Wondrous Oblivion
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
wondrous oblivion Writer-director Paul Morrison (Solomon & Gaenor) goes for wistful coming-of-age sweetness with this fascinating but slight racial drama. As Jews in the early 1960s, the Wisemans are treated as outsiders in their working-class South London neighbourhood, although this is nothing compared to what happens to the Jamaican family that moves in next door! The gangly, 11-year-old David Wiseman (Smith) is obsessed with playing cricket, even though he has no skill at all. So he's delighted that the new neighbour Dennis (Lindo) is willing to teach him how to play. Meanwhile, David's mother (Woof) is delighted about the neighbour for completely different reasons, while his father (Townsend) tries to figure out why he's so out of touch with his family ... and why the entire community hates the new neighbours so much.

Yes, there's a lot going on here, but the main story is David's loss of innocence as he trades his wondrous oblivion (an obsession with cricket) for a more harsh, realistic worldview ... and discovers that with a little work he's actually better at cricket than anyone expected. Smith plays this with a wide-eyed innocence that soaks up the surroundings. It's a fairly quiet role--not too much dialog--and his expressive face tells the story beautifully. Woof is remarkable in the rather difficult, complex role of a young immigrant whose childhood was stolen from her, while Townsend somehow turns his thankless character into someone fascinating. And Lindo is terrific--charming and effortlessly heroic. Morrison films with a honeyed nostalgic glow, blending in David's fantasies and recreating the period in a stylized way. There are extremely heavy echoes of both Billy Elliot (boy yearning to be something unusual) and East Is East (funny-serious racial tensions), but Morrison doesn't seem clear where he's going. He really needs a finely focused resolution to highlight the issues he raises so sharply along the way. Instead, the film becomes merely a superficial fable about lost youth. And with issues like this at stake, that's not quite enough.

cert PG adult themes, some language 30.Jul.03

dir-scr Paul Morrison
with Sam Smith, Emily Woof, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Townsend, Leonie Elliott, Angela Wynter, Carol Macready, Mary Cunningham, Tom Roberts, Philip Whitchurch, Chris Geere, Gary McDonald
release UK 23.Apr.04
03/UK 1h46

Dance the night away: Lindo and Woof have a bop.

woof lindo
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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... wondrous oblivion Milly, Birmingham: 5/5 "Fabulous! Sam Smith (David) is definitely a star in the making--he has it all!" (15.Oct.03)

Jennie, London: 5/5 "Knowing Sam personally, he has star quality and i think he is AMAZING in this film! (so was everyone else ... sort of). YOU RULE SAM! mwah kiss kiss." (3.May.04)

Lisa Peet, St Albans: 2.5/5 "Sam's acting is wooden and stilted. You find that you have no empathy towards his character throughout the film. Emily Woolf's character is also a little unbelievable. It is a shame that a film with so much going for it (great soundtrack and lovely shots) is let down by the bad casting of two principal characters." (8.Jun.04)

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall