A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but the simplistic script makes it difficult to properly engage with. Every plot point feels pushy, as the characters are forced into situations that are oddly contrived by screenwriter Leon Butler. This means that the actors feel less like real people and more like cardboard-cutout figures. At least they're sharply well-played by a superb cast.
The central plot strand centres on Max (Idris Elba), a famous former rugby star whose womanising has shattered his marriage to Emily (Gemma Arterton), but he hasn't given up trying to win her back. She, on the other hand, is devoted to their children and developing a romance with a photographer (Tom Cullen). Meanwhile, cab driver George (Charlie Creed-Miles) and his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing) have started the process to adopt a child. Then George is involved in a fatal car accident that leaves him badly shaken. And on a rough nearby estate, the teenaged Kingsley (Franz Drameh) is a thug simply because he doesn't know how to break the cycle of violence. But he wants to change. On a community service sentence, he meets veteran actor Terence (Ken Stott) who encourages him to explore his burgeoning artistic side.
These three storylines circle around each other in the same part of London, but only very rarely intersect. Each one explores the realities in a specific strata of society, from wealthy to working class to deprived. All of these people are struggling to get their lives back on track, facing unexpected challenges at every turn and finding encouragement in the places they least expect. All of this is very well-played by the gifted actors, adding emotion and energy to each scene. But the script never allows any of these stories to develop realistically, forcing each event with corny plot devices that limit what the actors can do with their roles.
Continue reading: 100 Streets Review
A simplistic approach undermines this intriguing true story about a romantic triangle among artists in pre-WWI England. The actors do what they can to liven things up, but the writing and direction let it down, never injecting the spark of artistic invention that the project so badly needs. So while there's a certain amount of drama in what happens, the flatly cliched way it's assembled leaves us cold.
The story takes place in 1913 Cornwall, where a group of free-thinking artists live and work on the dramatic coastline. Away from the city, they also get up to all sorts of mischief, usually led by the roguish painter AJ Munnings (Cooper), who seems to be on a mission to seduce every woman in sight. His best pal is the dashing army officer Gilbert (Stevens), who is much more reticent about women. Then aspiring painter Florence (Browning) arrives, and both men are captivated by her. She's the sister of AJ's artist friend Joey (Deacon), and is flattered by the attention. But when she makes a pivotal decision she changes all of their lives.
Director Menaul and writer Smith continually smooth the edges of this story. Sure, there are plenty of naked antics, including a woman (Austen) who's happy to drop her clothing for any painter she sees, but it's shot and edited with the same coyness as a leery Carry On movie. We never get a proper sense of the anarchic nature of this community: they're all mopey stereotypes stuck in the one or two personality traits the filmmakers give them. Gilbert and Florence are particularly dull, giving Stevens and Browning little to do to catch our sympathy. By contrast, Cooper makes AJ both charismatic and cocky, and we like him even though it's clear from the script that we shouldn't.
Continue reading: Summer In February Review
Jamie (Sturgess) is a shy photographer who avoids contact with people because of the large birthmark on his face. Working with his brother (Salinger) and nephew (Treadaway), he longs for a normal life. Then a series of events propels him into a nightmarish new reality in which a demon-like man (Mawle), his young assistant (Mistry) and their intense weapons expert (Marsan) offer him freedom from his scars in exchange for an act of chaos. He also falls in love with a girl (Poesy) who seems too good to be true.
Continue reading: Heartless Review
Like in 2004's Hotel Rwanda, the bulk of Beyond the Gates is about the establishment of a safe zone within the homicidal abyss that the country so precipitously fell into. As Hutu militia roam the countryside -- drunk, mad with power, and waving bloody machetes like creatures from a nightmare -- and massacring any Tutsis they come across, the school becomes a haven for refugees, with the guns of the few blue-helmeted UN soldiers the only thing keeping the killers at bay. It is also about the lengths to which a number of good people will go to in order to save the lives of the innocent. John Hurt plays the school's resident priest, Father Christopher, with his customary blend of scratch-throated gravitas and self-deprecating wit. Hugh Dancy (somewhat flat here) co-stars as Joe Connor, a sort of Oxfam poster boy, the handsome and well-meaning European spending his gap year teaching in a third world school; like a more moral version of James McAvoy's doctor in The Last King of Scotland. Both are stunned into near-incomprehension by the butchery going on outside the gates, but act in extremely different ways. This is not a film that allows an audience the easy out of providing them a character who does the right thing and is rewarded for it.
Continue reading: Beyond The Gates Review
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