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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir-scr Martha Fiennes
with Damian Lewis, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Chaplin, Penélope Cruz, Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes, Ian Holm, Clem Tibber, Harriet Walter, Anthony Higgins, Archie Panjabi, Nathalie Press
release UK 14.Dec.07
The shooting party: Chaplin and Lewis
Intriguingly well-filmed and nicely performed by a solid cast, this evocative British drama digs into modern life in some very interesting ways, even though it's not always easy to see the point of it all.
Marcus (Lewis) has just made partner in his law firm, with responsibility for a politician's blind trust that might not be so blind. His wife Iona (Scott Thomas) is addicted to therapy--counselling, fitness, shopping, art--so their attention-seeking 8-year-old (Tibber) finds solace with his godfather (Fiennes), an art expert who's a bit too trusting for his own good. Then Marcus runs into old pal Trent (Chaplin), a journalist with a nose for political corruption stories. Meanwhile across town, a social worker (Ifans) intervenes for a needy prostitute (Cruz) who's oddly connected to this family.
The title refers to a video art exhibit that catches Ilona's eye. And each character is in the grip of some sort of phobia about relationships, jobs, wealth, children, crime or humanity in general. This fear limits their life in a significant way. But even though all of these people are a complete mess, and many will face their mortality before the end, the script is packed with dry humour that continually catches us off guard.
Every cast member plays it perfectly, most notably the central duo of Lewis and Scott Thomas, each a contradictory bundle of confidence and self-doubt. Cruz plays essentially the same skanky hooker she played in 2004's Don't Move, down to the tangled wig and bow-legged walk, but she's somehow much more believable here, especially in the face of Ifan's offhanded compassion. And Holm and Walker register strongly as Marcus' frightfully middle-class father and stepmum.
As the story progresses, there are several fascinating confrontations between old and new, rich and poor, peaceful and violent. And the film's themes are rich and complicated, especially as the overall tone shifts from hilariously cynical to creepy and suggestive. Then there are a couple of plot elements that stretch credibility beyond the breaking point. And the extended running time leaves us almost as exhausted and frustrated as the characters when most (but not all) loose ends are finally tied up.
|ABH, Barcelona: "Life this black and white is scary. penelope cruz is amazingly brave and believable in this role. this is a valid comment on modern parenting and how we live our lives." (21.Nov.07)
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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