Not at the Oscars – Lesley Manville

Let’s forget The King’s Speech for a moment and remember a british film from the past year with a slightly less uplifting tale to tell. Another Year may be a bit meandering at times but it truly touched me, and in a wholly appropriate way.

Yes, the changing colour palette was far from subtle, and there was a random appearance from Imelda Staunton that no one seems to mention, but besides that the film was amazing. Despite this it has just one Oscar nomination and it is for the Screenplay… something Mike Leigh tends to go without.

All I’m asking for is some recognition for Lesley Manville’s performance of the deeply flawed Mary. Sure she might not stand a chance against Hailee Steinfeld but she was a hell of a lot better than Helena Bonham Carter. It’s not that Carter was bad, just that Manville completely blew me away. The whole cast was fabulous but anyone that has seen the film will know that Manville completely owned it.

Give her an Oscar!

Womb – Review

In Womb Eva Green and Matt Smith are childhood sweethearts who meet up again once they’re all grown up. Cue a tragic accident and suddenly Eva Green is pregnant with a clone of her former lover. The rest of the two hours are filled with weird relationships and uncomfortable moments.

Womb is similar to Never Let Me Go in that it features a scientific advancement that forms the basis of the plot while focusing on people’s relationships and heavy knitwear. It also shares Peter Wight and Lesley Manville from Another Year as Smith’s parents which is amusing if you see both films within a few days of one another.

Womb is slow, tragic and beautiful. It’s certainly not an easy watch and isn’t necessarily what you’d call enjoyable but certainly provides an interesting watch. If you aren’t squirming in your seat and debating the morality of what you’re watching then you’re not watching it right. This is not a date movie, and certainly not one to watch with your parents. Lovely directing though the dialogue could perhaps do with some work.

After the film writer/director Benedek Fliegauf, Leslie Manville and Peter Wight did a short Q&A session, which consisted of Mike Leigh comparisons and the question of why it had to end the way it did. Fliegauf described the film as a fairy tale rather than a sci-fi, the different apprently being an emphasis on emotions rather than the dynamics of the fictional science.

In conclusion Womb is a good film, just not one I’d actually like to recommend to someone. Luckily the UK distribution is not yet sorted so you’ll have to wait to see Matt Smith run naked into the sea.

Another Year – Review

Last night Boris Johnson bumblingly introduced Mike Leigh’s Another Year, slightly awkward when Mike Leigh later thanked the UK Film Council, an institution axed by Johnson’s own party. That’s enough of politics though…

Another Year is beautiful, sad and not quite perfect. Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent play the happily married couple Tom and Gerri who act as a strong contrast to Lesley Manville’s tragic singleton Mary.

The film takes place over a year, split into four seasons in the lives of Tom and Gerri. Each season has subtly different colouring barring Winter where the grey tones are a bit jarring, and the film becomes nothing short of depressing before fading to black with no real conclusion.

The film is a masterclass in brilliant dialogue heavy scenes and good old fashioned character acting. Lesley Manville steals the show and is at first hilarious and then utterly heartbreaking. The lack of a proper ending allows the film to live on in your head, even if it is dissatisfying.

Not quite sure what was going on with Imelda Staunton at the start.

After the film Leigh, Manville, Sheen and Broadbent did a short Q&A that was barely audible. They mostly discussed the way the film was written, with Leigh building up each character from birth with each individual actor before they got together and created dialogue. It’s a unique method, but one most writers don’t have the luxury of. And now for another poor quality photo:

Another Year is on general release on 5th November 2010 and is good stuff 80% of the time.

Spotlight On – Six Degrees of Separation

Today I am shining the spotlight on an old film and the recent revival of the play it was based on, John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, and Kevin Bacon isn’t going to be mentioned once. It is about to get cultured up in here.

Both play and film are about an upper class couple in New York whose evening is interrupted by a young man claiming to be Sidney Poitier’s son. The arrival of this character disrupts their lives and the lives of those they know, the script exploring the idea of family and of how people are connected.

The film does not differ greatly from the play but for moving scenes to various locations and the removal of some dialogue. The biggest different I could identify was the pace, the film coming in a full twenty minutes longer with very little additional material. While the play charges forward at a pace that forces you to pay attention, and try to keep up with the wonderful rhythm of the dialogue, the film lingers a little longer allowing you to more easily take in what is being said.

I preferred the way the play just kept moving and, as can happen when a play is transferred directly to film, found some of the dialogue sounded odd when spoken on film which is less forgiving of the hyper-reality allowed onstage. There is no denying this is a play first and foremost and so more suited to that format. That said the acting in both was brilliant and I’m sure I’ve never seen Will Smith turn in such an impressive performance, but then I’ve never seen Ali. Smith is however put to shame by the relative newcomer Obi Abili who has made the role his own.

The script has barely aged a day in the twenty years since being written and this year’s revival, while at just ninety minutes is a succinct and enjoyable trip to theatre. Obviously not everyone can go and see the play but the film is brilliant in it’s own way; Stockard Channing, Ian McKellen and Donald Sutherland can’t be wrong.

Six Degrees of Separation is on at The Old Vic until 3rd April 2010 and the film is available from amazon.co.uk on DVD.

And now a bit where I ramble:

The title of the play comes from the well known theory that everyone is separated by only six degrees of separation, a theory that comes into play when you look at the cast of the film and play. The female lead in the film Stockard Channing starred in the 2007 film Sparkle with both Lesley Manville and Anthony Head who play the female lead and her husband in the play. Also Donald Sutherland both play the same character and have both taken on the role of watcher in different incarnations of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ian McKellan and Ian Redford also play the same character and both have had extended stints on Coronation Street. If we’re going to get really tedious then J. J. Abrams went on from his small role in the film to produce the short lived TV series Six Degrees based on this very theory.