R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Neil Hunter, Tom Hunsinger
with Shaun Evans, Amanda Ryan, Stockard Channing, Lesley Manville, Bob Hoskins, Anthony Head, John Shrapnel, Richard Cant, Joanna Van Gyseghem, Roy Carruthers, Sophia Dawnay, Peter Gordon
release UK 17.Aug.07
07/UK 1h44
Sofa so good: Evans and Ryan

evans channing hoskins

London Lesbian & Gay Film Fest
edinburgh film fest

Sparkle There's an engaging tone to this film that keeps us hooked even when the story turns soapy. Strongly natural performances and a likeable cast, plus a subtle examination of more serious themes, make it well worth seeing.

Sam Sparks (Evans) is an amiable young rogue living in Liverpool with his mother Jill (Manville). When he discovers that family friend Vince (Hoskins) has a London flat to rent, he leaps at the chance to head for the big city. But Jill moves with him, hoping to make it as a singer. Menial jobs ensue, until Sam decides to sleep his way to success through a fling with PR agency owner Sheila (Channing). Then at a party, he meets the sparky Kate (Ryan), who's hiding rather an important bit of information. As is everyone.

Filmmakers Hunter and Hunsinger (The Lawless Heart) nicely balance the plot's complexities with strongly defined characters. Evans is especially entertaining, delivering an offhanded, thoroughly disarming performance (reminiscent of Ewan McGregor) that makes it easy for us to understand why he wins everyone over. And he has terrific chemistry with the always-wonderful Channing and Manville, as well as the enjoyably sardonic Ryan. Meanwhile, Hoskins surprises against-type as the sweetly love-struck Vince, while Head adds colour as Kate's lively uncle.

The film's cheery tone strains a bit under the weight of the complicated narrative, which is full of deep-dark secrets, impending confrontations and pointed coincidences. By the end, as the various other shoes begin to drop, it starts feeling a little melodramatic, with one hinted suggestion that constantly threatens to blacken the whole film (it never does, thankfully). And one character must face all of the whammies at once, but this actually adds a nicely serious edge.

In the end, the captivating characters and the intriguing journey they take grab us completely. Hunter and Hunsinger have a remarkable touch, refusing to hurry through the story, concentrating on the people and catching telling details along the way that draw us in and add strong resonance. This is a film about dealing with expectations, regrets and with love that's been lost or carelessly mishandled. It's great to find such meaty themes in a film this breezy and entertaining.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 6.Mar.07

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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall