Before You Go
2 out of 5 stars
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does anything in life go to plan It's scary to watch a film with so much talent in it go so badly wrong, but this film simply never gets its footing at all. Based on Stephenson's play The Memory of Water, the story centres on three sisters who all come home for their mother's funeral. The eldest (Walters) and her husband (Wilkinson) have been caring for Mum (Hodge, in flashbacks and apparitions) for all these years; her resentment is just under the surface. The middle sister (Whalley) was the favourite, and is struggling to define her long-term relationship with a married man (Hannah). While the youngest (Hamilton) is a free spirit, causing havoc everywhere she goes. Over the next few days, all kinds of skeletons will be unearthed.

The story has solid potential, but the film never decides if it's a wacky dark comedy or a sweetly sentimental family drama. And these are two genres that simply can never coexist! The result is a general awkwardness from start to finish, as we never know whether a line is meant to be funny or serious. Each scene is obviously meant to mean something, but we can't tell what. And the bland orchestral score never gives us a clue. Performances are fine (although Hamilton's broad turn seems like it's from another movie), with especially strong work from Wilkinson and Walters, as usual. But the script feels uneven and clunky in its attempts to examine the unreliable nature of memory and nostalgia, and its insistence in touching on every family issue imaginable--grief, marital strain, loneliness, ambition, sibling rivalry, the mother-daughter thing. All while leaving a gaping black hole where the father figure so obviously must have been. At age 82, veteran director Gilbert still has a way with actors. But the rest of his film is a mess.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs 10.Jun.02

dir Lewis Gilbert
scr Shelagh Stephenson
with Julie Walters. Joanne Whalley, Victoria Hamilton, Tom Wilkinson, John Hannah, Patricia Hodge, Hugh Ross, Dermot Crowley, Theo Fraser Steele, John Biggins, Stephen Bent, Peter Beaumont
release UK 21.Jun.02
02/UK 1h34

Three sisters. Whalley, Hamilton and Walters take a ride...

walters wilkinson whalley hannah
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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall