me for both of these are the filmmakers. Now, first one is Blackhat.

A man is released from prison to help American and Chinese authorities pursue a mysterious cyber criminal. The dangerous search leads them from Chicago to Hong Kong.

Now, I’m most curious to see this mostly because I LOVE Michael Mann‘s work and he’s the kind of director who’d go into great lengths into researching his films. His last film he directed was Public Enemies in 2009, and though it’s my least fave film of his, I’m still hugely anticipating what he’ll tackle next. I wonder if he’s spent the last five years researching about cyber crime, but that doesn’t seem far-fetched to me. The casting of Chris Hemsworth as a hacker is a bit odd, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m a fan of Viola Davis however, and the cast & scenery does have an international flair to it. Btw, did you catch that ‘big hammer’ reference in the trailer? 😉

The other one that really piqued my interest is Paul Thomas Anderson‘s comedy caper Inherent Vice.

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.


Confession: I haven’t seen any of PT’s film before. Yes I know, I know, I guess I better get on that. This one might be the first of his movies I’d see on the big screen. It looks like a dark comedy and there are some goofy parts in the trailer, which is interesting as I don’t normally see him directing comedies, but it intrigues me even more. Plus the cast is fantastic, especially Joaquin Phoenix who’s such a chameleon!

Does either one of these trailers pique your interest?

3. Now, this is a VERY special topic for me, considering how big of a fan I am of the massively talented Toby Stephens. Not only is he joining Twitter, woo hoo, he’s also making his directorial debut in a short film called In Vitro, hence his Twitter handle. Ahah, his Twitter background photo is hilarious!

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As Toby’s described in his own words, In Vitro is a film that subtly explores how infertility can erode a marriage, and what can happen when cold science, replaces passion and a sense of mutual purpose. It’s a subject that’s rarely explored in film, but it’s one that [he] feels needs to be. Sounds like one of my fave British actors, Rupert Penry-Jones, have signed on to be the lead actor! How awesome, as both will be in Black Sails 2 next year!

Toby’s looking to get support via the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, here’s the direct link to his project. I’m so thrilled for him and you can bet I’m one of the contributors! 😉 Check out the video w/ all the details:

Thoughts on this project? I’m also curious which crowd-funding project(s) are you supporting and/or planning to?
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4. Last night I watched Jon Favreau’s Chef which was pretty enjoyable. Man, even though we watched it after dinner, those food porn shots definitely got us salivating.

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Chef is the perfect feel-good movie for the weekend, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The story is pretty engaging though editing could’ve been much tighter. I think a 90-min film would’ve suffice for a story like this one, and the two Iron Man cast (RDJ & Scarlett Johansson) weren’t given hardly anything to do in their gratuitous cameos. Still, the food stuff are incredible. It certainly made me want to take up more cooking and I wish there’s a Cubano food truck like El Jefe here in town!! Last time I was wiping my drool as I watching was when I saw Julie & Julia and Today’s Special.

What are YOUR fave food movies you’d recommend?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Melissa from SnapCrackleWatch blog!

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Originally we’re going to discuss holiday movies, but let’s table that until November 🙂

CharlieBrownPumpkinSpecialSince it’s October, and a lot of people are excited about Halloween, Melissa was wondering if you have a film tradition, whether it’s horror or otherwise, to celebrate the season. Melissa mentioned the Charlie Browns Pumpkin Special, which is something I’d be far more inclined to watch than any of the horror offerings out there. For those not a fan of scary movies like me, there are some horror-comedies that are fun to watch year after year, like Shaun of the Dead, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, The Corpse Bride, etc.

So, do you have a Halloween viewing tradition, if so what is it? 


Well, that’s it for the October 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀