How to write a film review - The ULTIMATE guide

August 14th, 2021  |  by Maria Ayalde

How to write a film review - The ULTIMATE guide

A film review sounds easier to write than it is. When tasked with reviewing an audiovisual piece, you realise there is more to it than hitting your keyboard and start writing. A review should give the reader enough info to judge whether or not they will watch the film.

Sounds easy, right? Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The review needs to be detailed enough to provide the relevant info while not being too revealing. In any case, no one wants a spoiler alert. There is a delicate balance of not giving out too much info or plot details or surprises.

How to write a film review - Top tips

Here are our top tips to help you write an in-depth, interesting and most of all structure film review. Let’s check out the tips below!

Start with an outline

An outline gives an overview of how the review will go. The good thing with an outline is it helps give you a good general view of the whole piece.

By writing the outline, you are organising the thoughts and allowing your review to flow. By being organised, you become more efficient and you're able to deliver a catchy film review.

The outline will also help with the accuracy as you’ll know the information to include and leave out unnecessary info.

Writing the overview

Once you’re done with the outline, it’s time to get down to business. When writing the overview, you need to know what the movie or film is all about.

To this end, you need to watch and understand every aspect of the film. At first, you need to watch the movie or film in one sitting.

Here, you need to grasp the general idea of the film. Write whatever you got from the movie and your general reaction to the film, noting the main focus and lessons you think the film wants to pass across.

Watch the film again, this time being keen with every attribute of the film. The main essence of the second time of watching the film is to get the main elements of the film and the story being told.

In your outline, describe how the story is told, know its point of view, and the drama involved in telling the story. For instance, note the twists and turns (or lack of) used in telling the story.

Write down the story’s conclusion, how the conflict was narrated, and how it was resolved. Discuss how the characters went through their experiences and how they brought life to the story.

The technical aspects

You can re-watch the movie for the third time, noting the technical elements of the film. Alternatively, you can note this during the second re-watching period.

Some of the aspects to keep in mind include locations, camera work, lighting, and the general settings of the film. Pay attention to the editing and critique of the post-production work done, including the special effects and sequencing.

When looking at the technical side of the movie, tell of the continuity and rhythm and the blending of different sequencing. Other aspects to include are the film’s cultural standards and historical context and how they were used to tell the story.

Describe how the overall message was delivered. Was it POV, established authority, or emotional appeal?

Writing the review

So, how is it possible to include all that in one review? And additionally, not give spoilers but yet deliver the general synopsis? Break down your review into several sections, which include;

  • Acting
  • Basic story outline
  • Synopsis
  • Special effects and editing
  • Other interesting aspects of the film that jump out

When it comes to the overview, break it down into several sections, each representing a paragraph. Use the pointers above in each paragraph and describe in as many details as possible. For instance, when writing about the story outline, give a bit about the start and development of the story.

In the other paragraph, describe the character and their acting skills. Did they deliver the story and give life to the scripts and their roles? Words like "ecstatic" and "boring" could be used to describe the actors. It's also wise to compare how the actors faired in this film as compared to other films.

In the last paragraph. Describe the technical side of the film and how the directors used light, locations, and how they edited the film. Did they deliver and give the story the justice it deserved?

In the end, it's better to use a grading system to tell if the movie or film met your expectations as far as the delivery is concerned. Once done, you can summarise the outline and give a detailed but brief review.

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