A classic British memoir gets the full costume drama treatment with this beautifully crafted World War I drama, although it never quite transcends the "beloved book" tone, remaining so worthy that it only rarely springs to life. The acting is sharp, as is the filmmaking, so it's frustrating that there's so little in the film that resonates with present-day audiences. And as the story sinks into a murky gloom, it's difficult for audiences to stay engaged.
Based on Vera Brittain's iconic memoir, the story opens in 1914, as Vera (Alicia Vikander) begs her parents (Emily Watson and Dominic West) to let her sit entrance exams at Oxford, which simply isn't the done thing for a proper young woman. She also has to convince them to let her brother Edward (Taron Egerton) sign up for military service in response to the conflict breaking out in Europe. But Vera is shocked when her sweetheart Roland (Kit Harington) also decides to enlist along with two close friends (Colin Morgan and Jonathan Bailey). Suddenly the war seems far too close to home for her. So she's provoked to leave university and volunteer as a nurse, serving in both England and France while the war rages around her.
The film's opening section contains a beautiful spark of hopefulness as these young people face the possibilities ahead of them, revelling in their education and then deciding to do their duty for their country. The rising-star cast packs the characters with cheeky humour, high energy and, yes, suitably repressed Britishness. But of course the realities of WWI change everything. Vikander handles this mood-swing very nicely, conveying Vera's resilience as she is bombarded with intense emotions. Her chemistry with Harington is strong, packed with passion. And the surrounding cast is terrific, even if most of the roles are relatively slight. The stand-outs are Richardson as a prickly Oxford professor and Atwell as a feisty fellow nurse.
Continue reading: Testament Of Youth Review
Has 'Love, Rosie' really transformed the ever-worm romantic comedy genre?
While some filmmakers are happy to rely on the same old formula, others are forever seeking a new approach to a tired genre. And with its nagging predictability, there isn't a trickier genre to refresh than the romantic comedy, because everyone knows that there's only one way these movies can possibly end.
With the British rom-com 'Love, Rosie', director Christian Ditter and Juliette Towhidi, adapting Cecilia Ahern's novel, have a distinctly unusual premise even if the conclusion is rather foregone. This is the story of two lifelong friends who are clearly attracted to each other but neglect to reveal their feelings, sending their lives in very different directions.
Continue reading: 'Love, Rosie' Tries Another Rom-Com Twist
Deliberately unstructured, this likeable romantic comedy holds the audience's interest with its strikingly engaging cast and a slick visual style, but the plot is both contrived and underdeveloped. As the filmmakers try out some wacky slapstick, pointed political moments or a bit of darkly emotional drama, the movie's tone veers so wildly that we don't quite know where to look. And by never managing to crack the surface, the script leaves the actors with little to do but look good.
The story centres on two childhood friends: Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) grew up on the same street in England, developing romantic longings that they kept hidden. After a drunken teenage kiss, they rebound into the arms of other people: Rosie hooks up with the school hunk Greg (Christian Cooke), while Alex takes wannabe supermodel Bethany (Suki Waterhouse) to the big dance. Then Rosie and Alex's plan to go to university together in Boston is derailed by an unexpected pregnancy. Over the next 12 years they live on opposite sides of the Atlantic, trying to get on with their romantic lives. Alex finds a serious girlfriend (Tamsin Egerton) while Rosie re-connects with Greg and gets support from a pal (Jaime Winstone). But they never stop pining for each other.
Shot and edited in a bouncy rom-com style, it's immediately obvious where this is heading, so screenwriter Juliette Towhidi has to work overtime to throw the audience off the scent, which leaves the movie spinning in circles while we wait for the inevitable to happen. Fortunately, the characters are vivid enough to keep us entertained, as people move in and out of each others' lives providing the laughs and tears for Rosie and Alex, as well as the audience. Even if the characters are predictable and simplistic, Collins and Claflin manage to find moments of real depth along the way. Although it's difficult not to think that one proper conversation between these lifelong best pals would have saved them decades of frustration.
Continue reading: Love, Rosie Review
As a rite of passage, American children join the scouts. Older British women, as a similar rite of passage, join the National Federation of Women's Institutes, shortened to the W.I. by its faithful members. The group holds true the notions of enlightenment, fun, and friendship, though lately they've been in a rut. Guest speakers to the group have brought the latest news on cauliflower. Not quite headline-worthy material.
Continue reading: Calendar Girls Review
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