The Sense of an Ending

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MThe Sense of an Ending

Director: Ritesh Batra

Producers: David M Thompson and Ed Rubin

Screenplay: Nick Payne

Based on: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer, Billy Howle, Joe Alwyn

Tony Webster (the ever-reliable Jim Broadbent) leads a reclusive, quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the imperfect recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the disturbing consequences of decisions made long ago.

While not a must see film it is well-made, intriguing and mysterious, more of a slow burner than a page turner. The first part unfolded slowly and there was as much mystery as there were questions answered throughout the film. A major theme throughout is the recognition of how the memory of youth can directly influence the present.

The film provides a good mystery and exploration of the complications of human (and family) relationships. The film is set in two different time periods and it was interesting watching actors inhabit the same role as younger and older versions of the same characters.

Jim Broadbent was excellent as the curmudgeonly older version of Tony Webster, an introvert whose ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) remains one of his best friends in later life.

Charlotte Rampling plays the older Veronica, Tony’s first love, and despite not being on the screen for long, she effectively conveys a sense of being her own person, a mystery that Tony was unable to resolve or understand for who she actually was.

Suggested events were hinted at but some were left unexplained, and it is tantalising wanting to know why one character had such a strong hold over Tony more than forty years later. There are also parallels between the past and the present in the situations characters found themselves in, separated by several decades.

The screenplay, adapted by Nick Payne from the novel by Julian Barnes, may cause admirers of the novel to criticise the licences taken with the original version. Director Ritesh Batra and screenplay writer Nick Payne remain faithful to the essence of the novel, but have generalised places and characters in a way better suited to a cinematic rendering.

For example, the novel relies heavily on the internalised nature of Tony’s narration in the book, which would not have translated easily to the screen unless there was excessive reliance on voice-overs and extended shots of Tony just sitting around looking introspective. Therefore, some minor characters who were just memories for Tony were fleshed out into fully formed roles in the film, so his subjective perception of other characters was counter-balanced by them having their own personalities separate from his view of them.

It also becomes obvious as the film progresses that Tony’s memory is not entirely reliable, which affects how the audience views him and his recollections. Having the other characters acting independently of him allows us to question how much of what we learn from Tony is the truth or just his version of it, which adds to the mystery.

The film was photographed and edited in a careful, slow way that will appeal to those who enjoy settling in for a slower paced unfolding that combines old mysteries with the gradual awakening of living in the present and coming to terms with what happened so long ago.

 

The Girl on the Train

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+The Girl on the Train

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Screenplay by: Erin Cressida Wilson

Based on: ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramírez; Lisa Kudrow.

Alcoholism, restlessness; hurt – The Girl on the Train is a film about the possibilities, the capabilities of someone lost.

The focus of the film surrounds the mystery of the main character, Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) watching the world go by through the window of a train.

Sure, Rachel’s got her problems: she drinks, she lies, she has blackouts, and she wants what she can’t have.  And the audience, watching the world with her, sympathise: her heart’s in the right place – right?

But the slow reveal of Rachel’s unravelling makes us wonder just what she’s capable of.

And there lies the mystery.  What is really happening here?  Just how lost is Rachel?

The Girl on the Train is a movie of perspectives.  Of what people see compared to what goes on behind closed doors.  This is a film about what’s revealed to the audience and when.  And I think the mystery was handled well by director Tate Taylor (who won a BAFTA Award for best adapted screenplay for, Help (2011)).

I’m just going to say it – I found the book a slow read.  So for once and a rarity for me to say, the condensing of the story into a movie length narrative made for a more dramatic reveal.  The film concentrated on the main thrust of the story, of Rachel, of her illness, about her blackouts; about what actually happened on that fateful day.

No one can say that Emily Blunt can’t act, and indeed, her acting kept The Girl on the Train firmly on track.  Blunt is phenomenal in Sicario (2015), one of my favourites and I recently re-watched Looper (2012) – another fantastic movie starring Blunt.  I like her authentic, down-to-earth style and think she’s fast becoming one of the greats.  And her performance here is to be commended.

Also to note was the performance of Haley Bennett as the saucy Megan Hipwell and Justin Theroux as Rachel’s ex, Tom Watson.

In conclusion, I have to say there’s no real punch here and I wasn’t on the edge-of-my-seat, but The Girl on the Train is an absorbing mystery, shown well.

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Mountain Cry

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MMountain Cry

Directed by: Larry Yang

Adapted Screenplay: Larry Yang

Music by: Nicolas Errèra

Cinematography by: Patrick Murguia

Starring: Yueting Lang, Ziyi Wang, Taishen Cheng, Ailei Yu, Jin Guo, Caigen Xu, Chendong Zhao; Siying Li.

Language: Chinese Mandarin

Subtitle Language: English

Based on: Lu Xun Literary Prize recipient novel of the same name written by Ge Shuiping.

Mountain Cry is a Chinese tale of a mute girl, Hong Xia (Yueting Lang), who moves to a remote rural village with her abusive husband, La Hong (Yu Ailei), and two children.

After her husband is killed by a detonation used in a badger trap set in the woods, a young villager, Han Chong (Ziyi Wang) is blamed for the accident.  The village council then forces Han to look after the young widow and her children until the debt is paid for killing her husband.

Mountain Cry has been beautifully adapted to the screen with director and screenwriter Larry Yang relating this amazing story of Chinese village life and the two main characters slowly falling in love.  But this film is so much more than a romance, there’s crime here and mystery.

The characters show more of themselves with each action, with each scene adding weight to the adage, show don’t tell.  There was such a gentle touch here with tragedy and longing, freedom given and taken away, responsibility and loyalty and love all revealed like leaves slowly falling.

When novels are adapted to the screen there can be the feeling of parts missing or the story being rushed or glossed over, but Mountain Cry was a complicated story given depth, revealed slowly allowing the audience to become absorbed by the mystery of Hong Xia’s life.  Not surprising that the film won Shanghai International Film Festival Media Award Best Director Award and Shanghai International Film Festival Media Award Best Scriptwriter Award.

Although set in 1984, there was a classic feel to the story: old fashioned tools used for farming, handmade paper and painted writing, and the echoing sound of voices and drums like the heartbeat of the vast mountains.

The scenery was captured beautifully by cinematographer, Patrick Murguia.  And the soundtrack a fitting accompaniment (Nicolas Errèra) to this classic Chinese tale.  But it was the characters who were the focus, and their relationships.

Although a tragedy, the story was lifted by the simple warmth of Han Chong and his ginger kitten, but you need a quiet mood for this one.  And I have to say the film was slow at times.  But by the end, I was completely absorbed and pleasantly surprised by the mystery and beauty of the story.

A slow reveal but well worth the journey.

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The Nice Guys

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Director: Shane BlackThe Nice Guys

Writers: Shane Black; Anthony Bagarozzi

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya Dalosta, Keith David, Lois Smith; Kim Basinger.

Harking back to the funky-soul disco era of the 1970s, The Nice Guys is a private detective, who-done-it comedy, with a bit of action on the side.

The scene is set when Misty Mountains (yes, her name referring to her boobs) comes to a dramatic end – assets revealed in life but covered in death, because hey, she’s human and this is a classy film.

Now, Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) is being followed.  She hires Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), muscle who is paid to deter those, well, who need deterring.  His line of enquiry leading to Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a private detective also on the case.

Delving into the world of ’70s pornography, dirty deeds are uncovered circling closer and closer to those targeting Amelia.

A classic storyline, yet, it’s the characters Healy, March and March’s daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) who are the focus of the film.  And the success of the film comes from the perfect casting of Gosling alongside Crowe.

It’s a pleasure to see Gosling playing a light-hearted character after all his seriousness in the past (Half Nelson (2006), The Ides of March (2011), The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) and more recently, The Big Short (2015)).  Gosling’s character, March, is a funny bastard.  Either he’s a natural comic or director Shane Black deserves a tremendous amount of credit as March was the highlight of the film for me.

Russell playing, Healy: as always the steadfast meat-head with a heart of gold.

The two characters had a great chemistry, like the small dog yapping at the big.  I wondered if there was a genuine annoyance from Russell Crowe regarding Gosling.  But with a clever script, there were many moments for laughter.

Add the background scenery of horses get-up as unicorns, protesters playing dead in gas masks and some well-placed action (I was about to get bored near the end until the action kicked in); you’ve got an entertaining film.  I’m still grinning about March falling, yet again, and somehow surviving.

But, honestly, there wasn’t a lot of depth here.

There were definite moments of wit and cleverness but the story barely held together at the end.  The action got ramped up so I forgave the fading narrative.  It depends on what mood you’re in.

If you’re looking for a, who-done-it with wit and action, this is a great film.

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A Bigger Splash

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+A Bigger Splash

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay: Dave Kajganich

Story: Alain Page

Starring: Tida Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Corrado Guzzanti, Lily McMenamy, Aurore Clément; Elena Bucci.

An English language Italian-French erotic thriller.

After having throat surgery, Marianne Lane (Tida Swinton) goes on a retreat from her rock star career with her lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

The film opens to an idyllic life of sun, mud, the blue of the ocean and the relaxation of naked lovers lounging by the pool.  Until Harry (Ralph Fiennes) arrives.  Bringing his long lost daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson) with him.

I’d never thought of Tida Swinton as sexy until seeing her playing Marianne.  Think, We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011), Constantine (2005) and I’ll never forget her in Orlando (1992).  But there’s a genuine love and warmth in this silent yet expressive character.  And the chemistry between Marianne and Paul is totally believable.  As is the subtleties of the narcissism of youth in Penelope and the unbalanced, lost, selfish but, gotta love him for his dancing moves, Harry.  The guy dances like a demented chicken.

And I admit I became a bit jealous of the love between Marianne and Paul, so intimately portrayed to the audience.

What a great mix of characters.  All so well cast and well played.  At one point Harry states, ‘Honesty is the greatest fidelity.’  Where Paul responds, ‘The world isn’t ready for your honesty.’

Set on an island somewhere between Sicily and Tunisia, the elements are used to build the tension: the desert winds, the porcelain faces of pots; ruined boats flaking red and blue and the lost immigrants appearing from behind crumbling buildings set on baron clifftops.  And the ever present snakes.

Director, Luca Guadagnino shows the story using the landscape and montages, almost glitches in the flow to set a slight unease in the audience.  There’s a tension that brews in this film and I loved the classic soundtrack used to set the flavour of the film giving a clarity to the mystery, almost like cleansing the palate.

There’s a fair bit of nudity here, but the film has such a mature feel, it’s just another part of the character’s personality.  How comfortable they are naked in front of others.

The only negative is there was a loss of momentum where the peak of the film was reached too early.  But the story continued giving a greater depth of character.  That looking back with regret, or the feeling you never have to do that stupid thing again.  Or, hell, maybe I will.  But now things are different.  Life is different.  And the consequences of previous choices are now being felt.  And either forgotten, held for ransom, cut away, forgiven or gotten away with.  Life; people.  You just don’t always know what you’re going to get.

I enjoyed watching this film, the subtleties of each character and the beautiful scenery.

Nice to watch one made for the adults.

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