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dir-scr Peter Howitt
with Peter Howitt, Saffron Burrows, Sean Pertwee, Rachael Stirling, Alice Evans, Tom Conti, Dervla Kirwan, Victor McGuire, Raj Ghatak, Brian Wheeler, Rebecca Jones, Raquel Azevedo
release UK 23.May.08
Straighten up and fly right: Stirling and Howitt
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Bread star and Sliding Doors filmmaker Howitt has turned Stuart Browne's semi-autobiographical novel into an in-your-face Trainspotting-like odyssey that's almost too much to take in, even as it has a few emotional high points.
Noah Arkwright (Howitt) is a British filmmaker who lives the high life. Literally. Everything's a blur of drugs, alcohol and sex, and yet he somehow manages to make acclaimed movies with his partner in crime, cinematographer pal Ray (Pertwee). But he's haunted by his past, especially the ghost of his mother (Kirwan). While pursuing a very young woman (Stirling), Noah finally hits rock bottom and ends up in rehab. Later, he meets the cellist Claire (Burrows), with whom he finally settles down and starts a family. Just as he's diagnosed with cancer.
It would be virtually impossible to tell this disconnected story chronologically, and the jarring out-of-sequence structure actually keeps our interest, combined with whizzy effects, vivid animation and spiky out-of-body narration. The problem is that Noah is such a profoundly unlikeable character that we don't really care what happens to him, even if there are some genuinely touching scenes later on. He constantly puts himself down as a drunk and a loser, and the problem is that both of those things are utterly true. We never want to defend him.
As a result, the fragmented narrative actually starts to wear us out. Even though it's inventive and sharply played by the entire cast, it's assembled like Noah's movie version of his pathetic life, rather than that life itself, and this detachment is the final straw that removes all of our sympathy. The rambling story that explains the title doesn't really connect with us, although there are other scenes that are loaded with emotional power.
Howitt demonstrates a remarkable sense of energy and creativity both in his filmmaking and his performance. Noah's story (and Browne's life) is often raucously funny and also seriously harrowing. The sequence in which he descends into chemo-therapy hell is utterly shattering. But despite moments when the film snaps into sharp focus, all the snapping back and forth from horror to comedy to genuinely touching emotion leaves us unable to feel much of anything in the end.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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