22nd March 2023

MANIFF 2023: Something You Said Last Night review

In her directorial debut, Luis De Filippis explores families at their worst and best through a tender slow cinema lens

Something You Said Last Night (2022) is slow cinema at its core. Observational and mundane in neither a good nor bad way. Slow cinema warrants patience and total empathy. Unfortunately, this is not what Something You Said Last Night received from audiences at Manchester Film Festival (MANIFF). 

Something You Said Last Night follows Ren and her family on holiday. With vape and phone in hand, unemployed Ren seeks some serenity within the chaos of her family. This is Luis De Filippis’ directorial debut. Though fictional, she manoeuvres through the story in a documentary-like fashion as if the audience are flies on the wall of their holiday home. It is a film that strongly marks its territory in realism.  

I wonder if there are autobiographical aspects to this story in extremely specific and tender depictions of a family. For this reason, I could not help but draw comparisons to Aftersun. Both De Filippis’ and Charlotte Wells turn to family holidays to portray families at their worst and best. 

At times it was emotionally hard to witness their family dynamic. The overbearing mother who runs the family with good intent. The careless inattentive father. Then the portrayal of the relentless push and pull sibling relationship. These matters of course are all subtlety sprinkled throughout the film.  

Something You Said Last Night was a reminder to immaturely avoid family holidays because of the inescapability from those issues. I do not think that was the intention of De Filippis but is proof of her brilliant filmmaking to draw these emotions out of viewers. 

The representation of trans people in Something You Said Last Night is remarkable. Ren is a transgender woman performed well by trans actor Carmen Madonia. The film does hint at the everyday struggles and insecurities she faces as a trans woman. However, there is no opposition to her identity whether that be outer remarks from strangers, family members, or contention within herself. 

Often with LGBTQ+ stories in mainstream film, the focus is on their coming out story or the homophobia they face. Whilst these stories are important to tell, there is a tendency of repetition that victimises the group instead of empowers them. 

Something You Said Last Night is a testament to what happens when representation is not only in front of the camera but behind it as well. De Filippis herself is a trans woman. The depictions of marginalised groups are thoughtfully portrayed and importantly normalised. Trans people do not need to fight for their identity as it is one that just exists. 

As mentioned, this is not a film that found its audience at MANIFF. Some audience members fell asleep whilst a few left the screening early. Slow cinema after all is notorious for being plot barren and I guess festivalgoers found this film hard to engage with.  

The most fascinating films are the ones that occupy your mind for days after initially watching them. As the days rolled on, I found myself thinking about Something You Said Last Night in a more in-depth way. The corporeal feeling ignited from the extreme close-up of Ren’s skin. The liminal space that holiday resorts exist in.  

I pondered for a while whether I liked or disliked this film. I finally concluded that maybe it is not a film made for the classic reason of entertainment. But, rather one that was made to evoke the visceral feeling of just trying to find peace. Perhaps a peace, that through slow cinema, De Filippis in her debut feature tries to gift audiences. 


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