Tag Archives: Emily Mortimer

THE PARTY

“…The Party is an absolute triumph, expertly blending the existential with the at times absurd, in a most thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining film.”

Wayward Wolf.

Sally Potter’s sharp and witty film, The Party – based upon her own screenplay – is a short and snappy affair, yet succeeds in packing all manner of comedic goings-on into its modest 72 minute running time.

Although undoubtedly covering familiar ground, namely, the party from hell – think Mike Leigh’s toe-curlingly marvellous Abigail’s Party for a starting point – The Party, shot in classic monochrome, is in many ways a darker piece than its predecessor .

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Janet. Celebrating a significant promotion within the world of politics, she, and the rock in her life – her apparently dour, distracted husband, Bill (Timothy Spall) – are hosting a get-together for their closest friends.

From Janet’s best friend and steadfast ally, April, (Patricia Clarkson), her husband, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), and Janet’s lesbian friends, Martha (Cherry Jones), and partner, Jinny (Emily Mortimer), to the super-agitated, Tom (Cillian Murphy); a more ill-matched assembly one couldn’t hope to coerce into a single London town house.

But this is the least of Janet’s worries, for very real trouble awaits. Bill, spinning his favourite LP’s with obsessive compulsion, is poised to drop the proverbial turd in the punch bowl with a shattering revelation, derailing Janet’s celebratory soirée, and indeed their relationship, in the process.

Over the ensuing couple of awkward hours, Bill’s untimely divulgement will however prove to be merely the tip of the iceberg. A most inconvenient hidden truth will slowly reveal itself, implicating directly or indirectly just about everybody in the house in some way.

Potter’s piece is initially something of a slow burner, but like a jigsaw, pieces that are initially disconnected and make little sense in isolation, in time begin to form something of a picture. And what a picture it is!

Each of Janet’s friends’ characters are gradually unveiled, and their roles in the unfolding mess soon become clear, but in fairness, even without the fault line that runs precariously beneath these friendships, each individual’s personality alone might well be reason enough to trigger all sorts of fractious behaviour within the group.

The impatient sour-faced April can barely tolerate her incessantly optimistic cod-philosophising husband, Gottfried, and his insistence upon healing and life-coaching those around him, whilst Martha is proving far too calm and mature and not nearly ‘right-on’ enough for her often hysterical and naively idealistic, pregnant partner, Jinny, who is positively repulsed by the very thought that Martha might at some point in time have ever been with a man.

Even before his bombshell, Bill’s withdrawn, morose outlook is not helping matters, whilst Tom – the complete antithesis of this – is a powder keg, about to go off. Concealing a firearm beneath his jacket, and sweating with anxiety, he frantically paces up and down, stopping only for frequent visits to the bathroom to ‘powder his nose’.

And all the while, Janet attempts to be the perfect host. But even she is hiding something.

It’s very painful, it’s highly amusing and hugely farcical at times, with one crisis leading head-long into another, as Janet’s festivities descend into unmitigated chaos and disaster.

Shot entirely within Janet and Bill’s home, Potter’s dialogue-heavy film is the sort of piece that could very easily be adapted for the stage, and I dare say that it was written with that in mind. The cast is tremendous and the performances, right across the board, are unsurprisingly of the very highest calibre. With such a wealth of impressive talent on show, thankfully the temptation for the director to over-indulge any of them in any sort of extended soulful monologues is largely resisted, much to the benefit of the film’s overall feel and flow.

Whether examining our own mortality, the perils of materialism, the complexity of relationships, or our sinking moral values, The Party, is an absolute triumph, expertly blending the existential with the at times absurd, in a most thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE SENSE OF AN ENDING

“…a wonderfully poignant, thought-provoking piece, guilty only of perhaps being a little too subtle at times in divulging the key components of Julian Barnes’ intricate narrative.”

Wayward Wolf.

Considering The Sense of an Ending is a film that contemplates past memories – and taking into account the often considerable amounts of time lapsed, our often rather muddled, incorrect recollection of them – it probably hasn’t been the wisest of ideas for me to have waited quite so many weeks to finally get around to reviewing it.

Additionally, if truth be told, there had been a few loose ends that I’d failed to connect within director Ritesh Batra’s excellent vision of Nick Payne’s adaptation of the Julian Barnes novel of the same name. Suffice it to say, the passing of time has not helped in this regard, rendering even more inadequate my already ropey grip on the film’s finer points of debate and uncertainty.

Nevertheless, fading memories or not, what I can quite confidently pronounce is that The Sense of an Ending is a superbly realised piece of work, with Jim Broadbent in particular, in fine form – although that will come as no shock to anyone familiar with his vast body of quality work.

Tony Webster (Broadbent), is a retired divorcee with a small Leica camera repair shop which keeps him busy in his twilight years. Curmudgeonly and rather intolerant by nature – christened ‘The Mudge’ by his pregnant daughter and ex-wife – Webster lives a simple life of routine, perhaps typical of a man his age?

Such quotidianness is however disturbed somewhat when Webster receives notification that he has been left the diary of an old deceased friend, Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn), in the will of the mother of an old-flame, Veronica (Veronica is played in her youth by Freya Mavor, and latterly by Charlotte Rampling).

This is a strange occurrence for a couple of reasons: Why would Adrian’s diary be in the hands of Tony’s old girlfriend’s mother in the first place? And what possible reason could there be for passing it on to Tony, in the event of her death?

The prospect of this gift from beyond the grave understandably piques Tony’s interest and his imagination is let loose on something of a trip down memory lane. He recounts very special times from his school and university days when he first met both Veronica and Adrian. One vivid memory stands out, that of a long weekend spent at Veronica’s family home in which Tony was introduced to her parents. Veronica’s winsome, effortlessly beguiling mother, Sarah, (portrayed by Emily Mortimer – an exceptional piece of casting) particularly captivates the young Tony.

Little however does he realise just how important a role Sarah will come to play in shaping the fate of so many people that he holds so dear.

Manouevering skilfully between Tony’s present, and the at times rose-tinted memories of his past, director Batra slowly cuts through the fog that has somewhat confused Tony’s recollections, to reveal a number of at times unwelcome truths; truths that until now, had remained largely out of sight and mind – partially buried in the ever-amassing sands of time.

Charlotte Rampling’s relatively brief role as the older Veronica, is powerful, yet sweetly understated, whilst Harriet Walter convinces entirely as Tony’s ex-wife, Margaret, who, whilst still being friends with him, wears that look of slight exasperation in his company; clearly possessing only limited tolerance for the silly old fool’s mildly obsessive later-life flights of fancy.

The Sense of an Ending truly is a wonderfully poignant, thought-provoking piece, guilty only of perhaps being a little too subtle at times in divulging the key components of Julian Barnes’ intricate narrative. But creating a little mystery and uncertainty in the minds of your viewers can never be a bad thing, in my experience at least.

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the year to date.