2˝ out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
leo There's an artful style to this literary drama that keeps us involved up until a rather overwrought final act. Two parallel stories run through the film: One is set in the 1960s, with young mother Mary (Shue) stunned after her husband and daughter tragically die. Soon afterwards she gives birth to a boy she names Leopold Bloom, after a character in James Joyce's Ulysses. But Mary just can't cope with life in any way and Leo (Sweat) is left to grow up on his own. Meanwhile, we watch a modern-day story about a just-released prisoner named Stephen (Fiennes) trying to put his life back together, working in a diner with the kindly Vic (Shepard) and the psychotic Horace (Hopper), who menaces the waitress (Unger) and brings up issues from Stephen's past.

The two stories start to merge early on--we can see a connection and it isn't too difficult to predict how they will intersect at the end. Director Norowzian and cinematographer Zubin Mistry film with an assured and fluid style, obviously influenced by Sam Mendes/Conrad Hall. It looks gorgeous, and the editing between the two strands is coherent and ingenious, contrasting the sunny domesticity of Mary's early life with Stephen's more impressionistic experience and then Mary's descent into paranoia, guilt and, of course, alcoholism. It's intriguing and extremely enticing, with symbolic gusts of wind and shafts of light showing the emotional impact of various events. And the cast is good at drawing us in as well. Then the story starts circling around, coming together in a rather obvious way, with one disastrous bit of miscasting (saying who would ruin the big twist). The plot becomes less and less convincing on several levels, losing credibility as the filmmaking gets far too pretentious, dragging until we get to one of those forced movie epiphanies that doesn't really mean anything. Sigh.

cert 15 adult themes and situations, violence, language 25.Oct.02 lff

dir Mehdi Norowzian
scr Amir Tadjedin, Massy Tadjedin
with Joseph Fiennes, Elisabeth Shue, Sam Shepard, Dennis Hopper, Davis Sweat, Deborah Kara Unger, Mary Stuart Masterson, Justin Chambers, Gil Johnson, Jake Weber, Jim Lynch
release US 10.Feb.03; UK 12.Mar.04
02/US 1h43

A troubled life: Shue and Chambers


fiennes shue hopper
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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... leo Pat, London: 4/5 "The director has been highly influenced by David Lynch. The acting is excellent from both Fiennes and Shue - and Shepard is his usual excellent self, although even more than the others' his role is thankless, except for his last scene. Hopper is a parody of his former alcoholic daze. He is neither menacing nor evil; merely too big for his britches and rather comical. The serious problem with the film was the director’s take on the material – but the script was a mistake from the start. What was the major premise in the film? A boy with a terrible childhood and weak lungs, who has no friends and is ignored by his alcoholic single mother, who is denied a college education although he has potential literary talents.... Not a barrel of laughs. But the convoluted development of this plot in the hands of a lesser Lynch does not have the lucidity of Twin Peaks or Mulholland Drive – and that is saying something." (8.Mar.04)
© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall