Skip To Content

Athabasca University

Analytical Film Review Process

  1. Just watch the film the first time; take notes on your observations, only after you viewed the movie. Watch it several more times in the course of your essay writing preparations.
  2. Research the director: he is considered the be all and end all of all films. Read the book on which the movie is based, if applicable.
  3. View some of the director’s other movies, if applicable. See if he or she favours a particular editor, cinematographer, actor, and so on.
  4. Consider the following aspects of the film:
    1. Theme – identify and consider how the film supports the theme
    2. Spectacle –“(consider) all aspects that make the experience of viewing a performance different from reading the same work on the page.” (Miller)
      1. Art Direction – the way the world looks in the film (including sets, locations, costumes, hairstyles, and props).
      2. Cinematography – the ‘mood’ of the film as created through lighting, camera angles and movement, and filtering.
      3. Soundtrack – influences the ‘mood’ of a film by complementing, contradicting, enhancing, commenting on, or undermining the image and the story with sound/music.
      4. Editing – the way in which the footage is spliced together determines the ‘flow’ from shot to shot; it enhances or disrupts the narrative and plot.
      5. Acting – the performance of an actor (as directed by the director) to visualize a character. Discussions of acting should keep previous performances, under the same and other directors, in mind.
    3. Plot – provide a minimal plot summary (do not give too much away).
    4. Character – do not confuse the actor with the character. Character analysis in film analysis is always external. A character’s inner life is revealed through mannerisms, vocal inflections, other characters’ commentary, as well as all the spectacle elements listed above.
    5. Tone – primarily determined through the elements of spectacle, the tone of a film is either consistent throughout or, by weakness or design, shifts somewhere along the line. Different film genres tend to employ different tones.
  5. Draft your review, roughly responding to the following questions:
    • What do the makers of the film intend to do?
    • Explain why you think so. Did they manage to do it? Explain why and how.
    • Was it worth their effort? Explain why or why not.
  6. Carefully read your work once again and revise and edit it to take out any remaining grammar, mechanics, or other errors you find.

© Adien Dubbleboer
Coordinator, ENGL 255

Adapted from Joyce Miller’s “Writing a Film Review”

Updated September 10 2014 by Student & Academic Services

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.