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Showing posts with label Jeremy Irvine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeremy Irvine. Show all posts

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Miming in the choir*

This is a review of The Railway Man (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

22 January

This is a review of The Railway Man (2013)

* Contains spoilers *

I’m still at war, Eric Lomax comes to realize when he has gone to confront his persecutor, but, before he does so, there is the bulk of one tautly reined and powerful film, amongst whose many strengths are the conviction of the cast, the inventiveness and crispness of its cinematography, and how the highly effective score (by David Hirschfelder) employs instruments as varied as cello, oboe, gamelan and Japanese flute** in an integrated whole, which works with the film despite our consciousness of it.

As a young Lomax, Jeremy Irvine*** more than fulfils the potential that he showed in Now is Good (2012), even catching the rhythms and mannerisms of Colin Firth, his older self, and forming a tight triangle with Patricia Wallace (Nicole Kidman), the woman whom he loves (known as Patti). Only it will not work as a triangle****, and, despite fellow survivor Finlay’s (Stellan Skarsgård’s) initial dismissals of Wallace as a Florence Nightingale who wants to work on Lomax and who is underestimating what Lomax and he and others went through in captivity under the Japanese army, he agrees to help, acknowledging the happiness that she has brought Lomax.

Lomax’s other love is trains, and we all know the type, which gives a matter of factness that is part of Lomax’s charm and attractiveness. Kidman and Firth handle the scene wonderfully, with the clincher being what the accompanying sailors had been shouting when her older relatives watched Brief Encounter (1945), another triangle, and a promise from Kidman to behave better. Already, in the things that Lomax asks her, we know that he is revealing things about himself, and his view of life, with his suggestions for where she might travel on the Scottish West Coast. He only, though, confirms his feelings to himself by telling another, Finlay, of what happened.

It is a form of validation, and no wonder when we learn of what happened to him in the Second World War (with the worst revealed till last). Finlay only hints at what Lomax’s life was like before he met Wallace, and she only realizes what Lomax’s experiences are like when they have married, but is fiercely loyal to him : she says that she had twenty years in nursing, and she may well have known others who had been hurt by what happened to them.

The scene where we realize what dogs Lomax, with the world of the Burma railway stealing into his mind and obliging him to go back there, against his will and with physical force, is highly imaginative, mixing not so much memory and desire (T. S. Eliot’s verse from the opening of (‘The Waste Land’) as memory and despair. We do not need to be shown again what his inner life is at these times, but we see him struggle to resist change in his life with Wallace, and how the remnants of the past that she finds chill her, but embolden her wish to help her husband.

Nothing in this film feels gratuitous (and it is very graphic in places, which strike home), and things are not shown in the interests of reviving hatred for the perpetrators of these acts on prisoners of war. As the film develops, Lomax knows no more than we what we might do, and the exactness about him that we see in Irvine, when is trying to explain that he really likes trains, is there when he challenges the words that are being used to describe his friends’ and his treatment.

Be reminded that this is a film, and not Lomax’s book – until we get to the end of the film, it opens incomprehensibly, because that is the typical artifice of films, to sow a seed – and the reconciliation and friendship with Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada) actually happened quite differently from how portrayed, but would not have made such a good film.

In his acting, Irvine has just the right qualities to be bright eyed, knowledgeable but not brash, in pain, selfless, proud : he is our guide to the older Lomax, and Firth and he mirror each other. To its credit, the film did have the services of a psychiatrist available to it, and it also does not seem improbable that a man who had experienced what Lomax did would have ended up as he does later on in life, though what the onset of that behaviour is unclear.

It seems that Firth and Kidman met Patti and Eric Lomax, and that, although he died before it could be seen, she has supported the film***** and said that Firth caught her late husband on camera. Factually, it telescopes and inverts the order of many things, but this does not seem to have bothered the Lomaxes, who, if so, must have appreciated that telling a story in a film is different from doing so in Lomax’s own writing.

If it encourages people to read The Railway Man (with Lomax's delirious poem), then all to the good, but it does stand complete in itself, and whilst more could be made of the input that Patti Lomax had to her husband’s regaining his equilibrium, doing so was not necessary, because, from the lead performers’ portrayals, we never doubt their love for each other, and that is the strength from which they built.

This film does what it needs to, by evoking bravery, self-sacrifice, and the very depths of love and friendship.


* This is how Finlay, in his role of Uncle to his fellow prisoners when in captivity, describes to Patti his feelings of inadequacy to be a continuing support to them.

** That description may fit a typical East / West musical pastiche, but this is so much better, quite possibly one of the top scores for the last twelve months.

*** Whom it seems Colin Firth suggested for the part.

**** Because Lomax of 1980 is dragged back by the one of 1942 and his experiences from fully being with her. Somehow, the physical hurts then have to be healed in his mental life now, and Lomax is almost certainly subject to, at the very least, post-traumatic stress disorder. Significantly, unlike the Marnie (1964) type of film, she is not the one who (directly) finds him the healing.

***** According to IMDb, The real-life Patti Lomax attended the film's world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in 2013. She received a standing ovation upon the screening of the film.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

What the dickens !

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

8 December

* Contains spoilers *

This remains my view of Great Expectations (2012), and I thought that Jason Flemyng was equally strong as Joe Gargery, but without the effect of stealing the scene. As for Robbie Coltrane as Jaggers, I was more impressed by him than I would have expected, whereas I had heard criticism that Helena Bonham Carter was too young as Miss Havisham, which - without having consulted the text - I am inclined to think right.

With the exception of little moments such as Pip’s sister, which Sally Hawkins was required to play as a grotesque, as a caricature amongst others at her Christmas meal (principally, Mr Pumblechook (David Walliams)), much was really rather naturalistic (though that is more true of this novel than others), which then set off well touches such as Wemmick and his castle, the Finch dining-club (foppish to the extent of resembling an amalgam of Mods and Teddy Boys), and Fiennes’ explosion onto the screen at the outset, with his Hannibal Lecterish tale.

As for the overall impact of the film, I Tweeted this

The book remains the book, and this is an approach at telling its story, where what has been changed is essentially in the realm of detail and emphasis : it gives me the feeling that I should like to make room to reacquaint myself with what Dickens wrote, partly because much of the dialogue had been invented, but not in a way that an Andrew Davies does it with his adaptations.

However Dickens did describe the marshes, the combination of wide horizons and skilled cinematography gave a beautiful sense of space and of tranquility, only interrupted by the man-hunt (and by Joe’s wife calling out two miles away !). That said, the contrast with London, which seemed unnecessarily full of mud and offal (as if better arrangements would not – they may not have been in the book – have been made for Pip’s reception and conveyance to his lodgings), seemed a little contrived, as if the local market town would have been any different, except in scale. (We only see the inside of Pumblechook’s premises, not how Pip got there, nor, for that matter, have we much notion of where Miss H. and Estella are, in relation to anywhere else, at Satis House.)

As to the ending, well, it is suitably uncertain to pass, but that, and Estella’s story, is what I could most easily check. Whatever feels changed does not leave me unhappy, but there is that feeling, with ‘a classic’, that some of what one could happily have imagined were better not presented for examination and consideration, and that the more quiet ebb and flow of the story became more tidal. That said, it would still be with the invention of dialogue that I felt most out of sorts.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Any time soon

This is a Festival review of Now is Good (2012)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

18 September

This is a Festival review of Now is Good (2012)

The words of the film's title, Now is Good (2012), come as a reply when Tessa (skilfully played by Dakota Fanning) is asked on a date, and shortly before something unexpected happens. Knowing that she isn’t, she has been treating herself as if she were indestructible, much to the dismay of her father (Paddy Considine), who would have wanted her to persevere with having leukaemia treated.

He may no longer be seeking an answer that would save her for a while longer, but he has not given up thinking that things other than medical science may preserve her or that there is a sense in which he almost owns her remaining life. Much to her irritation, he is always trying to speak for her, whether to a radio-show host or the medical staff (and those people collude, as anyone who uses a wheelchair would tell you that they would).

However, tellingly, when Tessa asks the Macmillan nurse (with whom she had previously been a little abrasive, as if she represented not help for her, but an embodiment of what she was battling) what her last days have in store, they are alone. By contrast with her father, Tessa’s mother (Olivia Williams), from whom he is separated, does not seem much interested (though turns out to have her reasons for that appearance), and both parents ‘get to’ Tessa by failing to understand her needs and motivations.

Adam, the boy next door (who has had his own life affected by his father’s death in a crash), meets her when she stalks out with things from her bedroom wall that she wants burnt and starts putting them in the lit brazier of garden waste. Excellently played by Jeremy Irvine in dialogue that, of high quality throughout, reaches its peak of expressiveness when Tessa and he are talking, there is a sense of advanced maturity in Adam, which postponing study and acting as support to his mother probably has brought out in him.

The frailties that surround talking about and confronting death are fully explored (as when younger brother Cal, quite honestly, asks if they will go on holiday when Tessa is dead, because he doesn’t remember the previous trip to Spain), but, for all the tears that come at so many points in the second half, this is also a joyous film.

It makes you gasp at what people are capable of, as when Adam sets out to make Tessa famous, or surprises her by taking her up onto the cliffs. Tessa does not want to be thought of as brave, but she shows that she faith to reach out beyond and disregard the limitations of physical strength, and of the norms and mores that her father would have her obey.

Ol Parker has brought his own script beautifully to the screen, with cast and photography all of a piece in locating Tessa’s story in and around Brighton. And I think that it would be no less strong the second time, because the film is built around not what must happen, but about the relationships that make it something no longer to fear.