GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MWinchester

Directed by: The Spierig Brothers

Written by: Tom Vaughan and The Spierig Brothers

Produced by: Tim McGahan, Brett Tomberlin

Starring: Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Jason Clarke, Angus Sampson, Eamon Farren.

Inspired by true events at the most haunted house in history.

Based on the true story of widower, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), Winchester explores the haunting of a many-roomed house, seven stories high, comprising 500 rooms and stairs that lead to no-where: built, torn-down, to be built again; all orchestrated by the designs of the widower.

It’s enough to question her sanity.

Sarah communes with the dead to make their spirits grow stronger in the rooms she builds, under their instruction; through her visions; through her remorse – to then release them.

Many have died from the firing of a Winchester – the instrument of death the source of her fortune.  And the source of her guilt.

Being the majority holder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, (and a multi-millionaire) the company employs a psychiatrist to assess Sarah’s mental capacity in the view of taking control of her share in the company.

A request agreed upon by Sarah’s niece Marion (Sarah Snook) but only if the psychiatrist conducting the assessment is Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke).

After Marion’s husband dies suddenly, she moves in with her aunt with her 8-year-old son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) – an indication in Sarah’s mind that a curse is spreading through the family.

Dr. Price is also a grieving widow, addicted to Laudanum, amongst other substances; anything to numb the pain – and out of desperation and financial difficulty takes the job.  Only to question his own mind when he witnesses the spirits inhabiting this strange house.

All the elements of an interesting story but I didn’t find the film to be a poignant one.

The suspense was weak, left to fall flat off cliff hangers that felt more like an accidental step.

And the over-editing of characters such as builder, John Hansen (Angus Sampson), to the extent of what sounded like dubbing over what was once comic, to be diluted to suit the tone of the film added to the quiet and dry dead like the musty smell in old houses.

All old houses have a presence, particularly those inhabited by the grieving.

When Dr. Price enters the house it just adds another unstable element, throwing doubt on the truth of the story as Dr. Price is also a grieving man, self-medicating and taken from the depths of a sabbatical dedicated to a life of hedonism and clearly desiring anything but clarity: is it any wonder he sees ghosts too?

The flash of spectres was well spliced into the dark recesses of shadows and reflections of mirrors.  But the build of suspense and meat of the story lacked substance so rather than inspiring belief in the supernatural, the film became more a story of a 19th century larrikin sobering up to insanity.

Products from

Phantom Thread

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MPhantom Thread

Writer/Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Produced by: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, Daniel Lupi

Music by: Jonny Greenwood

Editing by: Dylan Tichenor

Costume Design by: Mark Bridges

Production Design by: Mark Tildesley

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, and Vicky Krieps.

A romance for those who don’t like romance.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such an absorbing and beautifully crafted gothic love story.

There is such a subtle and careful intimacy of a man measuring a woman’s waist and arms and bust – a vulnerable exposure allowing a man to know so much.  Then to be made perfect; wearing his creation is to want to always stay in the light of his eyes because in his eyes you are beautiful.

It’s an old-world love story of a gentleman who has the temperament of a wilful child, his annoyance shown by the jutting of his teeth, and a woman who blushes under his attentive stare but refuses to be changed by him.

Phantom Thread is set in 1950s post-war London, circling around Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel-Day Lewis) and his obsession of thread and lace and pearl; where a dress is more than a piece of clothing – it’s where secrets are kept, sewn into the seams, where locks of hair are held to be always closely kept.

This is the man of, The House of Woodcock.

Living with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), Reynolds confesses his incurable bacholar-hood, calling to his sister to ask whomever the current fancy to leave when he no longer sees them; when they cease to exist in his mind and become like ghosts.

It’s an oddly close relationship, but brother and sister partnerships opening haute couture Houses common at the time.  And Reynolds needs his no-nonsense sister to protect him as he creates; the only one to understand him since his mother died.  His mother the love of his life and her loss one he’ll never recover: her apperition still haunting the corners of his mind, absorbing any threat for his attention.

His mother’s ghost remains while the objects of his fading desire, die.

Finding himself restless, Reynolds escapes to the country where he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), an embarrassed waitress who quickly becomes far more than a passing fancy, or muse.

She’s a woman with her own tastes.

This is the second collaboration between Daniel-Day Lewis and writer and director, Thomas Anderson, the first, There Will Be Blood (2007).  And another success with his performance making me both want to slap and kiss the man but most importantly to always have his attention because that’s the only time to feel alive: that’s how believable Daniel-Day Lewis is in his role as Reynolds.

Anderson has also brought frequent collaborator Mark Bridges (Inherent Vice, The Master, There Will Be Blood), to create intricate costumes, made from scratch, creating 50 unique garments for the movie, including nine original pieces showcased in a Spring fashion show sequence.

Add music by Radiohead’s, Jonny Greenwood alongside the charm of drawing rooms and tea served in bone china, you have a moving story made aesthetic.

Not that the love story here is all romance – there is far more of the darkness of human nature here.

It’s what love and obsession can do to a soul that’s fascinating to watch: the dance of jealousy and annoyance; the settled and open, to the demanding and cold.

The archetype of a man still in love and grieving for his mother, who only wants to be obeyed; and a spiteful woman, jealous of all other women and demanding of attention.

This is what love can do to us.

And love stories like these will always be relevant – to be ‘protected from ghosts and dust and time’.

I’m not usually one for romances, but Phantom Thread is a thoroughly absorbing enchantment.

Products from

Victoria & Abdul

GoMovieReviews Rating:

PG-13Victoria & Abdul

Director: Stephen Frears

Based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book: Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant,

Screenplay by: Lee Hall

Casting Directors, Leo Davis & Lissy Holm. Casting Director – India, Nandini Shrikent. Music by Thomas Newman. Make-up and Hair Designer, Daniel Phillips. Costume Designer, Consolata Boyle. Production Designer, Alan Macdonald. Editor, Melanie Ann Oliver, ACE. Director of Photography, Danny Cohen, BSC.

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Beeban Kidron, Tracey Seaward.

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar, Tim Pigott-Smith, Olivia Williams, Fenella Woolgar, Paul Higgins, Robin Soans, Julian Wadham, Simon Callow and Michael Gambon.

In 1887, Abdul travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

As the title suggests, Victoria & Abdul is a film based on the (mostly) true events of a previously unheard of close friendship between Queen Victoria and a Muslim Indian, Abdul Karim.

The film opens on a caricature portrait of the queen: an elderly, overweight woman, bored and cantankerous as she attends seemingly endless engagements to celebrate her 50 years on the throne.  Until a tall, handsome ‘Hindu’ catches her eye.

Aside from the difference in age and race, Queen Victoria blossoms under the attention of this most attractive, warm-hearted man.  And you can see the romantic overtures of the relationship as the elderly monarch falls in love with Abdul’s (Ali Fazal) bright eyes and unique perspective of the world.

Although not a physical relationship, Abdul becomes her close confident and Munshi, a spiritual advisor and teacher – completely unheard of in 17th century England.

She persists in keeping Abdul by her side against the pressure and ultimate rebellion of her Court and family, demanding she stop keeping the Indian man’s company, let alone promote him.

And it’s fascinating to watch the iron will of the Queen as she insists – because, after all, isn’t she the Empress of India?

In 2001, journalist Shrabani Basu, while researching the origins of curry, discovered not only Queen Victoria’s love of curries but also a portrait and bronze bust made of an Indian gentleman.   After further investigation, 13 volumes of Queen Victoria’s diaries were found, previously unread because they were written in Urdu (a Persianised and standardised register language of the Hindustani language).

After translating the diaries, Basu discovered the unconventional relationship between the Queen and a young clerk, Abdul.Victoria & Abdul

The book has been adapted for the screen by writer, Lee Hall (who also wrote the beloved, Billy Elliot (2000)), changing the journalistic style of the book into a drama more suited to a wider audience.

Victoria & Abdul

The setting and costuming were carefully crafted, showing the extravagance of royalty while also showing the silliness of ceremony.

Victoria and Abdul is a period drama, which isn’t really my cup-of-tea, but there’s true brilliance in casting Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria (again) – Dench depicting the Queen’s grit beautifully with guidance from director, Stephen Frears (both Frears and Dench having experience portraying Queen Victoria with Frears directing The Queen back in 2006 and Dench cast as Queen Victoria in, Mrs Brown (1997)).

Victoria & Abdul gives a glimpse into the personality of the woman, her iron will and the simplicity of her nature; the drawing reflected so well in Abdul’s eyes.

It was like watching an elderly, sick woman come to life.

And inspiring to see one so sure of her wants and needs against all other opinions, even those of her son.

Fan’s of Judi Dench you will enjoy seeing her play the borderline dirty old woman cradle snatching a younger man (Abdul, 24 when he first arrived in England and the Queen, in her 80s), and to admire her strength of character while surrounded by pompous idiots.

So, an enjoyable watch with highlights of humour and emotional undertones – a chance to look behind the curtain of English Royalty, to glimpse a remarkable woman who, against all odds and so late in life, found love and friendship in the most unlikely person, her Munshi, Abdul.