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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Mitch Jenkins
scr Alan Moore
prd Tom Brown, Mike Elliott, Jim Mooney
with Tom Burke, Siobhan Hewlett, Christopher Fairbank, Richard Dillane, Ellie Bamber, Sheila Atim, Babou Ceesay, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Julian Bleach, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Bradley John, Alan Moore
release UK Aug.21 frf,
20/UK BFI 1h55
Is it streaming?
With the look of a colourful comic-book, this offbeat British fantasy by Mitch Jenkins and Alan Moore is packed with playful stylistic flourishes. At the centre is a noir-style investigation that refreshingly defies expectations, spiralling through a series of encounters that play with some lurid connections between the real and spirit world. It's sharply well-made, and packed with terrific characters, but there's little going on under the gorgeous surface.
On the trail of a stolen artefact, Fletcher (Burke) arrives in Northampton and finds his only lead is a dead end. Seeking information, he consults an all-knowing librarian (Dillane) and rents a room from Becky (Bamber). Pushed by his demanding client (Fairbank), Fletcher follows his investigation to a range of eccentric people who seem connected to strange dreams he's having. The most helpful is journalist Faith (Hewlett), and together they navigate their way into a parallel reality populated by what looks like sinister circus performers. And revelations will force Fletcher to adjust his goals.
With so many nutty characters, each member of the large cast has a chance to steal his or her scenes. This makes even smaller side roles into vivid figures who are memorable parts of the larger, increasingly messy mystery. Although as events flicker more and more into this outrageous shared dreamworld, things get so complicated that it's difficult to care. Indeed, the story spins and turns so much that the audience struggles to remain connected to it. So it becomes a film we watch with interest, even though it never means anything.
At the centre of the swirling odyssey, Burke has a wonderfully deadpan presence, asking simple questions and just letting people talk. The way he pieces the case together is engagingly complex, as is how he works with Hewlett's equally sensible and observant Faith to work out connections between the fantastical things they discover along the way. These are the only two characters who properly engage the audience, because everyone else is enjoyably heightened in one way or another.
Along the way, situations both strain and deepen the connection between Fletcher and Faith, which adds a wry relationship comedy at the heart of an audacious otherworldly movie. The people circling around them are bristling with wit and menace, so it's never boring. But nothing seems to go anywhere interesting, and the screamy final confrontation is rather tiresome. Alas, the filmmakers are much more interested in creating sparky situations and characters than something that resonates with the audience.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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